I am writing my first song in the key of C minor and I thought that G major actually sounded even better than G minor specially for transitioning passages.

Also I noticed that if you play a barre chord of G major and you move the pattern down one string for each finger you get C minor still in third position and it just transitions very beautifully I can't really explain why.

  • Do you mean moving by 1 fret (along the guitar neck), or by 1 string (perpendicular to the neck)? Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 2:16
  • yes that is exactly what i meant Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 2:57
  • The "why" question will serve no purpose. It works because that's how music works. It works because Music Fairies bring orange magic dust to Unicorns when they hear a G chord. It works because the tangent of frequency integrals close to quantum limit approaches the Fourious equilibrium in the domain field. Imagine any explanation here, and it won't change anything. The only useful thing is to accept that it's how it works, it's used in countless songs for centuries, and nobody ever really found out "why" and it wouldn't have changed anything anyway. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 8:59
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica - the dust is surely invisible? Dogs go 'woof', cows go 'moo', cats go 'meow' and never the twain shall meet. And we accept that. Except on a wailway twack. But there is an explanation - albeit with reference to our ears.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 9:13
  • It works because it is so dominant. Why is it so dominant? It is so dominant because it sounds so dominant. Why does it sound so dominant? It sounds so dominant because frequency blah blah Pontiac Fourier Trans Am7-5. This chain of logic serves no purpose IMO, and it doesn't change anything for any practical purpose. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 9:29

4 Answers 4


When I first learnt music theory some half-century ago the 'normal' form of minor scale was the Harmonic Minor, the one with the raised 7th note.

We knew about and used the other ones, Melodic Minor and Natural Minor, and we'd just about stopped 'correcting' modal folk tunes to fit Common Practice harmonic patterns (though we could get confused over the mix of modes in 'Greensleeves').

But Harmonic Minor was king. In fact, when studying for theory exams, the clincher for whether a two-flats key signature indicated B♭ major or G minor was whether the F notes were sharpened. If not, B♭ major. If they were, G minor.

These days, particularly in the guitarist-songwriter world, we seem to start with the Natural Minor scale and the triads that may be formed from it. Maybe we get the idea that the minor v chord and its associated Natural Minor scale is 'correct'. But then we keep coming across music which uses the major V chord, often extended into V7! And we discover the Cycle of 5ths, with its chain of dominant-function chords! Yes, that sharpened 7th in a minor key, enabling a true Dominant 7th chord, is very useful when chords want to PROGRESS, not just sit next to each other. And the most basic functional progression in music is from a dominant to its tonic.

Not sure what you mean about barre chord shapes? A barre chord of G major shifted down one fret surely becomes a barre chord of F♯ major? yes, G major is the dominant of C minor, and by definition a dominant transitions nicely to its tonic.

  • OP means moved across, as in towards the floor for the Cm, upwards for G.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 12:43
  • My piano lessons (in Canada) involved harmonic and melodic minor getting equal billing and the natural minor getting consistently shafted.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 12:46
  • Yes, piano exams just required Harmonic and Melodic when I was learning too.
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 15:44
  • @Tim So he means down one STRING, not one fret?
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 15:45

sounded even better than G minor specially for transitioning passages

That's because G7 is the dominant chord to C minor. It's probably the most common lead in that there is. I think about 62% of all Carlos Santana songs use this extensively :-)

if you play a barre chord of g major and you move the pattern down one fret for each finger you get c minor

That's just a consequence of the standard guitar tuning. The strings are 5 semitones apart with the notable exception of the G->B transition. If you shift everything one string down you move everything up by 5 semitones (or a 4th) and G becomes C. Again the exception the G->B string where the major 3rd on the G string becomes the minor third on the B string. Hence the major chord becomes a minor chord.

  • Moving G7 across a guitar fretboard will not actually produce Cm. It'll produce Cm7.. neither chord is involved in this question.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 10:49
  • Your answer is correct but there’s no need to mention G7 since the OP just says G. A G triad is also a dominant chord in C minor. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 14:56

Using the diatonic notes of key Cm will, if the natural minor notes are used, make Gm the triad on note G. However, using the notes of the harmonic minor, the G chord will be G major.

That means there's a B note involved. That's the big difference. That B is one semitone away from the tonic, and produces, to our ears, a more substantial pull towards that C. It's the dissonance/consonance, or suspense/release factor. Resolution always takes the shortest route, hence B>C rather than B♭>C.

Using Gm, with that B actually Bb (a tone away), there's not quite that pull heard. In fact, use of G major instead of G minor in a Cm piece has been used for centuries, not just in pop music, and there are way fewer pieces where G minor is used! I can only think, pop-wise, of Black Magic Woman that uses Gm rather than G major, and for a long time, I played it with the latter, wrongly!


The G major chord is the dominant chord of the key of C minor.

The dominant chord is one of the primary harmonies of any key.

It makes perfect sense that chord sounds good an transitions well. It's the heart of tonal harmony.

If you want to know technically why it works that way, the typical explanation is the half step movements of TI and FA in the dominant to DO and MI in the tonic are the source of the sense on strong "pull."

Other chord progressions can be analyzed in that same basic way. Their "pull" and "character" can be viewed in terms of the half or whole step voice leading and scale degree identities.

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