Major Chords in Music

Major chords in Western classical music are composed of three notes that come together into a triad. This characteristic interval relationship establishes major chords.

These triads can be found at each degree of the major scale and form Roman numeral chords (1, 3, 5, etc). Chords with more than three notes, such as seventh or eleventh chords are considered major chords.


Major chords don’t just fall under three basic note names despite their name; they can also be arranged in many ways to produce new sounds and textures. For instance, any triad can have its third replaced with either a major second or perfect fifth to produce an augmented or diminished chord.

A variant of the major chord, known as the seventh chord, can add tension and drama to songs. This chord usually contains all three degrees from a major scale’s first degree up through flattened third and fifth degrees; its use often increases drama during musical performances.

Understanding major and minor chords is vital to becoming an accomplished musician, as these are the cornerstones of music theory and form the basis for developing your instrument. But keep in mind that there’s no hard and fast rule that dictates whether one chord sounds happy or sad – that decision lies solely with how they’re used and your overall musical style.


Each major scale consists of seven notes that span an octave. These notes correspond with letters in the alphabet (C, D, E, F and G) as well as intervals such as whole steps and half steps, also known as tones or semitones. Intervals follow an exacting pattern across scales in one key: whole step followed by whole step followed by half step. Easily distinguishing each major scale from its relative minor requires counting back three half steps from its tonic note.

Intervals within a major scale are essential in creating chords and melodies; harmonized in stacks of thirds they form triads – creating harmony across layers of thirds creates triads.

The major scale is renowned for its vibrant, energetic sound, making it the go-to scale in many styles of music. Learning it is straightforward as intervals and patterns remain consistent over time – you could use “Fat Cats Go Down Alleys to Eat Birds” as a mnemonic device to keep track of sharps and flats within this scale.


Intervals, or musical intervals, are spaces between musical notes. Intervals can either be perfect or imperfect, with perfect ones occurring within the key of a major scale like unisons, thirds and fifths; imperfect intervals – such as sixths and sevenths – not belonging to such scales.

Contracting intervals by half steps can make them smaller or larger; perfect and minor intervals become diminished and major intervals. For instance, in the example below’s first measure, the perfect fifth from F-C was contracted to become F-G, creating a minor sixth.

Chords can also be extended with additional notes. For instance, a C major chord can be extended into a Cmaj7 by adding its major seventh interval (B). This creates a rich and full sound suited for Celtic and metal music genres alike. Furthermore, adding minor ninth notes creates Cm9 chord with more melancholy undertones.

Chord progressions

A major chord is a three-note triad composed of a root note, major third note and perfect fifth. These three notes may be arranged vertically to produce different sounds; however, all major chords must contain major roots to produce major tones or degrees on the major scale. Chords may also be inverted by appending “m” or “maj” after the root note, for instance C, E & Gm would indicate an inverted chord.

Minor chords consist of three elements, including D as their root note, F as their major third note and C as their perfect fifth tone. An am7 chord can also be created from this chord progression by adding another seventh tone – see Example #1 above for details.

Studies have demonstrated that Western adults and children typically associate major chords with happy music and minor chords with sad music; however, this perception does not apply universally; researchers have discovered that people in remote communities in Papua New Guinea do not react the same way when hearing chord progressions, suggesting it might be culturally-mediated rather than previously thought.