Tech Tip:Writing Songs in a Minor Key


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Gary Foreman; United Kingdom

 

Q: Here is a question I've had for a while ...

 

When writing songs using the "Chord Scale" I can only seem to think of it as using the chords from the Major scale formula of:

 

Maj-min-min-Maj-Maj-min-Dim

 

When I try to write a song with a Minor feel and sound I find myself starting the progression using the Minor chords from the Major scale formula. Is this method the correct way in theory?

 

A: You should think of a song as being in a Major or Minor key from the onset. Remember that every Major scale has a relative Minor scale built off the sixth degree.

 

So for the key of "C" Major the notes are C-D-E-F-G-A-B, count up six notes in the scale and you have the "A" note. "A" Minor is the relative Minor to "C" Major. Because they are relative they both have the same key signature (number of sharps or flats). "C" Major has no sharps or flats. It is the only natural Major key in music, so its relative Minor scale, "A" Minor, will have no sharps or flats as well and would be A-B-C-D-E-F-G.

 

Now let's say you wanted to write a song in the key of "A" Minor. You can use the same chords as the "C" Major chord scale, but they will be in a different order. The popular 1-4-5 progression will be Am-Dm-Em now, giving a real minor feel to the song.

 

Lots of people will change keys in a song sometimes using the Major/Relative Minor combination. For example, if you writeg the verse in "A" Minor, then the chorus would be in "C" Major to give it a bright kick up for the hook.

 

 

Hope this helps,
Yours in Music
John McCarthy
Rock House Guitar