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Constructing Chords - The Start

Some of the chord names seem very confusing, but with a few simple rules, you can work out the notes in any chord you come across.

Once again we return to our favourite Major Scale. The notes and their names are always referred to in relation to this.


A basic Chord is called a ‘triad’, and, as the name suggests, it is made up of 3 notes. A common triad is made up of every other note, the 1st, 3rd and 5th. So a C Major chord consists of the notes C, E and G.

Chords can be thought as falling within 3 basic groups: Major, Minor and Dominant.

The basic common chords are made up as follows:


From this we can see that a Major chord always has a 3rd (this is what makes Major Major!) and once the chord is extended it will always contain a 7th.

Minor chords always have a b3 (it’s what makes it Minor) and as it extends a b7.

A Dominant chord is quite a ‘special’ chord, it is a Major chord with a b7 and forms its own category.

This basic starting point will form a good foundation for understanding chords and how they are made. Over the coming weeks we will explore ever more complicated chords and break them down, and also the chords that seem contradictory to these categories (for example, altered, diminished and sus chords).

Even if you’ve never played a chord before, you should be able to work out what notes you need!!

Work hard and most importantly, have fun!!




-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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