The "Everything Goes" chords in Natural Minor — Personal Taste Alert!

A relatively simple concept that helped my a bunch in writing riffs and melodies in natural minor. Similar concepts apply to the relative major key, but I don’t think I was ever successful in writing something in major :slight_smile:

Let’s take the key of A minor for example.

  • Notes of Amin key: A, B, C, D, E, F, G

Chords (triads) in the key of A minor:

  • Am, Bdim, Cmaj, Dmin, Emin, Fmaj, Gmaj

The chords in bold [Dmin and Fmaj] are the “everything goes” chords: any note of the A minor scale will sound nice/cool/acceptable over these chords, even if you sustain it or use it on a strong part of the beat.

Conversely, with all the other chords there are some notes that sound a bit dodgy, especially when you sustain them: for example, it’s pretty hard to make a sustained F note sound good when the band is playing an Am triad.

So, a simple way that your melody can outline — for example — the Am to Fmaj transition, is to not use the F note at all over the Am chord, and then use it when the F chord comes in.

As usual in music this is not a hard rule but more of a guideline. I’m sure we can find plenty examples of composers that got around these “rules” :slight_smile:

It’s context more than anything. You could make a case for F note over an Amin chord, especially if the Amin chord was an Amin add13, or amin6 or Amin add6. That chord is actually the modal characteristic chord for aeolian. And is a cool sounding chord.

Getting rid of both the second and sixth in relation to A is exactly how you end up with the minor pentatonic, and why it sounds so safe over minor progressions.

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Seems like you’re on the verge of discovering the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organisation

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You are both right :smiley:

Bolero No.3 by Strunz & Farah and La Catedral by Barrios are two examples that come to mind that use the minAdd13 chord unapologetically (in both cases a G note over a Bmin triad), and they sound amazing!

I am overlooking a lot of stuff here, it’s basically a way I personally developed to organise notes / melodies over a minor tonality, but it’s definitely not the only way.

Dm and F in this case are the dorian and lydian chords, and any of the A minor scale notes will sound fine over them, for sure.

As for why, the shared characteristic is that none of the scale notes are a half step above any of the chord tones, which would not be true if you played D aeolian over Dm or F ionian over F. Landing on a note a half step above a chord tone sounds pretty meh in most cases, although the reverse is not true (half step below). And you can of course add in extensions to the chords which will make them “safer” for noodling. :slight_smile:

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For sure, that’s a way to look at it!

In fact the F triad (A minor key) is even more special as even the blue note (Eb) sounds good against it (provided no one else in the band is playing E, I guess).

Oh cool, I hadn’t noticed that it is the half step above the chord tone that sounds “bad” — as opposed to the half step below a chord tone which can often sound cool (like a minor 9, maj7, etc.)

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I would be a bit careful of that. It’s all contextual and where you want the pull to be. I wouldn’t say approaching a chord tone from either a half step above, or below is bad or better more than you just have either a pull in one or the other direction. and it’s really the duration that matters, and what you are playing over.

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I think these are all very good points so I made a little addition to the title :slight_smile: