The Theory of Major and Minor Chords

Understanding the theory behind the notes and chords you play will make a drastic difference to your ability to play your instrument well.  Not learning your theory is akin to learning to speak without ever learning to spell. Or maybe it’s more like learning to speak english without every understanding how the words “eat”, “ate”, “eaten”, and “big-eater” are related. I think you get the point.


…you need to have a good understanding of what an interval is, as well as the intervals of a second, third and fifth. Click on the links below and print out all 3 sheets for your practice binder.

  1. Interval of a Second – includes definition of interval.
  2. Interval of a Third
  3. Interval of a Fifth

Two types of chords

The two most basic chord types are “major” or “minor”.
The major chord is much brighter in sound than the minor chord.
The minor chord is darker, more serious, more gloomy.
Major Chord = happy, bright
Minor Chord = Serious, dark.

What is a chord symbol?

Chords are often written down using a chord symbol, rather than Standard notation. Since each chord is based on a certain note called the “root”, The main part of the chord symbol is that letter.
When a chord symbol only gives the letter (e.g. “G”), it is major
When the chord is minor, it will be indicated as: Gm, Gmi, Gmin or G minor.

Triads, 3 note chords

A triad is a chord with three notes in it. This includes major chords, minor chords as well as some other options.
The three notes are called the Root, the 3rd and the 5th.
The Root: The note that the chord is based on and named after.


Chord Symbol Root
G7 G
G7b9 G
Gdim7 G


Notice that all of these chords have the same root: G.

The Third: The middle note of the three.
It forms an interval of third with the root.
The way that this note sounds in relation to the root is what gives the chord a major or minor sound.
The Fifth: The top note (when the triad is in root position)
The Fifth forms the interval of a 5th with the root.
For Major and minor chords, the exact interval will always be a perfect 5th.


Major Root Major 3rd Perfect 5th
Minor Root minor 3rd Perfect 5th



Chord Root 3rd 5th
G Minor G Bb D
C Minor C Eb G

Our fundamental harmony system is based on intervals of a third. A third between the Root and 3rd, and another 3rd between the 3rd and 5th. In other words we skip every second note to create chords out of scales.

Do not go on until you understand everything up to this point!

If you have questions, you may leave them in the comments or on our facebook page

The Theory of Major and Minor Chords-Part 2


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    sammy says:

    Thanks for the little theory. But i’m still confused on how to augument and diminish chords pls is it dsame with the major and minor chords u explained above or augument and diminishing of chords is entirely different ?

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