How to Play Minor 6 Chords

Learn how to build and apply minor 6 chords.

Ultimate Guitar
Much like a man who was raised by wolves and is now trying to assimilate into human society, a minor 6 chord suffers from some identity issues. It sounds like a minor chord, albeit a little confused. To truly understand and help this chord, we need to know more about its background. Let's take our favorite key, the key of C:


In any key, the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes become major chords, and the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th notes become minor chords. Let's take a closer look at that 2nd note, D. We know it turns into a D minor chord, which consists of the notes D, F, and A. Hold that thought and let's skip to the notes in the key of D:

D E F# G A B C#

As you can see, the 6th note in that key is a B, which happens to be the 7th note in the key of C. If we tack that 6th note (B) onto a D major chord (D-F#-A) we get a D major 6 chord. But if we're operating in the key of C, we're adding a B note to a D minor (D-F-A) chord. THEREFORE we found ourselves a minor 6 chord, Dm6 (D-F-A-B).

So there you have it, just like that man raised by wolves, a minor 6 chord is desperately trying to be something it's not, grasping at that major 6th interval, fighting the very thing that gave it an identity (the flat 3rd), always the wolf, never quite a man.

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28 comments sorted by best / new / date

    That explanation at the beginning didn't really make any sense, Am6 is not constructed with the A major scale at all (in fact the scale you used in that instance was A melodic minor, which is one way of constructing the chord, either that or you were borrowing a note from the parallel minor, but you didn't really mention that). Much like you mentioned later on, the chord is constructed as a II chord, so Am6 is really constructed from the G major scale (or A melodic minor, Gdiminished and E harmonic minor if you wanna get fancy). Now I'm sure that's not what you really meant, as you clear things up near the end, but I just wanted to point out that some beginners may get confused with that first explanation.
    Arfing Thumb
    I love chords with identity issues - really spices up your songwriting to have some obscurities involved
    It's actually constructed from the Dorian scale. The 3rd would be the last note you would alter to come to a conclusion about how a chord is constructed.
    The Dorian scale IS the major scale. When constructing a chord we generally either refer to it's pitches relative to it's major scale (for a m6, it's the II, IV, VI and VII) or we ignore that and just say 1, b3, 5 and 6; and then we can talk about it's applications in a given mode (in the case of Dorian, it's the I). Saying it's constructed from the Dorian scale makes it sound like it's unique to that mode, which it isn't (nothing is, really). And I have no idea what you're trying to say in that last sentence.
    The Dorian scale isn't the major scale fool it's the second mode of a major key now in other words what I said is 100% correct and you're trying to Holla hoop around me to sound very smart. When we construct chords we never alter the 3rd is what I'm saying in the last sentence you would know this if you knew how we constructed chords.
    "The Dorian scale isn't the major scale" Yes it is, it is literally the exact same 7 notes; modes, keys and scales are three different things you buffoon. You clearly don't understand modes too well if you think Dorian is the 2nd mode of a major "key", it's the 2nd mode of a major SCALE (please learn the difference), the only time we relate keys with modes is when we're talking about relative modes ie "D is the relative Dorian of Cmajor". That's like if I were to say the 6th key of the key of Gmajor is Eminor, it just makes no sense. And I do know how chords are constructed, your last sentence was just really weirdly worded, don't pin a lack of knowledge on me just because you couldn't properly explain something. So forgive my "holla hooping", and I'll forgive your ignorance and arrogance.
    You lost the chess match before you even made the first move. You're a bafoon, stop trying to argue with someone 10 times out of your league. Stop saying "we" as if you have a qualification in music like I do, majoring in Jazz Guitar from Queensland Conservatorium. I'm not going to waste any more time on an imbecile. The Dorian Scale is no the Major scale period end of story. You think you're smart but really you just want to argue with people and when you do that you come out looking as stupid as you have.
    Explain to me then, oh great wise one, how the Dorian scale is different to the major scale. Because last time I checked, it was the exact same notes, and don't say "oh the tonal centre is different" because that's mode related, NOT scale related. If you finished a degree in jazz then you'd know the difference between scales, keys and modes. You're yet to back up or even explain any of your arguments, so I'm going to assume you have no idea what you're talking about since you're bailing the conversation before even explaining a single one of your points, instead opting for lazy insults to try and make yourself look big.
    Dude, this is beyond pathetic now. I'm not arguing with you, read what I said and leave it. The Dorian scale doesn't have the same notes as the major scale it has a b3, yes it's the 2nd mode of the major scale but A major and A Dorian for example don't have the same notes. The fact is you don't understand the difference because you're a newbie who probably doesn't know anything above basic major / minor harmony which is why you look at it all so childishly. Go read Jazz Theory by Mark Levine, then read Jazz Guitar Complete Edition by Jody Fisher. Then go read a heap of other books on the subject and perhaps take a 3 year bachelor in the field and you might have a clue as to what you're talking about. Otherwise shut the fuck up lol.
    "The Dorian scale doesn't have the same notes as the major scale it has a b3, yes it's the 2nd mode of the major scale but A major and A Dorian for example don't have the same notes." Every mode, from Ionian to locrian, is based off the diatonic scale (aka the major scale). No shit A major and A dorian are different, they both use different key signatures, that's like A major and D major are two different scales, no shit sherlock. that's the most pointless "evidence" you could ever give, and proves absolutely nothing. Dorian is based off the same exact scale the major scale is, just with a different tonal centre. Both C major and D Dorian use the notes C,D,E,F,G,A and B. The only reason why we say it has a b3 is when we're referring to it as it's own scale to make it easier to learn (usually when learning modes through 'parallel modes'). By your logic, Am7 and C6 don't use the same notes, because one has a "b3", when they both use the notes G,C,E and A. You finished a bachelor and have read multiple jazz theory books, how the fuck do you not know all modes are based off the exact same scale?
    You are so stupid you don't even realise how stupid you are. Of course I understand that the problem is all you know is entry level beta theory and have clearly never actually used any of it except to lose arguments on the web. You have no idea about context because you are a fool now stop talking to me because it's embarrassing, especially considering you got your friend to down my comments and up yours.
    Friend? I had no idea anyone voted till just now, I've been out all day. Maybe, just maybe, someone else doesn't agree with you? I know right a bizarre idea, but believe what you want. BTW you still haven't disputed my arguments, you're still resorting to petty insults and baseless accusations. I don't believe for a second you finished a bachelor in jazz, especially at Queensland Con, your understanding of scale fundamentals is completely backwards.
    Well firstly thank you for the compliment because I graduated last year. You're literally ignoring what I am saying and just saying I have not presented an argument. I'm not going to talk to you any more because you want to win you don't want to be right because you want to argue you don't want to learn. The thing that you don't understand is that when musicians look at chords and modes they use them in context. You see all modes as the parent key like all people that have little to no experience in professional improvisation. If you take a C major chord and play D dorian over you wouldn't say you are playing D Dorian you would say you are playing C Major. If you took a D Minor chord and played C major over it you wouldn't say you are playing C Major you would say you are playing D Dorian because in professional improvisation everything is related to the chord you are playing. It's really that simple, no need to insult you any further I am qualified in the field, you are not.
    What you said is literally what I've been saying this whole time... " If you take a C major chord and play D dorian over you wouldn't say you are playing D Dorian you would say you are playing C Major." Exactly, because *gasp* C major and D dorian use the same notes, meaning that unless you make the tonal centre D, you're playing C major. This whole time you have been seriously misunderstanding EVERYTHING I've been saying because what you just said literally proves my point. BTW nice superiority complex you got there, "I am qualified in the field, you are not." I honestly couldn't care less what qualifications you got, talk yourself up all you want it won't make you any less arrogant or ignorant. "...just saying I have not presented an argument." Ok I'm sorry, you presented one, the whole b3 thing, which I disputed. So yeah, you got 1 argument, and it's a bad one. BTW you said you'd stop talking 3 comments ago, if you're sooooo confident in your knowledge, you wouldn't get so aggressively defensive in your first reply, and would have just left. Senseless aggression is the sign of a weak argument.
    The thing is that you just don't understand what you're saying. You think apples are apples but they aren't because you aren't experienced enough to understand them. You think C Major and D Dorian are the same thing but they aren't, you think that because 2 scales have the same notes that they are the same scale but they aren't. It's funny though, because I can remember thinking like you used to, I didn't argue with people about it but I learned through experience how different they really were. You will understand me if you learn jazz improvisation. The way you're thinking about the fretboard is simplified and essentially limiting you're capability to hear and understand harmony.
    I already said it before, scales, modes and keys are all different things. C major and D dorian aren't the same mode, nor are they the same key, but they are in essence the same scale. A scale is nothing more than a group of notes, and by definition, as both instances have the same notes, they are the same scale. I know perfectly well the differences between major and dorian, or any mode for that matter. If you get the diatonic scale, and you change the tonal centre to a different note, you are changing the mode and key, NOT THE SCALE. As you said, it's about context, the scale never changes, merely what's happening with it and it's context. I appreciate you not getting aggressive, but you're still not seeing the point I originally made.
    Oh my fucking god. Why are you two disputing over a fucking scale? Yes D Dorian has the same notes with C Major (Ionian). The only difference between them is the sound. God, ONE GUY TALKS TECHNICALITY AND THE OTHER TALKS ABOUT MELODY! And a piece of advice, insulting someone in an argument is argument loss. So stop insulting each other. God, it's that simple! Jim says TECHNICALITY, Drapte speaks MELODY. Another piece of advice, just because you came out of that Queensland Conservatorium, Drapte. If you really want to win, using THOSE BULLSHIT DOESNT CUT OUT. IF I FUCKING GO TO BERKLEE WOULD THAT MAKE ME A MUSICAL GENIUS?! HELL NO! Music should be discussed, not argued.
    How do you resolve these chords, do i just substitute all chords for 6ths
    Substituting minor chords for 6ths is something you have to be VERY conscious of to do it properly, just substituting any random chord for a minor 6th will end up sounding messy and confused if you're not careful, as a minor6th only naturally occurs once in the major scale (you can go outside of the scale, but understand that the minor6 chord is a confused one, and should be treated with care). Resolving is pretty simple however, as the 6th interval of the II chord is the same 7th interval of the I chord, you have a leading tone in the chord that very naturally resolves to the I chord, resolving both the tension of the chord, as well as landing back on I. It also works pretty well in a standard II V I progression, especially in bossa nova where you have lots of major9th chords. The 6 and b3 of the II chord act as the 3 and b7 of the V chord respectively, so you have a very seamless transition from II to V, and then resolving on I. Something like Am6 - Dmajor9th - Gmajor7 works well. These are just two textbook uses of the chord, feel free to experiment.
    Dm6-E7-Am. The m6 chord is usually the ii chord in a major key or the iv chord in a minor key. Another common use of a m6 chord would be F-Fm6-C (in the key of C major). In this case you would be borrowing the Fm6 from the parallel minor (C minor). You can also use it as the tonic chord in a minor key, though that's not diatonic to the key.
    Basically what he's saying is that only the dorian mode of any key can have it's regular minor chord substituted for a minor 6 chord.
    sumairareddy · Feb 09, 2016 08:38 PM
    are there lessons on here that are a little slower. this guy flies through them. having to use youtube right now.. thanks for any help