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Common Minor Chord Variations

Christopher Sung (9641) · [archive]
Style: Acoustic/Folk · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 160
Pages: 1 2 3

OK, if you took my A Guide for Beginners - Minor Chords lesson, you should be familiar with your basic open A, E, and D minor chords. In a recent lesson, entitled Common Major Chord Variations, I illustrated some of the different ways you can add notes here and there to spice up major chords without changing the essential harmony of the chord. Now, I'll be the doing the same with open minor chords.

Here's some variations for your common A minor chord:
1. A minor
2. A sus2
3. A sus4
4. A min7
So what's going on here?
  • Chord 1 - Your basic A minor chord
  • Chord 2 - We drop the 1st finger, letting the open 2nd string (B) ring. By doing this, we create what's known as a Sus2 chord. Note that this chord is actually neither major or minor, but this ambiguity allows us to use it in conjunction with a minor chord.
  • Chord 3 - We add the pinky to the 3rd fret, 2nd string (D). By doing this, we create what's known as a Sus4 chord. Again, this chord is neither major or minor, allowing us to use it in conjunction with a minor chord.
  • Chord 4 - We add the pinky to the 3rd fret, 1st string (G). By doing this, we create an A minor 7 chord. This particular voicing is very common and can even be heard in Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven"
With these variations, I think it's important to note that not all of them can be used as a straight substitute for an A minor chord. But they work well when you hit your open A minor chord, and play these variations after establishing the general "A minor" sound.

Listen to the example below to hear how each of these sound in context.
Common Minor Chord Variations