The A minor triad is often the first minor chord a student learns. After all, it’s the relative minor of C major and we all know C major. When you see an Am chord piano symbol, how many of you play it as A C E or one of its inversions (ie. C E A and E A C)?
Am7 = A C E G
Hopefully you’ve watched a few of the video lessons on this site and have at least learnt that Am can often be modified to an Am7. As an improviser, you don’t need to wait for the Am7 chord symbol to appear. Just play your Am as Am7 whenever you feel the Am7 sound is more appropriate.
By adding the G (the minor 7th or flat 7th of A), your chord now resembles a C major triad with an A in it. In fact, if you play the A with your left hand and remove it from your right, you’re left with a C triad, C E G. As a result, the Am7 sounds brighter and happier than a plain Am triad. Am7 also sounds more modern.
Am7add11 = C D G (with A in the LH)
But wait, in Lesson 7 you learnt all about Major 2nd chords so we could apply that principle here and play a C2 chord, C D G in the RH. Your Am7 chord is now evolving into something cooler – Am7add11.
If you’d like more detailed info, examples and exercises, check out Lesson 9 on m7 chords.
Am9 = A C E G B
What else can we do? Well, we can stack on more notes, like adding a B into the mix. This makes it an Am9. Playing five notes with the RH is getting a bit tough now, so play the A in the LH and the rest of the notes with the RH.
It’s a great, rich chord. Notice how the RH looks just like a Cmaj7 chord, C E G B.
Am9 = B C G
By experimenting with its inversions and moving notes around, you could play an Am9 like this, which is one of my favorite ways of voicing an Am9.
It creates a harshness and there’s a certain tension with this sound, but it’s pretty cool and easy to play. Break these notes up and you’ve got yourself a good run or fill.
Am7b5 = A C Eb G
Here’s one for the jazz folk. It tends to lead to a D7 or D7b9 chord. Sometimes I play this as Eb G A D for extra dissonance. This is known as a “minor 7th flat 5″ chord or a “half diminished” chord. But if we head down the jazz path, there’s also Am6, Amin-maj7, etc. Try this progression:
Amin-maj7 (A C E G#) – Am7 (A C E G) – Am6 (A C E F#) – it has a certain James Bond-ish kind of feel.
Am = So many options!
As you can see, you have a stack of options when playing an Am chord. Don’t settle for A C E unless you really want a traditional, plain minor sound. Remember, each chord has its inversions so you’ve got even more voicings available. And that’s one of the beauties of playing the piano, your Am chord on piano can take on a lot more forms than on any other instrument.
If you have a favorite way of playing an Am chord on the piano, share it by posting it below!