How to Play Minor Chords on the Piano

Minor Chords

Let’s look at how to build minor chords on the piano. Minor chords add a unique depth to music.

How to Build a Minor Chord

There are a couple ways to build minor chords:

or . . .

Learn Piano Chords printable pdf chart

Learn Piano Chords Printable

Get started learning piano chords with this 36-page PDF. These charts will lay a great foundation for you at the piano, and will be referenced again and again!

How to Build an A Minor Chord

Let’s look at how to build an A minor chord. We’ll start with an A natural minor scale:

A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A

So to play an A minor chord, we can play the first, third and fifth notes of the A minor scale. When we do, we get:

A – C – E

am chord piano

You might be thinking, “But wait, there are different types of minor scales, how do I know which minor scale I should use to build a minor chord?”

Thankfully it won’t matter. The first, third and fifth notes of the different types of minor scales will be the same. So you’ll come up with the correct notes either way.

Another Way

We could also build this chord by starting with an A major chord (built using the first, third and fifth notes of an A major scale): A – C♯ – E

Then we’ll lower the middle note C♯ by 1/2 step, down to C, to get our A minor chord:

A – C – E

How to Build an E Minor Chord

Now let’s build an E minor chord. We’ll start with an E natural minor scale:

E – F♯ – G – A – B – C – D – E

We can use the first, third and fifth notes of the E natural minor scale to build an E minor chord:

E – G – B

em chord piano

Another way to build this chord would be to start with an E major chord (built using the first, third and fifth notes of an E major scale): E – G♯ – B

Then lower the middle note G♯ by 1/2 step down to G:

E – G – B

Conclusion

Now you know how to build minor chords on the piano, and you can begin playing these lovely chords!

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9 Comments

  1. Donald G Lazov

    Julie, just wanted to give you a shout out and thanks for all your series! I am a guitarist but transpose your concept to my electric guitar playing to help me understand what I have been doing for years with muscle memory (scales, chords and songs), and build up some music theory even though I don’t play piano. Your teaching is terrific! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      I’m so glad it’s helpful, thank you for the encouraging message! I’m glad you’re able to apply the content to your guitar-playing to see the patterns there too!

  2. vincent

    I’m trying to learn to play. but it is difficult for me because i use second inversion. so to find it it become difficult for me

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Yes, I would start by learning the chords in their root positions, and then when that seems comfortable, I would practice playing each chord in root position, then first inversion, then second inversion, and then back to root position. I would do this with each chord individually until both their root positions and inversions are easier to find.

  3. Janet Uzoma

    Hello Julie;
    I’m a senior trying to learn to play at this age for me is difficult. I have a 88 key piano to practice on in addition take lessons once a week for one hour. Trying to memorize the notes without letters on the treble & bass staff. So hard…is there a better way. Help.
    Thank you. Janet Uzoma

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      Hi Janet, I’m glad to hear you’re learning piano! Learning to recognize the notes on the musical staff when learning sheet music can take some time, but if that’s your goal then you’re on the right track. You can write the names of the notes above each one on your sheet music for awhile if that helps, until you become more familiar with which note is which.

      Using chords to play songs can also be very enjoyable, and this post can help you learn some of the basics: https://www.julieswihart.com/amazing-grace-chords/ I also have a packet of “Learn Piano Chords” charts under the “shop” tab in my menu that can help you learn the piano with chords. I hope that helps!

    • Mary R

      Try the letter stick ons for say two octaves ; they are available on Amazon as piano key lettering.

  4. Mr Jugnaden Armoogum

    Hello Julie,
    Thank you very much for sharing so much love to piano lovers. I am 65 and retired. I loved the piano.
    I am in Mauritius. Now I am starting seriously firstly because I have more time and secondly it is never too late to learn music. I am using a Yamaha PSR E463. I find your piano charts and all the lessons as a real treasure to piano lovers. You are like the of music bestowing her blessings on music learners. Thank you Julie. God bless you.
    Mr Jug.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      I’m so glad you’re jumping in, and that the content is helpful! You’re welcome!

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