Minor Chords for the 5-String Banjo – Part One
Minor chords are characterized by a sad or sorrowful sound, and they add a lot to a chord progression. I am going to dig into a bit of music theory to help you better understand minor chords, and how to use them.
Let’s take a major chord and turn it into a minor chord – We’ll start with a G chord. The G chord is made up of three notes – G, B and D; these notes are also the first, third and fifth notes of a G scale. A minor chord is formed by flatting the third, or lowering the third by a half step. So a Gm or G minor chord consists of G, Bb and D.
When you play in the key of G, the most commonly used major chords are G, C and D – but what is the most common minor chord in the key of G? That chord is E minor (Em) – of course there is a reason why Em is the most common. The sixth note of the G major scale is E – it’s minor chord is called the relative minor. Em is the relative minor because the Em scale has the same notes as the G scale.
As with the major chords – there are different ways to form minor chords. Let’s take a look at Em first; it is composed of three notes: E, G and B. In this case you only need to fret two strings, the 1st and 4th at the second fret. these two notes are both E and the open strings are G and B.
The Fm chord shown below is the same chord formation as Em and can be moved up and down the neck. The root note of this chord (F) is played on the 1st and 4th strings – so if you want to play a Gm chord, just move this formation up the neck two frets to the G on the 4th string, fifth fret.
The next chord formation is demonstrated by an Am chord and has it’s root note (A) on the 3rd string. To play a Bm with this formation slide up two frets to the B on the 3rd string and you are playing a B minor.
We have shown minor chord formations that have their root notes on the 1st, 3rd and 4th strings – C#m demonstrates the minor chord form with its root on the 2nd string. So, to use this chord formation, just find the root on the 2nd string and your set.
These chords have to be practiced to allow for quick changes, so start working on them and strive for clean and clear chords.