Guitar chords - switching minor to major

More About Chord Progressions That Move From Minor to Major

In a recent blog post (“Moving from Minor to Major in a Pleasantly Abrupt Way: Valdy’s ‘Simple Life’“) I mentioned the common occurrence in songwriting of writing a minor verse that then moves to a major chorus.

Juxtaposing minor and major is a really good way of creating that all-important aspect of contrast in songs. In addition to the option of writing one section in minor and another one in major, you can achieve a similar sense of contrast by creating a single musical phrase that moves from minor to major.

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A phrase is something shorter than a section. Think of it as a sentence, or even just part of a sentence, in a paragraph. In a lyric, you can think of a line or two as forming a phrase. Lennon & McCartney’s “Hey Jude” stays in major, but it’s a good demonstration of how phrases work: typically, a first phase that acts like a statement for which the second phrase behaves almost like an answer:

Phrase 1: “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad/Take a sad song and make it better”

Phrase 2: “Remember to let her into your heart/Then you can start to make it better.”

Moving from Minor to Major

Moving from minor to major in your chords has a really interesting way of starting that phrase with a darker, more nostalgic feel, and then having it move to something that sounds brighter and more optimistic. For song lyrics that follow the pattern of “this bad thing happened, but I’m still OK…” kind of thing, a shortish progression that moves from minor to major might be just what you need to support that change in mood.

So here are five progressions you can try that start in minor and then move to major in different ways. You can use them in any way you want, but to get a good sense of how they sound, try strumming each chord for two beats as a starting point:

  1. Am E7 |Am  G |Am Em |F G7|C F…
  2. Am Dm |Bdim E7 |Am G/B |C G7 |C F…
  3. Am G |Am Dm |F C |Dm G7 | C F…
  4. Am Bb |F G |Am Bb |Am G |C F…
  5. Am Em |Dm Am |A7 Dm |F G |C F…

Of course, you can transpose these to any key that suits you. And there are many possibilities.

And you can try the same thing in reverse: start on a major progression that turns around to minor, like this:

C G |F G | Dm Am |Bdim E7 |Am Dm…

Because chord progressions on their own are not protected by copyright, you can take these ones, or any other progression from a song you like, and use them as a basis for your own song. Just be careful: sometimes, in borrowing chords, songwriters are also tempted to borrow other things, like the tempo, playing style, instrumentation, melodic shape, etc., of an already-existing song, and then you are in danger of copyright infringement.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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