Music Theory Lesson

Chord Construction - Major - Minor

Difficulty: beginner

By: Nate Dean

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Let's examine the construction of Major and Minor chords. Major chords are built with the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the major scale. Minor chords are built with the 1st, b3rd, and 5th notes of the major scale.

First, we'll start with C Major and C Minor triads. Triads are chords that use only three notes. Viewing just three notes will help us keep things as simple as possible.

R35R35

This is a C Major Triad. It contains 3 notes: the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes in the C major scale. On many chord diagrams, you'll see the 1st note written with an "R" meaning "Root," it's the root note of the chord.

In the key of C, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the major scale are C, E, and G. Click the "notes" button on the chart above to see these notes on the fretboard and staff.

Now, let's look at some more standard C Major shapes. All of these shapes use the same notes but in different patterns or different locations on the guitar neck.

Like the C Major triad, these shapes only include the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes in the key of C major (C E G), however, as is common, some notes are repeated.

R35R3R35R3

Open C Major chord shape

Here are two C Minor chords to study. Like the C Minor triad, these shapes only include the 1st, b3rd, and 5th notes in the key of C major (C Eb G), however, as is common, some notes are repeated.

R5Rb35RR5Rb35R

Common Minor barre chord shape