Abm Chord on the Guitar (A Flat Minor) – 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory)

The Ab minor chord is most commonly played as a bar chord. The chord itself contains the note B, which means the chord can technically be played as an open chord (see the first shape in the image below), but this is not a common way of playing the chord, even if it is the easiest.

The Abm chord is enharmonically the same as G#m.

Some Quick Abm Chord Theory

  • The A flat minor chord contains the notes Ab, Cb and Eb.
  • The Ab minor chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), flat 3rd and 5th notes of the Ab Major scale.
  • The Ab minor chord (just like all minor chords) contains the following intervals (from the root note): minor 3rd, Major 3rd, Perfect 4th (back to the root note).
  • A minor is the relative minor of Cb Major.
  • A flat minor is the first chord in the key of A flat minor. The seven chords in the key of A flat minor are: Abm, Bb diminished, Cb+, Dbm, Eb, Fb, G diminished

10 Ways To Play The A Flat Minor Chord

If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for Abm, here they are.

Ab Minor Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard Abm Chord Shape

The most common way to play the A flat minor chord is as a root-6 minor barre chord, starting in the third fret.

Abm Chord Guitar

Easy Abm Chord Shape

The ‘easy’ or ‘mini’ version of the A flat minor chord is achieved by playing the first three strings of the guitar, all in the fourth fret. This can be used as an easy alternative to the more difficult barre chord shape (pictured above).

Easy Abm Chord Guitar

How to Play the A Flat Minor Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your first finger on the fourth fret of the sixth string and barre all six strings.
  • Place your third finger on the sixth fret of the fifth string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the sixth fret of the fourth string.
  • Strum all six strings.

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the common Ab minor chord shape. Forming the chord through step by step instructions is a great way of ensuring that you are interpreting the chord diagram correctly.

Ab Minor Barre Chord Shapes

The Abm chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 4th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 11th fret:

Abm Barre Chord

Ab Minor Triads

Playing triads is a great way of exploring the minor chord and the guitar fretboard more generally. By arranging the notes of the chord systematically using permutations (root position, first inversion, second inversion), interesting and unique shapes and voicings are created. The three different voicings for the A flat minor triad are:

  • Ab minor Triad (Root Position) – Ab, C, Eb
  • Ab minor Triad (1st Inversion) – C, Eb, Ab
  • Ab minor Triad (2nd Inversion) – Eb, Ab, C

By playing these triads on two different groups of three strings, we can produce six different shapes.

Ab Minor Triad

Which Keys Have The Abm chord in Them?

The Abm chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of Ab minor (Abm, Bbdim, Cb, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb)
  • The key of Db minor (Dbm, Ebdim, Fb, Gbm, Abm, Bbb, Cb)
  • The key of Eb minor (Ebm, Fdim, Gb, Abm, Bbm, Cb, Db)
  • The key of Gb Major (Gb, Abm, Bbm, Cb, Db, Ebm, Fdim)

Alternative But Useful Abm Chord Shapes

The following shapes are alternative ways of playing the A flat minor chord shape. They’re not the most common Abm shapes, but used enough to include here as interesting alternatives.

Alterative Ab Minor Chords Guitar

Abm Chord Substitutions

Most Ab minor chords with extensions can be used as a substitute for the Ab minor chord. For example, Abm9, Abm11 and Abm6 can often be used to add colour and emotion to the Ab minor chord.

The Abm7 chord is quite often used interchangeably with the Abm chord.

For more interesting substitutions, you can play variations of the B chord, which is the relative Major of Ab minor, such as B6, B69, Bmaj9 etc. It should be noted that technically the relative Major of Ab minor is Cb Major, but this is enharmonically the same as B Major, which is a much more practical and common chord.

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the Ab Minor Chord?

The most common and effective scales that can be used to solo/improvise over the Ab minor chord, or to create melodies for the purposes of song writing are:

  • Ab natural minor scale – This scale (also called Ab aeolian) is the most commonly used scale for this chord.
  • Ab minor pentatonic scale – This is probably the easiest scale to learn and get started on when improvising over the Ab minor chord..
  • Ab minor blues scale – This scale can be used over the Abm chord to add a Blues flavour. 
  • Ab dorian mode – This scale can be used to add a slightly brighter sound to the Ab minor chord.
  • Ab phrygian mode – This scale can be used to add a darker sound to the A flat minor chord.

Further Reading

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