• Here’s a method that’s helping beginners play in minor keys overnight

    in Chords & Progressions,Scales

    pianomanbig.jpgIf you’ve been keeping up with my occasional “What Key Am I In” posts, then you’re probably familiar with the chords that correspond to the major scale.

    For example, the C major scale is:

    C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Each one of these scale degrees has a chord that corresponds with it; a chord that is naturally created on each tone of the scale.

    1 – C major 7
    2 – D minor 7
    3 – E minor 7
    4 – F major 7
    5 – G dominant 7
    6 – A minor 7
    7 – B half-diminished 7

    This can be applied to any scale, not just C major.

    1st tone – major 7
    2nd tone – minor 7
    3rd tone – minor 7
    4th tone – major 7
    5th tone – dominant 7
    6th tone – minor 7
    7th tone – half-diminished 7

    So if you know all 12 major 7th chords, all 12 minor 7th chords, and all 2 half-diminished chords (which are also known as minor 7 b5 chords), then you can play these 7 chords in practically ANY key!

    But that’s not what I want to talk about (you know I’m notorious for writing two blog posts in one… one that could be a lesson on its own, just catching you up to what I want to show you… and then the part of the post that actually shows you what I really want to show you… hehe! I’m sorry, I’m just addicted to making sure I’m very thorough and that no one gets left behind).

    By the way, if you are totally lost right now, please click here.


    So is it true, Jermaine? If I know my major keys, do I already know my minor keys?

    That is absolutely true!

    What if I told you that you don’t have to learn anything new to play the chords of the minor scale? Well, that’s true and I’m going to show you how to shortcut your way to being a pro both in major and minor keys in no time!

    What you MUST understand about minor keys

    Minor keys come from major keys.

    In fact, every minor key is related to a particular major key.

    Every major key has a relative minor key and every minor key has a relative major key.

    So, if you’re in the key of C major, how do you figure out what the relative minor of C is?

    Just go to the 6th tone!

    Boooooyyyyahhhhh! Done! Over! Simple!

    Just go to the sixth tone, that’s it.

    C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    The 6th degree of C major is “A” — so “A” is your relative minor of C.

    If you were in the key of “A minor” and wanted to figure out its relative major, then you’d go to the third tone of the “A minor” scale and that’ll give you “C.”

    So C is the relative major of A minor and A minor is the relative minor of C. That’s how that all works.

    The The circle of fifths (yes I know, I’m a big fan) gives you all the “major-minor” relationships you’ll need to know. Just look inside the circle and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    circle of fifths

    How does knowing the relative minor of a major key translate into playing chords of the minor scale?

    Glad you asked!

    If you know that, “A,” for example, is the relative minor of “C major,” then here are some things you need to know about their relationship:

    1. They share the same key signature. C has no sharps or flats in its key, nor does “A” minor.
    2. They share the same notes. There are no notes in C major that you won’t find in “A” minor and vise versa.
    3. They also share the same corresponding chords so if you know the chords for each tone of C major, then you already know the chords for each tone of A minor

    In fact, if you don’t know already, you play an “A minor” scale by simply playing the C major scale from “A” to “A” rather than from “C” to “C.” Like I said, it shares all the same notes, just a different starting and ending point.

    Well, if that is true, then you do the SAME exact things with the chords I taught you above.

    C major scale with corresponding chords

    1 – C major 7
    2 – D minor 7
    3 – E minor 7
    4 – F major 7
    5 – G dominant 7
    6 – A minor 7
    7 – B half-diminished 7

    Now, let me do something… let me repeat these same chords from the C major scale but instead of stopping at B, the 7th tone, I’m going to keep it going for two octaves.

    But I want you to pay close attention to it and you’ll notice something…

    1 – C major 7
    2 – D minor 7
    3 – E minor 7
    4 – F major 7
    5 – G dominant 7
    6 – A minor 7
    7 – B half-diminished 7
    8 – C major 7
    9 – D minor 7
    10 – E minor 7
    11 – F major 7
    12 – G dominant 7
    13 – A minor 7

    14 – B half-diminished 7

    What you see bolded, my friend, are the chords of the A minor scale!

    You just change your starting and ending points. You don’t alter anything else!

    So with that said, let’s rewrite our chords now based on the minor scale, keeping in mind that all we did was take a chunk right out the middle of our major scale chords:

    1st tone – A minor 7
    2nd tone – B half-diminished 7
    3rd tone – C major 7
    4th tone – D minor 7
    5th tone – E minor 7
    6th tone – F major 7
    7th tone – G dominant 7

    Or, better yet, let’s apply this to any key:

    1st tone – minor 7
    2nd tone – half-diminished 7
    3rd tone – major 7
    4th tone – minor 7
    5th tone – minor 7
    6th tone – major 7
    7th tone – dominant 7

    So the next time someone tells you to play in a minor key, figure out the the relative major and you’ll find it a lot easier!

    (Note: When you do this, you’re going to find that the 6th tone of the relative major scale seems to act as the tonic, the home base… and it should — because you’re in a minor key! Remember, with my tips here, you’re just thinking in terms of the relative major key to make things easier for you rather than tackling minor scales and chords from scratch).

    The first 11 to write out the other 11 minor scale chords will get a chance to win any of our courses! Just post a comment below and I’ll randomly pick a winner once I receive all 11 minor scales and their chords. If someone has already done a scale and its chords, you have to do a new one or you won’t qualify.

    Until next time!


    Winner of contest is Freddy, comment #8!

    (see live video of how winner was picked)

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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!

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