Many songs that I study use the natural minor scale so there is never a raised leading tone. In music written this way, there obviously is no dominant chord so then what do the diatonic chords function as in such a minor mode? In C major you have the I,iii and vi chords which are tonic family chords and you have IV and ii which are sub dominant family chords. Could someone tell me in A natural minor which are the tonic family chords? would the i III and VI chords in A minor be tonic chords?

  • in natural minor, the bVII is often used as a kind of dominant,, the bVII has a certain pull upwards by a tone. Speaking loosely, this functions sort of like a dominant does in terms of tension and release. This isn't really an answer so I include it as a comment only
    – Some_Guy
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 17:40
  • You are confusing scale and key. Songs in minor keys will generally use the notes in all of the minor scales (equivalently, they can use notes from both directions of the melodic minor scale). Thanks to chromatic alteration, they can in fact use any of the 12 tones, though theorists will often consider that chords using the other tones are "borrowed" from closely related keys.
    – phoog
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


Since the same notes are used for C major and A natural minor, the same chords will be in both. So if the tonic chords in C major are C and Am, then in A minor they'll be Am and C. Sub-dominant will be F and Dm.

Since there is no 'proper' dominant (no leading note), the Em won't be dominant as we know it, but at the same time, it won't be function as a tonic as it can in C major. And the same would go for Bo.

It may also hint at a chord's function as to where it is in the piece.

  • the tonic chords in C major are C, Em and Am. so in A minor then shouldnt it be Am, C and F? since they correspond to the same scale degrees
    – user35708
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 15:25
  • In C, CEG, Am has CE, Em has EG, so 2 out of 3. In A minor, ACE, C has CE, and F has AC. To me, though, F doesn't sound like it's acting like a tonic chord. To me.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 15:51
  • @armani In V-VI deceptive cadence F acts as a tonic. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 16:23
  • @user You mean a V-VI cadence in Am? So for example, E-F?
    – user35708
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 8:04
  • There is no V using natural minor notes, only v.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 8:12

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