We talked about diatonic chords and their usefulness as safe chords.

Here are a few more things about diatonic chords: how we can use relative minor and major relationships to easily remember the safe chords of a song, and a bit about deriving minor scales from the major scale.

Relative minors to help

The diatonic chords of the C major scale are: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

Can you spot the 3 relative minor major pairs among the first 6 chords?

What is the relative minor of C major chord? The A minor chord.

Relative minor of F? D minor chord

Relative minor of G? E minor chord.

So, if we know that C F and G are chords within the C major scale, finding the minor chords is just about knowing the relative minors.

C F and G are chords from the first, fourth and fifth notes of the major scale.

How to find the relative pairs of a major scale?

This is the process:

  1. Write down the first, fourth and fifth notes of the major scale we need the chords for.
  2. the first, fourth and fifth chords are major chords (fact. remember it)
  3. Find the relative minors of the major chords
  4. now you have the 6 major minor pairs. 7th note will have a diminished chord.

The relative minor pairs of C major scale:

C → Am, F → Dm, G → Em

Practice

Find the relative minor major pairs in the D major scale diatonic chord set.

  1. write or find on your instrument the first fourth and fifth notes
  2. write or play major chords for each of those
  3. find the relative minors for each of those major chords.

For a complete easy to grasp resource on understanding and using chords, see The Chord Code

How to find relative minors fast

Fifth + 2

Find the major 6th note of a major scale or chord. That is the note from which the relative minor for that scale or chord starts from.

The major 6th note is the fifth note + 2 notes on the note sequence. The second note after the fifth note gives us the major 6th note.

Example 1, if you have found out the D major chord, you will know that the fifth note is A.
The 6th note of the D major scale is a major 6th note, which is

  • a tone away from the fifth
  • two half steps away from the fifth
  • two frets to the right of the fifth on a guitar
  • two keys to the right of the fifth on a keyboard.

Two notes from A is B. relative minor of D is Bm

Example 2. Relative minor of C# major

What is the 6th note in the C# major scale?
1.    you can count to get to the 6th of C# as A# (count notes through the sequence till major 6th)
OR
2.    remember 6th of C is A, so 6th of C# should be A#
OR
3.    use relationships as shown below :
a)    What is the fifth of C : G
b)    What is 6th of C : G + 2 notes : A
c)    C# is C raised by one half step
d)    Fifth of C# will be 6th of C, raised by one halfstep : raise A by a half step to get A #

Know a few fifths and 6ths and other relationships.Then you can extend them to their flats and sharps etc.

If the root moves by a minor 3rd, the 7th also moves by a minor 3rd. Move the root by a 4th, the 6th or 7th or 2nd also moves by the distance of a 4th.

Cycle of fifths

Use the circle of fifths to get familiar with the 5th notes.

Why minor scale chords from the major scale?

Finding the minor scale chords from the major scale chords makes the process easier.

It is a natural connection between the major scale chords and the chords of the relative minor. The A minor scale has the same chords as its relative C major. We don't have to learn the chords of the minor scale separately.

When we want the chords of a minor scale, we remember the relative major scale and write down the chords for the major scale.

Example: Want to play the chords of a song in Cm?

C minor scale and chord are the relative minors of Eb major scale and chord.

What are the diatonic chords of the Eb major scale?

All major scale diatonic chords can be found out by writing down the scale notes of the major scale and remember the sequence of chords – major, minor, minor etc. – that each of the notes will form.

Use the diatonic sequence of the C major scale to remember which kind of chord – major minor or diminished – is formed from each of the notes as starting point.

Here is the process of finding diatonic chords in detail:

  1. What are the diatonic chords of the C major scale? C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C
  2. So we see that the chord
    1. from the first note is a major chord
    2. from the second and third are minor chords
    3. the fourth and fifth are major chords
    4. the sixth note chord is a minor
    5. the seventh note chord is a diminished.
  3. This is the sequence in which you get the minor major and diminished chords from the major scale: Major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished (7 chords for each of the 7 notes of the scale)
  4. Now write down the notes of the Eb major scale for which we need to find the diatonic chords for. Eb major scale: Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
  5. Now use the sequence from (3) on the notes of Eb to get the chords of Eb major scale

The diatonic chords of Eb major scale: Eb major, F minor, G minor, Ab major, Bb major, Cminor, D diminished.

Chords of C minor from Eb major chords

All the chords listed for Eb major can be used for Cm songs.

One extra note you may find when playing Cm songs is the G major chord.

The diatonic chords of Eb major has the G minor chord and not the G major chord. But for the G to Cm motion which is a perfect cadence, we need a G major chord and not a minor chord.

That will be one additional chord.

Whenever you use the major chord's diatonic chords to play songs in the relative minor scale, remember to include the major chord of the 5th chord. The 5th chord of the minor scale.

e.g. If you are playing a song based on the Cm chord, include the G major chord. If you are playing based on the the Am chord, include the E major chord.

More about the major chord addition

Practice

Take your favourite minor chord songs, find their relative major scale, find the diatonics of the relative major scale, see how you can use those chords over the minor song.

Learn to decipher any chord with the chord code.

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