Music Theory

Building Triads

A chord in it's simplest form is 3 or more notes. The most common variations of this basic harmony (triads) is a major triad, minor triad, diminished triad and augmented triad. Here are the degrees from the root that make up each of these triads (example in C):

Major Triad - 1 3 5 (C E G)

Minor Triad - 1 b3 5 (C Eb G)

Diminished Triad - 1 b3 b5 (C Eb Gb)

Augmented Triad - 1 3 #5 (C E G#)

To find these shapes on the neck, you need to know the interval between each of the notes that makes up the triad, and then be able to make those jumps on the fretboard. The interval structure of each of these triads are as follows:

(Major 3rd = 2 Whole Steps)

(Minor 3rd = 1 1/2 Steps)

Major Triad - M3 + m3

Minor Triad - m3 + M3

Dim Triad - m3 + m3

Aug Triad - M3 + M3

Here are some examples of these shapes on the fretboard:

Harmonising Scales

You can harmonise a full scale just by using its notes to find the root, third and fifth of each degree. This involves a process of 'pick one, skip one, pick one, skip one, pick one'. For example, this is the process of harmonsing the major scale:

Major Scales Degrees: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

C Major Scale: C D E F G A B

First Chord: Starts on first degree (i.e C).

C's 3rd and 5th (skip 2 and 4): E G

C E G = Major Triad

This means the first chord of a major scale is a major chord, in our example that's Cmaj.

Second Chord: Starts on second degree (i.e D).

D's 3rd and 5th in this scale (skipping 3 and 5): F A

D F A = Minor Triad

This means the second chord of a major scale is a minor chord. in our example, that's Dm.

If you did this for the rest of the major scale you would get:

1 = Major (1 3 5)

2 = Minor (2 4 6)

3 = Minor (3 5 7)

4 = Major (4 6 1)

5= Major (5 7 2)

6= Minor (6 1 3)

7 = Diminished (7 2 4)

So the chords of the C major scale are: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim 


If you were to follow the same process for the C minor scale, this would be the result:

Minor Scale Degrees: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

C Minor Scale: C D Eb F G G# Bb

Minor Scale Chords: 

1 = Minor (1 b3 5)

2 = Diminished (2 4 b6)

b3 = Major (b3 5 b7)

4 = Minor (4 b6 1)

5 = Minor (5 b7 2)

b6 = Major (b6 1 b3)

b7 = Major (b7 2 4)

So the chords of the C minor scale are: Cm Ddmin Eb Fm Gm G# Bb

Relative Theory

As you may have noticed, when you look at the chord scale for the major and minor scale, the chords themselves are in the same order, just starting on a different note. That's due to relative theory. Every major key has a relative minor key, that is, a minor scale that contains all the same notes, and vice versa. Here's how:

C Major Scale Notes

 1   2   3   4   5  6   7

C  D  E  F  G  A  B

If you started that scale on the 6th degree you would get this:

6  7   1    2   3  4   5

A  B  C  D  E  F  G

Which actually is the A Minor Scale:

1   2  b3 4   5  b6 b7

A  B  C  D  E  F  G

You may also notice here that C, which was our root initially, is now the b3 of A Minor, and therein lies the relative theory basics:

The Sixth Degree of a major scale is the root of its Relative Minor

The b3 of a minor scale is the root of its Relative Major

That means both C major and A minor contain the same notes and chords, just in a different order as the root has been shifted. Here are all the relative Majors to Minor (of course, they also work the other way):


C Major - A Minor

C# Major - Bb Minor

D Major - B Minor

D# Major - C Minor

E Major - C# Minor

F Major - D Minor

F# Major - D# Minor

G Major - E Minor

G# Major - F Minor

A Major - F# Minor

Bb Major - G Minor

B Major - G# Minor

Barre Chords

Seventh Chords

A Seventh Chord is created by adding another 3rd to an existing triad.

Major 7 = 1 3 5 7 (R M m M)

Minor 7 = 1 b3 5 b7 (R m M m)

Dom 7 = 1 3 5 b7 (R M m m)

Major Key 7th Harmony: Maj7, min7, min7, Maj7, Dom7, min7, m7b5

Minor Key 7th Harmony: min7, m7b5, Maj7, min7, min7, Maj7, Maj7

Complete Chord Chart