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Thread: Minor Chord Progressions?

  1. #1
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    Minor Chord Progressions?

    Hello I have been reading some books and searching online.

    I am understanding major chords, there construction and progressions pretty good.

    I kind of understand minor chords how they are constructed, why there is a harmonic and melodic minor.

    My problem is minor chord progressions

    I know there is a lot of info in books/online, charts, chord leading, etc... when it comes to major chord progressions. That really kind of helps me kind of have a base to start from, then i can break the so called rules, substitute, invert, etc... from there.
    I just can't seem to find any minor chord progression info out there (that I understand), there is some info out there, but not as much as major.

    Can anyone help me out understanding minor chord progressions or point in the right direction (book wise or online)?? I would appreciate it greatly
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Go here: www.musictheory.net then Lessons then common chord progressions.

    The site will work you through major progressions and then take you into minor progressions. Minor progressions are pretty much what you learned in major progressions with just a few exceptions.

    OK now go to http://www.guitar-chords.org.uk/chords-key-d-minor.html and call up the chords for a major scale - write them down. Notice in the lower part of the screen there are several chord progressions shown. Now call up the chords for the same natural minor scale - write them down. See how the chords differ, pay attention to they function within the key. Do the same for the same Harmonic minor and the same melodic minor. Check out the chord progressions this site shows you.

    The chords to watch are the v or V, ii and iidim, III and iii then take a good look at how the seventh chord changes functions. Be sure to look at the natural minor v chord and the VII chord. Which is the dominant seventh?

    See what these two sites have to say and then come back with specific questions.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 04-24-2012 at 01:54 AM.

  3. #3
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Start with an Aeolian i-iv-v progression.
    Change the v to a V or V7 and then you can start using harmonic minor over that V chord.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Go here: www.musictheory.net then Lessons then common chord progressions.

    The site will work you through major progressions and then take you into minor progressions. Minor progressions are pretty much what you learned in major progressions with just a few exceptions.

    OK now go to http://www.guitar-chords.org.uk/chords-key-d-minor.html and call up the chords for a major scale - write them down. Notice in the lower part of the screen there are several chord progressions shown. Now call up the chords for the same natural minor scale - write them down. See how the chords differ, pay attention to they function within the key. Do the same for the same Harmonic minor and the same melodic minor. Check out the chord progressions this site shows you.

    The chords to watch are the v or V, ii and iidim, III and iii then take a good look at how the seventh chord changes functions. Be sure to look at the natural minor v chord and the VII chord. Which is the dominant seventh?

    See what these two sites have to say and then come back with specific questions.

    Good luck.
    Thanks for those links and the info, those are both great sites. I checked out both of them and did like you said writing down and comparing to each other. Both these sites helped a lot.
    The image below is from the first site:
    lesson57_500.png
    I was wondering what would be some chord substitutions that I would be able to use for minor progressions, is it similar to major?
    (For example in major you can sub the IV for the ii or the vi)

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Purpleghost View Post
    Thanks for those links and the info, those are both great sites. I checked out both of them and did like you said writing down and comparing to each other. Both these sites helped a lot.
    The image below is from the first site:
    lesson57_500.png
    I was wondering what would be some chord substitutions that I would be able to use for minor progressions, is it similar to major?
    (For example in major you can sub the IV for the ii or the vi)
    As you can see from that diagram, the same applies in minor keys as in major. You can sub iv for ii (and vice versa), and you can sub vii for V (and vice versa.

    IV is not a sub for vi in major though. In major keys, vi (like iii) is a sub for I.
    In major keys, vi and iii share the "tonic" function with I - although they're best regarded (IMO) as subs for I rather than having the exact same function. (They have less "final" feel than the I, and should be seen as rootless extensions of I.)
    ii and IV have subdominant (or predominant) function), and V and vii have a dominant function.

    The difference in minor is that (IMO) there is no real sub for the tonic (i). The chords which share most notes (III and VI) have a very different sound, and a different function. They are major chords, so sound stronger than the minor key chord, and suggest other directions.
    III is the relative major; sub that for i and it may sound like you have modulated to the relative major. (III - like iii in major - can be seen as a rootless tonic, but in A minor, Am7 is not an ideal tonic chord. Which means C is even less ideal.)
    VI, OTOH, is another predominant chord, a sub for iv or ii. IOW, in key of A minor, Dm, Bdim and F will all lead well to E(7).

    As for the typical set of chords used in a minor key, all except V and vii will come from the natural minor.
    V and vii come from harmonic minor - because they each have the harmonic "dominant" function.
    So in A minor, your basic set would be:
    Am Bdim C Dm E F G#dim.

    The 7ths would be:
    Am7 Bm7b5 Cmaj7 Dm7 Fmaj7 E7 G#dim7

    In jazz, the tonic chord will more usually be harmonized from melodic minor. So you might see Am(maj7), Am6, Amadd9, Am69, etc, used as tonics in A minor. (In jazz, an Am7 chord would tend to imply vi in C major or ii in G major.)

    The bVII chord - G (from natural minor) - could be used, but is more likely to act as a V of the relative major. So in that diagram you posted, the first part of sequence will sound a lot more like V-I(-IV) in the relative major than VII-III(-VI) in the minor. Especially if you precede the VII with iv. You only have to try it:

    (Dm) - G - C - F - Bdim or Dm - E or G#dim - Am

    That's going to sound like key of C major, maybe right up to the E major chord.

    You can of course use a C chord in A minor, but best not to precede it with G; and don't hang around on the C if you do.

    As for other chords to use in the key, you can try harmonizations from A dorian mode. The additional chords that will give you (in A minor) are Bm(7), D(7), F#dim (F#m7b5).

    A melodic minor contains the same ii, IV and vi chords as dorian. (The 7ths are the same too, although higher extensions will be different.)
    Apart from the tonic chord mentioned, melodic minor (like harmonic minor) gives you a Caug triad, or a Cmaj7#5. But this is commonly used as a passing chord in A minor (between Am and C in either direction), not necessarily considered as deriving from either of those scales.
    You also get a G#m7b5 chord from A melodic minor, but (IMO) this is not a lot of use in A minor.

    If you want something bluesier, then F7 makes a great sub for either F(maj7) or (sometimes) for Dm7. (Check out Herbie Hancock's "Canteloupe Island" and Horace Silver's "Senor Blues".)

    The dominant chord (E7) can also be replaced by Bb7. This is a "tritone substitute", and would normally have a #11 extension (ie you'd retain an E note in the scale or the chord), making it "lydian dominant".

    You could also try a phrygian bII, which would be Bbmaj7 (again with a possible #11 extension). Both Bb7 and Bbmaj7 would always resolve to Am; Bb7 more strongly.
    Other chords from A phrygian include C(7), Edim(m7b5), Gm(7).
    The first two would be tricky to use because they'd pull towards an F major tonic. Gm might be an interesting sound.
    In theory you could also borrow from A locrian, which would give you Cm(7) and F(7). I already mentioned F7, but that works much more as an "A minor blues" sound than an "A locrian" one. Cm, though, could make for another interesting addition.

    So - to list all the above possibilities (chords in bold are the ones most commonly found in jazz minor keys):

    Tonic chord:
    Am6, Am(maj7), Am69, Amadd9, Am(maj9) - all implying A melodic minor.
    Am7 - A aeolian or dorian.

    bII
    Bb7(#11) - tritone sub for E7 (altered dominant - see below)
    Bbmaj7 - A phrygian

    ii
    Bdim, Bm7b5 - A aeolian
    Bm7 - A melodic minor, A dorian

    III
    C, Cmaj7 (etc) - A aeolian
    Caug, Cmaj7#5 - A melodic or harmonic minor (passing chord only)
    Cm, Cm7 - A locrian (rare)
    C7 - A phrygian (rare - if used it will likely be a secondary dominant resolving to F)

    iv
    Dm, Dm7, Dm9 - A aeolian
    D7 - A dorian. (D7 also comes from A melodic minor, but that implies a #11 extension - and D7#11 would not be used in A minor.)

    V
    E, E7, E7b9 - A harmonic minor
    E9 - A melodic minor
    Em(7) - A aeolian or dorian.
    "E7alt", "altered dominant": E7#5#9, E7b5b9, E7b5#9, E7#5b9 - E altered scale = F melodic minor (same scale as for Bb7#11).

    bVI
    Fmaj7 - A aeolian (and harmonic minor)
    F7 - A blues (or arguably A locrian)

    vi
    F#dim, F#m7b5 - A dorian or melodic minor

    bVII
    G, G7 - A aeolian
    Gm, Gm7 - A phrygian (rare)

    vii
    G#dim, G#dim7 - A harmonic minor
    G#m7b5 - A melodic minor

    The thing to remember about minor keys is they are tonally weaker than the parallel major key. Making too many substitutions can draw the ear away from the tonic chord too much. Eg, too many A dorian chords might sound like G major; too many A phrygian chords might sound like F major. Too many A melodic minor chords may be too close to A major.
    Of course, there's nothing to stop you using any chords you like the sound of! The important thing is that chords should support the melody - so if you introduce a surprising chord, it should enhance some aspect of the melody, or perhaps of the lyrics. (Eg, if the subject of the lyrics is mysterious or disorienting, then mysterious, disorienting chords will work well.)

    Remember, in terms of your initial question, you cannot "break rules" in music - not without making bad sounds (sounds you won't like). Any sound you like will be following a theoretical "rule" of some kind, it just might not be one you know about yet. (And you don't have to care.)
    Of course, you can choose to follow very unusual or unorthodox rules , rather than the common ones most other people follow. But the main thing is to use you ear. Your ear (if you listen properly) is never wrong. Trust your ear, and don't seek to explain what it tells you, in terms of either following or breaking "rules". (Use theory only to give you ideas when your ear fails.)

  6. #6
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    THANK YOU - THANK YOU

    You answered a lot of other questions I was wondering about too with that answer.

    One dumb question when you put a flat symbol "b" next to a chord roman numeral "bII" what exactly does that mean? Is it lowering each note of the chord by a half step?

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Purpleghost View Post
    THANK YOU - THANK YOU

    You answered a lot of other questions I was wondering about too with that answer.

    One dumb question when you put a flat symbol "b" next to a chord roman numeral "bII" what exactly does that mean? Is it lowering each note of the chord by a half step?
    It means lowering the scale degree, but it results in the same thing, I guess.
    So "II" means a chord built on the 2nd degree of the scale.
    "bII" means we flatten that scale degree and build a chord there.
    So a "bII" in A minor means a Bb chord. If it doesn't say "m", and is in caps, we assume it's a Bb major chord.

    There are various systems of roman numerals: some use caps and lower case to distinguish major from minor; some use all caps with "m" for minor; some just use caps and expect you to know what kind of chord it is (eg you should know that "II" in a major key is a minor chord, so there's no need to label it as such).

    Here's the chords in a major key, described in the different systems:

    I ii iii IV V vi viidim (or viio)

    I IIm IIIm IV V VIm VIIdim (or VIIo)

    I II III IV V VI VII (the classical convention)

    Likewise, some people use "b" when listing the chords in a minor key, some don't - because you're expected to know, eg, that "III" in A minor is a C chord, not a C# chord! Here's some ways of showing chords in a minor key:

    I ii III iv V VI viio

    I ii bIII iv V bVI viio

    I II III IV V VI VII (yep same as major, you would know from the context whether the key being discussed is major or minor)

    Of course, the big problem with minor keys is the difference between G and G#dim in A minor. What does a plain "VII" mean in a minor key?
    If you call G#dim "VII" (or "viidim"), you have to call G "bVII". So maybe then you should call C "bIII" and not "III"?
    Or should we call G#dim7 "#viidim"? I'm not sure if there is any conventional agreement on this.
    What does matter is that you don't mix different systems. So there's no need for "iiim", eg. At the same time, don't use both "IIm" and "iii".

    It gets complicated when keys borrow chords from other keys and modes.
    Eg, if you're in the key of A major, you might sometimes see G or C chords. These have to be described (IMO) as "bVII" and "bIII", to distinguish them from the diatonic G#dim and C#m.
    If you're in the key of A minor, you might see a D major chord. If we already label every chord in caps (no "m"), because we know the "IV" is always minor, what happens when it isn't? Do we call D "IVmaj"?
    Again, I don't think there is an agreed convention, and I suspect most people (at least non-classically trained ones) will prefer the use of either lower case for minor, or adding "m" to the caps. And maybe also using "b" for the bIII, bVI and bVII chords in a minor key, so we relate everything back to major as standard. I think this is the most sensible system, as it avoids all confusion (or at least avoids confusion better than the other ways).

    Just be aware of the variations!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    It means lowering the scale degree, but it results in the same thing, I guess.
    So "II" means a chord built on the 2nd degree of the scale.
    "bII" means we flatten that scale degree and build a chord there.
    So a "bII" in A minor means a Bb chord. If it doesn't say "m", and is in caps, we assume it's a Bb major chord.

    There are various systems of roman numerals: some use caps and lower case to distinguish major from minor; some use all caps with "m" for minor; some just use caps and expect you to know what kind of chord it is (eg you should know that "II" in a major key is a minor chord, so there's no need to label it as such).

    Here's the chords in a major key, described in the different systems:

    I ii iii IV V vi viidim (or viio)

    I IIm IIIm IV V VIm VIIdim (or VIIo)

    I II III IV V VI VII (the classical convention)

    Likewise, some people use "b" when listing the chords in a minor key, some don't - because you're expected to know, eg, that "III" in A minor is a C chord, not a C# chord! Here's some ways of showing chords in a minor key:

    I ii III iv V VI viio

    I ii bIII iv V bVI viio

    I II III IV V VI VII (yep same as major, you would know from the context whether the key being discussed is major or minor)

    Of course, the big problem with minor keys is the difference between G and G#dim in A minor. What does a plain "VII" mean in a minor key?
    If you call G#dim "VII" (or "viidim"), you have to call G "bVII". So maybe then you should call C "bIII" and not "III"?
    Or should we call G#dim7 "#viidim"? I'm not sure if there is any conventional agreement on this.
    What does matter is that you don't mix different systems. So there's no need for "iiim", eg. At the same time, don't use both "IIm" and "iii".

    It gets complicated when keys borrow chords from other keys and modes.
    Eg, if you're in the key of A major, you might sometimes see G or C chords. These have to be described (IMO) as "bVII" and "bIII", to distinguish them from the diatonic G#dim and C#m.
    If you're in the key of A minor, you might see a D major chord. If we already label every chord in caps (no "m"), because we know the "IV" is always minor, what happens when it isn't? Do we call D "IVmaj"?
    Again, I don't think there is an agreed convention, and I suspect most people (at least non-classically trained ones) will prefer the use of either lower case for minor, or adding "m" to the caps. And maybe also using "b" for the bIII, bVI and bVII chords in a minor key, so we relate everything back to major as standard. I think this is the most sensible system, as it avoids all confusion (or at least avoids confusion better than the other ways).

    Just be aware of the variations!
    Thank you again, it can be sooo confusing, but you explained everything greatly.

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