The minor chords in the key of C major are based on the notes D, E and A. I cover the minor triad, and the minor 6, minor add 9, and minor 6 add 9 chords. This article has 23 closed minor guitar chords and 41 open shapes for the chords and scale degrees mentioned above. I also cover the notes, intervals and the resolution tendencies of each minor chord.
D, E, & A minor chords in the key of C major
There are 3 scale degrees in any major key that build minor triads, and for C major that would be the notes D, E, and A (i, ii, vi). The note D and A both have a major 2nd where E does not, but only the note D has a major 6th.
The modes associated with the ii chord is Dorian, Phrygian for the iii chord and Aeolian for the vi chord. For C major that would be D Dorian, E Phrygian, and A Aeolian \ Natural Minor.
Minor chord types in C major
Here are the minor chord types that are built on the 2nd, 3rd & 6th scale degrees of any major scale. And know that the 6th chord is the relative minor for the major one chord. Also, I have a separate article for the minor 7th chords.
Chord intervals: root note, minor 3rd, perfect fifth = R-m3-P5 = 1-♭3-5
Alternate names: m, min, –
Resolve tendency: resolves best down a whole step or to its ♭7, and weakly to its relative major, e.g. Dm > C or F
Minor 6th chord
Chord intervals: root note, minor 3rd, perfect fifth, major 6th = R-m3-P5-M6 = 1-♭3-5-6
Chord equivalent: m7b5 on the 6, e.g. Dm6 = Bm7♭5
Alternate names: m6, minor 6
Resolve tendency: because of the F-B tritone it resolves best down a whole step or weakly to it’s major 3rd, e.g. Dm6 > C or F# major
Minor add9 chord
Chord intervals: root note, minor 3rd, perfect fifth, major 2nd/9th = R-m3-P5-M2/9 = 1-♭3-5-9
Alternate names: madd9, minor add9
Resolve tendency: resolves best down a whole step but also to its relative major, e.g. Dm add9 > C or F
Minor 6 add9 chord
Chord intervals: root note, minor 3rd, perfect fifth, major 6th. Major 2nd/9th = R-m3-P5-M6-M9 = 1-♭3-5-6-9
Chord equivalent: 7sus♭9 on the 9 and m11♭5 on the 6, e.g. Dm6 add9 = E7sus ♭9 = Bm11♭5
Alternate names: m6 add9, m6/9, m69, minor 6 add9
Resolve tendency: because of the F-B tritone it resolves best down a whole step or weakly to its major 3rd, e.g. Dm6 add9 > C or F# major
Check out my article on major chords from the key of C for an explanation of chord tendency.
Open minor guitar chords for D, E, and A
I’m only including the minor triads and minor adds that can be built in the key of C major. I’ll show the Dm chords first, followed by Em and Am.
Here is a chord diagram of the symbols I use in my chord blocks:
D minor guitar chords: minor triad, minor 6, minor add9, minor 6 add9. E minor guitar chords: minor triad and an E m3 open interval. A minor guitar chords: minor triad and minor add9.
D minor triad chord tones: D-F-A
Dm6 chord tones: D-F-A-B, equals Bm7♭5
Dm add9 chord tones: D-F-A-E, equals Fmaj13 without the 5th (so it’s unique)
Dm6 add9 chord tones: D-F-A-B-E, equals Bm11♭5 & E7sus♭9
Notes on the open D minor guitar chord voicings:
Dm: For #2 Dm/F you need to switch the 3rd finger to the 4th string if you want to play the optional F note. It’s not worth it. #5 actually has a barre for the bottom 3 strings (oops, my bad). I like all the voicings except for #2.
Dm6: I don’t like minor 6 chords, but if I had to choose my favorites it would be #’s 5 & 6.
Dm add9: I love minor add9 chords. It’s hard to pick a favorite but #’s 2 & 5 sound the best to me.
Dm6 add9: #’s 1 & 5 sound fantastic.
E minor chords from the key of C: minor triad, E minor 3rd interval
E minor chord tones: E-G-B, E-G are the notes in the E minor 3rd interval
Notes on the open E minor chord voicings:
E minor & E m3: The E m3 is an octave of E followed by a unison of G and unison of E. I missed the open G string for #5 Em – sorry about that. My favorites are #’s 1, 3, 8 & 9.
A minor chords from the key of C: minor triad, minor add9
A minor chord tones: A-C-E
Am add9 chord tones: A-C-E-B, equals a Cmaj13 no fifth
Notes on the open A minor chord voicings:
Am: #2 and #4 are practically identical to #1. #3 sounds great.
Am add9: #2 sounds best followed by #1 and #4.
If you like the minor chord sound, then you have a lot of great minor guitar chords above for your songwriting. You can use my resolution tendencies, or use your ear and follow any of the chords with whatever sounds good.
Also, take a look at my article Comprehensive List of Chords which lists every possible chord that can be built from the most popular scales.