North Fremantle Guitar Lessons

Major Scale Chord Formula

  •  31 January 2017
  •  1087
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Chords are stacks of notes based on a simple formula

  • 1 - 3 - 5.

The...

  • 1st note
  • 3rd note
  • 5th note

...from the scale.

Applying this to the Major Scale gives us the MAJOR SCALE CHORDS.

Use this formula to create a chord sequence or determine what key a song is in.

There are lesson files listed at the end to help out.

1 - 3 - 5

The C Major Scale is where I will start from.

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

Applying the "1,3, 5" formula to the 1st note in the scale makes a C chord:

  • C, E, G

Applying "1,3, 5" formula to the 2nd note in the scale creates a D chord:

  • D, F, A

Build all the chords for the C Major Scale:

  • C, E, G
  • D, F, A
  • E, G, B
  • F, A, C
  • G, B, D
  • A, C, E
  • B, D, F

Chords Labelling

The 3rd note tells you if a chord is Major or minor.

The 5th note is a consistent distance except for on the last chord. This last chord demonstrates the formula for a diminished chord.

Fretboard Notes can help you measure the distances.

  • Major 3rd (AKA M3) is 2 Tones i.e. C to E.
  • minor 3rd (AKA b3) is 1 Tone and 1 semi-Tone i.e. D to F.
  • Perfect 5th (AKA P5 or just 5) is 3 Tone and 1 semi-Tone i.e. C to G.
  • A flat 5th (AKA b5) is 3 Tone i.e. B to F.
Major 3rd
1, 3, 5
minor Chord
1, b3, 5
Diminished Chord
1, b3, b5

The Major Scale chords as formulas:

  • 1, 3, 5
  • 1, b3, 5
  • 1, b3, 5
  • 1, 3, 5
  • 1, 3, 5
  • 1, b3, 5
  • 1, b3, b5

M m m M M m Dim

So now the chords are:

  • Major
  • minor
  • minor
  • Major
  • Major
  • minor
  • diminished

Say it over and over:

  • Major
  • minor
  • minor
  • Major
  • Major
  • minor
  • diminished

The C Major Scale:

  • C Major
  • D minor
  • E minor
  • F Major
  • G Major
  • A minor
  • B diminished

The D Major Scale:

  • D Major
  • E minor
  • F# minor
  • G Major
  • A Major
  • B minor
  • C# diminished

The F Major Scale:

  • F Major
  • G minor
  • A minor
  • Bb Major
  • C Major
  • D minor
  • E diminished

Chord Extensions

The system just adds the next number in the formula "1 - 3 - 5 - 7".

Apply this formula to the scale to get its 7th chords, these are the labels:

Major 7th Chord
1, 3, 5, 7
minor 7th Chord
1, b3, 5, b7
Dominant 7th Chord
1, 3, 5, b7
Half Diminished Chord (AKA m7b5)
1, b3, b5, b7

Not found in the Major Scale, but found in scales like Harmonic minor are these 7th chords:

Diminished 7th Chord
1, b3, b5, bb7
minor Major 7th Chord
1, b3, 5, 7

The Major Scale chords with their 7ths:

  • Major 7
  • minor 7
  • minor 7
  • Major 7
  • Dominant 7
  • minor 7
  • m7b5

Extending further we add the 9th "1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9". From C, the 9th is D.

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

After a point you will have added all the notes available i.e 7 notes as there are only 7 notes in the Major Scale:

  • 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 13

From this point onwards the chord naming gets a bit messy so you just have to practise it, I could delve deeper but it would be a long read and you would fall asleep.

  • Major 9
  • minor 9
  • minor 7 b9
  • Major 9
  • Dominant 9
  • minor 9
  • minor 7 b5 b9
  • Major 11
  • minor 11
  • minor 11 b9
  • Major 9 #11
  • Dominant 11
  • minor 11
  • minor 11 b5 b9
  • Major 13
  • minor 13
  • minor 7 b9 b13
  • Major 13 #11
  • Dominant 13
  • minor 11 b13
  • minor 11 b5 b9 b13

Caution on language: some people say Natural 7 while others say Major 7. For me, Major 7, is more common but natural 7 is more appropriate. You have to learn to read between the lines sometimes of what is written.