Guitar Keys

The Key of A Minor for Guitar

The Key of A Minor for Guitar

The key of A minor is a popular key among guitarists because it allows for many comfortable chord voicings and open-position chords, and doesn’t contain accidentals (sharps and flats). As a result many guitar-based songs, are written in A minor including Stairway to Heaven – By Led Zepellin, Hurt (the haunting cover of the Nine Inch Nail’s classic) by Johnny Cash, and Losing My Religion By REM to name just a few.

The key of A minor includes the notes: ABCDEFG

Notes in the Key of A Minor

When assembled in order the notes form the A natural minor scale. For a quick breakdown of the key differences between the natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor scales click here.

The Sound of A Minor

The key of A minor has a distinctive sound characterized by its emotional depth and somewhat melancholic or introspective quality. It conveys a sense of sadness or introspection. The use of certain minor chords and intervals in this key can evoke feelings of contemplation and emotional depth.

However, while A minor is often associated with sadness, it can also convey other emotions, such as nostalgia, reflection, or even a hint of mystery. This versatility makes it suitable for a wide range of musical expressions.

Ultimately, the perception of the A minor key’s sound can vary depending on the context of the music and the listener’s personal associations. It is a versatile key that has been used to convey a wide range of emotions and musical styles throughout the history of music.

All keys have their own unique musical taste. Click here to learn why.

The A Minor Scale Step Pattern

The A Minor Scale Step Pattern

The A minor scale (like all minor scales) follows the step pattern of:
whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole

The A Minor Scale on Guitar

One way to play the A minor scale is to use the scale pattern shown below. Keep in mind scales can be played in many different ways.

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Chords In The Key Of A Minor

All chords within a minor key follow the pattern of:

minor, diminished, Major, minor, minor, Major, Major

A Minor Chord (Amin)
B Diminished Chord (bdim)
C Major Chord (Cmaj)
D Minor Chord (Dmin)
E Minor Chord (Emin)
F Major Chord (Fmaj)
G Major Chord (Gmaj)

To create a minor chord, start by establishing a major chord based on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the accompanying major scale. For example, the C major scale gives us the notes C, E, and G. To convert this into a minor chord, simply lower the 3rd note a half step (1 fret). This transforms the C major to a C minor chord, which is formed by the notes C, E♭, and G.

A minorA, C, E
B diminishedB, D, F
C MajorC, E, G
D minorD, F, A
E minorE, G, B
F MajorF, A, C
G MajorG, B, D

7th Chords in A Minor

Seventh chords are four-note chords that consist of a root note, third, fifth, and seventh scale degree. The seventh note adds complexity and color to the chord, creating a richer harmonic character. There are several types of seventh chords, each with its unique sound and function in music.

A Minor 7 Chord (Amin7)
B Minor 7 Flat 5 Chord (Bm7b5)
C Major 7 Chord (Cmaj7)
D Minor 7 Chord (Dm7)
E Minor 7 Chord (Emin7)
F Major 7 Chord (Fmaj7)
G Dominant 7 Chord (G7)
A minor 7A, C, E, G
B minor seventh flat fiveB, D, F, A
C Major 7C, E, G, B
D minor 7D, F, A, C
E minor 7E, G, B, D
F Major 7F, A, C, E
G Dominant 7 (G7)G, B, D, F

Chord Function

Chords play very specific roles within keys due to the interplay between the notes that make up the chords.

* Capitals denote Major chords, lower case denotes minor chords.

Understanding chord function within minor keys allows musicians to explore the nuanced emotional and harmonic possibilities of minor tonalities, from melancholy and introspection to dramatic and expressive musical landscapes.

For example, The i chord (minor tonic) serves as the central point of stability in a minor key. As it is constructed on the tonic note of the minor scale (e.g., A in the key of A minor). This chord provides a sense of resolution in minor key compositions.

Alternatively, The dominant chord (e.g., Emin in A minor) is commonly used to create a strong urge or pull back to the tonic chord (i) due to the presence of the leading tone (the seventh degree raised by a half step). This note creates tension and a sense of desire to resolve to the tonic, contributing to the chord’s dominant function.

Common Chord Progressions In A Minor

i – VI – VIIamin – Fmaj – Gmaj
i – VII – iv- VIamin – Gmaj – dmin – Fmaj
i – v – VI – VIIamineminFmajGmaj
i – III – VII – VIaminCmajGmajFmaj
i – v – iv – VIIaminemindminGmaj

Relative Major

Relative major refers to the major key that shares the same key signature as a minor key. In other words, they use the same set of notes, but their tonal centers (the tonic) are different. In the key of A minor, C Major is the relative major.

C major is the relative major of A minor


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