My aim with this guitar lesson is very simple. I’m going to show you many different minor chord variations on guitar. I hope that by the end of the lesson, you will have learned a few nice new minor chord shapes that you can take away and use to make some new and interesting music. Expanding your chord vocabulary via learning new chord shapes is never a bad thing. The end result is always more tools to work with. More weapons in your arsenal. These tools and/or weapons can only improve your rhythm guitar playing and composition skills. It’s now time to break out of those constraints you’ve found yourself in by using the same shapes over and over. Let’s expand those horizons a little bit.
Before we begin
Before we start to look at the different minor chord variations, there’re a few things we need to cover.
Firstly, and least importantly is the fact that many of you reading this guitar lesson will already know at least some of these shapes. Obviously, you will simply need to focus on the ones you don’t know. I never claimed that this lesson will reveal hidden secret minor chord variations that nobody knows about. This is simply a collection of minor chord shapes all in one place for convenience and besides, there will be guitarists out there who don’t know many of these shapes at all if any. I’m simply trying to cover everyone’s needs.
Oh, and yes, I know there’s that guy out there who already knows all these shapes because he’s so awesome at guitar. Yeah, I see you. You don’t need to email me. I can assure you that I already know you’re amazing.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the type of chord shapes you’re going to find here.
These are minor chord variations. Not minor 7 chord variations. Not minor 9 or 13 chord variations or whatever other spin you want to put on it. These are just straight and simple minor chords containing a root, a minor third and a perfect fifth. All those other chords are a subject for another day.
Another thing to consider with the below minor chords is the fact that every single shape/variation is movable. This means that if the example chart is a B minor (spoiler they all are), you can move the exact shape up or down on the fretboard to create different minor chords. I’ll cover that briefly when we get to the shapes but that does bring me nicely to the final part of this section but remember, the fact that the chords are all movable means that chords that aren’t movable won’t be found here.
The last thing we need to cover is the minimum requirements for the lesson.
I will be assuming that any guitarist reading this lesson will have a level of understanding that will allow them to understand the material without having their hands held. With that in mind, please ensure that you have at least a basic command of the following.
Chord charts. – You will need to know how to read and use basic guitar chord charts.
Barre chords. – Having a basic understanding of how to play Barre chords is essential as many of the shapes will have a Barre. If you don’t have this knowledge, check out the introduction to Barre chords lesson.
Notes on the fretboard and root notes. – Further to my comments on movable chord shapes, you will require a basic knowledge of where notes live on the fretboard so that you can move the chord shapes around. You’ll also need an understanding of root notes. I will only be going briefly into how you can move the chords so an understanding of these things is important.
That’s about it, I think. Let’s get started.
Wait sorry. There was something I forgot to cover and I don’t know where to put it so it’s going here.
This is not a guitar lesson that lists ALL minor chord variations. These are simply the shapes that I thought were worth knowing for every guitarist.
Now we’re ready to go. Enjoy.
Minor chord variations – first three shapes – standard barre chords
Our first three minor chord shapes are perhaps the three most standard movable ones. They may look familiar. These shapes are the same as the open E minor, A minor, and D minor chords respectively but with an added barre.
You have a six string shape, a five string shape, and a four string shape. These are your bread and butter, your starting point.
The examples are all in B minor but as mentioned earlier, these shapes (and all the shapes in this lesson) are movable. This means that you can move the shape around to create different minor chords. Doing this is easy but this isn’t a music theory lesson so I shall keep this brief.
The quickest way of explaining this is via examples. If you don’t require this explanation, simply skip to the next shapes.
All you need in order to correctly utilise movable chord shapes is a knowledge of the notes on your fretboard and an understanding of what a root note is.
I’m not going into notes on the fretboard here because the topic is far removed from the lesson subject but a root note can be summarised easily. You can think of the root note as the first note in a chord or, the note that gives the chord the first part of its name. The root note of all the examples in this lesson is therefore, B.
This knowledge combined with a basic understanding of fretboard note placement allows you to use the chords fully. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Take the first shape in the example. We’re going to change it from a B minor to a C minor. We know that the chord is a B minor so the root is therefore B. The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that there is more than one B note in that chord shape, but we only need one of them. Let’s take the one sitting at the top of the chord at the seventh fret on the low E string.
To make this chord a C minor, we simply shift the shape so that the root is turned from a B to a C. In other words, we move it up by one fret.
Shifting the entire shape up a fret gives us a C minor chord. Shifting the shape down two frets from the seventh gives us an A minor. Move it down two more frets and you have a G minor. Move it up so that the low E root sits at the twelfth fret and you have an E minor. Move it down so far that the third and fourth finger are sitting at fret two and you have your standard E minor open chord. There’s no barre and the fingers used aren’t correct but it’s an E minor. Shift the third and fourth finger up from the second fret to the third and add the barre back in at the first fret and you have a full six string F minor chord.
Hope you get the idea because that’s the end of my basic no theory-based explanation. Carry this logic to any moveable chord shape and you’re good to go. For example. The shape in the middle of the above image can be moved up so that the B root (found on the A string second fret) is a D thus making the chord a D minor. This would be at fret five of the A string.
Here’s another hint for you to ponder over. A movable chord shape DOESN’T contain any open strings.
Minor chord variations – three more shapes
There has been way too much reading in this guitar lesson. Let’s get down to business and start looking at more shapes. Here’s three more shapes bringing our total up to six.
I like to think of the first shape on the left of the three as a smaller version of the six string barre chord from earlier. The one at the end is even smaller still, and very easy to move around and that one in the middle sounds great when arpeggiated.
Remember. If you want to create different minor chords (C minor D minor etc), find the root and shift it to the relevant position on the fretboard for example moving the shape on the right up to fret ten gives you a D minor chord.
Minor chord variations set 3
A nice and interesting set of minor chord shapes here. You can think of the shape on the left in a couple of different ways. It’s either the middle shape from the previous set with a fifth sitting at the top or, it’s the five string barre chord shape from the start but with one less note, and no barre.
Speaking of the root not being at the top of the chord, we have a four string shape in the middle with the minor third at the top and a useful little three string shape with a fifth at the top. All these shapes sounds completely different despite being the same chord technically.
Minor Chords Set 4
We’re developing shapes here. The one on the left is a development of the last shape in the previous set of minor chord variations. Reach that thumb around on this one and don’t catch that high E string.
The middle shape is a more stripped back version of the middle shape from the previous set (minus a third) for those who like the little micro chords.
Our example shape on the right of set four should look familiar to every guitarist out there. It’s the good old open D minor shape only we’ve cut out that open bass note and shifted the shape up the fretboard as required.
This will be the final set of movable minor chord shapes for this lesson. Fifteen is plenty. The first of set five is the same as the first example in the lesson only we’ve lost that big deep bass root note which takes away some of the harshness.
We have another three string shape in the middle with a shape that removes the barre from the five string shape from our first set. Be careful not to catch open strings with that one. Use the thumb to mute the E and A.
Lastly, another three note chord. Nice and straightforward. Similar to one from the second set that can be used if you don’t want that B note on the high E ringing out.
That about wraps up this lesson on minor chord variations. You have fifteen different movable minor chord shapes there which give you a nice range of sounds all over the fretboard. They’re all useable and easy to fit into chord progressions too. Try them out and develop your own opinion about each one of the shapes. Hopefully some if not all of these shapes will prove useful to you in your future compositions.
Was this guitar lesson too wordy? I feel it was too wordy. Next time I cover a topic like this, I’ll try to be more concise but thanks for sticking with it. I hope to do similar lessons on different types of chords going forward such as 7th chords and 9th chords etc but until then, if you ever want to learn more chord shapes, do check out the Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat guitar chord library. The library is in a continues state of development and I’m sure you’ll learn something there.
Want more chord-based lesson material? Try this one on jazz chord progressions. Alternatively, you could learn something scale based. Try this lesson which teaches the Hungarian minor scale and the Hindu scale.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.