Theory Made Easy 13

Minor Key Structures - continued

[ 4 ] A Minor - D Minor - E Major

chord box

If you analyze the notes in these three chords you will find a scale of A Harmonic Minor


[A - B - C - D - E - F - G# ]

This does not relate to a Major Key Structure and is the true 'standalone' Minor Key Structure.

The chords that make up this Structure are ( in scale order )

A min - B minb5 - C aug - D min - E Major - F Major - G# minb5

These are the basic 'Triads' but this Key Structure has lots of really interesting chord options and extensions so I'll go into some detail of each scale step

Remember you ' extend ' a chord by adding other notes from the scale so in this structure we can only add notes from the Harmonic Minor Scale.

A minor extends to

A minor(maj7)     [ Am(maj7) = A, C, E, G# ]

A minor(maj9)    [ Am(maj9) = A, C, E, G#, B ]

A minor (add 9)   [ Am(add9) = A, C, E, B ] probably used more than Am(maj9) is.

A sus 2 and A sus 4 can also be used

B minor b5 extends to

B minor 7b5    [ Bm7b5 = B, D, F, A ]

Minor 7b5 chords are sometimes referred to as ' Half Diminished ' chords especially in Jazz.

Another chord that fits on a B root in this key structure would be a Full Diminished chord.

B diminished    [Bdim = B, D, F, G#] - this could be written as Bdim or B°

C augmented      [ Caug = C, E, G# ]

Augmented is just another name for a sharpened fifth ( the chord is made up - 1 + 3 + #5 )

Straight C Major can't be used because it contains a G note which isn't in the A Harmonic Minor scale

C augmented could also be written as C+.

The extensions are usually written as sharp five chords so we get

Cmaj7#5         [ Cmaj7#5 = C, E, G#,B ]

Cmaj9#5         [ Cmaj9#5 = C, E, G#,B ,D ]

Cmaj11#5        [ Cmaj11#5 = C, E, G#, B, F ]

Cmaj13#5        [ Cmaj13#5 = C, E, G#, B, A ]

You might also see this - C+(add9) [ neat chord name! - see if you can work out how to play it ]

D minor extends to;

D minor 7        [ Dm7 = D, F, A, C ]

D minor 9        [ Dm9 = D, F, A, C , E ]

D minor 13       [ Dm13 = D, F, A, C , B]

D minor also alters to D minor flat five in this Key Structure .

Extend and alter are technically different - so we can also use:

Dmb5       [ Dmb5 = D, F, G# ]

Dm7b5       [ Dm7b5 = D, F, G#, C ]

D diminished         [ D° = D, F, G#, B ]

E Major

E Major is the Dominant chord in this Key - It extends to

E7     [ E7 = E, G#, B, D]

E 7 flat ninth     [ E7b9 = E, G#, B, D, F ]

E7(b13)        [ E7(b13) = E, G#, B, D, C ]

E7(#5b9)      [ E7(#5b9) = E, G#, C, D, F ]

This (#5b9) name is quite often abbreviated to ALT e.g. E7 ALT .This is quite often used as a turnaround chord in this key structure.

E augmented [ E+ ] is technically in the Key - However ( also technically ) E+ is an inversion of C+
[ an inversion = same notes different order - check it out ! ] so we've already covered this chord.

F Major

There are lots of possibilities for chords built on F in this Key Structure - bear in mind that F Major is your main chord. Extensions of F include : -

Fmaj7             [Fmaj7 = F, A, C, E ]

Fmaj7#9       [Fmaj7 = F, A, C, E , G#]

Fmaj7#11      [Fmaj7 #11= F, A, C, E , B ]

Fmaj7(add13)       [Fmaj7 (add13) = F, A, C, E , D]

Technically F minor also fits in this Key Structure with extensions like

Fm(maj7)        [Fm(maj7) = F, G#, C, E ]

Fm(maj13)        [Fm(maj13) = F, G#, D, E ]

and alterations like Fmb5 all of which can sound good in the right context . Fmb5 extends to a full diminished chord [ F° ] which is an inversion of B° , D° or G#°

G# minor flat 5     [ G#mb5 = G#, B, D ]

This chord does not extend to G#m7b5 because the seventh of G# is F# which is not in the scale.

By flattening this 7th note [ F# ] to a 6th [ F ] and adding that instead - we get a Full Diminished chord. Full Diminished chord = 1 + b3 + b5 + 6

G# Dim            [ G#°= G#, B, D, F]

G#+ can also be used on this scale step [ again it's an inversion of C+ ]


Just like the Major Key Structure this Harmonic Minor Structure has its own modes - try rooting the scale on E and playing over an E chord for example . You'll get a very Spanish sounding mode of this key structure.
For more on the Harmonic Minor and its use in Spanish style see my 'LEAD IMPROVISING SPANISH STYLE' tutorial.


There is a lot of information in this lesson - take plenty of time to absorb it all.

This structure is used a lot in Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, Latin and Spanish styles.

Have you ever wondered how a Bossa-Nova or Spanish guitarist comes up with all those odd chords ? - The answer is probably that they have explored this Key Structure in some depth.

You could do the same - Start by learning the scale and the main chords.

Try to compose a piece using just the three chord trick [ Am - Dm - E ] and the Harmonic Minor scale.