Minor 6th Chord Synonyms


We've previously looked at major 6th chords and their relationship with minor 7th chords. In this lesson, we are going to look at minor 6th chords. We'll find out how to play them, what gives them their unique sound, and how, like major 6th chords, they're the chord synonym of another chord.

Yes, that's right: by learning just one chord shape you actually get two new chords!

Minor 6th Chord Shape

First of all, get your ears used to the sound of a minor 6th chord by playing the shapes below. The root notes of the chord are shown in blue. Take care not to play the strings marked with an 'X': use other fretting fingers to dampen them.

Minor 6 Chord Diagrams
Minor 6 Chord Diagrams

Minor 6th chords are the same as major 6 chords, but have a minor 3rd rather than a major 3rd.

(For information on minor 3rds and other intervals check out this article: Music Intervals And Ear Training.)

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Minor 6th Chord

The minor 6th chord is built from the notes of a minor triad plus the sixth note.

Therefore, a C minor 6 chord contains the notes C, E flat, G and A, the A being the 6th of the chord.

Minor 6th Chord Notes
Minor 6th Chord Notes

The addition of the 6th gives the minor triad a completely new sound. The interval between the minor third and sixth note is an augmented 4th, or tritone; a dissonant interval that sounds 'unsettled'.

What this means is that minor 6th chords possess an interesting, colorful sound quality. They can often be used in the place of standard minor chords, particularly in musical styles in which the ear is expecting more complex sounds (i.e. jazz, fusion, etc.).

Minor 6th Chord Synonym

We've found that a Cm6 chord contains the notes:

C (root), E flat (third), G (fifth) and A (sixth)

These are the same notes as those in an A minor 7 flat 5 (Am7b5) chord:

A (root), C (minor third), E flat (diminished 5th), G (seventh)

Therefore the Cm6 chord and Am7flat5 chords are synonyms.

Am7b5 is a minor 3rd (i.e. 3 frets) lower than the Cm6.

Therefore any minor 6th chord shape can be used to play the minor 7 flat 5 chord with a root a minor 3rd lower, or vice versa.

Minor 7 Flat 5 Notes
Minor 7 Flat 5 Notes

Like minor 6 chords, minor 7 flat 5 chords possess a very interesting sound. Minor 7th flat 5 chords are harmonically important as the 'ii' chords in the minor ii V i progression.

For more information on ii V I progressions, check out this article: How To Play Jazz Guitar.

Below are two ways of playing minor 7 flat 5 chords (which we now know can be played three frets higher to make minor 6 chords).

Minor 7 Flat 5 Guitar Chord Diagrams
Minor 7 Flat 5 Guitar Chord Diagrams

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Chord Synonym Examples

The pairs of chords below contain the same notes.

Cm6 = Am7flat5

Gm6 = Em7flat5

Fm7flat5 = Aflat m6

Gm7flat 5 = Bflat m6

Minor 6 or Minor 7 Flat 5?

Whether the chord you are playing is a minor 6 or a minor 7 flat five depends mainly on the bass note: either the one you are playing, or the one being played by another musician in the ensemble. However, this is not always the case, and the preceding harmony and melody note are also factors.

Further Reading

We hope that you enjoyed this lesson. If you are unclear about any of the information in this article, please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

You might also like to refer to other articles:

Guitar Chord Theory

Major 6th Chord Synonyms

Musical Intervals

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