Minor Mysteries

Hey Jazz Guy,

I feel totally lost with minor chords, there are so many different types. What on earth do I play?
Lost in Long Island

Dear Lost,

You are not alone. Minor harmony is a difficult topic precisely because there are so many variations. We will look at four types of commonly used minor chords here, Min7, Min(Maj7), Min7(b5) and Min7(#11). In [Ex 1] we voice out each chord with A as the root note. The second bar is the natural minor scale. Imagine the natural minor as the starting point, everything else will be a variation. Next, a similar line is played over Amin7 using the natural minor scale in the first bar [Ex 2] and the dorian scale in the second bar. Both the dorian and the natural can be used over a regular Min7 chord. There are two common minor scales that can be used over Min(Maj7) chord, unique because of the raised 7th degree, the harmonic minor and melodic minor. The difference is that the harmonic has a b6th and the melodic has the raised 6th. Playing lines in each [Ex 3] will really bring out the difference in the sound. Lastly the Min7(b5) [Ex 4] will usually call for a locrian scale, that includes the b9 and the b5 in relation to the natural minor. Amin7(#11) in [Ex 4] is a ‘wild card’ minor chord. To handle these chords, pair them with a scale that includes the altered notes, in this case a melodic minor #11 scale, derived from E Harmonic Major. Minor chords are tricky, but following these simple pairings will really put you on the right track and help you find your way home.

Link to PDF Example: HJG – Minor Breakdown

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Categories: Harmony

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