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Chords in the Minor Scale

In one of my first Music Theory Friday posts I explained the chords in a major scale. Today we’re going to tackle the minor scale.

As I’ve explained before each major scale has a relative minor. To that end, the chords in a natural minor scale are actually the same as in any major scale, just reordered.

chords-in-a-minor-scale

We end up with a this as far as Roman numerals:

i iio III iv v VI VII

Uh oh, no leading tone…

This creates a problem. Chords built on the fifth scale degree, a V chord, are supposed to lead to tonic. However, the natural minor scale does not have a leading tone to help assist this progression. As a result, we have to raise the seventh scale degree. Usually this is only done for the V chord, rather than through the whole scale. The resulting chords:

chords-in-minor-with-lt

And in Roman Numerals:

i iio III iv V VI VII

Functions

As in major, i, tonic, is home. As is its inversion i6, though i6 is less stable. Dominant, V, leads to tonic and a seventh can be added to it. The functions of V in a major key I explain in this post are all the same in minor, but require an accidental (raised 7th scale degree). iio, iv and VI and their inversions are all predominant harmony and lead to dominant. VII is a different animal in minor. If the 7th scale degree is raised on the seventh chord, it functions just as in major (substitute for V, basically). Otherwise, VII doesn’t do much.

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