Beginner Guitar Lesson OnLine
Chord Theory 102
Know How They Are Formed Before You Start Strumming
Chords are driven by each key that we play and are based on what is called the Major Scale. The Major Scale takes on the same name as the key. In other words, in the Key of A, we would play chords in the A Major Scale. Sound confusing? It will become clear in a moment - hang in there.
Root: The name of the Key. I.E. The Key of C Root would be "C", the Root of the Key of G would be "G" and so on. Chords are based on the same musical scale that you were taught in Music Theory 101. That scale consists of 7 notes:
Remember we have whole steps and half steps between all of these notes?
If we write the total scale, showing all of the half steps, it looks like this:
Remember that you can write each of thee notes as a sharp or a flat. The Bb is the same as A#. The Db is the same as C#, the Eb is the same as D#, the Gb is the same as F# and the Ab is the same as G#.
Sound confusing? Not really. When we write notes in a sharp key like G, D, A and so on the note are written as sharps. When we write note in a flat key like F, Bb, Eb and so on, we write the notes as flats. Also refer to Key Signatures which automates this process.
If we modify this scale for the Key of "C" we would write it as:
1: C or Root - This carries the same name as the key.
2: D or Second
3: E or Third
4: F or Fourth
5: G or Fifth
6: A or Sixth
7: B or Seventh
That's quite simple.....
So the chords in a Major Key are the Root, the 4th and the 5th of the scale -or- C, F & G. This would be the same for any key. In the diagram below we have the entire "C" scale written out in 1/2 steps or (12) 1/2 steps.
The first chord is always named after the Root of the Key, or the first note. In the Key of "A" that chord would be "A Major".
From the Root or "C Major" to the "F or F Major" is 2 1/2 Steps or (5) 1/2 steps. You can count them on the top of the Diagram Above.
From the "F" or "F Major" to "G" or "G Seventh" is 1 whole step or (2) 1/2 Steps.
This is how they would look if you count them out....Then to return to "C" is 2-1/2 Steps or (5) 1/2 Steps.
Here is the Formula to Remember
From C to F is (5) 1/2 steps or (2-1/2) whole steps.
From F to G7 is (2) 1/2 steps or 1 whole step.
This applies to both Major and Minor Scales
This is always the rule for finding the chords in a Major Key. Now lets take a look at the Key of "A", or A Major. Refer to the Diagram Below.
Again, the first chord is always named after the Root of the Key, or the first note. In the Key of "A" that chord would be "A Major".
Applying our rule of (5) 1/2 Steps to the next chord we have a "D" or D Major as the second chord. And again, applying our rule we have an "E" as the third chord. Let's count these out a minute: