Notes Played In All Major Keys

Chord Forming Table

Important Chords In Major Keys

Chord Progressions

More Chord Progressions
  You can use Table 2 to find the notes in a key, then use the appropriate formula in Table 3, which summarizes the rules for forming chords.   To get G major (G), go to the key of G, find the root, third, and fifth (1 - 3 - 5), and get the chord - which uses the notes G, B, and D.

G minor (Gmin) uses the root, flatted third, and fifth (1 - b3 - 5) - G, Bb, and D.   G diminished (G dim or Go) uses the root, flatted third, and flatted fifth (1 - b3 - b5) - G, Bb, and Db.

G augmented (G+) uses 1 - 3 - #5, or G, B, and Eb.   I have not included 13th chords, since they contain seven notes and one can only play a maximum of six at once on the guitar - you canít play a standard 13th chord on the guitar.   You can doubtless think of chord types that are not in the Table, just by combining types that are.   Hereís a question: Why are there no eighth chords? (Answer below)
  We can use this information to construct Table 4.   It contains the notes in the major, minor, diminished, and augmented chords.   Chords with no flats or sharps are shown in white.   They fit within the key of C (which is the only key with no flats or sharps).

While there are twelve augmented chords, only four are independent.   A+, Db+, and F+ are identical.   So are B+, Eb+, and G+.   So are C+, E+, and Ab+.   Finally, D+, Gb+, and Bb+ are identical.   So if you know A+, B+, C+, and D+, you know all the augmented chords.   (Well, actually, you might not - it's preferable for a chord to have its first note in the bass.   For example, in A+, the first note is A.   Having the lowest pitch note be 'A' - probably the open fifth string - is best in that case.   And Db+ should probably have Db as the bass note - fourth fret, fifth string - which will make it slightly different from A+.   And F+ should have F as the bass note - third fret, fourth string.   So A+, Db+ and F+ could be played in slightly different ways, even though they have the same notes.)

To figure out whether a chord fits within a given key, you will have to compare all the notes in the chord with the notes in the key.   If all of the notes fit, the chord fits.   For example, look at the A major chord (A) in Table 4.   It contains the notes A, Db, and E.   The key of D has an A, a C# (same as Db), and an E (from Table 2).   So the A chord fits within the key of D.   It also fits within E and A.   It does not fit within any other keys.   The key of C lacks a C#.   The key of Db has it (Db = C#), but lacks A and E.   The key of Eb lacks A, C#, and E.   The key of F lacks C#.   The key of Gb lacks A and E (it does have C# = Db).   The key of G lacks C#.   The key of Ab has C# (=Db), but lacks A and E.   The key of Bb lacks C# and E.   The key of B has C# and E, but lacks A.

One can, in this way, construct tables describing which chords fit in which keys, but I havenít done that.   Itís pretty tedious.   A better way to do this is to use the information in the next section.

Table 5 contains the notes in some of the seventh chords.   There are other seventh chords - diminished, augmented, flat fifth, etc.   - see Table 3 for some of the types.   The chords which fit within the key of C are shown in white.   As stated in the description of Table 4, a chord fits within a key when all the notes in the chord are contained in the key (major keys are shown in Table 2).

Table 6 shows the fifth chords, suspended second chords and suspended fourth chords.   The fifth chord uses 1 - 5 (there is no third), the sus2 chord uses 1 - 2 - 5 (the third is suspended and replaced by the second), and the sus4 chord uses 1 - 4 - 5 (the third is suspended and replaced by the fourth).   When a chord is 'suspended', it means suspended fourth.   It might seem logical to call a 'suspended' chord one with the third removed, but this is not done (that chord is called the 'fifth').   But the fifth, sus2, and sus4 chords are all logically related.   Again, chords which fit within the key of C (have no flatted or sharped notes) are shown in white.

Although there are twelve sus2 chords, and twelve sus4, for a total of 24, only twelve are independent.   Compare the notes: Asus4 = Dsus2, Bbsus4 = Ebsus2, and so on.   See the last column of Table 6, which lists the sus2 equivalent of the sus4 chords.   Note there may be a slight difference between the sus2 and sus4 chords, depending on which note is bass.   It's preferable to have Asus4 with 'A' in the bass (probably the open fifth string); it's preferable for Dsus to have 'D' in the bass (probably open fourth string).

I could go on, and create Tables of 9th chords, 6th chords, minor 6th chords, 11th chords, diminished 7th, dominant 7th (flat 5th), etc.   but I wonít.   When such chords are used, the fingering (at least which frets on which strings) is usually shown in the score - or you can figure it out using the information in Table 2 and Table 3.

I have one exercise - figure out A11 (no third), and play it.   This is the same chord as A9 (sus4).   Itís also the same as Em7/11.   (The last chord is interpreted as follows - form an Em7, then add the eleventh to it as a bass note, on a lower-pitch string.   Em11 has the ninth in it, while Em7/11 does not.   See answer below.)

Here's another exercise - in a previous page, I explained how to form a thirteenth chord.   Which chord would use all notes, odd and even, in a key? (So, in the key of C, it would use C, D, E, F, G, A, B.   You can't play all of these notes on the guitar at once.) The answer is below.

So is this all there is to chords and keys? (I know, youíre thinking 'this is plenty!') Well, no, itís not.   One of the most important parts of music theory is explaining which chords fit in which keys.   Now one way to do this (mathematicians might call it 'trivial but tedious') is to just look at the notes in each chord, and compare each note to the key youíre interested in.   You can get the notes in the key from Table 2.   You can use one of the later Tables to get the notes in the chord (or figure it out from Table 2 and Table 3).   So just compare the two - simple to explain, but pretty time-consuming and rather dull.   Iíve shown which chords fit within the key of C, and I explained the general procedure using the A major (A) chord.

Or you can use the following theory, which explains a lot (but not all of it).   After you read it, you may wish you'd just done the 'trivial but tedious' exercise of the previous paragraph.   Or you might think trial-and-error is better (just play chords together and see how they sound).   But here goes.
Answer to Question 1

    What is an eighth chord?

A C8 chord would contain the eighth note in the key of C, which is C.   So 'C' (C Major) is the same as 'C8'.   Since the eighth note is the same as the first, any 'eighth' chord, in any key, would be the same as the major chord for that key.
Back to Question 1

Answer to Question 2

    What is A11 (no third) - same as A9 (sus4) - same as Em7/11?

Each 11th chord contains, from Table 3, 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - 9 - 11.   Leaving out the third leaves 1- 5 - b7 - 9 - 11.   From Table 2, those notes in the key of A are A - E - G - B - D.   The first and sixth string give E when open, the fifth string (open) gives B, the fourth (open) D, the third (open) G, and the second (open) B.   So just strum all six strings of the guitar, open, and you have A11 (no 3rd)! This is the chord that starts the Beatles' Hard Days Night.

Each 9th chord contains 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - 9 (same as 11th chord, except leaving out the 11th note).   Each 9 (sus4) leaves out the 3rd and replaces it with a 4th, so that is 1 - 4 - 5 - b7 - 9.   So A9 (sus4) contains A - D - E - G - B.   These are the same notes as A11 (no 3rd).

Each m7/11 chord contains contains 1 - b3 - 5 - b7 - 11 (same as minor 7th, with 11th added).   In the key of E, those notes are E - G - B - D - A.
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Answer to Question 3

    Which chord would use all of the notes in a key?

A major chord uses 1 - 3 - 5.   A (dominant) seventh uses 1 - 3 - 5 - b7, while a major seventh uses 1 - 3 - 5 - 7.   A major ninth uses 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9; a major eleventh uses 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11, and a major thirteenth uses 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 13, which is the same as 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 2 - 4 - 6, which is all of the notes in a key.
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