I'm trying to figure out what chords appear most often in minor scales, in major scales it's easy: the I IV and V, it's not even a question. You can harmonize almost any major song with just these chords.

But what would you say are the primary chords in the minor scale . I looked it up and most are saying the i iv v (since minor notes are supposed to function just like in the major scale).

But in practice I dont find this is the case. In natural minor the "v" doesn't have a strong resolve to the "i". and most songs I played don't really use the v. one thing I noticed is that songs tend to use the VII quite alot. (I'm talking chords here).

So if the primary chords in major are I IV V, what are the minor equivalent?

I'm not necessarily talking strict theory I'm talking about practicality and what appears the most in songs from your experience. currently I'm leaning towards the I IV VII but I am still researching this.

  • 1
    Can you elaborate on what you mean by primary? Do you mean most important, best-sounding, most commonly used, etc.? I would think the answer to this question depends on the particular genre you're thinking of.
    – jdjazz
    Feb 3, 2018 at 14:36
  • Also, this might be useful: music.stackexchange.com/questions/58290/…
    – jdjazz
    Feb 3, 2018 at 14:37
  • @jdjazz I'm not sure how this is in minor scales. but in major scales we have the tonic, subdominant (4th), dominant (5th). and almost always these are the only chords needed to harmonize a melody. the 4th is almost always the chord I use (apart from the 1). and the 5th usually an ending harmony that leads back to the 1. looking for the same in minor. the weird thing in minor I found sometimes the V is major or minor depending on the type of minor scale. so I'm confused...
    – user34288
    Feb 3, 2018 at 16:38
  • Highly related (maybe a dupe): music.stackexchange.com/questions/16248/…
    – Dom
    Feb 4, 2018 at 2:45

3 Answers 3


It's still 1, 4 and 5, but with a subtle change. i and iv are standard, but v can be V. In Am, for example, i=ACE, iv=DFA, and v=EGB. V=EG#B sometimes, as in the harmonic and melodic minor scales, G# features, whereas in natural minor (and descending classical melodic) minor, there's Gnat.

It's unusual to call the chords with reference to the relative major, as in vi, ii, and either iii or III.

  • modifying the natural minor scale to have a major V chord, which subsequently raises the 7th degree of the scale (leading tone) is the definition of Harmonic Minor scale. Feb 3, 2018 at 19:55
  • Compositionally, usualy both Harmonic and Melodic versions of minor are used simultaneously, where the raised leading tone may be used melodically to resolve to the octave (tonic), or used in a harmonic stack or arpeggio to voice a Dominant chord. Feb 3, 2018 at 19:58

'Primary triad' is a term from Common Practice functional harmony, where dominant chords lead to tonic chords and leading notes rise to tonic notes. So, although minor tonic and subdominant chords don't buck this system, if we're talking about 'primary triads', V is going to be major. The answer to your question is i, iv, V.

Yes, some minor modes have a minor V (or rather v) chord. But we're now in a world where 'primary triad' isn't a useful idea. In C minor, the G chord, including the leading note, B nat, has a powerful function. G minor chord, not so much.

  • I've mainly been practicing the natural minor. If I make the V a major chord, than it is not in the scale. so should I use harmonic or melodic instead? (I would like the V to want to go back to the I... it's what I mainly use it for when playing songs in a major key)
    – user34288
    Feb 3, 2018 at 18:04
  • 2
    What's this in THE scale idea? Music isn't a matter of picking a scale and being restricted to it. Play a major V chord. Maybe think 'Oh look, I'm using the Harmonic Minor scale. That's moderately interesting!' Or play a minor v chord. That's fine too. (It fits the Natural Minor scale, interesting, but not really important.) My point was that if you go in this direction, you're moving away from the sort of harmony where 'primary triads' are a thing.
    – Laurence
    Feb 3, 2018 at 20:50
  • When 'the scale' is mentioned, it cannot be specific to a particular minor scale. When in a minor key, notes from all minor scales are used. I nearly wrote permissible, but that would be silly. So, the V in a minor key is actually more often than not, V rather than v. So please stop thinking in terms of 'is it melodic, is it harmonic, is it natural. It's actually ALL.
    – Tim
    Aug 5, 2018 at 17:42

In classical harmony, things are very clear. The main triads are in I, IV, and V degrees. There are three types of moles: natural, harmonious and melodic: natural (a-c-e minor) iv (d-f-a minor) v (e-g-h minor) (a-c-e,minor) iv (d-f-a minor) V (e-G-h major) melodic: a: i (a-c-e minor) IV (d- # F-a major) V (e- # G-h)

  • This answer is unclear. -1. And I understand what 'h' is.
    – Tim
    Aug 5, 2018 at 17:44

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