How to Play Major Key Chords

major key chords

Chord progressions play an integral part in setting the atmosphere for any song, from major chords being bright and upbeat, while minor chords evoke mystery and tension which ultimately gives way to hopefulness.

Triads, which comprise the building blocks of chords, consist of three notes spaced a third apart. Starting from C, playing D then E creates a C major triad.

Major Triads

Triads are simple three-note chords used as the fundamental building blocks for tonal music. Triads can be divided into major, minor or diminished categories that refer to their quality (major, minor or diminished). You can stack triads in various ways to form different chord types but all include roots, thirds and fifths as chord components.

In major keys, the bottom note of a chord is known as its root note, the middle note as its third note and the top note as its fifth note. In general, we refer to the initial chord in any major scale as its “tonic chord”, identified with either roman numeral names: I, V or VII. This chord serves as the basis for all subsequent chords in its key since all will share its scale degrees for construction.

Roman numerals provide an effective means of conveying important information about triads, including their type and construction. Utilizing symbols of the major key’s key signature, you can spell a triad by drawing its root note onto staff before adding any accidentals appropriate for its scale degrees from below it – then drawing notes that are third and fifth above it (think snowperson), thus producing an inverted minor third with flattened fifth as its quality.

Major Sevenths

Major sevenths are one of two intervals found frequently in Western music that are distinguished by having their uppermost note (often known as the ‘high tone’) be a perfect fifth above its root note, spanning seven staff positions compared to its smaller counterpart (minor sevenths) which have 11 semitones of variation.

A major seventh chord consists of a major triad with a major seventh added on top, sometimes known as an M7 chord or simply written as M7 for short. It is one of the more “symphonic” of all chords, sounding rich and full when played correctly.

Another popular variation on this theme is the dominant seventh chord, composed of a minor third, diminished fifth, and major seventh above its root note. This creates an interesting tension-filled soundscape which, depending on its context, may either sound consonant or dissonant.

Dominant sevenths are frequently employed in blues-inspired songs, while they also often make an appearance in jazz music. Two prime examples include Tadd Dameron’s “Lady Bird”[7] and Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “This Guy’s in Love With You”.

Note that both major and minor sevenths use diatonic scales, meaning all their notes fall within the key of your piece you are playing. Because this is so, remembering sharp [#] and flat [b] notes as one is essential when reading their written staff representation.

Major Eighths

Building dexterity in your fingers takes some practice, but the investment will certainly pay off! Doing so will make learning songs faster and easier – especially once more complex chords like bar chords arise.

All major triads can be expanded up to their 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th degrees by adding colors from their scale of origin. When they do not form a dominant chord themselves, sevenths can often be added in to make them so; for example, Gmaj7, Cmaj7 or Dmaj7 would all qualify. Please do not confuse these chords with suspended ones (Dmsus2) or polychords which superimpose multiple major chords onto one another.

The major tenth and major thirteenth are two more triads to consider; their primary distinction being that one is one octave higher than the other and has an extra note in the bass – 13th – than usual. Both types are often seen in jazz music but rarely found within classical repertoire.

If you don’t yet feel comfortable playing these triads, just continue practicing those that you do know until you feel ready to move on. In order to understand more complex chords as they’re built up from their foundation up, learning Lesson 18: Major Scale Games may help.

Major Minor Triads

Triads are chords composed of just three notes, and can range from major, minor, augmented or diminished chords. Each type has its own sound that comes from using various intervals between root, third and fifth notes; major triads feature their highest sounding note in their third position for bright, open and upright sound while minor ones tend to produce melancholic and mellowing notes instead. Augmented and diminished triads sound discordant or unstable depending on which note comes first in their progression.

Major triads use major scale degrees as their root; similarly, minor scale triads do the same. A major scale triad will contain one major scale note as its tonic; all other notes of the scale form its chord structure.

C, E and G form a major triad because these notes correspond to the first, third and fifth notes in C major scale respectively. If its starting note were F instead of C major then such triad would become minor due to having a minor third note.

Step two is to gain knowledge of triad shapes on the fretboard. After mastering CAGED major triad shapes on strings 4, 5, and 6, use these to practice your newly discovered triads, as this can also help you develop better improvisation skills, strengthen ear training and note memorization, create creativity with different chord voicings, as well as build better creativity overall.

Major Minor Sevenths

Minor major seventh chords feature both major and minor triads at their core, creating dissonant tension with every note played and lasting long before finally returning back to its tonic chord (I).

This chord has come to be known as the James Bond Chord or Spy Chord due to its popularity in espionage movies. Additionally, it can also be found across many other musical genres from classical and jazz through to pop. Bach used it when opening Gavotte from Partita 3 for Violin as well as Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with this chord as opening bars.

Minor major chords differ from major seventh chords by having an imperfect interval between third and seventh scale degrees, sounding less cheery and melancholic than their major seventh counterparts.

As with other chords, note interval qualities determine the mood of a chord, which can be altered by either lowering or raising its seventh scale degree – hence why we see chords such as II, III and viio in major keys.

Also, the sixth scale degree can be raised or lowered to create different chords. A raised sixth produces diminished sixes (Cm6) while a lowered sixth results in major seven chords (Cm7); we sometimes refer to these chords by using more awkward notations, such as CmMa7 or Cm9 (even though these notations remain incorrect); they can be written using the standard key signature or in other formats like Cm7(Ma7) and Cm9(Ma7) for easy reading.

Major Minor Eighths

Intervals that span more than an octave apart are known as major or compound intervals; an octave plus a major third, for instance, forms a major seventh chord (see below). Intervals that fall under this definition but still span an equal number of staff positions are minor or simple intervals.

Example of A natural minor scale Notes Included are as Follows:

To convert a major interval into a minor one, reduce its highest note by one semitone – this creates a minor interval which sounds darker and gloomier than its major counterpart.

Remember that minor intervals can still sound cheerful and upbeat; they’re just darker and gloomier than their major chord counterpart.

Consider intervals as half steps: A perfect interval is composed of exactly five half steps from C to F; diminished intervals have one less step; for example F to C would be considered a d5 interval; major intervals add one extra half step compared with perfect ones.

Just as each major scale has a specific notes formula, so too does each have its own chords formula. Mastering this knowledge will enable you to quickly construct chords in all major keys. To quickly learn this process, count the lines or spaces from the tonic to where there is the interval you wish to explore; find its number in this table, and look up its name and symbol accordingly.