Minor Diatonic Chord Shapes Part 1

We will take a similar approach to learning the diatonic chords of the minor scale on the fretboard as we did learning the major diatonic chords. First, we need a minor scale position which expands into the next octave.

Expanded Minor Scale Position

Taking the one-octave natural minor scale shape you learned earlier in the StudyBass lessons, we can extend it by a few more notes. We continue past the octave to play the second, third and fourth notes of the minor scale in the next octave.

Pay attention to the fingering! This is a little trickier because this shape forces you to do some shifting. Don't stretch your fingers wide across five frets. Instead shift your entire hand over one fret when you need to. Play and watch the animated fingering in the diagram below.

The examples are in the key of G minor starting on the 3rd fret of the E-string. This position and these shapes will apply to any minor key anywhere on the bass fretboard. Just move the minor scale position up or down the neck.

Remember, G minor is the relative minor of B♭ major. Both keys contain two flats (B♭ and E♭), but you already knew that from the circle of 5ths!

The Minor Scale Chords Shapes

Do you have the above scale shape memorized? Remember, all of the following chord shapes are derived from the notes of this minor scale. That's what makes them diatonic.

Now...on to the minor key diatonic chord shapes. I am showing you the arpeggios for the seventh chords (root, 3rd, 5th, 7th). Remember, to get the diatonic triads, just leave off the 7th (play root, 3rd, 5th). Practice them both ways.

The i Chord – Minor Triad/Minor 7th

In a minor key the i chord is a minor triad or minor 7th chord. Remember that you can think of these chords as every other note of the minor scale.

In the key of G minor, the i chord is Gm, or Gm7.

Chord

Key

Example 7th

Example Triad

i

G minor

Gm7

Gm

The iiØ Chord – Diminished Triad/Half-Diminished 7th

Chords are always numbered root, 3, 5, 7. Just as you saw with the major scale chords, the numbers are shifting up with each chord. The second note of the minor key is the root of the iiØ chord.

The chord built on the second degree of the minor key is a diminished triad (ii°) or half-diminished 7th chord (iiØ) The half-diminished 7th is also known as a “minor 7 flat 5” chord.

This is a new shape for playing a diminished triad/half-diminished 7th, and it starts on your third finger. Get comfortable with it; it is a very useful shape.

In the key of G minor, the ii chord is Adim (ii°), or Am7♭5 (iiØ).

Chord

Key

Example 7th

Example Triad

ii°/iiØ

G minor

Am7♭5

Adim

The ♭III Chord – Major Triad/Major 7th

In a minor key, the ♭III is a major triad or major 7th chord.

Of the diatonic chords found in this particular minor scale position, this shape has the most difficult fingering. Playing the triad is easy, but the major 7th shape requires a shift to play the 7th. Practice this shift slowly. Alternately, one could play the same note (A) on the D-string. But, this counts as a slightly different minor scale position.

In the key of G minor, the ♭III chord is B♭, or B♭maj7.

Chord

Key

Example 7th

Example Triad

♭III

G minor

B♭maj7

B♭

The iv Chord – Minor Triad/Minor 7th

In a minor key, the iv chord is a minor triad or minor 7th chord. Notice this is the same shape as the i chord only one string higher.

In the key of G minor, the iv chord is Cm, or Cm7.

Chord

Key

Example 7th

Example Triad

iv

G minor

Cm7

Cm

You're more than half-way through the seven diatonic chords of the minor scale. Be sure to do the exercises for these four minor scale chords. Then move on to the next lesson where I'll show you the rest of the minor scale diatonic chords.

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