Forming Chords

What happens when someone asks you to play the Em7add11 chord or A6 chord? Obviously, you can’t do much, unless you know how to form these chords, and this is what this lesson deals with. It’s really very simple.

We will now form various chords with A as the root. First, Lets list the A major scale (don’t worry about the numbers above them just now):

1  2  3  4  5  6  7

A  B  C# D  E  F# G# A

Major and Minor Chords

A major chord is formed by taking the notes labelled 1, 3, and 5. Take the 1, 3, and 5 notes above, the notes would be A, C#, and E. Now play the A chord, and name every note on this chord. you will notice, all of the notes are A, C# or E.

A minor chord is formed by taking the notes 1, b3 and 5. b3 means the note a half step below C#, which is C. Therefore, the notes will be A, C and E.

Chords that use only three notes (e.g. major and minor) are called triads

Other Chords Formulas

Here are chord formulas for some other common chords:

major [A]: 1 3 5 A C# E
minor [Am]: 1 3b 5 A C E
seventh [A7]: 1 3 5 7b A C# E G
minor seventh [Am7]: 1 3b 5 7b A C E G
major seventh [Amaj7 or AM7]: 1 3 5 7 A C# E G#
sixth [A6]: 1 3 5 6 A C# E F#
minor sixth [Am6]: 1 3b 5 6 A C E F#
augmented [A+]: 1 3 5# A C# E# (A C# F)
augmented 7th [A7+]: 1 3 5# 7b A C# E# G
diminished [Adim]: 1 3b 5b A C Eb
diminished 7th [Adim7 or Ao]: 1 3b 5b 7bb A C Eb Gb
1 3b 5b 6 A C Eb Gb
seventh (flatted fifth) A7(5b): 1 3 5b 7b A C# Eb G
minor 7th (flatted 5th) A7(5b): 1 3b 5b 7b A C Eb G
ninth [A9]: 1 3 5 7b 9 A C# E G B
minor ninth [Am9]: 1 3b 5 7b 9 A C E G B
major ninth [Amaj9 or AM9]: 1 3 5 7 9 A C# E G# B
eleventh [A11]: 1 3 5 7b 9 11 A C# E G B D
diminished 9th: 1 3 5 7b 9b A C# E G Bb
added ninth [A(9) or A(2)]: 1 3 5 9 A C# E B
added fourth [A(4) or A(11)]: 1 3 5 11 A C# E D
suspended [Asus or Asus4]: 1 4 5 A D E
suspended 9th [Asus9 or Asus2]: 1 2 5 A B E
7th suspended 4th [A7sus or A7sus4]: 1 4 5 7b A D E G
7th suspended 9th [A7sus2 or A7sus9]: 1 2 5 7b A B E G
fifth [A5 or A(no 3rd)]: 1 5 A E

Slash Chords

You might also come across a C/G. This means “a C chord with G as the lowest pitched note”. C/G would look like [332010]. The note after the slash may or may not belong to the chord. A/B is an A chord with a B as the lowest pitched note [x22220].

Also, here is a chord dictionary that you can use.

Scales And Chords

I told you before, to form chords out of a scale, we simply take all the chords which have notes belonging to the scale, and play these chords. Now we look at forming chords from a scale, which will make life easier for us.

First of all, we’ll form major/minor chords out of the major scale. To do so, we list the notes of the major scale, C major, each note numbered:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
C D E F G A B

First, we will form the chord based on C. We will select the notes 1, 3, and 5. These would be C, E and G. These are the notes of the C chord, so the first chord would be C major.

To form the next chord, we will list the C major scale starting at D.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
D E F G A B C

Note that this is not the D major scale, we simply wrote the C major scale in a different way. Now, we will select the notes numbered 1, 3 and 5 from the new listing. These would be D, F and A. Based on the notes, the second chord will be D minor.

To figure out the third chord, we will repeat the above process; listing the C major starting from the E note, and selecting 1, 3 and 5. We will continue this process to figure out the rest of the chords. Try to figure out chords for the remaining notes.

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