How Major Chords Are Formed

Cultivating chords from the major scale is central to understanding how music works and can provide the groundwork for creating chord progressions, transposing keys, and honing your ear as an artist.

No matter the key you are playing in, major triads remain in their original order; by switching up the order of notes instead, chord inversions occur.


A chord is composed of three harmonizing notes that intertwine. Whether or not it sounds major or minor depends on its intervals between those notes – those distances that exist between two notes like third or fifth intervals.

Example 13-5 illustrates this point with its circled notes representing G as its tonic root, B as major third and C as minor third – this form of musical consonance and resolution known as perfect intervals is highlighted here.

Next is the fifth, D, seven half steps above the major third. This perfect interval gives the chord its sense of stability and harmonic balance, creating the feeling that makes major chords sound major while diminished triads (Eb, G and Ab) sound sadder and less resolved; both contain identical chord members.

Major Scale

As anyone familiar with major chords knows, their most basic configuration consists of three elements – root, major third and perfect fifth – commonly referred to as triads. From any major scale you can produce many other kinds of chords by altering intervals between your root and third or fifth notes; for instance a major 7th chord features 11 frets higher intervals between root and third or fifth notes than in its original state (e.g. a major 7th chord has a major seventh interval between its root and fifth), as an example; these chords may also be created using major 7th intervals between root and third or fifth note so as well.

To create a major triad, simply pick three notes that are one third apart in your major scale and play them all at the same time. This exercise is an effective way of practicing major scale shapes and learning the chords they form; when moving up or down fretboard the patterns created from these shapes change as you play them; but they always connect through shared notes between positions above or below them.

Minor Scale

One area that may prove tricky for beginners in music is understanding the difference between major and minor chords. All you really need to do is move the middle note of a major scale by one semitone to produce a minor scale – for instance C major contains C – E – G so in order to convert this into a minor key you would play Eb or E flat instead of E.

Intervals remain the same; however, instead of major thirds being substituted with minor thirds to produce that distinctively melancholic sound. Memorizing and understanding this information will be extremely valuable as you progress into fancier chords such as suspended and diminished ones.

Understanding how triads are formed from major scale is a skill every musician must acquire and something you will keep with you forever. By employing this information you will be able to build chords for any key signature simply by changing the starting point for your scale pattern.


Understanding how major and minor chords form is an integral component of music theory, providing you with the means to navigate your instrument, write original songs, and improvise with confidence.

To form a major chord, simply choose three alternate notes from the scale a third apart and spaced evenly along their scale axis. The first note chosen will become known as the root or tonic; followed by four half steps above which lies a major third; finally there is the perfect fifth which lies seven half steps beyond.

Use this same formula to construct a minor chord by swapping out major thirds for minor thirds, creating an atmospheric and saddening sound. When selecting intervals to form either a triad, major or minor chord, be mindful of alphabetic distance between notes; C and E for instance are two full steps apart while F and G only differ by half steps.