Chords and Scales Combined to Make

a System for Minor Keys

a.k.a – The Minor Diatonic Harmonic Systems

Moving to and learning these systems is often reserved for advanced students. It is something that can be taught early and give a student a much needed boost to there theory and master of music. 

As before the definitions apply. Review the major harmonic system for the process and procedure to create harmonic systems. It will apply for the minor harmonic systems.

Three Scales Three Systems

As we discovered in working with scales there are three minor scales and therefore three Harmonic Systems to be developed. The difference for each is in the number of flat or minor notes in the scale as compared to the major scale.

The numbering system for minor scales is the same as for major scales expect that there is a use of an accidental (small note to left of roman numerals) to indicate that the position is flat. Example: bIII is a flat 3 major chord.

Lets start by looking at the C Major and minor scales. Here are the scale notes.

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
C-Major-Scale C D E F G A B
Natural-minor C D Eb F G Ab Bb
Harmonic-minor C D Eb F G Ab B
Melodic-minor C D Eb F G A B

Examine the table and you will see that the 3, 6, and 7 positions will be flat chords (flat notes start the chord at these positions) depending on the minor scale used.

Position Numbering and Naming

The position numbers are often used as the same position name as used in major scale when referring to the minor scale, however to ensure that that you work within the interval position they get assigned the flat position name.

The assignment is to use a as a b or superscript flat symbol in front of the position name, as in bIII the third position or bVI for the 6th position.

Be careful not to relate the flat position to the note name. It is representing the position relative to a major scale or the interval position.

For the scale of C#, the third interval is E# in the major scale and in the minor scale it would become flat and be E, but the position would still be bIII although the note name does not have a flat.

Minor Harmonic Systems for the Three Minor Scales

C Natural Minor System

Starting with The C Natural Minor scale you use each of the 7 scale note names.
C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb. 


The natural minor chords for this system


For major scales the major chords were I, IV, and V. For the natural minor scale they are bIII, bVI, and bVII positions. And now the i, iv, and v are all minor. And the ii position is diminished.

C Harmonic Minor System

Starting with The C Natural Minor scale you use each of the 7 scale note names.
C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab – B. 


The harmonic minor chords for this system. Notice the changes in major chords and the introduction of the augmented chord at the bIII position.


Major chords at V and bVI, Minor chords at i and iv, diminished at ii and vii and an augmented chord at bIII position.

C Melodic Minor System

Starting with The C Natural Minor scale you use each of the 7 scale note names.
C – D – Eb – F – G – A – B. 


The natural minor chords for this system


Major chords at V and IV, Minor chords at i and ii, diminished at ii and vii and an augmented chord at bIII position. Similar to the harmonic minor but in different positions.

Major Diatonic Harmonic System Summary

  • The chords developed for these systems are created from the scale notes just as in the major diatonic harmonic system.
  • There are seven chords in the minor harmonic system, but the number of each type changes and position functions change as well.

Knowing your scales and key signatures you can create any major harmonic system. 

This is a high level introductory to these systems, the Creating Chords Workbook goes into greater detail and gives you a plan to become similar with and to easily learn the minor harmonic systems. 

It isn’t necessary for beginners to know this theory to start off, however, it is something you will eventually want to know and master if you truly want to learn music faster and be able to compose and improvise music. 

Learning Resources

Creating Chords

cover-chords-wkshp-t250Before you buy another music learning book you’d better read this!

Every wondered why musicians can work with songs so quickly? It’s all about the chords and the scales.

Learning to create, recognize and work with chords and scales is essential in mastering music.

It can be intimidating for the beginning student.

Don’t let them get the best of you. These Getting It Down Cold Workshops easily lead you through the process step by step.

And in a fraction of the time that most students take to learn this vital part of music.

Learn More…