One way to understand major chords is by memorizing their formula: 1 – 3 – 5. While this works across any scale, other types of chords have different approaches that you need to familiarise yourself with.
These formulas represent the intervals that arise from harmonizing scale degrees. Switching around their order results in chord inversions.
Triads are musical chords consisting of three notes that may or may not be major, minor, diminished or augmented in their quality depending on its scale degree composition and root chord location.
One way of assessing triad quality is by counting alphabetic intervals between its notes; for instance, C to E distance represents major third, C to G distance is minor third and F to A distance represents an augmented fifth.
Different triads have unique sounds that elicit distinct emotions in listeners. Major triads often sound “happy,” while minor ones sound sadder or frightening – diminished ones can feel disquieting or otherworldly altogether! Luckily, chord symbols for triads make identification easy even when chords have doubled notes or wide intervals; simply name and quality of the chord can often help identify it more readily than its letter name alone can.
A chord is composed of notes played together that are grouped based on intervals. Intervals refer to the amount of half-steps or semitones between notes in a particular chord.
Major chords consist of three components, the root, a major third (four half steps above), and a perfect fifth (7 half steps above). These intervals create the bright, happy sound associated with these chords.
Minor chords follow the same formula as major ones but with a flattened third that gives them a more somber sound.
Seventh chords are composed of intervals similar to fifths but use sevenths (up an octave) instead. Extended seventh chords often add ninth or thirteenth notes by adding another major or minor seventh above the original one; this adds four or five additional semitones to the chord and should be identified as either major 7th (m7).
Every major scale has its own chord formula and, with knowledge of your notes on the fretboard, transposing these patterns is easy – simply move their root note – for example C major becomes Cmaj9.
Example 1 – C E G This example gives us the first, third and fifth chords in C – all we need to find the notes on the fretboard!
Note that chord formulae represent intervals – so while C major has an inflected fifth note, you may also need to move up or down an octave depending on its key.
Major 7th and 9th chords can also be constructed by adding three additional notes that comprise their related scale to a root note – in this instance C – Eb – G (or any of its variations such as CM9, CM11 or CM13). You can extend these chords further by including additional tones like 6th, 7th or 13th.
Major and Minor
Major and minor chords differ based on the size of their interval between their central notes. A major chord features a larger interval than its minor counterpart, determined by which note makes up its third of root note – C triad has an E third which makes its interval four semitones larger than three tones comprising minor chords.
While this rule may seem simple, its impact can be profound on the tone and quality of chords and scales you learn to play. Major chords tend to convey joyous emotions such as happiness or lightness and can be found throughout Classical music, country music and most pop songs you may know.
As an example, you have probably heard Van Morrison’s song Brown Eyed Girl which employs all six keys of a major scale as chords to compose its melody.