How Major Chords Are Formed

how major chords are formed

Chords are essential building blocks of music. Understanding their construction is crucial for learning other chord progressions and transposing songs to different keys.

Major chords consist of a root note, major third interval and perfect fifth interval – an incredibly common way of creating chords.


Triad chords provide the base of many more complicated chords; just by adding or subtracting intervals you are sure to create whatever sound you require.

Triads can be composed in different arrangements, and the order of their notes within a chord alters its feel – this process is known as inversion. Root position major chords add each new note by thirds from previous note added;

C-E-G adds a minor third and perfect fifth, creating a minor chord, but adding the major seventh (C-E-G) yields a Cmaj7 chord.

This process creates the classic major chords we know and love – they sound complete, resolved, bright, upright etc. Additionally, this process can also be used to produce minor, diminished and augmented chords (but more on that later).

Triad Intervals

Triads are composed of three notes that are spaced one third apart. There are different kinds of triads depending on your scale – for instance, in major scale, they can form on any one, three, or all five scale degrees.

The quality of the interval from root to third determines whether a chord is major or minor; similarly, that between fifth and root determines its augmentation or diminution.

A triad is most easily recognized when in its most compact form (measure two of the examples above), which resembles a snowperson and often refers to this position colloquially as being “in “snowperson position”. This type of triad is known as a major triad as it features a Major third between root and third. Additionally, this kind of major chord structure is stable and consonant but not the only way of building one – jazz musicians often employ Major seven or Nine chords which add dissonant intervals by adding dissonant intervals between root and third.

Triad Inversions

Now that we understand major and minor chords, let’s explore ways they can be reconfigured into various triad inversions. An inversion simply involves stacking three chord tones so that their root appears lower than any of the others – such as by stacking them in thirds so the root appears lower.

An example of a major chord in root position would include C at the bottom, E in the middle and G on top – also referred to as a dominant chord.

An alternative way of creating a major chord is with its root in the bass note and third and fifth notes stacked one octave up, creating fourth and sixth overtones above it; this process is known as first inversion.

Addition of a sixth to a triad yields the major 6th chord or maj6 and an added seventh yields a major 7th chord or maj7 chords, taking us further along our musical journey.

Triad Combinations

Created through adding or subtracting notes, we can form triads of different qualities by altering chords corresponding to major scale notes. These chords are usually referred to by their name from that scale.

Note that the quality of the interval from root to third determines whether a triad is major or minor. Furthermore, they can be arranged vertically in various ways using “voicing”. Each chord symbol represents one triad regardless of how many octaves it contains or whether or not it includes doubled chords.

To identify a chord’s voicing, take note of its bass voice of its bottom notes and its Roman numeral position (11 is represented by an “i”, while 22 by an “ii”). Octave doubling may alter this voice voicing when used (Example 12); however this doesn’t alter identification of its triads as such unless adding sevenths into them produces diminished 7th chords; such ones can be identified using an m7 symbol instead.

how major chords are formed

Learning major chords will open up an abundance of musical possibilities. Major chords are composed of three triads that represent each interval in the major scale (i.e. 1, 3, and 5).

These basic chords can be constructed in any order (known as “voicings”) and may consist of major, minor, augmented and diminished intervals. In this theory guitar lesson we will take a look at how these basic chords are assembled.


A major chord is composed of three notes stacked consecutively in thirds: its roots note is called its root note, its middle note a major third higher than that, and its top note a perfect fifth (seven semitones) from that. Triads are chords constructed this way.

Triad chords may contain notes arranged differently, which is known as an inversion. Such changes don’t alter its quality or harmonic function in any significant way.

Major, minor, and diminished triads each possess their own expressive sounds; majors tending to sound full and resolved while minors and diminisheds can sound more melancholic and discordant. To identify which kind of triad you are dealing with it’s helpful to know its alphabetic distance between its pitches – for instance a major third spans two letters as it travels from C-D-E while minor thirds span only one letter like E-F-G respectively.

Triad Intervals

Chords come in four varieties: major, minor, diminished and augmented. These characteristics describe its expressive character and sound; for instance all major chords have an upbeat and joyful tone while minor chords have more of an introspective quality to them.

Triad intervals are always composed of thirds. Therefore, triads only consist of three notes and cannot be created through stacking other intervals such as fourths (which we refer to as dyads). Furthermore, chords that don’t use thirds such as power chords or dominant 7 chords cannot be considered triads.

As such, they don’t adhere to the standard intervals that all triads must follow; adding other intervals into a triad can alter its chord’s quality but won’t alter its identity as a triad chord. Positioning root note as lowest tone (Root position/close voicing) while having other tones of the chord lower than root (Open voicing).

Triad Inversions

Intervals between a chord’s root, third and fifth notes can be altered or adjusted to produce different kinds of chords. For instance, major chords can have either major or minor intervals between their third and fifth notes – this process is known as triad inversion.

Triads in their fundamental position can also be altered in various ways to produce other types of chords. One such way is moving the lowest note up or down by one octave; this process is known as first or second inversion of the chord.

An C major chord can be inverted into its first inversion by taking an E off the bottom and playing it an octave higher on top. This would form a C – E – G chord.

Mastery of major triads in their fundamental, first and second inversion forms is essential since these chords form the backbone of all musical genres. Recognizing these chords’ sounds as part of your ear training is also paramount.

Triad Shapes

Triad shapes may not be essential in learning chords, but they are an effective way to organize scale notes across the fretboard. A familiar example is the Cowboy Chord D with no open strings which contains all tones of D Major Scale in three separate groups and is sometimes known as Tertian Harmony.

Triads are constructed using intervals of thirds, and the quality of this interval determines if a triad is major or minor. To count a third, start from the initial note in a chord and measure its distance from its second note (in this example C to E) then note if its interval is perfect fifth – this indicates it’s likely a major chord.

Practice playing and listening to different forms of triads so you can distinguish major from minor chords when improvising. This will enable you to recognize them quickly on the fly when making creative contributions to a improvisation session.

how major chords are formed

Chords are formed by stacking or “voicing” consecutive notes together; for instance, in C major chords the root note lies at the base with major third stacked in between and perfect fifth on top.

Mastering these fundamental chords will equip you to build more complex ones, like major 7 and minor 7 chords – they follow a similar construction method but with different intervals.

The Root Note

A major chord shape on the fretboard is defined by its root note. This note gives the chord its title and determines how other notes stack above it.

Root notes connect to two scale patterns that help illuminate how a chord is constructed. For instance, in its first inversion a major chord will contain both a major third and perfect fifth as layers on top of its root note.

This lesson’s major chord shape will be an Open E, formed by leaving the thickest string (the sixth string) open and placing your ring finger on the second fret of the fifth string and your pinkie on the first fret of the fourth string – this creates the note E on the sixth string, the root note for our chord.

This pattern can also be used to construct other major chords and can be employed on any polyphonic instrument such as guitar or piano.

The Third Note

Building chords from the major scale starts with creating a triad, which consists of three notes stacked in thirds. A major 3rd contains four semitones (two whole steps); its minor equivalent contains only three semitones (1 1/2 steps).

As you will notice, all the intervals we need for creating major or minor chords are contained within these basic triads; power chords and more intricate chords do not fall under this category due to including more than three notes.

Major triads consist of three notes. The root note, or bottom note of any chord, is known as its root note, while its third note and fifth note serve as its 3rd and 7th, respectively. Let’s use C Major chord as an example: its root is C, third is E and fifth G respectively – these three elements make up its basic building blocks – this is why many guitarists begin learning these basic chords before progressing onto more complicated ones.

The Fifth Note

Interval finding involves observing the distance between two notes. This could either be horizontally or vertically dependent upon whether they sound simultaneously (horizontally), as in melody; or whether two notes sounding together at once (vertically). We’ll start by exploring perfect fifth intervals which consist of adding major thirds and minor thirds above and below any given note such as C to E being one major third and E to G being another minor third respectively.

Understanding chord intervals is of utmost importance because they define how chords sound – for instance a Major 7th chord contains three major triads with major seventh intervals from its root note while Dominant 5th has dominant triads with minor seventh intervals from their root note. Being aware of these intervals enables us to quickly construct different kinds of chords.

The Seventh Note

Nothing has as great an effect on the overall sound and atmosphere of a song as its chord structure and progression. Understanding these different types of chords is an integral part of your musical vocabulary and learning how they interact is integral in expanding your compositional abilities.

A seventh chord can be defined as a triad with the addition of a major 7th interval above its root note. This chord type can be found across many musical genres and styles.

There are various kinds of seventh chords, each one possessing its own special qualities. The dominant seventh is an assertive chord with an aim toward resolution down a step while minor seventh is more melancholic and can often be found in popular songs. Min7 chords can easily be recognized due to their distinctive marking with a circle marked with an “x”.

how major chords are formed

Chords form the cornerstone of many songs. Understanding how chords are constructed from major scale chords will enable you to learn chord progressions, transpose them to other keys and hone your ear as a guitarist.

A chord is composed of interlocked intervals stacked one on top of another. For instance, in major chords this begins with one note from a major scale (root), then you add major third and perfect fifth intervals respectively.


Most chords are formed by layering intervals of a third on top of each other, meaning that any three notes from any scale, played together with their lowest note as your root note will form a major triad (C-E-G here).

Dependent upon which note of the scale you begin from, chord progressions can be extended with additional notes such as 6th or tone chords; however, their core remains unaltered regardless of which notes are added to it.

As well, some chords will have different names than others; minor chords stand in stark contrast to major chords’ upbeat resolution and diminished chords add tension-filled sounds. Each type of chord has its own specific root note which you can identify by looking at its first letter.


A chord consists of notes stacked in thirds, with intervals between them determining its type. Looking at the formula for C major 7, one can see it contains C (the root note), E (a major third up from C), and G (a major seventh up from E).

Understanding these intervals is key when it comes to harmonizing a scale. 2 frets separate many intervals, and only 1 fret separates others – making chord creation much simpler! This knowledge also makes creating triads much simpler.

Major chords always feature a major third and minor chords feature minor thirds; however, this distinction doesn’t determine its type; other factors play an integral part. When built in C key the bass note will be E while when constructed in D key it will be G – giving rise to different sound qualities depending on which key it was composed in.


Once you understand how to construct triads from the major scale, you can create any chord. Your choices of notes and how they stack will determine which kind of chord you create – such as major, minor, diminished and extended chords.

A basic major chord consists of three notes – root, major third and perfect fifth. Their arrangement in an order that you find pleasing is known as its voicing; you can change this voicing with different sounds; this process is known as chord inversion.

Many musicians employ a formula when building chords, which helps them remember which intervals make up each particular chord. For instance, a C major 7 chord would contain notes C (the root note), E (a major third up from C) and G (a perfect fifth from C). Some musicians refer to this arrangement as the circle of fourths.


Triads are the foundational building blocks of harmony. Simple, consonant and stable chords form their basis; later we will look into more advanced types such as augmented and diminished chords to further explore these foundations.

Triads can be distinguished from chords by the intervals that connect their notes. A major triad typically has a perfect fifth interval that can be found seven frets up from its root note (or 3 and 1/2 tones higher on one string), whereas minor triads don’t possess this ideal fifth and therefore sound dissonant and unresolved.

Any musician who ever picks up an instrument will eventually encounter and use chords, whether major or minor, they are one of the fundamental harmonic elements in tonal music and it is important to understand their formation so you can navigate your instrument more easily, compose, play or improvise confidently.

how major chords are formed

A major chord is composed of the root, third and fifth notes from its scale; its quality being determined by the interval between its bottom note and middle one.

One way to create a chord is to select three notes from the scale that are each one-third apart; this process is known as creating a triad.


Major chords can be created using a straightforward formula; major chords consist of three notes from any scale that come together into three distinct triads. The root note (of any scale, really) serves as the root note, with other notes stacking into thirds from there to form chords based on scale degrees (such as 1 4, 5, or 6 from C major), depending on which three degrees it’s built upon; such chords often produce major or minor sounds accordingly.

To determine the quality of a triad, simply draw its root on the staff and consider any accidentals from its key signature that apply to intervals between its root, third, and fifth chords. From here you can easily determine whether it’s major, minor, or diminished – an invaluable skill when working across keys!

Major Thirds

Major chords are among the most recognizable in all of music, often serving as the foundation for many songs and being taught first. Major chords consist of three notes connected in series (a triad) which represent each note from any major scale (i.e. 1st note of scale 1, 3rd note of scale 2, etc).

Assuming we take the C major scale as an example, its first note is C, its third note E and fifth note G; these can then be combined in various ways to create chords of various pitches and shades.

As we consider other chord types beyond major and minor, it is crucial to remember that chord quality is determined by how the triads are constructed – this applies across all intervals not just thirds – which enables us to build chords from any scale in any key. Triads also determine the type of seventh chord we create – major 7ths feature major triads with major sevenths while minor 7ths use minor triads with minor sevenths.

Minor Thirds

Stacking minor thirds is similar to stacking major ones, with smaller intervals between notes. A minor third represents three half steps and when creating minor chords you begin by finding your root note then add in notes that form both major thirds and minor thirds above it; G Major, C Major and B Major chords all include this technique.

Major chords provide an air of optimism and resolution; minor chords evoke different feelings in music. A minor chord may also be combined with a flat seventh to create an uncomfortable and dissonant diminished chord for more tension and dissonance.

Major Fifths

Learning the theory behind chord formation from major scale is one of the core concepts musicians should grasp, providing them with the confidence necessary to navigate their instruments, compose music and improvise with confidence.

Understanding how to form chords using specific intervals enables you to harmonise any major scale, playing it in any key. This is because these intervals are determined by a scale’s order of sharps and flats rather than by its root notes.

C-E represents a major third, as two full steps separate their pitches; C-D forms a minor third due to its letters only being separated by 1 full step in pitch. Thus we refer to an interval as perfect fifths; learning this concept makes perfect fifths an essential skill set for anyone studying music theory or piano performance.