This lesson will focus on how chords are made. Just like we had a formula of steps that we could use to make a scale (click here to see the lesson on building scales), we can also use a formula to make chords.
A basic chord is built on 3 notes. These 3 note chords are called “triads”. Other notes can be added to a tried to make “extensions”. This lesson will focus just on triads. Extensions will be covered in a later lesson.
There are 6 important types of chords that you need to know: Major chords, minor chords, diminished chords, augmented chords, sus chords, and 5 chords. Major and Minor chords are the most important chords in western music. Diminished chords are also very important. Major chords are said to have a “happy” tone while minor chords are said to have a “sad” tone. Diminished chords are great for building tension. This lesson will explain how to make major, minor, and diminished chords. So lets build some chords.
If you remember from the lesson on the major scale, there are 7 notes in the major scale. By taking certain notes out of this scale we can build a triad. So what notes do we take? Well that depends on what chord we want to build.
The Formula’s for major and minor chords are as follows:
Major: 1-3-5 . So that means you take the 1st, the 3rd note and the 5th note and play them together. That gives you a major triad.
Minor: 1-3b-5. Minor chords are made by taking the 1st note, the b3rd (this means you “flat” the 3rd note by moving it down one half-step), and the 5th note.
Diminished: 1-3b-5b. Diminished chords are made by playing the 1st note and flatting both the 3rd and the 5th notes of a scale.
So the difference between a major and minor triad is the 3rd note. A minor triad has a flat third note.
You will notice that to build a chord we are stacking either Major 3rd or minor 3rd intervals on top of each other. So chords are made by stacking 3rds. (If you don't know what I'm talking about see my post on intervals).
Lets take a look at the C major scale and apply our chord formulas:
So if we want to make a C minor chord all we have to do is flat the 3rd. So lets move the E note down one half step. So C minor would be C, Eb, G. Got it? And what would a C diminished chord be?
You got it. C, Eb, Gb. (because we flat the 3rd and 5th notes!)
Now lets look at the guitar chord charts and see how to play these chords.
I hope you enjoyed this lesson. If you have any questions please post them to the comments section of this post. Next lesson we will look at how to build Sus chords, 5 chords, and Augmented chords.