In minor keys we find the same functions as in major keys. This table shows the type of chords found in each key:

  Major Key Minor Key
I Major chord Minor Chord
IV Major chord Minor Chord
V Major chord Major chord1
II Minor Chord Diminished chord
VII Diminished chord Diminished chord2

(1) The V degree is normally a minor chord. But we need a major chord in order to have the dominant function. That is why we commonly alter the VII degree of the minor natural scale. This scale is known as the minor harmonic scale (see The Minor Scale).

(2) As in the dominant chord, we need to build this chord over the altered VII degree (minor harmonic scale) if we want the chord to have a dominant function.

Listen to the first phrase of Beethoven's Sonata op. 49 no. 1 in G Minor as an example of harmonic functions in minor keys. Note the use of F#, the VII degree of the G minor harmonic scale. The F# is needed to create the dominant function on V and VII degree chords:

Monica Alianello, piano. Recording courtesy of Piano Society and Monica Alianello.


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José Rodríguez Alvira.