How Major Chords Are Formed

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.