Learn how to build chords
|The name of the chord tells you how to build it!|
This page, will teach you the
principles of building any chord on any instrument.
The major scale is numbered
Every note has a function
|The major scale is numbered from 1 to 8. Semitones in between
are numbered with - or + in front of the number.
A number does not specify a certain note. Depending on what chord you want to build, you use different major scales. If you want to build some kind of G#-chord, the numbers correspond to the G# major scale. The numbers always relates to the major scale - even if you want to build a minor chord.
If the chord covers more than one octave, continue to count: 1 = 8, 2 = 9, 3 = 10...
|Each note in the scale has a function when you build a chord. For instance:|
|The root determines the name of the chord. The root of a G-chord is
the note G.
The third note determines whether a chord is major or minor.
|Most chords are built upon the major or minor triads:|
|A major chord contains these three notes: 1
A minor chord contains these three notes: 1 -3 5
How chords are built and named
|CHORD TYPE:||NOTES:||CHORD NAME:|
|That a chord is a major chord is implicit. In chord context, the word "major" refers to the seventh degree of the scale.|
|(Major)||1 3 5||C|
|Seven||1 3 5 -7||C7|
|Nine||1 3 5 -7 9||C9|
|Eleven||1 3 5 -7 9 11||C11|
|Thirteen||1 3 5 -7 9 11 13||C13|
|Major seven||1 3 5 7||Cmaj7|
|Major-nine||1 3 5 7 9||Cmaj9|
|Six||1 3 5 6||C6|
|Six-add nine||1 3 5 6 9||C6add9|
|Nine-add six||1 3 5 6 -7 9||C9add6|
|Major-nine-add six||1 3 5 6 7 9||Cmaj9add6|
|Minor||1 -3 5||Cm|
|Minor-seven||1 -3 5 -7||Cm7|
|Minor-nine||1 -3 5 -7 9||Cm9|
|Minor-eleven||1 -3 5 -7 9 11||Cm11|
|Minor-thirteen||1 -3 5 -7 9 11 13||Cm13|
|Minor-major seven||1 -3 5 7||Cm maj7|
|Minor-major-nine||1 -3 5 7 9||Cm maj9|
|Minor-six||1 -3 5 6||Cm6|
|Minor-six-add nine||1 -3 5 6 9||Cm6add9|
|Minor-nine-add six||1 -3 5 6 -7 9||Cm9add6|
|Minor-major-nine-add six||1 -3 5 6 7 9||Cm maj9add6|
|Diminished||1 -3 -5||Cdim|
|Normally the diminished seventh chord is played. Flatten all notes except the root in a seventh chord:|
|Diminished (seven)||1 -3 -5 6||Cdim, C°|
|Augmented||1 3 +5||C+ (C+5, Caug)|
|Augmented-seven||1 3 +5 -7||C+7 (C7+5, C7aug)|
|Suspended||1 4 5||Csus (Csus4)|
|Suspended-seven||1 4 5 -7||Csus7|
|Alterations are semitone changes to the upper elements of a chord. +9 and +11are used instead of -10 and -12, to preserve the odd-numbered naming. # and b are often used instead of + and - .|
|Minus five||1 3 -5||C-5|
|Seven-minus five||1 3 -5 -7||C7-5|
|1 -3 -5 -7||Cm7-5, Cø|
|Minus nine||1 3 5 -7 -9||C-9 (C7-9)|
|Plus nine||1 3 5 -7 +9||C+9 (C7+9)|
|Minor-nine-minus five||1 -3 -5 -7 9||Cm9-5|
|Nine-plus eleven||1 3 5 -7 9 +11||C+11 (C9+11)|
|Major seven-minus five||1 3 -5 7||Cmaj7-5|
|Major-nine-plus eleven||1 3 5 7 9 +11||Cmaj9+11|
|Augmented-seven-plus nine-plus eleven||1 3 +5 -7 +9 +11||C+7+9+11|
* * *
|Added notes are indicated with add:
Left out notes are indicated with no: Cno 3
Alternate notes are indicated with parenthesis: Cmaj7(9)
|C/A#||indicates that the C major chord is played over the bass note A#.|
|indicates that two chords are required simultaneously.|
|Learn from the first
table, that the major scale is numbered from 1 - 8, and that the rest
of the notes have + or - in front of the numbers. Learn the funktions.
Note from the second table, how the chord builds up. Starting from a three note chord, the -7, 9, 11 and 13 extensions are added. Only the uppermost extensions are indicated in the chord name, assuming the presence of the intermediate elements. Changes from this pattern are noted with +/- or #/b in superscript. The material is chosen to show the principles. If you find a chord that is not mentioned here, you should be able to figure it out on your own.
The notes in a chord don't have to be in a specific order. The order changes when the chord is played in different positions up or down the instrument neck - a chord has different inversions.
Some chords have more notes than you have strings on your instrument - or fingers, for that matter. You don't have to include all the notes. For instance: The notes 1 and 5 are included in every major and minor chord. First, exclude the 5, then the 1. These two notes are heavily established by the bass player anyway. If you play alone, don't worry. When the chord is played in context, the listener will, in some strange way, hear the missing notes in his/her imagination. You are free to exclude other notes as well, but try to keep the characteristic sound of the chord. There are no strict rules: "If it sounds good, it is good" [Duke Ellington].
Here is one way of thinking:
Here is another way:
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