Triad Over Root Chords - Tonic Minor

Triad Over Root Chords - Tonic Minor

arrangement & orchestration chords composition


Last time we kicked off our series about using Triad Over Root Chords in synthwave.

Today we’ll continue using this device but this time we’ll use the Tonic Minor of a key.

To quickly summarize, Triad Over Root Chords is a device in which we take a triad and play it on top of different root notes from the key.

Depending on which root note we use, the resulting chord can be an inversion and in other cases a more colorful chord such as a minor 7, major 7th, major 9th or 11th chord.

These extended chords can give your music a very distinct dreaminess and texture, which is incredibly useful for synthwave.

If we take an A minor triad and place it over every note in the key, these are the chords that we’ll get.

  • Am over A is an unaltered A minor chord
  • Am over B is an Am9 chord with the 9th in the bass
  • Am over C is an A minor chord with the 3rd in the bass
  • Am over D is a D7sus2 chord
  • Am over E is an A minor chord with the 5th in the bass
  • Am over F is an Fma7 chord
  • Am over G is an Am7 chord with the 7th in the bass

Listen to how all these chords sound:

Just as when we did this with the tonic major over all roots in the major key, notice that we don’t get certain chords like C major, E minor and G major. We only get variations of A minor, D minor and F major. If we wanted any of these missing chords using Triad Over Root, then we’d have to try another diatonic triad besides A minor.

This table shows Roman Numerals to normalize using the tonic minor as Triad Over Root Chords on the notes of any minor key.

For example if we’re in the key of E minor, and we play E minor over the iv chord bass note, we’ll get a “iv dominant 7 sus 2” chord which in this case is A7sus2.

Here’s an example progression in A minor. It consists of the chords Am, C major, F major and E minor. Here’s how it sounds

Let’s play an A minor triad on top of the bass notes A, C, F and E and listen to how different the progression sounds.

All of a sudden, there is more color and dreaminess. It’s because now we’re using a few Am inversions and an Fma7 chord which lend the music a more unsettling and unstable character than when standard triads are used.



Just like I suggested on the first post, experiment with playing other triads from the key, besides the tonic triad, on top of all the bass notes from the same key. Make note of the combinations you like best and try them out in your future Synthwave tracks.

Also, make sure to visit this link to download a PDF companion to this video series. It contains explanations, reference tables and additional examples that will serve you well in your studies.

Next time, we’ll use different triads and not just the tonic triad over the root in a chord progression. See you soon!

Get the 80s Machines FREE Drum Sample Pack! 

Our now legendary sample pack contains over 400 samples from a collection of the most iconic 80's drum machines. It’s completely FREE! All samples carefully prepared and categorized to optimize your production workflow.

By submitting you agree to receive emails from us. We hate spam as much as you do. Unsubscribe anytime.