The Order of Major and Minor Chords in a Key

Traditional chords are formed using notes from within the scale; for instance, moving up an semitone from C to E is known as a minor second chord.

Going up three semitones from A to F constitutes a major third. This pattern repeats throughout the scale.

C Major

C chord is a major chord. To identify it quickly and accurately, count its semitones; E is four semitones up from C.

Every scale follows a similar pattern; only the notes change. You can identify the relative minor of any scale by looking at its first note – for instance, in D scale it begins with B as its starting note.

D Major

This key features chords which are all diatonic to the D Major scale, or diatonic with one third replaced in each chord (commonly written as Dsus2 or Dsus4). If there are thirds removed in any chord, these would usually be denoted with an abbreviation such as Dsus2.

Recall that major and minor are qualities of intervals – the spaces between notes. Chords are made up of these intervals, with their 3rd determineing its quality.

E Major

Major tetrachords refers to the first four chords of a major key (tonic, subdominant, dominant and seventh). They contain the pattern 2-2-1.

This progression is perhaps the most celebrated in Classical music, inspiring joy and optimism from its first note to its last.

Note that chords can be classified as major or minor depending on whether their third is major or minor.

F Major

F Major is an F major key with one flat note – B. This chart displays its triad chords as well as their extensions (major seventh chord, diminished chords and half-diminished).

Music composed in this key can be deeply soothing and relaxing; Liszt’s haunting “Les jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’este” by is written here, for instance. Additionally, this key lends itself well to modal interchanges by borrowing chords from related minor keys for use within its chord progressions.

G Major

G Major is an ideal key for practicing chord progressions. This key was chosen as the backdrop of Harold en Italie by Hector Berlioz as well as several chamber music compositions by Camille Saint-Saens including Violin Sonata No. 2.

When playing in a Major key, it’s common to add individual notes outside of chord tones as “flavoring notes”, creating diminished, augmented and augmented-diminished chords.

A Major

A major chord in A Major consists of three intervals – root, major third, and perfect fifth – each four half steps away from its respective root; respectively. The major third interval rises four half steps while seven semitones is added for perfection fifth interval.

This key of many songs and is often described as having a more optimistic feeling than minor keys. It has the same key signature as D Major but starts and ends on an F# note instead.

B Major

B minor chords follow the same structure as major chords but with their middle note reduced by half step. Like natural minor scales, B minor chords are in tune with D major.

Suspended B major chords such as Bsus2 and Bsus4 feature their third replaced with two notes to form two-note chords; these may also be known as minor seventh chords.

C Minor

C minor contains minor chords i and iv, major chords III-VI-7 (III through VII are major), diminished chord iideg. This key can be linked with its counterpart major Eb Major using the Circle of Fifths.

Watch Adele’s Rollin’ In The Deep to get a great example of power chords at play.

D Minor

The key of D minor is a widely utilized chord progression used in multiple genres of music – particularly suitable for ukulele playing.

This key evokes melancholic and introspective emotions, with its progression including both B-flat major chords, which create tension, and F major chords, which provide a brightening tone.

As with any minor key, its tonic will always lie three half steps lower than its equivalent major key owing to minor scales having lower scale degrees.

E Minor

Minor keys contain only minor chords (chords i and iv), with III, V, VI and VII being major chords (except chord iideg which is diminished chord).

A triad containing scale degrees 1, 2, and 3 major is major; those of scale degree 2 minor is minor; scale degree 3 major, four minor and five major may initially seem discordant but your ears will help guide the process.