Minor Scale Diatonic Chord Qualities

In this lesson we will look at the chord qualities of the seven minor scale diatonic chords. Remember, these chords aren't new, it's just a new way of looking at the diatonic chords of the major scale which you've already learned.

First, let's look at the types of triads found in the natural minor scale.

Minor Scale Diatonic Triads

Remember, in the major scale you learned the I, IV and V are major triads, ii, iii and vi are minor triads, and vii° is a diminished triad.

In the minor scale, i, iv and v are minor triads, ♭III, ♭VI and ♭VII are major triads, and ii° is diminished. You need to memorize these chord qualities.

To see how the minor diatonic chords and major diatonic chords relate, here are the seven triads of a minor scale and a comparison to the triads of its relative major scale on the right. Notice they are the same. The next table below shows the triads as found in the key of A minor/C major:

Minor scale diatonic triads with example in A minor/C major

Minor Scale Diatonic Seventh Chords

Remember in the major key when we add the 7th to each of these chords, I and IV are major 7th and V is dominant 7th. ii, iii and vi are minor 7th, and viiØ is half-diminished (A.K.A. minor 7 flat 5).

In the minor scale, i, iv and v are minor 7th, ♭III and ♭VI are major 7th, ♭VII is dominant 7th, and iiØ is half-diminished (minor 7 flat 5). Again, memorize these chord qualities.

Here are the diatonic 7th chords found in the minor scale alongside the related major key on the right. Below that are the seventh chords found in the key of A minor/C major.

Minor scale diatonic seventh chords with example in A minor/C major

Not Difficult, Just New

Let it sink in. Think through it a few times. Hardly any of this should be new to you, but it might seem like a lot learning a whole new set of numbers. As we work through them, you'll get a feel for the sounds and shapes of the minor scale chords and their numbers/position in the scale versus the major scale.

Do I Need to Learn New Shapes?

Students commonly ask if they need to learn new shapes since the chords are the same for major and minor. "Can't I use the major scale diatonic chord shapes?" Yes, of course you can. Since the chords between the major scale and minor scale are the same, you could just use those same diatonic chord shapes you learned for major keys as the shapes you use for minor. All you need to do is shift the numbers over in your mind.

In this lesson block, however, I want to expand your fretboard knowledge a bit more. So, we'll be learning new shapes which connect it to the natural minor scale shape you learned earlier. And, you will see, this is all a part of my larger lesson plan.

Just as the major scale shapes can work for minor, these new minor scale shapes you will learn can function as shapes for the major scale chords. You're going to get a lot of use of all of these shapes.

Eventually all of these shapes—major and minor scales and their chords—will connect and unify into one concept across the neck.

Take the Quiz!

Be sure to test yourself on the chord qualities of the minor scale diatonic chords with this lesson's quiz: Minor Scale Diatonic Chord Qualities Quiz

In the next lesson we will begin learning the new shapes for the minor scale diatonic chords on the bass.

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