Guitar Scales and Chord Triads Lesson

Author: Edward Cupler

Chord Triads are the focus for this guitar lesson. The three notes that make up basic guitar chords. Also covered are the musical intervals between them that determine if the chord is major or minor. When playing or writing a song most of your work will be done following a particular musical scale. Within the confines of that scale you will form your chords. If you refer back to the Guitar Scale Modes lesson on this site you will see that I based them on the C major scale. I will also base this lesson on the C major scale just to keep things simple.

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Basic chords consist of three notes called a chord triads. The notes in each chord are the Root note, the Third and the Fifth

  • The Root note is the same as the chord name.

    • The C chord would have a root note of C , a D chord would have a root note of D, an E chord would have a root note of E etc.

  • The Third is the third note up the scale starting at the chord root note.

    • Using the C major scale notes (C D E F G A B) the third note for a C chord would be an E, the third note for a D chord would be F, and the third note for an E chord would be G etc.

  • The Fifth is the fifth not

    • Using the C major scale notes (C D E F G A B) the fifth note for a C chord would be G, the fifth note for a D chord would be A, the fifth note for an E chord would be B etc.

Using this formula, see the below examples for more clarification:

C Major Chord Triad

C Major Chord Triad

D Minor Chord Triad

D Minor Chord Triad

E Minor Chord Triad

E Minor Chord Triad

F Major Chord Triad

F Major Chord Triad

G Major Chord Triad

G Major Chord Triad

A Minor Chord Triad

A Minor Chord Triad

B Minor Diminished Chord Triad

B Minor Diminished Chord Triad
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Note: The "Third" is the note that determines if the chord is a major or minor chord.

If a chord is a major chord, the 3rd will be (2 whole steps) from the Root note as in the C Major Chord Triad below:

Intervals C Major Chord

If a chord is a minor chord, the 3rd will be (one whole step + one half step) from the Root note as in the D Minor Chord Triad below:

Intervals D Minor Chord

Using this method and following the example below, the chords following the C major scale would be:

  • C major (Root, E, G)
  • D minor (Root, F, A)
  • E minor (Root, G, B)
  • F major (Root, A, C)
  • G major (Root, B, D)
  • A minor (Root, C, E)
  • B minor diminished (Root, D, F)

Half step whole step intervals example

Intervals of the C Major scale

Fretboard Intervals Example
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