20. Chords of the Minor Scale

Natural Minor Scale Chords 

In this chapter we are going to learn which chords can be formed using only the pitches of the minor scale. Starting with an “A natural minor” scale, and building a chord on each pitch of the scale, we end up with the following chord qualities: 

It is important to note that each of the chords above is formed using only pitches from the A natural minor scale (no other pitches are used in the chords other than A, B, C, D, E, F, and G). 

As you can see from the preceding diagram, there are a total of three major chords, three minor chords, and one diminished chord. They will always appear in the order above no matter the scale. For example, the chords built on a “A natural minor” scale will have the same order as the chords built on “D natural minor” scale (m – dim – M – m – m – M – M). 

Furthermore, the natural minor scale has the same number of major, minor, and diminished chords as the major scale; only they are in a different order. Here are the chords built on the C major scale. 

Harmonic Minor Scale Chords 

We know that the harmonic minor scale is formed by raising the 7th pitch of the natural minor scale one half step. The pitches of the “A harmonic minor” scale are therefore A, B, C, D, E, F, and G sharp. If we build a chord on each of these pitches, we got the following chord qualities:

As you can see in the preceding diagram, there are a total of two major chords, two minor chords, two diminished chords, and one augmented chord. They will always appear in the order above no matter the scale. For example, the chords built on an “A harmonic minor” scale will have the same order as the chords built on an “E harmonic minor” scale (m – dim – aug – m – M – M –dim). The reason some of the chords in the preceding diagram contain a “G sharp” is because all of the chords are formed using only the pitches of the “A harmonic minor” scale (which includes a “G sharp”). By using the harmonic minor scale rather than the natural minor scale, composers and songwriters can have a different set of chords to work with when writing music. 

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