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  • Writer's pictureManuel Diewald

What is a Major and Minor Chord?

My name is Manuel Diewald and I am a Sydney-based guitar teacher in West Pennant Hills with a B.Mus. (Hons) (First) in Music Pedagogy from The University of New South Wales (UNSW).

You have probably heard of Major and minor chords and if you have read my blog 'What are Chords Made up of?' you will be familiar with what the quality chord a degree is within a Major and minor scale but what is the difference between a Major and minor chord. You probably know by hearing them that they sound different but why is that? First, we need to look at intervals.

Intervals: Intervals are simply the distance between 2 notes and each interval also has a quality. We will only focus on the Major and minor intervals for now as there are also diminished and Augmented intervals which I will cover in another blog. I will point out here for reference to my previous blog in 'What are Chords Made up of?' that I talked about semi-tones and tones and that a semi-tone is what we call a minor interval and a tone is called a major interval. Also, take note of the degrees we talked about in my blog 'What are Chords Made up of?'

C to Db is a minor 2nd because the note C is moving to its 2nd degree and it is a minor interval because we have moved the interval of a semitone (1 fret)

C to D is a Major 2nd because the note C is moving to its 2nd degree and it is a Major interval because we have moved the interval of a tone (2 frets)

C to Eb is a minor 2nd

C to E is a Major 3rd

C to F is a Major 4th

C to Gb is a minor 5th

C to G is a Major 5th

C to Ab is a minor 6th

C to A is a Major 6th

C to Bb is a minor 7th

C to B is a Major 7th

You may be wondering why I have not included a minor 4th and that is just because since there is a semi-tone distance between E and F, technically the note Fb is just an E natural and it is quite uncommon that we would see an Fb in a piece of music or chord chart. I am not saying you would never see it but it is quite uncommon.

Now keeping those intervals in mind, and don't worry too much about trying to memorise all of that before understanding what I am about to tell you. It should make sense as you won't need to use all of them or most of them for this next part.

The formula to creating a Major chord is:

Major 3rd and minor 3rd. For example, let's look at a C Major chord. The interval from C to E is a Major 3rd and the interval from E to G is a minor third.

You can simply go back to referencing semi-tones and tones (1 fret and 2 frets). For example, C to E is 2 frets, and E to G is 1 and a half frets.

The formula for a minor chord is the opposite of a Major chord:

minor 3rd and Major 3rd. For example, if we start on note A we have a minor 3rd from A to C and a Major 3rd from C to E.

I would suggest playing chords you already know but do not necessarily know what notes they are made up of and use these formulas to find the notes and then when you play the chord on the guitar find those notes you are playing that create the chord.



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