Tag Archives: major scales

chord theory 5: 12 major chords for 12 major scales

Earlier articles chord theory 1, 2 , 3 & 4 laid down the foundations deriving and proving the pattern of notes expressed by a major chord.  In the previous article, we proposed that the pattern of notes for two C major chord fingerings boiled down to this: the C major chord is made from the root, third and fifth notes of the C major scale:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
C D E F G A B C

Performing the same exercise again, this time with a G major chord and the G major scale:

picture of G major

a G major chord

Reading from left to right of the chord diagram, the notes we are playing are G, B, D, G, B, G.  In this arrangement, there are 3 Gs, 2 Bs and only one D.  There is a lot of G in this chord, and not much D.  Regardless, lets compare the notes played against the G major scale, which I have lifted from chord theory 3: 12 major scales, and condensed to get rid of the notes from the chromatic scale that are not found in the G major scale.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
G A B C D E F# G

Once again, we can see that this chord – G major – is made from the root, third and fifth notes of the G major scale.  As an exercise, you test other G major fingerings against the same table of notes, and you will find the same result.  If you are still unsure that we can derive a rule from 2 examples, simply go through the same exercise for all of the 12 major chords.

12 chords for 12 scales

Applying the pattern of 1 – 3 – 5 to a chart of major scales gives us the following definitions for the major chords for all 12 notes.  Why?  Just because we can, and it may come in useful later.  There is a plain version at the bottom of the page, in case you want one.

Major chord 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
A A B C# D E F# G# A
Bb Bb C D D# F G A Bb
B B C# D# E F# G# Bb B
C C D E F G A B C
C# C# D# F F# G# Bb C C#
D D E F# G A B C# D
D# D# F G G# Bb C D D#
E E F# G# A B C# D# E
F F G A Bb C D E F
F# F# G# Bb B C# D# F F#
G G A B C D E F# G
G# G# Bb C C# D# F G G#

new fingerings

By using the chart above, and the following diagram, you can start to work out new shapes for your tired old major chords.  Want a G major with a bit more D in it?  Now you can work it out.

guitar fretboard

table of major scales and scale definition

scale tone tone semi-tone tone tone tone semi-tone
root 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
A A B C# D E F# G# A
Bb Bb C D D# F G A Bb
B B C# D# E F# G# Bb B
C C D E F G A B C
C# C# D# F F# G# Bb C C#
D D E F# G A B C# D
D# D# F G G# Bb C D D#
E E F# G# A B C# D# E
F F G A Bb C D E F
F# F# G# Bb B C# D# F F#
G G A B C D E F# G
G# G# Bb C C# D# F G G#