How Many Major Chords Are There?

how many major chords are there

Chords possess different qualities, giving them their distinctive sounds. There are five major chords often employed by composers of music.

Major chords consist of three notes – root, major third and perfect fifth – which can then be extended with additional notes to form chords of any size and complexity.

Example of this would be C major with an added sixth (written Cadd6) or major ninth, known as maj9.

Major Triads

Major triads are often the starting point of music theory studies for newcomers. Their simple structures and easy playing style offer plenty of room for experimentation within any piece of music.

Seventh chords represent an intermediate step, consisting of a major triad with a seventh interval above its root; most commonly used types include major seventh, minor seventh, and dominant seventh chords.

extended chords feature additional thirds above the seventh, such as those used in jazz music. This type of extended chord often written as a major triad with an additional sixth (C6add6 or Cmaj6) is popularly known. A major ninth can also be chosen (maj9) and a thirteenth is Cmaj13 or Cadd13. Furthermore, suspended chords exist whereby fifth is replaced with second (eg Csus2 or Gsus2).

Major Sevenths

As their name implies, seventh chords are composed of three-note triads with an added note forming an interval of a major seventh above their root note. These sevenths can be added to various triads to form various varieties of seventh chords.

Most textbooks refer to chords by their triad type and seventh type; for example, Cm7 chords consist of major triads with minor seventh overtones atop them, creating tension that’s useful in modulations techniques.

Other types of seventh chords, including minor 11, major 9, half-diminished 7, and half-diminished 7, add color and flavor to chords by moving downward chromatically or adding a diminished fifth. Another popular jazz choice is a major ninth chord composed of a major triad with an additional dominant seventh above it.

Major Seventh Chords

There are various seventh chords out there, but one of the most frequently seen ones is known as a major seventh. To create this type of chord, simply add a major seventh note (in this instance B) to any major triad root note – for instance C as its root chord would become Cmaj7 chord.

A dominant seventh chord is another popular seventh chord formation method, created by taking a major triad and adding an inverted flattened seventh note to its root; for example, to form Cmaj7 chord simply add a B to its root of C major triad.

Alternated seventh chords are less commonly heard as they require significant adjustments for them to sound good, unlike their more familiar counterparts. These chords consist of adding (b9), (#9) or (#11). However, this chord requires additional work in order for it sound proper.

Minor Triads

Minor triads feature flattened thirds and lower fifths than in major chords, so their sound differs significantly from their major cousin. Written as either “m3 m7”, or (in certain chord symbols) Cm, CM, or C.

Chord extensions add notes from the scale above a triad’s root, third, and fifth notes, such as seventh chords (9th, 13th or higher) that extend past these. You can lower or raise these chords to alter its character or make it sound fuller.

Experimenting with chords that you would not usually use can add depth and variation to your music, creating new sounds through extended and inverted chords.

Minor Seventh Chords

Seventh chords have become a standard component of modern music, appearing across genres from Renaissance and Baroque periods alike. Their presence adds depth, emotion and complexity to basic triads that form them.

Sevenths are composed of major triads with a minor seventh added above their root chord. Their characteristics remain constant across keys and they can easily be memorized.

To convert a major seventh chord into its minor version, just lower both its third and seventh notes by half step – A major 7 becomes A minor 7. This technique can also be applied to other chords for creating minor versions of them.