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Major scale chords

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(@tarse)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6
Topic starter  

I am very new to music theory. I recently started reading some of the music theory lessons here at GN so that I can hopefully improve on the guitar. I don't understand why the II, III and VI positions in the major scale use minor chords (such as in the key of C the chords are: C - Dm - Em - F - G - Am - Bdim). I assumed that the major scale used major chords and the minor scale used minor chords. Can someone help or point me to a lesson which will answer these questions.


   
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(@steve-0)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1162
 

Major chords are built from thirds of the major scale. What this means is that if you take a C major scale: C D E F G A B C, if you take the root, 3rd note and 5th note of that scale, you get a C major chord.

Now if you look at the other major chord in C major, G and F, they have a similar construction:

F major: F G A Bb C D E F

An F major could would therefor contain the notes F A and C

G major: G A B C D E F# G

A G chord would then have the notes G B D

If you look back at the C major scale, you'll see that both the F,A and C, and the G,B,D from both chords occur naturally in the scale. Now, as for the minor chords. Here is why there are minor chords: If you look at the minor chords in C major, they are D minor, E minor and A minor.

Now analysing each scale individually, you can see how each of these chords are built:

D minor : D E F G A Bb C D - The D minor chord is D F A

E minor : E F# G A B C D E - The E minor chord is E G B

A minor : A B C D E F G A - The A minor chord is A C E

Now if we compare the minor scales to the major scales:

D major: D E F# G A B C# D - The D major chord is D F# A

E major: E F# G# A B C# D# E - The E major chord is E G# B

A major: A B C# D E F# G# A - The A major chord is A C# E

Since C major has no accidentals (no sharps or flats) this is why some chords are major and others are minor. If this isn't very clear then I recommend going through some of the theory lessons on this site.

Steve-0


   
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(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

Have a look at this page, it may help you to understand.
The whole point is that the notes used in all the harmonised chords are from the scale in question - e.g. in C, all the notes from Dmin (D-F-A) are found in the key of C - Dmaj, however, has an F#, which is not in the key of C.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@tarse)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6
Topic starter  

Thank you for your help. It is becoming clearer to me now. Based on your reply I assume that a minor chord is the I,III,V of the minor scale and that the minor scale is: tone - semi - tone - tone - semi - tone - tone ?
The charts are also helpful. It is always easier when I can see it all laid out.
Thanks,
Gary


   
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(@ignar-hillstrom)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

Yes, a minor chord is I III V of the minor scale but usually referred to as I IIIb V of the major scale. A nice trick to remember is that if you start a major scale from the 6th position you have a minor scale:

C D E F G A B = C major (T T S T T T S)
A B C D E F G = A minor (T S T T S T T)


   
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(@hbriem)
Honorable Member
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 646
 

Some have found these charts helpful:

Harmonizing the Major Scale

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 C D E F G A B C Chord no. Chord name.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 3 5 C E G I C major
2 4 6 D F A ii D minor
3 5 7 E G B iii E minor
4 6 8 F A C IV F major
5 7 9 G B D V G major
6 8 10 A C E vi A minor
7 9 11 B D F vii° B diminished

Notes of the Various Keys and their Relative Minors
Key Rel.Minor Signature 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
C major A minor C D E F G A B
G major E minor # G A B C D E F#
D major B minor ## D E F# G A B C#
A major F# minor ### A B C# D E F# G#
E major C# minor #### E F# G# A B C# D#
B major G# minor ##### B C# D# E F# G# A#
F# major D# minor ###### F# G# A# B C# D# E#
F major D minor b F G A Bb C D E
Bb major G minor bb Bb C D Eb F G A
Eb major C minor bbb Eb F G Ab Bb C D
Ab major F minor bbbb Ab Bb C Db Eb F G
Db major Bb minor bbbbb Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
Gb major Eb minor bbbbbb Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F

Some Common Chord Types and the Notes they Contain
Chord Notes
major 1 3 5
6 1 3 5 6
7 1 3 5 b7
maj7 1 3 5 7
9 1 3 5 b7 9
maj9 1 3 5 7 9
11 1 3 5 b7 11
add11 1 3 5 11
13 1 3 5 b7 13
add9 1 3 5 9
sus2 1 2 5
sus4 1 4 5
5 1 5
minor 1 b3 5
min7 1 b3 5 b7
min9 1 b3 5 b7 9
dim 1 b3 b5
dim7 1 b3 b5 bb7 (6)
min7b5 1 b3 b5 b7
aug 1 3 #5
6/9 1 3 5 6 9

--
Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com


   
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(@tarse)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6
Topic starter  

Thanks for the charts. The first and third charts are clear but comcerning the middle chart, what is a relative minor? It appears to be the VI position in the scale but why is it called the relative minor (what significance?)


   
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(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

It's the minor relative to it's major scale (a AM is relative to Cmaj). You can also have a relative major scale, which is the major scale relative to a natural minor scale (so Cmaj is the relative major to Amin).

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@tarse)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6
Topic starter  

I see it now. The (relative) minor scale is built using the same notes as the major scale, it just starts from the VI of the major scale.
Thanks

Gary


   
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