Piano Triads: Minor Chords

Minor Chords: Just One Minor Detail

learning minor triads on the pianoAlright! You have already mastered playing those major triads. If not, simply visit here. That makes it really easy for you to turn them into minor chords. That’s right. There’s just one tiny move you need to make to turn each and every one of those major triads into minor triads.

First, let’s take a look at that Cmaj chord again and its construction:

C Major Triad-minor chord tutorial

We arrived at this Major triad in root position by:

  1. choosing a root (letter name of the chord)
  2. moving up 4 half steps to the next note of the chord
  3. moving up 3 more half steps to the final note of the chord

Watch how easy this is! To play a C minor triad in root position, we simply do the opposite in terms of those half steps! Take a look:

C minor triad in root position

Soooo… to arrive at a minor triad in root position:

  1. choose a root (letter name of the chord)
  2. moving up 3 half steps to the next note of the chord
  3. moving up 4 more half steps to the final note of the chord

How easy is that???!!!

There’s More Than One Way To Look At This

Now, look again at those two illustrations above. Even better, play each of these chords at your own piano or keyboard. What do you notice?

There’s one one note that is different. Which one? Yes, in root position, only the middle note is different. When playing the minor chord, how far away is that note from where it was when you were playing the Major chord?

Yes, it’s just one half step lower.

Okay let’s take a look again at an Fmaj triad:

F Major triad on the piano

So, let me ask you this. At this point in time, which approach would you prefer to play an F minor triad? Would you like to use the 3 half step – 4 half step method of arriving at this minor triad? Or would you simply like to play (or think of) the Major triad and lower the middle note one half step?

F minor triad on piano

Actually, it’s totally up to you. Just remember that we are only taking a visual approach at these beginning stages of arriving at these piano triads in root position. After a while, you won’t need to go through any process at all. You will think “Fmin” and play it spontaneously!

The Minor Chord In A Musical Context

Here is how you might see a minor chord notated in a lead sheet, getting back to our tiny excerpt of Billy Joel’s Piano Man:

excerpt of Piano Man by Billy Joel

Notice the common chord symbols for a minor triad in that illustration above. When using an “m” for minor as in Em, it is important to keep it lower case (otherwise, a EM chord symbol would represent an E Major chord).

Wow… you are on your way! You are now mastering both major and minor chords in root position! So, how many chords is that altogether? Well, there are 12 each. Yes, 24 chords! Give yourself a pat on the back, friend.

Listen Up!

While in the process of learning to play various chords, it’s equally important to be able to appreciate the differences in sound that they create! After all, that’s why they are different in the first place. Yes, allow your ears to hear distinctions.

Would you like to be able to learn how to play music by ear? This is where it’s at. Playing by ear involves hearing sound distinctions. Play a Major triad like Emaj. Next, play an Emin triad. How would you describe the difference in how they sound?

If you were asked to play a chord behind a movie scene to emphasize the drama that was going on, would you choose the Emaj or Emin? What if the scene was cheerful? Which of these chords would you play then?

Learn to love to hear these differences. You’ll be a better musician for it!

Time To Have Fun Practicing Those Minors!

Have some fun with playing minor chords on these roots:

C   F   Bb   Eb   Ab   Db   Gb   B   E   A   D

At this point, it would be a really great idea for you to take a look at some lead sheets. Once you do, you will notice how often you see Major and minor chord symbols throughout. This will give you an idea of just how much you already know. Good for you!

We’ll take a look at those augmented triads next…

Piano Chords 101 – Triads
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