Based on my knowledge, here are the diatonic seventh chords in A minor:

In natural minor:

  • Am7, Bm7♭5, Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7

In harmonic minor:

  • Am(maj7), Bm7♭5, Caug(maj7), Dm7, E7, Fmaj7, G♯dim7

In melodic minor:

  • Am(maj7), Bm7, Caug(maj7), D7, E7, F♯m7♭5, G♯m7♭5

However, I got this comment on one of my posts:

C Major/ A minor are diatonic and do not have any accidentals. If you are suggesting chord with accidental they are not diatonic. For example, while E7 is use in classical composition all the time it is not a diatonic chord of A minor.

Is E7 really non-diatonic to A minor?

  • 2
    To get to the core of the issue, you should ask "in what contexts and for what purposes would someone use the term 'diatonic' including the E7 chord", and "in what contexts and for what purposes would someone use the term 'diatonic' excluding the E7 chord". Feb 18, 2019 at 6:46
  • 3
    @piiperi - moot point. The term diatonic is used in conflicting ways. Some are happy with it meaning purely the 'white keys' on piano - and the eleven other ways that series of intervals can be played, while others are happy to include not only the Aeolian mode set, but notes included in the melodic minor too (which obviously includes those in harmonic, by default). So, basically, the question cannot accurately be answered, as 'diatonic' needs to be determined first.
    – Tim
    Feb 18, 2019 at 7:20
  • 1
    @Tim I'm trying to say that music theory should be seen as more about studies of the cultures of various people in various historical contexts. To get to the core of the issue, a different question is in order. Even asking "is E7 this or that", to me, implies that it could be seen as some kind of a single-truth natural science, as if you could put the E7 chord under a microscope and determine if it "is" something. What you actually do is find out about different cultures - not just one - and why and how certain words have been used in them to refer to concepts. Feb 18, 2019 at 7:42
  • 3
    My guess is your constant listing of the mediant triad in minor as an augmented chord is getting downvotes. Chord matrixes from three minor scales. It misrepresent how minor key harmony works. Apr 1, 2019 at 13:08

1 Answer 1


Some use diatonic to strictly refer to chords and scales derived from the Major scale or its modes, others use the term diatonic more broadly. In fact, the Major scale is sometimes referred to as the Diatonic scale. There isn't one correct answer here, but it is safest to use the term diatonic in the most restrictive sense to avoid confusion. The Wikipedia article on Diatonic and Chromatic lists some common modern usages.

E7 is not derived from A natural minor, so in a strict reading is not diatonic to the key. According to the Wikipedia article, some even consider A natural minor to be non-diatonic, though I think that this last is not a common position to take. On the other hand, it is rather common for harmonic and melodic minor scales to be considered non-diatonic, ruling out E7 as a chord diatonic to A minor.

Unless you are using the term in a historical context that is well-understood, or have in some other way established what you mean by diatonic, it is best to stick to the restrictive sense in which diatonic chords are comprised of notes from the Major scale or its modes.

  • So it could be both diatonic AND non-diatonic. In natural minor, it would be an Em chord, but it is rare.
    – user53472
    Mar 2, 2019 at 4:45
  • 3
    @MaikaSakuranomiya -- "both diatonic AND non-diatonic": sure, it depends on your perspective. To say that E7 is diatonic to A minor (without some qualification) seems to me almost (but not quite) as careless with terminology as to say that E7(#5) is diatonic to the E whole-tone scale. Yet in the real world people talk like this all the time, and I know what they mean. This sort of careless terminology can work for communication, but is confusing for learners (hence I may pick on this in answers sometimes).
    – user39614
    Mar 2, 2019 at 5:46
  • 1
    @MaikaSakuranomiya -- "but it is rare": that probably depends on what type of music you are considering. Probably rare in classical genres, or in jazz, but it seems like I've come across Vm7 chords in folk and other simple popular genres quite often.
    – user39614
    Mar 2, 2019 at 5:49
  • 3
    @MaikaSakuranomiya Often electronic music will use the minor dominant to avoid a strong feel of resolution when writing a loop in minor. It's probably more rare to include the seventh...
    – user45266
    Mar 3, 2019 at 0:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.