Major Scale Chords: What they Are and How to Build Them

Building chords from the major scale is a step in helping you to write or understand chord progressions, varying keys and developing your ear as a guitarist. If someone asked you to play a certain chord, can you identify it? If not, that’s okay. You should read on and learn how to identify more chords. Aw, I always forget how the major scale chords are made.

Chord Theory

First, you’ll learn how to build chords from the major scale. Then you’ll learn how to create other chords by adding three notes with a diminished fifth.

Triads

Triads are groups of three notes that are 3rds apart. You’ll also see this referred to as “stacking” in thirds.

A triad is usually made up of the root note, 3rd degree, and 5th degree of the scale. The first degree triad built from G major would be G-B-D.

Triads can be of four different qualities:

  • Major – a triad with a major 3rd and perfect 5th
  • Minor – a triad with a flattened 3rd (minor 3rd) and perfect 5th
  • Augmented – a major triad with a raised 5th
  • Diminished – a minor triad with a flattened 5th

3rds can be formed with major 3rds and minor 3rds. In the above example, 4th steps are equal to 2 steps and 3 remits are 1 ½ steps. A perfect 5th is seven semitones from the first note, while an augmented 5th is eight semitones and a diminished fifth is six semitones.

Quality Stacked 3rd Intervals Semitones 5th Quality
Major Major 3rd + Minor 3rd 7 Perfect
Minor Minor 3rd + Major 3rd 7 Perfect
Diminished Minor 3rd + Minor 3rd 6 Diminished
Augmented Major 3rd + Major 3rd 8 Augmented

The quality of the chord A major is determined by how many degrees it has within its scale. This is because the music theory point of view defines that a quality chord has to make sense to three different keys, whereas the more notes are included in chords, the less tones are often used in each key.

Building Major Scale Chords

With an understanding of chord construction under our belts, we can find the chords of the major scale by building triads from each scale degree. The quality of the triad determined by the G major scale degree is critical to forming the chords. It is important to build triads on each degree when composing a song in a key like G major.

1st Degree – G

Starting with the 1st degree, G, you get the following:

Triad 3rds Triad Quality Chord Formed
G – B – D From G to B is a major 3rd (4 semitones)
From B to D is a minor 3rd (3 semitones)
Major G Major

2nd Degree – A

Starting with the 2nd scale degree, A, you get the following:

Triad 3rds Triad Quality Chord Formed
A – C – E From A to C is a minor 3rd (3 semitones)
From C to E is a major 3rd (4 semitones)
Minor A Minor

3rd Degree – B

Starting with the 3rd scale degree, B, you get the following:

Triad 3rds Triad Quality Chord Formed
B – D – F# From B to D is a minor 3rd (3 semitones)
From D to F# is a major 3rd (4 semitones)
Minor B Minor

4th Degree – C

Starting with the 4th scale degree, C, you get the following:

Triad 3rds Triad Quality Chord Formed
C – E – G From C to E is a major 3rd (4 semitones)
From E to G is a minor 3rd (3 semitones)
Major C Major

5th Degree – D

Starting with the 5th degree, D, you get the following:

Triad 3rds Triad Quality Chord Formed
D – F# – A From D to F# is a major 3rd (4 semitones)
From F# to A is a minor 3rd (3 semitones)
Major D Major

6th Degree – E

Starting with the 6th degree, E, you get the following:

Triad 3rds Triad Quality Chord Formed
E – G – B From E to G is a minor 3rd (3 semitones)
From G to B is a major 3rd (4 semitones)
Minor E Minor

7th Degree – F#

Starting from the 7th degree, F#, you get the following triad:

Triad 3rds Triad Quality Chord Formed
F# – A – C From F# to A is a minor 3rd (3 semitones)
From A to C is a minor 3rd (3 semitones)
Diminished F# Diminished

Major Scale Chords Formula

After doing the exercise above of building triads from the G major scale, you will be able to see a pattern of major and minor chords that holds true for all major scales. The major scale chord qualities are summarized in the table below:

Scale Degree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Triad Quality Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor Diminished
Chord Pattern* I ii iii IV V vi vii° or vii♭5**

*In music, Roman numerals are used to notate chords by scale degree. In this example, the vi chord is at the sixth degree of the scale. Capital numerals represent major while lowercase is used to indicate minor chords.

**A diminished chord is a major chord with a flat 5th. A minor chord is also a major chord, but it has an additional note – the minor 3rd.

With this table, you’ll be able to see which numbered chords are major in the major scale, which numbers are minor and how diminished the chords become.

  • Major Chords: I, IV, V
  • Minor Chords: ii, iii, vi
  • Diminished Chords: vi°

Mapping the Chords to the Fretboard

Mapping out the relative positions of the chords on your guitar is really easy when using the major/minor pattern. It starts with some basic chords like power chords and stolen chords and moves up to more complicated fingerings like tremolo, or even arpeggios. AI writers have made it easier than ever to write chords, transpose keys and play with other musicians. They’re also a quick and easy way to identify the chords of a key on the fly.

When we map the major scale to the guitar fretboard, there are about a couple of patterns that make it easier to visualize and pick up chord progressions. Major chords and minor chords have different colors on the guitar. The note that defines the scale is orange.

Playing Chord Progressions by Number

You may hear chords referred to by degree instead of name (C-I-IV-V) which allows musicians to easily transpose a progression to any key.

To help you become fluent, try playing through the following chord progressions and making sure to use all three patterns from the diagrams from above. The strumming pattern isn’t important. Every time a chord changes, refer to its number as it was just played. That’s how you’ll know when to take a deep breath or stick your fingers into the air.

Key Progression
G Major I – IV – V
G Major ii – V – I
G Major I – IV – I – V
G Major I – IV – ii – V
G Major I – V – vi – IV
G Major I – ii – iii – IV – V

Let’s move the chords from above to different keys. To do this, you’d only need to change the pattern by moving it one note at a time in order to get your desired key. If you’re not familiar with the notes on the fretboard, I recommend you read this book. You’ll need to be able to identify the root notes of major scales.

This is how the different chords relate to each other. You can play them in the keys outlined here but also feel free to transpose them to other keys as well.

Another important component is listening. Clear your head and focus on the way different chords sound in succession. You’ll be able to identify chord progressions by hearing them only and, likewise, know how a chord progression will sound before you ever play.

Key Progression
D Major I – IV – V
E Major ii – V – I
A Major I – IV – I – V
F Major I – IV – ii – V
D Major I – V – vi – IV
C Major I – ii – iii – IV – V

Conclusion

You learned how to build chords using the major scale. Triads (root, 3rd, 5th) are the basis for chord quality. They determine which chord a particular scale degree belongs to. On a scale of 1-7, you can create chord progressions all the way from 1 to 7. Playing by numbers, however, is hard for some people and not as practical for tuning purposes. So it might be easier to use ear training… This is a process that is often used in guitar chords and even minor ones in particular.

FAQ for Building Chords Major Scale

What are the notes of a major scale?

Major scale is a musical scale consisting of seven notes. The first note is called the root note. The third note is called the dominant note, and the seventh note is called the octave.

Notes are numbered according to this pattern, starting from C major scale:

C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

What are the steps to build a major scale on gitar?

This is a question that is relevant for both beginners and experienced players. There are many things that you need to know before you dive into the world of guitar. The first thing to consider is what type of guitar do you want to play? Do you want a classical guitar, an electric guitar, or a bass guitar?

The next step in building your major scale is understanding the notes on the fretboard. The most common notes are C, D, E, F#, G and A. This means that in order to build your major scale on gitar, it would be best if you learn how to play these six notes first.

Which notes make up the major scale?

The major scale is a set of notes that are used in Western music. These notes are the most prevalent in Western music and are all found on a piano keyboard. The major scale is made up of seven notes:

Notes from the first octave:

  • DO – on the first extension line
  • RE – under the first main line
  • MI – fills the first ruler
  • FA – is written between the first and third lines
  • SALT – on the third ruler
  • LA – between the third and third lines
  • SI – on the third ruler

Notes from the second octave:

  • DO – to the second octave is between the 3rd and 4th ruler.
  • RE – of the second octave is on the 4th ruler.
  • MI – of the second octave is between the 4th and 5th ruler.
  • FA – of the second octave is on the 5th ruler.
  • SALT – of the second octave is above the 5th ruler.
  • LA – of the second octave — on 1 additional.
  • SI – of the second octave is above the first additional.

The major scale can be considered as having two modes, which are called “natural” and “harmonic”. The natural mode is where the root note (the tonic) is found on the first note of the scale, while harmonic mode starts with a third note.

Can you explain what the fifth and sixth notes are in a major scale?

The fifth and sixth notes in a major scale are F# and G#.

The fifth note is the same as the first note of the next key, which is A#. The sixth note is the same as the third note of the next key, which is Bb.

The fifth and sixth notes are both called leading tones because they lead to a different key.

How is the major scale built from notes in a key?

The major scale is an important part of music theory. It’s the set of notes that are used to define a key. It’s also the way that notes are ordered in a specific key. For example, the C Major scale starts with C, then goes up to D, E, F#, G#, A and B.

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