How to Play a D Minor Chord

01
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D Minor in Open Position

d minor chord guitar open

Partly because it's easy to play, and partly because of its simplicity, the D minor chord is one of the first chords a guitarist should learn

The basic D minor chord shown here is the most commonly used shape - you'll see this used constantly by guitarists everywhere. Playing the shape is relatively straightforward:

  • Place your second (middle) finger on the second fret of the third string
  • Now, put your third (ring) finger on the third fret of the second string
  • Lastly, place your first finger on the first fret of the first string

As in a D major chord, you should only strum the top four strings, avoiding the low E and A strings. Accidentally hitting the lower strings is one of the most common mistakes new guitarists make - so pay attention to avoiding this.

The other common problem new guitarists have when playing this D minor shape is their third (ring) finger - it will often inadvertently touch the first string, deadening it. This is a particular problem because the note on the first string is what provides the "minor" sound in the D minor. To ensure this isn't happening to you, hold down the chord shape, and play the strings one at a time, making sure each string is ringing clearly. If a string is muffled or deadened entirely, examine your hand and figure out the exact problem. Most often, strings won't ring because the fingers on your fretting hand aren't curled enough.

02
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D Minor with Root on Fifth String

d minor barre chord with root on fifth string

This alternate way of playing a D minor chord is much more of a challenge than the open D minor shape. This is a barre chord shape - a standard minor chord shape with root on the fifth string, which is a fancy way of saying if you slide the shape up and down the neck, it becomes different minor chords, depending what fret you're on.

Playing this shape requires patience and some significant fretting hand strength, as you'll need to hold down many strings with a single finger.

  • Start by placing your third (ring) finger on the seventh fret of the fourth string
  • Now, place your fourth (pinky) finger on the seventh fret of the third string
  • Next, put your second (middle) finger on the sixth fret of the second string
  • Lastly (and this is tricky) lay your first (index) finger across the fifth fret of strings five, four, three, two and one

Strum the top five strings, taking care to avoid the low E string. If you've never played this shape before, this will at first sound like what some politely refer to as "the dog's dinner". There's a lot going on in this shape, and thus a lot that could go wrong.

Your first place to troubleshoot should be the notes you're holding with your second, third and fourth fingers. These should be easy enough to correct - just make sure all your fingers are curled and are pressing reasonably hard. Chances are, though, that the primary problem is with your first finger - it's a challenge at first to press so many strings down at the same time. If you're having a hard time getting the strings to ring, try rolling your finger back slightly so the side instead of the "meaty part" of your finger is applying most of the downward pressure on the strings.

Play through the strings one by one until you can get each to ring clearly.

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D Minor with Root on Sixth String

d minor barre chord root on 6th string

 This shape is similar to the previous D minor chord shape, in that it's a movable barre chord. This chord has the root on the sixth string, meaning that the note you hold down on the sixth string is the type of minor chord it is. Since we are aiming to play a D minor chord shape, we start by holding down the note D at the tenth fret of the sixth string.

  • Start by laying your first finger across all six strings at the tenth fret. For now, don't press down hard.
  • Now, place your third (ring) finger on the 12th fret of the fifth string
  • Lastly, place your fourth (pinky) finger on the 12th fret of the fourth string
  • Press down with your first finger, and strum the chord

If you're having a hard time getting all the notes you're holding down with your first finger to ring, try rolling your finger back a bit so the side (instead of the "meaty part") of your finger is applying most of the downward pressure on the strings. Play each string one at a time, making sure everything is ringing.

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Songs That Use the D Minor Chord

carlos santana
Santana's "Black Magic Woman" is in the key of D minor. Keith Baugh | Getty Images

One of the best (and most fun!) ways to practice chords is by playing songs with them. Here are a few songs that beginner guitarists should be able to play relatively easily that feature the D minor chord:

Black Magic Woman (Santana) - this song is essentially a minor blues in the key of D minor, so it provides a great way to begin playing this chord. Note that although you can use open chord shapes for most of the song, it does contain a G minor, which requires you play a barre chord.

Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan) - the D minor chord is commonly found within songs written in the key of C, and this is no exception. This Dylan classic should help you work on switching to and from the D minor chord quickly. You can use the open D minor shape throughout.