How Major Chords Are Formed

Chords are collections of notes that combine into an identifiable key, usually made up of three pitches; however, certain musical genres such as jazz may include chords with more than three pitches.

Understanding major chord formation is a necessary skill for all musicians – novice or veteran alike! Luckily, they’re more easily understandable than you think!


Triads, chords made up of chords built on the first, fourth and fifth scale degrees of any major key scale are called triads. A triad consists of three notes which can be stacked in their most compact form by thirds; this process is known as snowperson formation.

Triads always contain a perfect fifth, also known as an interval, between their root note and second note in a chord. This interval creates musical consonance and resolution to give the chord its signature balanced sound.

However, triads can also be altered by shifting their notes vertically; this process is known as inversion. This variation in sound can alter the overall feel of the chord; for instance, diminished triads lack perfect intervals and may sound dissonant or unresolved as their diminished interval of two frets between root and fifth differs significantly from 7 frets that is typical in perfect intervals.

Major Thirds

To create major chords, all that’s necessary is the first, third and fifth notes of any scale. For instance, in C major, these would be C as the root note, E as second note (called second tone ), and G as fifth tone – these three notes make up what’s known as a triad and form the building blocks for tonal music.

Intervals are distances between pitches that are measured in half steps for easy comprehension and translation to fretboard music where intervals represent distances between adjacent frets.

Major chords consist of notes stacked in threes, or thirds. The interval between the first and third notes, known as the major third (four half steps in pitch), forms part of this major triad.

Minor Thirds

To create minor chords, begin with a major triad. Next, move its third up or down a minor interval; this difference determines what kind of chord type it will become: for instance a minor chord would consist of C-E-G or D-F-A notes.

Minor chords often begin with either a perfect fifth or diminished note as its first note, with either consisting of two half steps from C to F or just one less step (C to G).

Use this technique to craft fancier chords, including dominant 7ths, minor 7ths and diminished 7ths. Simply find the root chord, then add either a major or minor third above that root note.

Stacked thirds enable you to create chords that sound more complex while still using notes from your chosen scale, perfect for creating various moods in your music – for instance diminished and diminished sevenths can add tension-filled, dissonant sounds to songs.

Major Sevenths

When seeing a major chord with a 7 added to it, this typically indicates that its 3rd and 5th have been moved closer together, creating an inherently tense feel perfect for jazz improvisational styles like improvisation.

By adding a seventh note to major triads, an original chord type called the dominant seventh can be created. Alternatively, this chord can also be achieved by starting with a minor triad and adding its major seventh as an addition.

As long as you understand their structure, naming these types of chords should be straightforward. They’re generally named for the order of triads that form when scale degrees are harmonized – for instance, when three notes are played together they form either a major triad with its seventh being an MAJOR seventh interval from its root note; or two sets of three notes create two minor triads with sevenths that are MINOR seventh intervals from their root notes.