What’s the difference between D minor chord and D Major chord

difference between a D minor chord and D Major chord.

When I was starting my Long journey of playing guitar I used to wonder, what is the difference between a D minor chord and a D Major chord?

There are several reasons that would explain why the two D chords are either minor or Major, but if you want the short of it here’s why. The main difference between a D minor chord and a D Major chord is the Dm is made up of the notes D, A and F. The D Major Chord notes are D, F# and A.

If you want to see exactly what makes the notes minor or major go ahead and read this explanation.

What is the Difference between D minor Chord and a D Major chord?

A good thing to grasp when starting to learn the guitar or any instrument for that matter is Music Theory. You don’t have to know all the ins and outs immediately, but a little at a time will bring it all together, and help you in all aspects of playing the guitar. I know “Music theory” it sounds scary when you talk about theory, but it is really a lot easier than you would think.

Let’s take a closer look at the difference between the D minor Chord and a D Major Chord.

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To start we need to look at what makes a chord a minor or a Major chord. In Music Theory a minor chord is a chord having a root a flatted 3rd and a 5th. When you have these three notes you have a minor chord or a minor Triad.

In a Major chord the notes consist of a root or 1, a 3, and 5 notes. A Major chord is different because it has a Major 3rd above the root instead of a minor 3rd.

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difference betwee D minor chord and D Major chord
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Why does the D minor Chord and D Major Chord sound different?

If you listen to the difference between the D minor chord, and a D Major chord you will notice that the minor chord has a sad sound that is somewhat melancholy. This is because of the minor third note that gives it more of a mysterious sound, in my opinion.

Whereas when you listen to the D Major chord being strummed on the guitar it sounds exciting, and ready to march to the party with an upbeat tone.

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As previously mentioned the minor chord is made up of the 1, b3rd and the perfect 5th. The flatted third gives the Dm chord an unmistakable gloominess to it, a sad tone indeed. Which makes for great tonal quality’s when playing different songs.

What I mean is you can capture a Major sound like in the song “Amazing Grace”, or another mood altering song in a minor key. To sum it up the D minor chord and D Major Chord tones are different, and thus the minor chord is played a lot in Genres such as the blues, and gloomy songs.  For a more Joyous sound you would want to play the D Major Chord.

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What notes are in the D minor Scale?

Difference between a d minor chord and d Major chord
Dm chord Signature

The Musical notes of the D minor scale are derived from the Major Scale. All Music Notes and Chords come from the Major Scale. The Major scale is one of the most commonly used scales in Western music. The notes of the D minor scale are: D, E, F,  G,  A,  Bb, C.

What are the notes of a Major Scale?

You can build any Major Scale just start on the note and use the Major Scale formula.

  1. C Major Scale – C D E F G A B C
  2. G Major scale – G A B C D E F# G
  3. D Major scale – D E F# G A B C# D
  4. A Major scale – A B C# D E F# G# A
  5. E Major Scale – E F# G# A B C# D# E
  6. B Major scale – B C# D# E F# G# A# B
  7. F# Major scale – F# G# A# b C# D# E F#
  8. Db Major Scale – Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db
  9. Ab Major scale – Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab
  10. Eb Major scale – Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
  11. Bb Major scale – Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
  12. F Major scale – F G A Bb C D E F
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Let’s look at the difference in the D minor Chord and D Major chord?

First let’s look at the D minor chord, and how we get to the simplest form which is the Triad. All chords are made from the Major scale. Here is how to build a chord, more specific the D Minor Chord. The Major scale has a formula of Whole step, Whole step, Half Step, Whole step, Whole step, Whole step,  half step.

  • Major Scale Formula – W W H  W W W  H
  • The scale steps are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 1

On a Guitar one fret to the next fret is a half step, and two frets Makes a whole. Therefore two frets equals  a whole step.

You can sharpen a note by raising it half a step or one fret, and Flatten a note by lowering it half a step or fret. The D minor chord is made up of the 1, b3, 5 notes of the Major Scale. So any Major chord you can flatten the third, and you have a minor chord. To find what notes are in the chord you need to know the musical Alphabet.

The Musical Alphabet goes from A to G. Next you need to measure the distance. Remember a half step on a guitar is one fret to the next. A whole step is equal to two half steps, or two frets. There are Sharps and flats. A Sharp or # is when you raise the pitch by one half step. The opposite is true of a flat, or (b). When you lower the pitch by half a step, or fret then you have flatted the pitch.

Another thing you need to know

Another thing you need to know is every note in the alphabet has a sharp except for B and E. With this in mind you will want to find out what notes make up the D minor. We need to know that the Definition of a minor chord is 1st flat 3rd, and 5th scale notes from the Major scale. A Major Chord Definition is 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the Major scale.

Using the W W H W W W H Formula find the D Major Scale. The D Major Scale is D E F# G A B C# D. Okay now we know the D Major Scale let’s find the D Maj Chord.  Out of the Major scale the D is the one chord or the root. The third note is the F# and the 5th of the scale is the A. This would make a D Major chord.

difference between a d minor chord and d Major chord
D Major Signature

If you want to make a D minor chord you need to flatten the third note in the scale, which is the F#. To flatten a note means to lower the pitch by half a step. If we lower the pitch a half step or fret from F# we are lowering it to an F.

Now the notes are D, F, and A, or the 1, b3, and 5 which now we have the D minor chord (Dm).

Knowing  this Theory you will be able to know all the notes on the fretboard. For a more in-depth look of learning the notes on the fretboard click here.

By counting the steps you can figure out that the Dm has the notes D, A and F. The D Maj has D, F# and A.

Why is the D minor chord a minor chord?

All chords come from the Major scale. The Minor chord consists of the first or Root note, flat third and 5th scale steps of the Major scale. The distance between the first and third note is one and a half steps.

The distance between the third and the fifth note is two whole steps. If you take any Major chord and lower the 3rd note by half a step then you will no longer have a Major chord you will be playing a minor Chord.


What are the notes in the D minor chord?

The notes in the D minor chord are the D, A, and F notes. The Root is of course the D note it is the 1 in the D Major Scale. Then the flatted 3rd is the F, which makes this chord a minor chord. Last note is the perfect 5th, it is the A chord. Remember the definition of a minor chord is 1st flat 3rd, and 5th scale notes from the Major scale.  See this link to learn how to Play the Dm chords.

What is the D Major Chord Guitar Finger position?

Difference between a d minor chord and d Major chord
D Major chord finger position

The difference in the D minor chord, and D Major Chord guitar finger position is your first finger is moved from the F on the Dm to the F# on the D Major chord. The other two notes are the same, but the fingering is different. You are using fingers one, two and three when making both the chords.

On the D Major Chord your first finger is positioned at the second fret on the third string. Your second finger is at the second fret on the first string, and your third finger is at the third fret on the second string. Remember to avoid muting other strings when playing the chord, play on your finger tips. If you want to see the D minor fingering, and other first position chords check this link here.

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