Last updated on September 18th, 2023
The A minor chord is one of the first chords you should learn on guitar. This chord may also be written as Am or A min on sheet music.
If you look up how to play an A minor chord, this usually comes up as an open chord starting on the 5th string. This is a good place to start, however there are many different ways you can play this chord on the guitar.
By learning different chord variations for A minor, you’ll be able to play it throughout the fretboard depending on the musical context.
We’ll first go over some basic chord theory and then cover 12 ways to play a A minor chord which you can start to incorporate into your playing.
Let’s get started.
A minor chord theory intro
For example, the A minor chord has the chord tones A, C, and E.
Here is the formula for minor chords below.
In contrast, Major triad chords contain the chord tones 1, 3, and 5. For example, the A Major chord would contain the chord tones A, C#, and E. However, we will only be covering the different minor chord variations in this post.
Now that you know what notes belong to the chord structure let’s look at how to read the chord charts.
How to read the chord charts
For the charts below:
- The top horizontal line of the chord chart represents the high E string and the bottom horizontal line represents the low E string.
- The vertical lines separate each fret.
- The numbers in the blue dots tell you which fingers to use on the fretting hand.
- The letters on the right of the charts tell you what notes you are playing on each string.
- Circles on the left represent open strings.
- Red X means to avoid that string.
You can check this link for more on how to read guitar notation symbols.
A minor open chord
This is the most commonly used chord shape for A minor. This is one of the first chords you should learn on guitar when starting out. The shape looks like this:
A minor mini barre chord, starting on the 4th string
Another way you can play this chord is by using a mini barre or half barre on the 5th fret. If some notes sound unclear, you could first try playing the barre on the top strings with your 1st finger and then try it again after placing your third finger on the 4th string.
The shape looks like this:
A minor mini barre chord, E in the bass (A min/E)
Technically, this chord can be called an A minor chord in 2nd inversion. This means that the 5th degree of the chord is in the bass. This makes the chord sound fuller compared to the last chord we looked at. You can play it like this:
You can also check out this other post for more on how to play chord inversions on the guitar.
A minor barre chord on the 6th string
At this point, we’ve worked on different steps to take before getting to this chord because it requires more strength in your fretting hand.
This shape comes from the open E minor chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you barre the 5th fret with your 1st finger.
Here is the chord:
You may also want to check out 5 tips to get better at playing barre chords on guitar.
A minor chord on the 4th string
This shape comes from the open D minor chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you add your 1st finger. This shape can feel uncomfortable when first learning it but you will get better at it as you keep reviewing it.
The movable shape starts on the 4th string, however it’s optional to add the open 5th string here since it happens to be the root note of the chord.
A minor triad
Some guitars may not be suitable to play comfortably past the 12th fret but if your guitar has that extra space higher up on the fretboard, here are more chords you can use. This is a simple triad shape:
A minor triad chord including pinky
You can make the previous shape sound fuller by adding one more note to the previous shape by including your pinky like this:
A minor chord on the 5th string (without a barre)
Similar to the previous shape, this time we are adding the first finger on the 5th string, 12th fret. We’re gradually building upon the previous chords before we get to barre chords. The shape looks like this:
A minor barre chord on the 5th string
This shape comes from the open A minor chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you barre the 12th fret with your 1st finger.
If you can’t get the note on the 1st string to sound clear, you can play this chord without the barre and only play the notes from the 5th to the 2nd string (as shown in the previous chart). Then, you can come back to this chord shape as you develop more strength in your fretting hand.
A minor chord spread shapes
The following chords are called spread shapes because of the wider space between some of the notes within the chord shape. Because these chord shapes skip a string, they are more suitable for a finger picking style of playing. You might also hear these chords in a more classical music context.
To go more in-depth, check out this post on how to play spread triad chords on guitar.
A minor spread chord on the 6th string
A minor spread chord on the 5th string
A minor spread chord on the 4th string
All these chords were mostly in root position, meaning the root note is in the bass. However, you certainly have more variations if you use different chord inversions. This is when you play a chord with notes other than the root.
It’s good to know many possibilities of playing the same chord because you have more flexibility to move around the fretboard. Also, you can use different chord variations when you need a certain note at the top to help define a melody that you are playing over.
I hope this helped you understand how to play an A minor guitar chord or learn new ways of playing it. You can also try shifting the shapes that have all fretted notes to play other minor chords on the same string.
All the best,
JG Music Lessons