Using a Minor-IV Chord In a Major Progression

all_10_newJan_smEven just a bit of chord theory can prevent your songs from sounding like MUDDLE. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages will show you how to harmonize melodies, and will explain in clear terms why some chords work well together while others don’t. Learn the basics of chords, melodies, lyrics, and much more.

GuitarFor any major key there are seven chords that naturally exist. For example, if your song is in the key of C major, the likelihood is that you’ll be using chords selected mainly from the following:

C  Dm  Em  F  G  Am  Bdim

There’s a pattern of major-minor-diminished chords that’s the same no matter what major key you choose. In other words, for major-key songs, all chords built on the first (tonic) note of the key will be major; all chords built on the second note will be minor; and so on:

  1. Major
  2. Minor
  3. Minor
  4. Major
  5. Major
  6. Minor
  7. Diminished

Any chord you choose to use that doesn’t come from that naturally-occuring list of chords is called an altered chord. And you likely use them all the time, especially the flat-VII, flat-III, and major-II.

One very nice altered chord to consider is the minor-IV chord in place of using the typical major-IV. To describe the difference, a major chord consists of an outer interval of a perfect 5th, with a major 3rd as the bottom interval:

F major TriadA minor triad has that same outer interval of a perfect 5th, but the bottom 3rd is minor:

F minor triad

Using a Minor-IV In Your Chord Progressions

A minor-IV chord can often be used anywhere you’d normally use a major-IV, but you’ll notice that especially in pop music, it’s common to start with a major-IV, and then switch to the minor-IV before moving on. For example, take this progression:

C  Am  F  C (LISTEN) (Sound files open in a new tab or window. Close that window to return here.)

Simply changing the F to Fm adds a whole new mood to the progression: LISTEN

Another option is to keep the F, shorten the length of time it’s played, and then insert Fm: LISTEN

If you want to experiment with minor-IV chords, try the following progressions:

C  G  F  Fm  C (LISTEN)

C  D  F  Am  C/G  F  Fm  C (LISTEN)

C  Am  Dm  Fm  C/E  Fm  C (LISTEN)


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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  1. Thank you so much for writing this article. I had a Fm in a C chord progression and could not work out where to go from there!

  2. Thank you so much for this article! I was analyzing a piece that used a minor iv and I was so confused! I don’t remember this ever being discussed in my Theory classes (although it may have come up – it’s been too long ago) – so this truly educated me and supported my smart friends’ conclusions!
    -Not a jazz-trained musician

  3. Awesome tip Gary! Thanks so much!
    This just helped me put the finishing touch on the final line of a song I was struggling with. I just couldn’t figure out the right chord with the right flavor to end that song, and boom there it is – Bbm in the key of F. Much appreciated!

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