One of the most fundamental guitar chords out there is the D minor chord. It has a sad, troubled tone that many songwriters and composers find appealing for creating specific moods. You’ll want to create that same sound, too, so need to know how to play the D minor chord.
How to Play D Minor on Guitar
Moving from a major (such as D major) to a minor chord involves changing one note. That should make learning D minor easy if you already know the D major chord, right?
At first glance, no. But when you start practicing it, you’ll notice it’s a lot easier than it looks on the surface. You only change one note, but you move two fingers to make the transition easier and more comfortable. The more you practice, the more you’ll notice that.
Notes in the D Major and D Minor Chords
The notes in the D major chord are D, F-sharp, and A. To switch from any major chord to its parallel minor (D minor is D major’s parallel minor), you lower that middle note by a half step. So a D minor chord is D, F, and A.
Now, how do you play that?
One standard fingering for a D minor chord goes like this:
- Middle finger: third (G) string on the 2nd fret
- Ring finger: second (B) string on the 3rd fret
- Index finger: first (high E) string on the 1st fret
- Starting with the open fourth (D) string, strum downward
- Do not play the fifth (A) and sixth (low E) strings
This particular fingering works well for beginners because it’s easy to learn, plus you start hearing how the chord sounds compared to others.
However, you need to know other ways to play it, too. For instance, since bar chords make up a number of the chords you’ll play, you can work on a D minor barre chord that looks like this:
- Index finger: from the first (high E string) to the fifth (A) string on the 5th fret
- Middle finger: second (B) string on the 6th fret
- Ring finger: fourth (D) string on the 7th fret
- Pinky finger: third (G) string on the 7th fret
Try an easier barre: The C sharp minor chord
A Few Tips for Playing the D Minor Chord
Remember to practice playing as many finger variations as possible, including those using all six strings. However, when working on finger stretches for the D minor chord, one of the things you can do is play the highest four strings only.
Some teachers and players will also tell you to use your pinky finger instead of your ring finger on the second (B) string. There are two reasons why you might want to try that:
- If using your ring finger feels awkward and like it’s too much of a stretch, you might feel more comfortable with your pinky, at least at first
- You’ll give your pinky some necessary exercise, helping to strengthen it and develop independence between your ring and pinky fingers that you’ll need as you move onto more challenging music and techniques
Finally, work on your finger flexibility, particularly your fingers’ arches, while you play. Because the D minor chord requires some stretching, you should maintain a good arch so your fingers don’t accidentally brush or press the wrong strings.
One particular exercise you can do that will help you build strength and flexibility for the D minor chord is playing only the notes that give your fingers trouble. We mentioned using your pinky finger instead of your ring finger on the second (B) string. Work on stretching your ring finger by playing the open B string, then placing your ring finger on the third fret and playing, then lifting it up and playing the open string again.
Also, move between the high E, B, and G strings with just your ring finger. As you’re working on these exercises, work on using your ring finger to play the D minor chord. Not only do you get better at playing the D minor chord, but you condition your ring finger for other awkward positions, too.
Try a tough chord: F#m with the barre
Songs That Use the D Minor Chord
Like other staple chords, the D minor chord exists in a ton of songs. Its troubled, serious, and even sad sound helps portray songs’ moods in rock, blues, country, and pop music. And heck, you’re probably learning to play the guitar so you can play some of these songs, which include:
- Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2, by Pink Floyd
- (Love is Like a) Heat Wave, by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
- In The Night, by The Weeknd
- Losing My Religion, by R.E.M.
- Black Magic Woman, by Carlos Santana
- Killing in the Name, by Rage Against the Machine
- Crazy in Love, by Beyonce
- Fallin’, by Alicia Keys
- Sugar, by Maroon 5
There are so many others too, and you’ll get to them as your skills grow, and you can move on to more advanced techniques and chords (try the tough F chord, too).
D Minor Practice Tips
While you’re working on your proficiency with the D minor chord, be sure you practice the D minor scale, too. Sometimes, players slip into a habit of only running through major scales when learning how to move up and down the guitar’s neck and while warming up, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Scales serve an amazing number of functions for players at all levels.
For instance, scales help you work on your technique as well as your ear training. Since each note requires only one finger, you can use them to work on finger positioning, moving up and down the neck, and correct intonation. Playing the D minor scale in tune will help you play the chord in tune.
Oddly enough, saying the names of each note out loud as you play them helps you memorize both the sounds of the notes and their position on your guitar. You teach your brain what sound to associate with each note name, helping train both your fingers and your ears at the same time.
Also, spend more than five minutes at a time moving through the chords you already know and incorporating the D minor chord into that part of your practice session. However, be mindful of how much time you spend on chord practice. Oftentimes, breaking your practice time into several short sessions, like ten minutes at a time, will help you more than a single, long practice session.
Try some more chords: