I am trying to learn the scales and its relative chords. I am confused with Minor scale.

Lets take A minor key for an example. A minor key has following notes: A B C D E F G and its relative chords are: Am Bdim C Dm Em F G (I II III IV V VI VII)

now i was looking online for some of the common progression for all the key, so i came across the below progression for A minor key.

I IV I V I (Am Dm Am E Am)

The above chord progression has a E major chords in it, why is that ? E major is not in the relative chords for A minor scale. Can somebody please clarify this? This seems to be the pattern for all the minor keys. We just change the chord from minor to major even if it's not in the relative chords for that Key. I do not see this kind of behaviors in the Major Key.

One more question that is for the soling. I have looked numerous examples and tutorial online but i could never find the simple easy tutorial which makes sense. So, lets say I choose a key for my song, lets say its a key of A minor. I am also doing chord progression in the Key of Am (e.g of the chord progression Am Dm Am E Am). Now if i want to solo over this chord progression what is the best way to go about it ? Should I play the scale of A minor on this chord progression ? should I play the scale of each individual chord during the progression? what is the most easiest approach for which i dont have to memorize too many scales ?

I am sorry if my question is very rudimentary. I am not very good at this.

  • 2
    a minor has a G sharp
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 15:24
  • 10
    @NeilMeyer - A harmonic minor always has G#; A melodic minor sometimes has G#; A natural minor never has G#.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 16:47

3 Answers 3


The diatonic chords in minor are:

  • Tonic (A C E) is minor
  • Supertonic (B D F) is diminished
  • Mediant (C E G) is major
  • Subdominant (D F A) is minor
  • Dominant (E G# B) is major
  • Submediant (F A C) is major
  • Leading tone (G# B D) is diminished

The key of A minor has zero sharps or flats. However, standard practice is to raise the seventh scale degree of a minor key; in this case, we raise the G to a G#. This is called harmonic minor because it allows us to create a major chord built on scale-degree 5 (also called the "dominant") which leads us more smoothly back to tonic. This is why all of those E major chords keep popping up! This G# is also used in the leading-tone triad.

However, it's very rarely used in the mediant triad. Although Neil is in a way correct that the mediant is augmented, in common practice it's just a major triad. This means that, although we use that raised seventh scale degree (G# instead of G) in the dominant and leading-tone triads, we tend not to for the mediant triads.

One reason is because the mediant is what is called the relative major of the given key. Relative keys share the same key signature, and the mediant of A minor is C major, the other key that has zero sharps or flats! It's incredibly common to move to the relative major when you're in a minor key, and you can't do that if your mediant triad is augmented.

Following this line of reasoning, we can add one more chord:

  • Subtonic (G B D) is major

This is a very common harmony in rock music, and it also helps lead us into the relative major. Try playing, in a minor key, tonic–subtonic–mediant. It's a great progression! (At least, as long as the mediant isn't augmented...)

I'll end up writing a book if I try to help with your soloing, so for now I'll just have to direct you to Tips for starting with improvisation on guitar, with a focus on metal?, How to start playing by ear/improvising?, and Where can I get started with my improvisation?.

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 12:51
  • 2
    I feel like the sentence, "standard practice is to raise the seventh scale degree of a minor key" could use some clarification, because not all genres or styles would automatically include a raised seventh scale degree for minor key chords. Perhaps "standard practice during the baroque, classical, and romantic periods" or "standard practice for most of the history of western music" or something like that would be clearer. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 16:31
  • 1
    Another commonly minor key progression that involves the subtonic and the major mediant is i-iv-VII-III-VI-ii*-V-i, the circle of fifths progression.
    – user53472
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 7:13

Richard has ably covered the main question, so here's the rest. In A minor, soloing will be using mainly the notes from Am. Bear in mind there are 3 different minor scales, and the notes won't always match the chord you should be playing over because of this.

The Am notes are basically A,B,C,D,E,F,G/G#.

The Dm notes are D,E,F,G,A,B,C/C#.

The Em notes are E,F#,G,A,B,C,D/D#.

The E notes are E,F#,G#,A,B.C#,D#.

There's a lot of common ground amogst the Am/Dm and even Em notes. In fact,only a couple of difference between one and another. Provided you avoid playing, say, an F# (from Em) while over a Dm chord, most will sound fine. Despite opposition from some, using a G natural note over an Am chord will NOT sound bad at all.

So, use mainly Am notes for the piece, and to spice it up, use the odd notes that fit better over individual chords only when that chord is being played. Hope this helps!


The chords are...

  • Tonic (minor) (A-C-E)
  • Supertonic (Diminished) (B-D-F)
  • Mediant (Augmented) (C-E-G♯)
  • Subdominant (minor) (D-F-A)
  • Dominant (Major) (E-G♯-B)
  • Submediant (Major) (F-A-C)
  • Leading-tone (Diminished) (G♯-B-D)
  • 6
    Probably downvoted as not entirely accurate (not by me!). You've not mentioned two other notes which feature in A minor - F# and G. Both of which will allow several other chords to be made diatonically. So there are five more chords that you've missed. And they're triad chords, others are available...
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 8:23
  • 2
    Was the original # sign so confusing that no-one would understand?
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 5:59

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