The Major Tom Chords in David Bowie’s Space Oddity

major tom chords

David Bowie’s Space Oddity features mostly major chords with only one minor one, but that does not suggest its content is depressing.

Major Tom was making an important choice – or facing certain death – in staying in space and this dramatic harmonic move (“really made the grade”) reinforced this decision and was key to the song’s success.

1. I

Major chords (sometimes called major triads) consist of three notes in any given key: root, third and fifth. Ry Cooder uses slide guitar to perform major chords that contain major-third intervals that he refers to as “ground control.”

Acquiring and mastering chords opens doors in your musical journey that allow you to express emotion, tell stories and reach listeners on a deeper level – an indispensable tool in any guitarist’s arsenal.

3. V

V (pronounced Vee) is the 22nd letter in both the modern English alphabet and ISO basic Latin alphabet. It’s a lowercase form of U, respellling lower case letter f between vowels and voiced consonants.

Use this free worksheet to practice writing the letter V in both its uppercase and lowercase forms.

To write the letter v, start your stroke just below the middle line and move outward towards the left side. As with lowercase cursive u, form a half “o” shape at its tip.

4. VI

This progression, often known as the ‘Seven Drop’ is an effective way to add chromatic flare and melancholy atmosphere to a chord sequence. It works especially well when used with minor keys for an emotional feel in songs.

As part of a chromatic modulation, using an IV-VI progression to switch from major key to its relative minor key can be quite effective. One particular form of this modulation can be more subtle due to vi chord of minor key being secondary dominant rather than diminished chord.

5. VII

This chord is an augmented triad. It possesses the same qualities of a V7 chord with one additional note added in bass position. When writing out capital letter denoting major keys and lower case letters indicating minor keys.

Determine the key of the work and write its key signature at the beginning of your score. Play root position chords mentally before writing their Roman numeral (uppercase or lowercase). Write any inversion and extension figures after.


This song exhibits less complexity than average for its genre, scoring near-average in Chord-Melody Tension and Chord Complexity but below-average in Melodic Complexity and Chord Progression Novelty. However, its melody and chord progression stand out but lack innovation; additionally it boasts below-average Chord-Bass Melody tension levels.

Why 8 is written as VIII instead of IIX is an interesting puzzle; both numbers lie equidistant from V. Unfortunately, this seems more of an arbitrary choice rather than any rational considerations.

7. IX

The roman numeral IX represents values such as 6 (IV) and 9 (VII). Additionally, in musical notation it denotes a compound interval called a ninth; which comprises two notes separated by an octave that can be played anywhere on a musical staff.

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Fingering correctly is critical to producing clear notes on all chords. Practice playing each chord with a down strum while making necessary adjustments if any notes sound muffled or muddy.

The liftoff sequence’s E7 chord was an ambitious move harmonically, questioning C major as an intended key, while in the bridge section its descending B-flat major 9 chords affirm Major Tom’s decision or fate to remain in space. These decisions helped cement “Space Oddity”‘s legacy for years after its initial release.