How to write Chords and Songs in Minor 

A crash course in writing with the Minor scale. 


 Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors.  However, I do hope you find it helpful.   

Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

A lot of musicians Who start writing songs start writing in major keys and very quickly. They run into this problem that major keys can sound a little too happy a little too bland and I mean almost a little bit lame sometimes kind of sounds like campfire music and you know, if you're into like metal or rock or EDM, that's not really the style you're going for those genres really revolve more around minor Keys than major keys. So in this video, what I want to do is teach you how do you build a minor scale? How do you figure out the chords of a minor key? How do you actually compose with those? So I'll give you some cool guidelines as far as you know, little guidelines were anything you do it's going to sound good and then I'll show you some examples of how we can apply this to different genres where you might hear it. And then finally at the end I want to give you some little bit of advanced Theory so you could take this concept even further on your own. So we're not going to waste any time. We need to learn how to figure out the chords of a minor key. And in order to do that. We first need to know the formula for building a minor scale. Okay, we're going to start in E today because I like E minor. I'm a guitar player.

So here's what I need to do if I follow this sequence of Half steps and whole steps then I will get a minor scale.

Okay, you probably want to memorize that if you're going to be doing a lot of songwriting. I'm going to start on E. So e is my route from E. I can take one whole step that takes me to F sharp a half step takes me to G whole step takes me to a another whole step takes me to be half step to C whole step to D. And then whole staff takes me back to you.

So those notes are the notes of my E minor scale after sharp g a b c d.

All right now, I need to know what chords I'm allowed to play. Say and what you're going to do is you're going to plug in this magic Roman numeral formula.

Alright, this Roman numeral formula is telling you that each one of these notes gets its own cord. All right, the uppercase Roman numerals means that those notes are going to get major chords and those lowercase Roman numerals mean that those notes are going to get minor chords that little circle that degree sign means that that note is going to get a diminished Triad.

So these are the seven chords that I'm allowed to play in the key of E minor. I'm allowed to play E minor.

I'm gonna skip the diminished chord for now. We will talk. About it later on in the video, but I just want to skip it for now. I'm also allowed to play G major.

I'm allowed to play A Minor B minor c and d and then of course, all right. Now this Roman numeral formula never changes. So I really advise that you memorize that because you can figure out the chords of any minor scale if I had built the D minor scale, for example, I could just plug that Roman numeral formula in and it would tell me exactly what chords I'm allowed to play in that key. So we've got seven chords. I'm only using six for right now, but I'm gonna give you the simple little guidelines to help us actually compose with this. Here's my first trick only use the chords one seven and six.

Alright, so my 1 chord is E minor my 7 chord is D and my 6 quart is see just those four chords. I could just do that one.

Seven six six.

That sounds great. Just as a simple chord progression in minor, right?

Let's switch up the order a little bit. Let's go six one seven one. All right. So here's my six.

So these kind of progressions are what you hear a lot in like well the end of Stairway to Heaven is just one seven six six. It would be like now, of course, they do it in a different key and they do it in different inversions, but it's still just a 1 7 6 you can also hear this kind of thing in All Along the Watchtower.

1:7 the six so very popular chord progression. There's a lot we could do with it. For example, here it is if I take let's do a 1 7 6 7 and let's put it on a computer with some synthesizers little drum beat will get kind of the pulsating EDM beat.

And here's that same chord progression one seven six seven in E Minor. But this time I'll slow it down with the strumming pattern kind of give it a Pink Floyd in feel.

So I hope you see really there's a million combinations you can do with just one seven and six and they're all going to sound great. So really experiment with different Keys experiment with inversions of those chords and try to experiment outside of your instrument, you know, if you are guitar player, I do in this on a piano. It's very simple to figure out the theory for this on a piano. So the next step here is to compose a little pop year in a little bit more upbeat with our minor keys. And the way we do that is we actually use all of the major chords that are available to us. For example in E Minor. I'm on depleted G allowed to place and I'm allowed to play daddy. That's my three my six and my seven.

So if I write a progression that uses all those major chords just by surrounding myself with those major Chords, it's gonna really brighten up the whole tonality here. It won't sound so, you know dark and rocking because I've got this major your brightness surrounding them. So check it out. What if I did one since and then three and then seven six that chord progression has been used so many times. It's gotten a few different names the most popular name for it is the sensitive female chord progression.

It's kind of the chord progression that a lot of female artists have used and their debut Break Out songs. You can hear it in Rihanna's umbrella. You can hear it in Rihanna again in mmm.

Lovely. You lie. You can also hear it in Joan Osborne. What if God was one of us so that one six three seven very popular chord progression and it's not really dark. So you've got to be a little careful here with this three chord because really e-minor and G major are the same key and if you don't understand that that's fine. You can start researching modes, but long story short. If you hang out on the three chord for too long, your ear is going to feel like you're in G major. So we kind of want to be careful with the three chord. It's nice to introduce. It's a beautiful. Sounding chord and it brightens things up. But if you hang out there for too long, it'll feel like you're in the key of G major not in the key of E feel right now G major feels like my home porn because I've got so much G major going on. So if you want to use that core, that's great, but be careful because if you spend too much time there your ear will reset and you'll think I'm in the key of G major not in the key of E minor.

So my way of avoiding that and keeping that from happening is to give yourself lots of one chord, right if I do like three measures of One chord to bring in that other board.

I've got so much E minor your ears kind of brainwashed into believing that is my home as opposed to this being my home, right?

So we really need to know to make things a little bit more interesting here is what the dominant chord is and how it fits into the minor Keys long story short if I go to my fifth note and look at that chord, it's supposed to be a minor chord, but if I make it a major chord instead or if I make it a dominant 7th chord Then I'll get a really strong pulling effect back to the one chord. Take a listen. My normal five chord in the key of E minor is B minor.

This is a very sad chords and right. It's kind of bland it's dark but it doesn't have a lot of tension to it at all. If we make it a major chord though all of a sudden listen if we make it a B major you can hear how much tension and draws back to the one chord even more. So if I make it a B7 instead of just a be major, so here's E minor and then here's b seven.

Lot of great tension.

So this court is outside of the key and it's not allowed in the key of E minor but we're going to use it anyways, because it is that important of a chord. Most of our minor songs do include this dominant chord and temporarily were outside of the key of minor and we temporarily go into a key called harmonic minor. So that's something you might want to pursue on your own understanding. What is the harmonic minor scale? And how do you use that? All you need to know right now though is that this is a chord we have access to and it really pulls us back to the one chord.

Very strong.

So let's go back and make a new chord progression. Let's start on one again.

And let's go to the 6 chord. I like that 6 a lot.

Let's go to the four chord. We haven't used that one yet the a minor and then let's go to the dominant 5 chord, which is out of the key and that will take me back to my one and six four and then the five so this would be a really good chord progression for like a Latin flavor kind of thing if I give it kind of a faster strumming pattern Six dominant pretty neat stuff right now that I have my dominant 5 chord, I can actually learn one of the most popular minor chord progressions in history, which is the Andalusian Cadence. That's the technical name for it, but it's basically just a 107 a six and then a dominant 5.

So you've heard that in like every Latin song You've even heard it in a Dream Lover uses that exact same Chord progression very popular here. It is in the key of E minor using Barre chords.

And here's the exact same chord progression just done with a heavy metal Style on some electric guitars with some drums put in there.

So I want to write one last chord progression here with you and this time I'm going to make it 8 measures long and I'm going to use all those chords we talked about the one the six the seven I'm going to use that three-chord very sparingly and I will try to put the dominant chord at the end to tie everything together. So let's try this. Let's do a one chord, which is E minor.

I'm gonna go to my three for just one measure.

Let's go to the four.

Let's skip the five and go to the sits now back to the one chord back of the Three core this time. I'll skip to the six and now the dominant five board and that will bring me back to the now. What I'm going to do is kind of beef that up with a whole band instrumental. Let's do put some base underneath there may be some synthesizers and I'll just play a little bit of the E minor scale on top of that a little bit of e pentatonic minor on top. That and you'll hear how good the sounds if you start putting it all together into a musical form instead of just one chord progression.

So I think that sounds pretty good, right? Also try to remember that this isn't just for Rock Band stuff. I mean if you put that into a string quartet, you'd have a wonderful sounding Melody and Harmony going throughout that entire piece just because we've got that nice chord progression going now. I do want to talk a little bit about the diminished chord because in the last video I ignored it and I don't want to keep ignoring. I want to give you a little insight into it. I think it's actually easier to use the diminished chord in the minor Keys than it is in the major keys.

So in the key of E minor my diminished chord is my 2 chord now, what you'll have to do there is you'll have to play a half diminished. You can't play a full diminish. Asked if you want to stay in the key.

So a minor 7 flat 5 chord an F sharp minor 7 flat 5 will be our 2 chord and that will resolve pretty well to my 1 chord.

You hear that change right there from the two to the one right away if I did it up here too.

So I think it works out. All right, one thing you can do to make it a little bit more tension going as go from the 2 chord to the dominant 5 chord and then back to the one chord. So in the key of E minor here is my to To F sharp half diminished now. Let's go to my dominant 5 B7 and then back to one.

That's a nice Cadence right there two, five one three classical very bold.

And you know, if you did that on a church organ or something like that, you have a very medieval kind of flair to it.

So do experiment with the diminished chord just keep in mind that diminishes a little goofy and I haven't really done any videos on composing with it yet, but you should be experimenting with it. And playing around with that now if you want to take things a step further, this is still kind of limiting. You still only have the seven chords of the key and I've talked to you about accessing that extra cord that dominant chord. So where do you go from here? Well, if you want to do some research on your own look into extended chords, you don't have to just play an E minor you could play an E minor 7, right and you don't have to play a c-major you could have played a C major 7. There's a lot of different chords. You could have played than just these fundamentals, but that's past this scope of this video. So what I want you to do is research extended chords, or Harmonized chords and that should give you a little bit of insight as far as how you can spice up just your regular minor chords and to something different.

Alright, so I hope this video gives you some insight and some cool ideas to composing and really show you how easy it is to really make things that sound like music.

Like I said, you might have had that problem if you were writing and major thinking this sounds lame. Well just switch the minor seriously, it's simple play around with your one your six and your seven play around with that dominant 5 chord and go nuts. Just use lots of the one chord and that'll Keep you in that minor flare start singing notes from minor on top start playing Guitar Solos from minor on top and very quickly, you'll have stuff that sounds like the music that you like listening to so thank you for watching this video. If you did enjoy this video I could use your support on my patreon or you could just like And subscribe and that's fine too. So I will plan on seeing you in the not-so-distant future.


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