The A flat Minor triad is one of the most popular chords in Western music. In this article you’ll learn how to construct the A flat minor triad as well as how to play it on piano and guitar.
We’ve also included sections on inversions for those that want a deeper understanding. Lastly, listen to some examples of popular songs that featured this triad.
A flat Minor Triad – Root , 3rd and 5th
The A flat Minor triad is formed of the 1st, 3rd and 5th of the A flat minor scale. Another way of putting this is that we have the root note (Ab), a minor 3rd above this (Cb), and a perfect 5th above the root (Eb). By playing these note we form the A flat minor triad, or the A flat minor chord.
Below is the A flat minor triad shown in the treble and bass clef.
Before you read on make sure that you have a basic understanding of intervals. Intervals are vital for understanding how triads are built. Check out our guide to major, minor and perfect intervals for more on this.
A flat Minor Triad on Piano
Below you can see how to play a A flat minor triad on the keyboard or piano. This pattern of notes could also be played starting on any A flat note. However, the order of the notes must be the same, with Ab being the lowest note, followed by Cb and the highest note being Eb. This is called ‘root position’.
How to play the A flat Minor Triad on Guitar
There are two simple positions that you can use to play a A flat minor triad on guitar. Both positions can also be slide up or down the neck to play different minor triads.
A flat Minor Triad 1st Inversion
A 1st inversion is where we take a triad but we start on the second note, which in this case is C flat. We still keep the Eb above, but then the Ab (or root) become the highest note. This way of rearranging a triad gives us a different sound as the relative pitches of the three notes has changed.
We could construct a 1st inversion starting on any Cb note in any octave. The only thing that must stay the same is that the we use the Eb above and the Ab above that. Below you can see this triad on the staff.
How to play A flat minor 1st inversion on Piano
On the piano we can play the 1st inversion of a A flat Minor triad by starting on an C flat. They play the Eb above and the Ab above this.
How to Play A flat Minor 1st Inversion of Guitar
Below are the most common shapes for playing a A flat minor triad in the 1st inversion. Remember that we can only use certain shapes are the pitches of the three notes are important.
A flat Minor Triad 2nd Inversion
A 2nd inversion is where we take a triad but we start on the third note, which in this case is E flat. We still keep the A flat above this as we did from the 1st inversion. Then the C flat becomes the highest note in the chord. Again this will give us a different sound as the relative pitches of the three notes has changed.
We could construct a 2nd inversion starting on any E flat note in any octave. The only thing that must stay the same is that the we use the A flat above and the Cb above that. Below you can see this triad on the staff.
How to play A flat minor 2nd inversion on Piano
On the piano we can play the 2nd inversion of a A flat Minor triad by starting on a Eb. They play the Ab above and the Cb above this.
How to Play A flat Minor 2nd Inversion of Guitar
Below are the most common shapes for playing a A flat minor triad in the 2nd inversion. Remember that we can only use certain shapes are the pitches of the three notes are important.
What different types of triad are there?
There are several different types of triads that we can create for the major scale:
- Major Triad– This is formed with the 1st, 3rd (major 3rd) and 5th (perfect fifth) of the major scale. The A flat Major triad is Ab, C and Eb.
- Minor Triad– This is the same as the major triad, except instead of a major 3rd we have a minor 3rd. The A flat Minor triad is therefore Ab, Cb, Eb.
- Diminished Triad – To create the diminished triad start with the 1st (Ab), then minor 3rd (Cb) then a diminished 5th (Ebb). A Diminished 5th interval is a half-step (semitone) smaller than a perfect 5th.
- Augmented Triads– This triad starts with the 1st degree of the scale (Ab), followed by major 3rd (C) and augmented 5th (E). An augmented 5th interval is a half-step (semitone) larger than a perfect 5th.
Triads from the A flat Minor Scale
By looking at the A flat Minor scale we can actually make triads built on each note and only using notes from A flat minor. Below you can see a list of each triad we will create be starting on different notes of the scale.
- Ab Minor
- Bb Dim
- Cb Major
- Db Minor
- Eb Minor
- Fb major
- Gb Major
Famous Songs in A flat Minor
Due to its very awkward key signature (7 flats), pieces are rarely written in the key of A flat Minor. Composers often use G sharp minor (5 sharps), which is enharmonically equivalent to Ab Minor.
However, this didn’t stop some composers from using this usual key.
The Firebird- Igor Stravinsky
In the opening of Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird (a ballet and orchestra work) we can see that the key signature of A flat minor is used.
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra – Max Bruch
Max Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, Op. 88a also uses this usual key. Bruch wrote the piece after hearing Rose and Ottilie Sutro play his Fantasy in D minor Op. 11 (for two pianos). Rather than starting from scratch he rewrote parts he had been composing for his Suite no. 3 for Organ and Orchestra.
Impromptu Op. 90 No. 4 in A-flat Major – Schubert
Schubert’s Impromptu in Ab major actually starts in A flat minor if you look carefully at the accidentals!