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Expanding the Chords of a Major Key

In my last article we looked at what basic chords (triads) are contained in a key. Now let’s expand upon these basic triads and make the chords slightly more interesting.

As we learnt, a chord is made up of every other note of the scale, so what happens if we add the next note in that sequence?

In the case of the C Major Scale our notes are:


Starting on the C note, our chord would be made up of C, E, G and B. This gives us the extended chord C Major 7th. If we start on the note D, the chord consists of D, F, A, C, this is a D minor 7th.

If we repeat this for every note we can summarise it as follows:


We now have a bigger palette of chords we can use. We can mix and match, you can use just majors and minors and use the new chords here or there, you don’t have to stick to one ‘type’.

It can now get quite complicated with the terminology people use to refer to the chords. Often Roman Numerals are used. You will probably have heard of a I-IV-V progression!


In the key of C, the I-IV-V progression would be the chords C-F-G.

So now if someone says this is a VI-II-V-I progression you know what chords to play and can work them out in any key.

There are some variations in the Roman Numeral terminology when written down, for example a II chord maybe written as:

• IIm
• ii
• iim

This signifies that it is a II chord and that it’s minor. The II chord is always minor in a Major key, and I personally think some of these notations can overcomplicate things, but it’s all personal choice, so just be aware!!


-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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