Chord Vocabulary – Lesson 6

Expanding your Chord Vocabulary – Lesson 6

We all want to learn more chords and traditionally the first point was to learn 15 or so chords that got you started. The main problem I had with this approach was that I couldn’t always tell how they fitted together. Sometimes they sounded good and sometimes they didn’t, but I never knew why.

Over time I worked out that if you play in a key then if you learn your chords based on how they sound together, rather than just what are the easiest chords to learn then you end up being able to make music more quickly.  As a result i have found students stick at it as they are making music more quickly.

We already know our first 7 chords from the Key of C covered in lesson 4 and lesson 5 and know how to make chords from a scale covered in lesson 3


Chords Key Of C 1024x436 Chord Vocabulary   Lesson 6



Now we have these chords and know some basic chord progressions eg. I IV V which would be C F G or II III VI which would be Dm Em and Am we can look at some new keys to expand our chord vocabulary. Following the same process of taking the 1st 3rd and 5th notes from the scales to produce a new set of chords that fit in the new key. In this way we are expanding out chord vocabulary in a controlled and musical way

If we take a scale and start from the 5th degree of our previous scale eg G (if we are in the Key of C – C D E F G A B C ) the new scale will have exactly the same notes with the exception of the 7th degree which will be sharpened. so the scale of G Major is G A B C D E F the same pattern of chords will also be created i.e. I = Major,  II =  Minor,  III = Minor IV = Major,  V= Major, VI = Minor and VII = Diminished. so knowing the scale and the chord structure its a straightforward task in working out the chords that comprise the key of G – G major A minor B Minor C major D major E minor and F Diminished. what you will also notice is that of these 7 chords 4 of them are the same as in the key the C major, so we’re already over half way there and only need to learn 3 new chords to expand our chord vocabulary!


Chords Key of G 1024x549 Chord Vocabulary   Lesson 6


So now we have a new key. As you can see most of the chords are the same and the new ones are adaptations of ones we already know. For example D Major the V chord is the major version of the D minor chord that was the II chord in the key of C major. We know that a minor chord has a minor third, one and half tones or 3 fret  interval between the root note and the 3rd. a major third is 2 full tones or 4 frets. So if we take the D minor chord we already know and find the 3rd note (F on the first fret of the 1st string) all we have to do is sharpen this note by 1 fret or a semitone. So we play using an F note which is also the only sharp note in the key of G

Now we can repeat the same process starting on the 5th degree of the G major scale and raising the 7th degree by a semitone. The key of G major (G A B C D E F) will become the key of D and the notes will be D E F G A B C. This means the chords will be D major E minor F Minor G major A Major B minor CDiminished

So these chords look like this

Key of D Chords 1024x425 Chord Vocabulary   Lesson 6

And we can follow exactly the same process again starting on the 5th degree of the D major scale where we find A, use exactly the same notes and sharpen the 7th degree do we get A B C D E F G and chords A major B Minor C Minor D major E Major FMinor and G Diminished which look like this

Key of A Chords 1024x386 Chord Vocabulary   Lesson 6


So hopefully you can see a pattern emerging here – take the 5th degree and then sharpen the 7th degree so if we carried on the next key is E major and would have the notes chords E major Fminor Gminor A major B major Cminor and D diminished

Then Key of B Major (B major Cminor Dminor E major Fmajor Gminor Adiminished

Then Key of F Major (Fmajor GMinor AMinor B major CMajor DMinor E Diminished)

Then key of C (Cmajor Dminor Eminor Fmajor Gmajor Aminor Bdiminished)

Now we get to a small problem in that all the notes in the key of C are sharp notes and the last one B is the same note as C. Sharp notes are what is called ‘enharmonic’ meaning that one note can have 2 names. For example F is one semitone higher that F, G is one semitone lower than G however they are both the same note in terms of pitch. This means we can also look at keys and scales in terms of flats – C is often written as D as they are the same key and contain the same notes in terms of pitch. The notes would be D E F G A B and C. If this all to be getting too complicated don’t worry I don’t often come across songs written in those keys 🙂 The main thing to remember is the chords in the common guitar keys of C G D A and E. and the rule of the 5ths commonly referred to as the cycle of 5ths. We will come back to this at a later stage.

One point that should be made though is the relation ship between major and minor keys. Many songs are written in a minor key and the 6th note of any major key corresponds to its ‘relative’ minor key. So for example if you are playing a song and the ‘home chord is A minor you are playing the same chords and notes as C major and they are written the same. Many rock songs have a minor feel and because of the way the guitar is tuned A minor and E minor   are very common keys. a very useful piece of theory is to realise that the relative minor key is based in the 6th note of the major scale or chord and the relative major key based on the 3rd note of the minor key. So Am and C major contain the same notes

C major – C D E F G A B

A minor – A B C D E F G



And with the other keys we have learned


G major – G A B C D E F

E minor – E F G A B C D


D major – D E F G A B C

B minor – B C D E F G A


A Major – A B C D E F G

F Minor – F G A B C D E  

Have fun expanding your chord vocabulary and hopefully this lesson should give you enough information to work out some other chords.


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 Chord Vocabulary   Lesson 6

youtube logo 150x150 Chord Vocabulary   Lesson 6








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