Major Scale Harmony
The Professor
Jul 24 2013, 05:59 PM
Theory Instructor
Posts: 888
Joined: 8-January 13
From: Manchester UK
Major Scale Harmony

When learning to play major scales on guitar, we often focus on learning fingerings and getting the single-note aspect of the scale system onto our fretboard and into our ears.

While learning scales from a single-note perspective is important, and fun, you can also explore the harmonic side of the major scale to help further your understanding of this scale system.

In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking at the three and four-note chords that you can build when stacking notes on top of each note in the major scale.

Major Scale Triads

When you take the notes of the major scale, stacking them up in triads from each note in that scale, you can build seven different triads that can then be used to build chord progressions, or analyze progressions from your favorite songs.

Here is the order for triads that are built from the major scale.

IMaj iimin iimin IVMaj VMaj vimin viidim

When writing out chords in a key, we use Roman Numerals to indicate their place in the scale. In this case, we use upper case Roman Numerals to indicate Major based triads, and lower case Roman Numerals to indicate minor or diminished based triads.

And here is how those triads would be written in the key of C major.

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C

With major scale triads under your belt, let’s move on to the four-note chords that are built from the same scale.

Major Scale Chords

You can also build four-note chords from the notes in the major scale in a similar fashion to the triads in the previous section, only here every chord is some sort of 7th chord rather than a three-note triad.

Here is the order for chords built from the major scale.

IMaj7 iim7 iiim7 IVMaj7 V7 vim7 viidim7

Again, as was the case with the triads in the previous section, the upper case Roman Numerals indicate a major-triad based chord, while a lower case Roman Numeral indicates a minor or diminished based chord.

And here is how those chords would look in the key of C major.

Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bdim7 Cmaj7

Theory Challenge

To test your retention of the material in this lesson, try writing out the triads or four-note chords for one or more keys below and I will check your work to see how you are doing.

If you choose to post your work, such as writing out triads or chords in a key, just use the “spoiler” button the the left of this box so that you can keep your work hidden from others that want to post their work as well and don’t want to see any other answers.

Do you have a question or comment about Major Scale Harmony? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

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