Learn the Chords in a Flat Major

From classic rock hits to jazz ballads, A flat major has long been used as a key of choice for music in all genres and styles. In this article we’ll take a closer look at its chords – you won’t be disappointed!

Triads in a flat major scale can be divided into two tetrachords (four-note segments that follow a 2-2-1 pattern), making them much easier to remember than the full scale or key signature.


Triads are the fundamental building blocks of chords. A triad consists of three notes stacked either vertically (like snowmen) or horizontally across music notation lines, with their intervals determining its type; major, minor, diminished and augmented are some possibilities. When played as chords with their root note at the bottom and an additional seventh note added onto it for tension and depth, this combination becomes an extended chord triad.

Flat major triads consist of A, E and G as its constituent notes; their root note being A. This chord has a major sound because its root note contains its main key’s root note of A; therefore this triad has major sounding notes and often used in classical compositions like Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major to create an atmosphere of sadness or melancholy.

The A Flat Major Triad can also be heard in pop and jazz music to create a full and lush sound, such as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata using this harmonic progression that creates an air of sadness in this piano masterpiece.

A triad can be constructed starting on any white note, but its sound will differ depending on its intervals between each note. For instance, a C major triad will have different tones than its C minor counterpart due to different intervals between notes.

Triad chords can also be inverted to alter their sound. For instance, if the bottom note of a triad is not considered the chord root (as shown in the first picture below), this chord will be known as an inverted triad and represented as such on staff diagrams with an extra slash added onto its symbol and a capital letter written below to represent pitch class of bass note; such as B/F for instance.

Repelling triads using interval note names instead of chord symbols is also possible, for instance by writing C major triad as Cmi because it uses the second interval from key signature, while for C minor triad it would be written as Abmi due to fourth interval from key signature – known as Enharmonic Equivalence.

Dominant Sevenths

The dominant seventh chord is one of the most integral 7th chords in music, appearing across virtually all styles from classical, jazz and rock music to R&B and funk. A dominant seventh is built using three major triads and then an extended flattened seventh (b7) chord.

The dominant seventh chord features the b7 as an essential ingredient, pulling away from its tonic key and into another counterclockwise key on the Circle of Fifths – creating tension and instability within it that needs resolving into its tonic triad. Furthermore, this chord can also serve as an effective modulation chord; adding its root key alongside adding its b7 creates modulations by one fifth (e.g. C E G adds F major’s b7 to a C major triad for modulation by creating modulation by one fifth).

There are various forms of dominant sevenths, but the most familiar form is simply a major triad with an additional major seventh chord above it – often called a “major seventh chord”, although popular music rarely specifies this fact when discussing seventh chords; most listeners assume they’re talking about dominant sevenths when hearing 7 as an indicator number.

Considered in detail, most seventh chords can be understood as being constructed from a major triad and three minor thirds stacked upon it. The first two minor thirds add extra flavor while the final one forms what we know as a seventh chord.

Major and dominant seventh chords differ only by virtue of one element: their lower seventh scale tone. This feature gives these chords their tension and instability.

An augmented sixth chord is another type of dominant seventh, although more complicated than regular triads as it includes two major sevenths in addition to the b7. When played on bass instruments with additional bass notes being augmented by flats this chord can take on an almost chromatic sound when played from below the staff.

Major Sevenths

A major seventh chord features a 7th interval above its root note, creating an inherently major sound. By dropping one half step from a major triad, its sound becomes even more significant; furthermore, this chord can also be altered into a dominant 7th chord for added tension.

The Gmaj7 (G-B-D-F#) chord is a popularly used 7th chord in blues and pop music. Due to the gap between third and seventh notes, its tension increases significantly; sometimes also known as a flat seven chord due to lower third and seventh notes than regular major seventh chords; creating a flattened soundscape.

To create the Ab chord, start at its root note of Ab and build it up to its seventh note, the seventh being Ab’s seventh string. Altering the order of chord notes could change its sound as well as what triads were used. Alternating this process also changes what triads would be used; though inverted changes might cause further disruption if done. It’s often preferred to keep this chord in its original position for best results.

Additional options exist for seventh intervals above the root, including augmented and diminished chords. Though less popularly utilized, they still add drama to your music and could add depth.

To represent a major seventh chord, you would begin with the standard 7th triad symbol and add a circle around its root, as demonstrated below. The circle indicates this chord’s root while its number in brackets indicates which note interval name corresponds with scale notes entered above.

This chord’s figured bass symbols are 6/5/3, meaning its roots are placed above its five, and seven above five; this is known as first inversion. To change its use even more dramatically and alter its triads further it could be inverted again and written viio; though not as often utilized it’s still important to know how to create this chord type.

Minor Sevenths

There are various kinds of seventh chords. All three varieties rely on triads, while their names depend on the interval (distance between chord notes) from its root to major seventh. Minor keys reduce this interval by half-step so a major 7th in flat major will contain C to B notes; similarly minor iv and v chords borrowed from parallel minor scale use C to Db notes as major 7ths.

Minor-major seventh chords can also be created using major triads with minor sevenths, creating the minor-major seventh. These chords, often found in jazz music, create tension through their minor seventh. This tone often makes blues music even more intense!

Minor-major seventh is not a commonly encountered chord in most styles of music, though it can occasionally appear. An example can be found in Bernard Hermann’s song My Funny Valentine as an example. This chord can sometimes be used as part of an ascending sequence leading up to dominants ii, iio or v, while it may also add some flair to simple chords such as Dm.

As you study or compose music, it’s crucial that you be aware of its differences so you can select the most effective chord for any given musical situation. You can accomplish this by identifying which type of seventh chord exists within an arrangement, applying enharmonic equivalence to reincorporate it back into its key signature, or simply comparing it against similar triads.

A major seventh chord can be formed by adding a major seventh interval above the root of a triad. This type of chord is sometimes known as a dominant seventh as it feels more tense than other types and typically resolves to its tonic chord (I).

To create a minor seventh chord, lower the major seventh interval by one half step. This makes the chord sound dissonant and adds more of an emotional edge. Useful for giving music an understated tone!