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

The A minor chord is one of the most common and popular chords on the guitar. The open Am chord is one of the first chords that most guitarists learn, and it has been used in countless songs across many genres.

The open A minor chord and the open E minor chord are easily the two most common minor chords on the guitar.

Some Quick Am Chord Theory

  • The A minor chord contains the notes A, C and E.
  • The A minor chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), flat 3rd and 5th notes of the A Major scale.
  • The A 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 C Major.
  • A minor is the first chord in the key of A minor. The seven chords in the key of A minor are: Am, B diminished, C+, Dm, E, F, G# diminished

10 Ways To Play The A Minor Chord

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

A Minor Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard Am Chord Shape

The standard way to play the A minor chord is in the open position. This is actually one of the most commonly used guitar chords of all, and one of the first that most guitarists learn.

Am Chord Guitar

Easy Am Chord Shape

The easy version of the A minor chord is very similar to the standard open A minor chord (above), but with the fourth string omitted. This means that only the first three strings are used and only two fingers are needed. Most people go ahead and learn the standard A minor chord shape to begin with, but this slightly easier version can be useful if you’re looking for an easier version.

Easy Am Chord Guitar

How to Play the Am Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your third finger on the second fret of the third string.
  • Place your first finger on the first fret of the first string.
  • Strum the first five strings (starting from the fifth string).

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the common A 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.

A Minor Barre Chord Shapes

The Am chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 5th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 12th fret:

Am Barre Chord

A 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 minor triad are:

  • A minor Triad (Root Position) – A, C, E
  • A minor Triad (1st Inversion) – C, E, A
  • A minor Triad (2nd Inversion) – E, A, C

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

A Minor Triad

Which Keys Have The Am chord in Them?

The A chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of A minor (Am, Bdim, C, Dm, Em, F, G)
  • The key of D minor (Dm, Edim, F, Gm, Am, Bb, C)
  • The key of E minor (Em, F#dim, G, Am, Bm, C, D)
  • The key of C Major (C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim)
  • The key of F Major (F, Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, Edim)
  • The key of G Major (G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim)

Alternative But Useful Am Chord Shapes

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

Alterative A Minor Chords Guitar

Am Chord Substitutions

Most A minor chords with extensions can be used as a substitute for the A minor chord. For example, Am9, Am11 and Am6 can often be used to add colour and emotion to the A minor chord.

The Am7 chord is quite often used interchangeably with the Am chord.

For more interesting substitutions, playing variations of the C chord (which is the relative Major of A minor), such as C6, C69, Cmaj9 etc. can be used effectively as a substitute for the A minor chord.

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the A Minor Chord?

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

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

Further Reading

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