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The Minor Triad

minor triad on keyring
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Other Names:

Minor Chord

Symbols & Abbreviations:

m,-, min


Diatonic, Melodic Minor, Octatonic

Set Class:


They differ from major triads only in one note (the third of the chord), and only by a half step. When this difference is highlighted in Western music, it’s often exploited for its emotional impact: think about the bold brass chords after the rising line in Richard Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, made famous from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which dramatically switch from major to minor. Minor has a reputation for being “sad” in relation to major’s “happy” mood. But the minor triad also shows up frequently in music of lots of different shades and characters, most notably as the tonic chord (i) in some of the most influential traditions from Latin America, including cumbia, salsa, reggaeton, and tango. It’s also commonly found within major-key songs as ii, iii, and vi chords, with very different emotional implications.