• A Quick and Easy Way to Spice Up Minor Chords

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano

    How to spice up minor chords

    It’s been said “small hinges swing big doors” and it’s true. Today’s strategy is so simple and concise, yet it will be very valuable to you.

    (I’ll make this fast because as I type, Jadyn, my oldest is banging on my home office door demanding to play “Reader Rabbit.” She goes to preschool Monday thru Thursday, home on Fridays so you can imagine our “Full House” — long story, but just 13.5 months ago, she was the only child. Now we have 3 and the youngest aren’t twins. What a riddle… you do the math!)

    So with that said, here’s a simple alteration you can make to spice up minor chords and sound like you’ve been playing for years. When a pro hears you do this, you automatically get brownie points.

    There are a few things like this I’ll cover in the future but these little secrets usually separate those who know what they’re doing from the rest.

    How to spice up minor chords – Tip #1

    So any time you’re on a minor 7 chord like C + Eb + G + Bb, all you have to do is identify the 5th degree of the chord and raise it a half step.

    This gives you a minor 7 #5 chord and it sounds awesome! It’s that easy… and this is just one of many ways to spice up minor chords.

    Now the trick is usually to start by playing the typical minor 7 chord, then a second after, raise the 5th!

    Let’s do some examples.

    C minor 7

    Now, if you number the C minor scale (which happens to yield the same 5th degree as the C major scale, so either one can work), you get:

    C = 1
    D = 2
    Eb = 3
    F = 4
    G = 5
    Ab = 6
    Bb = 7

    G is the 5th so that’s the note we want to raise a half step.

    C minor 7 #5

    How to spice up minor chords – Tip #2

    Now the key is to practice this with all your minor 7 chords and their inversions

    C minor 7 #5 (1st inversion)

    C minor 7 #5 (2nd inversion)

    C minor 7 #5 (3rd inversion)

    How to spice up minor chords – Tip #3

    The keynote is the root of the chord, the title of the chord. In this example, it’s “C” because we’ve been studying the “C minor 7” chord.

    When you invert your chords, the C will get lost in the mix. Many prefer to remove it from the right hand, especially if you’re going to play it in your left or you have a bass player holding down the root. It just sounds better omitting the root from the right hand.

    C minor 7 #5

    If you’ve been with me a while, you’ll know this is nothing more than a quartal chord on the right hand. Music is full of coincidences like this.

    Here’s my favorite voicing:

    Your turn: Spice up minor chords in all 12 keys. Start with the typical minor 7th chord, identify the 5th degree, and raise it a half step.

    Well, time to go. We’re taking the kids for a walk down one of these trails around here. Quick story before I go…

    When I first moved here to Orange County, the selling agent said these trails had coyotes and to take a stick (I think he was being more funny than cautionary because my grandma, also my agent, gets hysterical about things like that). So for 7 years, I avoided the trails… even though one starts right across the street!

    Well, just a month ago, I got over it and we went on the trail and guess what??? There was NOTHING to fear after all. Just nature at its best! In fact, not being an outdoors guy, I was awe-inspired by the beauty. Come to find out, you can take this trail for 5 miles all the way down to Laguna Beach. Not trying to make this about race but I think it’s a cultural thing. Some folks just get out… others ain’t having it!

    I did pick up a pocket knife and pepper spray. (I’m open to new discoveries but I ain’t stupid)!

    Now go spice up minor chords!

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 16 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Gerald

    Hi Jermaine,
    Thanks for the tips. Very helpful.


    2 Raul Pineda

    Excellent!!! Thank You very much.


    3 Mary Ann

    Thanks Jermaine,
    I’m gonna write out all 12 keys, and work with them daily.


    4 Yvonne Greenbauer

    I want to subscribe to the EZine updates to be received in my email; however, when the information flashed on the screen I couldn’t scroll down to subscribe. Would you please subscribe me to the EZine letter.

    By the way, I am so happy that I found your Web site. The information is excellent.


    5 Jermaine Griggs

    Hey Yvonne, how come you couldn’t scroll down? Was there no scroll bars on the side or are you on iphone/ipad? You are subscribed.


    6 Jeremiah Aniel

    thank you sir. It would help a lot


    7 Warner Baker

    That was very helpful, you can see their is a method, thanks.


    8 Dave Dawson

    Thanks Jermaine, good stuff as usual……I thought you said you were coming over here to Christchurch (two years ago) I know its a long flight Jermaine………but, I reckon I could of walked it by now, ( only joking) if ever you do get over here send me a post, all the best …..


    9 Linda Lassiter

    Thanks Jermaine,

    I just got back into the piano after thirty years. Your site is helping me quite a bit. I will subscribe to one of your lessons, but I’m really having trouble deciding what’s best for me.


    10 Perry


    Thank you for the tip. I, like the last poster, haven’t played keyboards in over 30 years. I sold my 1962 B-3 and twin 122 leslies 35 years ago to pay for a wedding. I’m still married to the same woman, so it was worth the sacrifice. This past Christmas my wife surprised me with a new portable B-3 and Leslie 3300. I want to learn fundamental jazz organ. I know jazz and blues are an outgrowth of black spiritual and gospel music. Do you ever intend to develop or offer a complete jazz organ course? I know this has become a diminishing market lately, but I still believe a market exists. Thank you.


    11 Bernard Burton

    Hi jermine thanks for the tips God bless you.


    12 Rosemary Nyambura

    Jermaine, I have no words to thank you. I have really learned so much from you for free. It is quite unbelievable. I have stopped going for my evening lessons and I have progressed much faster with your lessons than I ever did with 2years of lessons. Now I have time to spend with family and not out in the cold and boredom of sitting in a crowded class. I can play a few songs I loved to but did not know how. I am excited playing – You Raised Me Up. May God Raise you up and grant you all you have always wished for!!


    13 bardakta mısır

    Thank you super sharing


    14 jayagopi jagadesan

    hi jermaine!
    this is awesome man….i mean the root on the left hand + a quartal chord on the right starting with the 7th note.
    thanks. i enjoy all of your articles.


    15 Bheki

    Thaks a lot sir.This is good stuff


    16 Justin Philippe R. Ranuda

    Hello Mr. Jermaine Griggs I am very happy that your lesson makes me like a pro ,, so what another question makes my head spinning in every time I hear a Song there is a second voice that makes the harmony, so I am calling for your help on HOW TO FIND SECOND VOICE IN PIANO

    Thank You
    God Bless


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