A minor (abbreviated Am) is a minor scale based on A, consisting of the pitches A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The harmonic minor scale raises the G to G. Its key signature has no flats or sharps.
Its relative major is C major, and its parallel major is A major. Changes needed for the melodic and harmonic versions of the scale are written in with accidentals as necessary. Johann Joachim Quantz considered A minor, along with C minor, much more suitable for expressing “the sad effect” than other minor keys (Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen).
Whereas traditionally key signatures were cancelled whenever the new key signature had fewer sharps or flats than the old key signature, in modern popular and commercial music, cancellation is only done when C major or A minor replaces another key.
Let’s look at everything you need to know to start using it in your own songs.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What’s the Difference Between Major and Minor Chords?
- 2 What’s the Deal with Relative Minor and Major Scales?
- 3 How to Play A Minor Chord on the Guitar
- 4 Conclusion
What’s the Difference Between Major and Minor Chords?
Have you ever wondered what makes a chord major or minor? It’s all about one simple switch: the 3rd note in the scale. A major chord is made up of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the major scale. A minor chord, on the other hand, contains the 1st, flattened (lowered) 3rd, and 5th notes of the major scale.
Constructing Major and Minor Chords & Scales
Let’s take a look at how a minor scale is constructed compared to a major scale. A scale is made up of 7 notes (8 notes if you count the final note that bookends the scale):
- The 1st note (or root note), which gives the scale its name
- The 2nd note, which is one whole note higher than the root note
- The 3rd note, which is one half note higher than the 2nd note
- The 4th note, which is one whole note higher than the 3rd
- The 5th note, which is one whole note higher than the 4th
- The 6th note, which is one whole note higher than the 5th
- The 7th note, which is one whole note higher than the 6th
- The 8th note, which is the same as the root note – only one octave higher. This 8th note is a half note higher than the 7th note.
For example, an A Major Scale would include the following notes: A—B—C#—D—E—F#—G#-A. If you grab your guitar or bass and play these major scale chords, it’ll sound cheerful and inviting.
The Minor Difference
Now, to turn this major scale into a minor scale, all you have to do is focus on that 3rd note in the scale. In this case, take the C#, and drop it 1 full note down (half step down on the guitar neck). This would become the A Natural Minor Scale and would be made up of these notes: A—B—C—D—E—F—G–A. Play these minor scale chords and it sounds darker and heavier.
So, what’s the difference between major and minor chords? It’s all about that 3rd note. Switch it up and you can go from feeling hopeful to feeling down. It’s amazing how a few notes can make such a big difference!
What’s the Deal with Relative Minor and Major Scales?
Relative Minor vs Major Scales
Relative minor and major scales can sound like a real mouthful, but don’t worry – it’s actually pretty simple! A relative minor scale is a scale that shares the same notes as a major scale, but in a different order. For example, the A minor scale is the relative minor of the C major scale, as both scales have the same notes. Check it out:
- A Minor Scale: A–B–C–D–E–F–G–A
How to Find a Scale’s Relative Minor
So, how do you find out what scale is the relative minor of a major scale? Is there an easy formula? You bet there is! The relative minor is the 6th interval of a major scale, while the relative major is the 3rd interval of a minor scale. Let’s take a look at the A Minor scale:
- A Minor Scale: A–B–C–D–E–F–G–A
The third note in the A Minor scale is C, which means the relative major is C Major.
How to Play A Minor Chord on the Guitar
Step One: Put Your First Finger on the Second String
Let’s get started! Take your first finger and place it on the first fret of the second string. Remember: the strings go from thinnest to thickest. We don’t mean the second fret itself, we mean the space just behind it, closer to the headstock of the guitar.
Step Two: Put Your Second Finger on the Fourth String
Now, take your second finger and place it on the second fret of the fourth string. Make sure your finger is curved nicely, up and over the first three strings, so you’re pushing down on the fourth string with just your finger tip. This will help you get a nice, clean sound out of that A minor chord.
Step Three: Put Your Third Finger on the Second String
Time for the third finger! Place it on the second fret of the second string. You’ll have to tuck it underneath your second finger, right on that same fret.
Step Four: Strum the Thinnest Five Strings
Now it’s time to strum! You’ll only be strumming the thinnest five strings. Place your pick, or your thumb, on the second thickest string, and strum down to play all the rest. Don’t play the thickest string, and you’ll be all set.
Ready to rock? Here’s a quick recap:
- Put your first finger on the first fret of the second string
- Put your second finger on the second fret of the fourth string
- Put your third finger on the second fret of the second string
- Strum the thinnest five strings
Now you’re ready to jam out with your A minor chord!
In conclusion, the A-Minor chord is a great way to add a somber and melancholic tone to your music. With just a few simple changes, you can go from a major to a minor chord and create a whole new sound. So don’t be afraid to experiment and try out different chords and scales to find the perfect sound for your music. And remember, practice MAKES perfect! And if you ever get stuck, just remember: “A Minor chord is like a major chord, but with a MINOR attitude!”
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
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