Chord Structure

How Chords are made up

Major Chords

The distance from NOTE (1) to NOTE (2) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (2) to NOTE (3) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (3) to NOTE (4) is a SEMI-TONE

The distance from NOTE (4) to NOTE (5) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (5) to NOTE (6) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (6) to NOTE (7) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (7) to NOTE (8) is a SEMI-TONE

 


 

In the Key of C Major there are no sharps or flats. This gives us; C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

All major chords are built up in the same way. (N.B. Tone = Step, Semi-Tone = Half-Step)

Start from any note and this formula will give you the major scale.

Minor Chords

The distance from NOTE (1) to NOTE (2) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (2) to NOTE (3) is a SEMI-TONE

The distance from NOTE (3) to NOTE (4) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (4) to NOTE (5) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (5) to NOTE (6) is a SEMI-TONE

The distance from NOTE (6) to NOTE (7) is a TONE

The distance from NOTE (7) to NOTE (8) is a TONE

 


 

Similarly in the Key of A Minor there are no sharps or flats. This gives us; A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A

All minor chords are also built up in the same way as major chords only the interval relationship changes.

Start from any note and this formula will give you the minor scale.



What makes a Major Chord or a Minor Chord?

Major chords contain a root note, a major third above the root and a perfect fifth above the root, they can also be known as major triads. The only difference between a major and minor chord is that the minor chord contains a minor third above the root note which is a semi-tone lower, they are also be known as minor triads.

Building out this knowledge by understanding how other chord structures function will eventually make it possible to know your way round the guitar fret-board and play chords all over the neck, apply intuitive lead lines and get creative in any tuning.

Within the western music culture there are twelve tones between each octave, this series of twelve tones are known as the chromatic scale.



What are the Chords in the Key of C Major?

(1) C E G >> C major chord (R, 3, 5)

(2) D F A >> D minor chord (R, b3, 5)

(3) E G B >> E minor chord (R, b3, 5)

(4) F A C >> F major chord (R, 3, 5)

(5) G B D >> G major chord (R, 3, 5)

(6) A C E >> A minor chord (R, b3, 5)

(7) B D F >> B diminished chord (R, b3, b5)

To build up 3 note chords from each note of the scale – take the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes starting on each string.

What are the Chords in the Key of A Minor?

(1) A C E >> A minor chord (R, b3, 5)

(2) B D F >> B diminished chord (R, b3, b5)

(3) C E G >> C major chord (R, 3, 5)

(4) D F A >> D minor chord (R, b3, 5)

(5) E G B >> E minor chord (R, b3, 5)

(6) F A C >> F major chord (R, 3, 5)

(7) G B D >> G major chord (R, 3, 5)

To build up 3 note chords from each note of the scale – take the 1st, minor 3rd and 5th notes starting on each string.



Adding a Fourth Note to Chords in the ‘Key of C Major’

(1) C E G B >> C major7 chord (R, 3 ,5, 7)

(2) D F A C >> D minor7 chord (R, b3, 5, b7)

(3) E G B D >> E minor7 chord (R, b3, 5, b7)

(4) F A C E >> F major7 chord (R, 3, 5, 7)

(5) G B F D >> G major7chord (R, 3, 5, b7)

(6) A C E G >> A minor7 chord (R, b3, 5, b7)

(7) B D F A >> B minor7b5 chord (R, b3, b5, b7)

To build up 4 note chords (In this example we will use 7th chords) simply add the 7th note to the chords formula. (If this were say a 6th or 9th chord you would be apllying the respective note)

Adding a Fourth Note to Chords in the ‘Key of A Minor’

(1) A C E G >> A minor7 chord (R, b3, 5, b7)

(2) B D F A >> Bmin7b5 chord (R, b3, b5, b7) (B Half Diminished)

(3) C E G B >> C major7 chord (R, 3, 5, 7)

(4) D F A C >> D minor7 chord (R, b3, 5, b7)

(5) E G B D >> E minor7 chord (R, b3, 5, b7)

(6) F A C E >> F major7 chord (R, 3, 5, 7)

(7) G B F D >> G7 chord (R, 3, 5, b7)

You will see the minor works in the same way as the major and notice a pattern emerging.



Tonal Structure

Taking a more overview perspective can help to simplify things, rather than trying to memories loads of chords shapes and names try to follow the logic of how chords are constructed and relate to each other.

Following this logic and observing the basic rules of western musics’ tonal structure will give you access to masses of chords and scales.

Diatonic and Chromatic

Diatonic and chromatic are terms in music theory that are most often used to characterize scales, and are also applied to intervals, chords, notes, musical styles, and kinds of harmony. They are very often used as a pair, very often, diatonic refers to musical elements derived from the modes and transpositions of the “white note scale” C – D – E – F – G – A – B. Chromatic refers to structures derived from the chromatic scale, which consists of all semitones.

Diatonic Chords

Below are sequences of Diatonic chords where the root notes are on the different lower strings respectively (6th, 5th and 4th) . The key can charge by moving to a different start position and following the same sequence from that particular start point.

Generally a note is understood as diatonic in a context if it belongs to the diatonic scale that is used in that context; otherwise it is chromatic.



Diatonic Seventh Chords

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Root Note on the 6th String – Key of F – R 7 3 5

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Root Note on the 5th String – Key of C – R 7 3 5

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Root Note on the 4th String – Key of E – R 7 3 5