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How to form a diminished chord

A diminished chord has -like a minor chord- a minor 3rd interval from the first note (the root) to the second note of the chord. The difference with minor chords lies within the 3rd chord note as we will see below. Like with minor chords and major chords, we can have diminished triads and diminished 7th chords.

If you want to hear sound samples of the different chords, please refer to the lesson ‘What is a chord? How do different chords sound?’.

Diminished triads

A diminished triad is made of the root, the minor 3rd and the flattened 5th. So, in the case of the C diminished triad, this would be:   C   Eb   Gb

Another example is the G diminished triad: G   Bb   Db

The notation for a diminished chord is (in this case C diminished):     C O or Cdim. And in the case of G diminished: G O or Gdim.

Half diminished chords

As with major and minor chords, we can add the 7th. When we add the minor 7th to a diminished triad, we get a half diminished chord. Let’s see how that works in the key of C. The C diminished triad is C   Eb   Gb. The minor 7th in the key of C is the Bb, so C half diminished is: C    Eb    Gb    Bb

The notation for the C half diminished chord is: CØ or Cm7b5.

CØ is a nice and short notation, but Cm7b5 actually shows better what’s going on in the chord:

  • The ‘m’ stands for minor, since we have a minor 3rd
  • The ‘7’ stands for the 7th in the chord, in this case a minor 7th
  • The ‘b5’ stands for the flattened 5th in the chord

The G half diminished chord is: G   Bb   Db   F

So we can write G half diminished as: GØ or as Gm7b5

A half diminished chord can also be considered as a minor chord (but a minor chord with a flattened 5th).

Diminished 7th chords

Perhaps you noticed that a diminished triad is made of 2 stacked minor 3rd intervals. Look at the C diminished triad: from the root (C) to the minor 3rd (Eb) is a minor 3rd interval and from Eb to Gb is also a minor 3rd interval. Well, why not adding another minor triad? So, let’s do that!

What is a minor 3rd up from Gb? A minor 3rd consists of 3 semitones and 3 semitones up takes us to A. The only problem is that the 3rd note in the Gb minor scale cannot be an A.  Ab is the 2nd note, so the 3rd note must be written with the letter ‘B’ (see the rules in the major scale lesson). The only way we can do that, is with a double flat: Bbb (which is of course the enharmonic equivalent of A).

So, the C diminished chord is: C   Eb   Gb   Bbb

G diminished is a bit easier because it doesn’t contain any double flat: G   Bb   Db   Fb

The notation for diminished chords is as follows:

C diminished: C O7, Cdim7 or C O

G diminished: G O7, Gdim7 or G O

Even though diminished chords have a minor 3rd, they are, in contrast to half diminished chords, not considered as minor chords.

All the other diminished chords

Diminished 7th chords

And here comes the good news: there are only 3 different diminished 7th chords! Not 12, as was the case with minor and major chords (but this is only for diminished chords, not for half diminished chords since there are 12 different half diminished chords!). Only 3? Let me explain:

Look at the Eb diminished chord:

  • From Eb, up a minor 3rd to Gb
  • Then, from Gb, a minor 3rd up to Bbb
  • Finally, from Bbb, a minor 3rd up to Dbb (which is a C)

So, Eb diminished is: Eb   Gb   Bbb   Dbb (or C)

Compare this with the C diminished chord: C   Eb   Gb   Bbb

Even when not written totally the same (Dbb instead of C), the chords are exactly the same! And, indeed: a diminished chord of a note of the C diminished chord has the same notes as the C diminished chord itself. So this means that Cdim7, Ebdim7, Gbdim7 and Adim7 all are the same chord!

(Btw, notice that I wrote Adim instead of Bbbdim, because it would be a bit ridiculous to talk about the Bbbdim chord when we can simply say Adim.)

This enables us to finally make the table with the 3 different diminished chords:

Diminished chord: Chord notes:
C O7, Eb O7, Gb O7, A O7 C    Eb    Gb    A
Db O7, E O7, G O7, Bb O7 Db   E   G   Bb
D O7, F O7, Ab O7, B O7 D   F   Ab   B

Some remarks concerning this table:

  • Notice that the roots of the chords listed in the left column are the same as the notes of the diminished chords in the right column.
  • Instead of writing the correct notes for each individual diminished scale (like Bbb for Cdim), I wrote the easiest enharmonic equivalent (A instead of Bbb).
  • For the diminished chords with a black note root: I didn’t list the enharmonic equivalents, but you can find the notes of for example D# O7 at Eb O

Half diminished chords

Here’s the table with half diminished chords:

Half diminished chord: Chord notes:
CØ C   Eb   Gb   Bb
DØ D   F   Ab   C

 

EØ E   G   Bb   D
FØ F   Ab   Cb   Eb
GØ G   Bb   Db   F
AØ A   C   Eb   G
BØ B   D   F   A
DbØ / C#Ø Db   Fb   Abb   Cb  /  C#   E   G   B
EbØ / D#Ø Eb   Gb   Bbb   Db  /  D#   F#   A   C#
GbØ / F#Ø Gb   Bbb   Dbb   Fb  /  F#   A   C   E
AbØ / G#Ø Ab   Cb   Ebb   Gb  /  G#   B   D   F#
BbØ / A#Ø Bb   Db   Fb   Ab  /  A#   C#   E   G#

 

 

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Chord inversion: different ways to play the same chord

Let me start with a simple C major triad. You can play the C major triad in 3 different ways on the piano. All you need is a chord inversion. Let me explain…

Chord inversion in a triad

I will continue with the C major triad: C   E   G.  On the piano keyboard, it looks like:

C root

You can see that the C, the root of the triad, is at the bottom. We call the C major triad in this position the root position.

When we move the lowest note, the C, to the top, we get: E   G   C.

Or, on the piano keyboard:

C 1st inversion

We call this the C major triad in 1st inversion.

When we move now the lowest note (which is the E) to the top, we get: G   C   E.

We call this the C major triad in 2nd inversion (see next figure).

C 2nd inversion

When we move now the lowest note (which is the G) to the top, we’re back in root position, with the root (the C) at the bottom.

You can see that it’s possible to make three different ways to play a major triad:

  • Root position
  • 1st inversion
  • 2nd inversion

 

Now, you can imagine that all triads, whether they are major, minor, diminished or whatever, can be played in those 3 positions.

Chord inversion in 7th chords

We can apply the same ‘trick’ in 7th chords: always move the bottom note to the top to get to the next position.

Let me illustrate this with the C7 chord. In root position, this is: C   E   G   Bb (see figure)

C7 root position

Let’s move the root to the top to go to the C7 chord in 1st inversion: E   G   Bb   C (see figure)

C7 1st inversion

Move the bottom note (the E) to the top, and we’re in 2nd inversion:

C7 2nd inversion

Again, move the bottom note (now the G) to the top, and we’re in 3rd inversion:

C7 3rd inversion

And, as you guessed already, when we move now the bottom note (the Bb) to the top, we’re back in root position.

This means that the 7th chords have 4 possible positions:

  • Root position
  • 1st inversion
  • 2nd inversion
  • 3rd inversion

And, of course, you can apply the same trick to all other kind of 7th chords (minor 7th, major 7th, …).

 

It takes some time to really master the inversions of all kind of chords, that’s why it is important to practice a lot with it. You can do this by doing the exercises that are accesible via the links below. Do them in the order as they appear in this list, because they go from easy to more difficult. Do an exercise for about 5 minutes and then come back at the same or a next exercise later (or the next day).

Place the notes of the major triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the minor triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the dominant chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the minor 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the major 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (all the inversions)

 

 

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How to form a minor chord

Minor chords

How are minor chords formed? The most important characteristic of a minor chord is the minor 3rd interval from the root (starting note) to the second chord note. We can have minor triads and minor chords with a 7th.

If you want to hear sound samples of the different chords, please refer to the lesson ‘What is a chord? How do different chords sound?’.

Minor triads

A minor triad is made of the root (1st), 3rd and 5th note of the minor scale. For example, the C minor triad is formed by the root, the 3rd and the 5th note of the C minor scale. So, the notes of a C minor triad are: C, Eb and G. Notice the minor 3rd interval between the root (C) and the Eb. The Eb is therefore called the minor 3rd in the key of C.

Two more examples:

  • The A minor triad: the root, minor 3rd and 5th in the key of A are A, C and E, so the A minor triad is: A    C    E
  • The Db minor triad: the root, minor 3rd and 5th in the key of Db are Db, Fb (enharmonic equivalent of E) and Ab, so the Db minor triad is: Db    Fb    Ab

Minor 7th chords

Minor 7th chords are formed by a minor triad with an extra note: the minor 7th. The minor 7th is the note that makes a minor 7th interval with the root note. The minor 7th in the key of C is Bb. So, the C minor 7th chord consists of the notes C, Eb, G and Bb.

We write the C minor 7th chord as Cm7, Cmin7 or C-7

I will take the 2 other examples from above to give you 2 more minor 7th chords:

  • The A minor 7th chord: the A minor triad (A C    E) with the added minor 7th (G) gives us the A minor 7th chord:    A    C    E    G
  • The Db minor 7th chord: add the minor 7th in the key of Db to the Db minor triad to get: Db    Fb    Ab    Cb   (Cb being the enharmonic equivalent of B)

Minor major 7th chords

Minor major 7th chords are almost never used in rock/pop/blues music, but a lot in jazz.

A minor major 7th chord is made of a minor triad with an added major 7th note. At first sight, the name is a bit confusing: is it a minor chord or a major chord? Well, it is a minor chord because of the minor 3rd (it’s built on a minor triad!). The ‘major’ in the chord name refers to the 7th because it is a major 7th note.

We write a C minor major 7th chord as C-∆7 or Cm∆7.

A minor major 7th chord is easy to find when you know the minor 7th chord: just raise the minor 7th by a semitone.

Taking the same examples as before, we get:

  • The C minor major 7th chord: C    Eb    G    B
  • The A minor major 7th chord: A    C    E    G#
  • The Db minor major 7th chord: Db    Fb    Ab    C

All the other minor chords

With the information in this lesson, you can now find out all the other minor chords. Start with all the 12 triads, and then put the minor 7th or major 7th on top to find the minor 7th and minor major 7th chords. If you don’t remember well all the minor scales, then have a look at the lesson about minor scales. For the minor chords that have a ‘black key root’: take the roots that have a minor scale with not more than 6 sharps or 6 flats (see ‘How to form a minor scale’). For the sake of completeness, I will also add the enharmonic equivalents with more than 6 sharps or flats in parentheses.

When you’re finished, check your answers with the solutions below.

Triads

Minor triad Chord notes
Cm C    Eb    G
Dm D    F    A
Em E    G    B
Fm F    Ab    C
Gm G    Bb    D
Am A    C    E
Bm B    D    F#
C#m (Dbm) C#    E    G#    (Db    Fb    Ab)
D#m / Ebm D#    F#    A#  /  Eb    Gb    Bb
F#m (Gbm) F#    A    C#    (Gb    Bbb    Db)
G#m (Abm) G#    B    D#    (Ab    Cb    Eb)
Bbm (A#m) Bb    Db    F    (A#    C#    E#)

 

Minor 7th chords

Minor 7th chord Chord notes
Cm7 C    Eb    G    Bb
Dm7 D    F    A    C
Em7 E    G    B    D
Fm7 F    Ab    C    Eb
Gm7 G    Bb    D    F
Am7 A    C    E    G
Bm7 B    D    F#    A
C#m7 (Dbm7) C#    E    G#    B    (Db    Fb    Ab    Cb)
D#m7 / Ebm7 D#    F#    A#    C#    /    Eb    Gb    Bb    Db
F#m7 (Gbm7) F#    A    C#    E    (Gb    Bbb    Db    Fb)
G#m7 (Abm7) G#    B    D#    F#    (Ab    Cb    Eb    Gb)
Bbm7 (A#m7) Bb    Db    F    Ab    (A#    C#    E#    G#)

 

Minor major 7th chords

Minor major 7th chord Chord notes
C-∆7 C    Eb    G    B
D-∆7 D    F    A    C#
E-∆ E    G    B    D#
F-∆7 F    Ab    C    E
G-∆7 G    Bb    D    F#
A-∆7 A    C    E    G#
B-∆7 B    D    F#    A#
C#-∆7 (Db-∆7) C#    E    G#    B#    (Db    Fb    Ab    C)
D#-∆7 / Eb-∆7 D#    F#    A#    C##    /    Eb    Gb    Bb    D
F#-∆7 (Gb-∆7) F#    A    C#    E#    (Gb    Bbb    Db    F)
G#-∆7 (Ab-∆7) G#    B    D#    F##    (Ab    Cb    Eb    G)
Bb-∆7 (A#-∆7) Bb    Db    F    A    (A#    C#    E#    G##)

 

It’s really important to practice a lot in order to be able to quickly come up with the right minor chord when you’re play a song for example. The exercises below are an excellent way to practice your minor chord knowledge.

If you don’t know what chord inversions are, then do only the exercises in root positions. Otherwise, you can follow the lesson about inversions.

Minor triads:

Place the notes of the minor triad on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the minor triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Minor 7th chords:

Place the notes of the minor 7th chord on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the minor 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Mix of all chords (also major!):

If you know how major chords work, you can do also the following exercises. If not, look first at the major chords lesson.

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (all the inversions)

 

I hope you learned a lot about minor chords. Please let us know what you think of this lesson and the exercises by leaving a comment below.

 

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How to form major chords

Major chords

How are major chords formed? The most important characteristic of a major chord is the major 3rd interval from the root (starting note) to the second chord note. We can have major triads and major chords with a 7th.

If you want to hear sound samples of the different chords, please refer to the lesson ‘What is a chord? How do different chords sound?’.

Major triads

A major triad is made of the root (1st), 3rd and 5th note of the major scale. For example, the C (major) triad is formed by the root, the 3rd and the 5th note of the C major scale. So, the notes of a C major triad are: C, E and G. Notice the major 3rd interval between the root (C) and the E. The E is therefore called the major 3rd in the key of C.

Let’s try another example:  the A major triad. The root, 3rd and 5th in the A major scale are A, C# and E.

OK, one more example: the Eb major triad. The root, 3rd and 5th are Eb, G and Bb.

We write the major triad just with its root note, so the C major triad is simply written as C. The context will tell you if the symbol C refers to the single note C or to the C triad.

Major 7th chords

Major 7th chords are formed by a major triad with an extra note: the 7th note of the corresponding major scale. In the scale of C major, the 7th note is a B, so the C major 7th chord consists of the notes: C, E, G and B. Note that the interval of the root (C) to the 7th note in the scale (B) is a major 7th interval. That’s why we call this chord the C major 7th chord. So the word ‘major’ in the chord name refers to the major 7th (the B) of the scale, not to the major 3rd (the E). We write the C major 7th chord as: C∆7, CMaj7 or CM7.

Let me take the 2 other triad examples to show you 2 more major 7th chords:

The A major triad was: A, C# and E. Add the major 7th of the A major scale, and A∆7 consists of the notes A, C#, E and G#.

When you apply the same thing to Eb, you can see that Eb∆7 consists of the following notes: Eb, G, Bb and D.

Dominant or 7th chords

Instead of adding the major 7th to the major triad, we can also add the minor 7th to the major triad. The minor 7th in the scale of C is Bb (the minor 7th is the note that makes a minor 7th interval with the root). So the C dominant (or C seventh) chord consists of the notes C, E, G and Bb.

We write this chord as: C7.

Note: a major 7th chord is a major triad with a major 7th, but a 7th chord is a major triad with a minor 7th. So we don’t call this a minor 7th chord. A minor 7th chord is a chord based on a minor 3rd interval between the root to the second chord note. So here, the word ‘minor’ doesn’t refer to the 7th, but to the 3rd. A bit confusing, I admit, but things are like that…

So, A7 consists of the notes A, C#, E and G (since G is the minor 7th in the key of A). And Eb7 consists of the notes Eb, G, Bb and Db.

All the other major chords

With the information in this lesson, you can now find out all the other major chords. Start with all the 12 triads, and then put the minor 7th or major 7th on top to find the dominant (7th) and major 7th chords. If you don’t remember well all the major scales, then have a look at the lesson about major scales. For the major chords that have a ‘black key root’: take the roots that have a major scale with not more than 6 sharps or 6 flats (see ‘How to form a major scale’). For the sake of completeness, I will also add the enharmonic equivalents with more than 6 sharps or flats in parentheses.

When you’re finished, check your answers with the solutions below.

Triads

Major triad Chord notes Number of sharps/flats

in the major scale

C C   E   G 0
D D   F#   A 2 sharps
E E   G#   B 4 sharps
F F   A   C 1 flat
G G   B   D 1 sharp
A A   C#   E 3 sharps
B B   D#   F# 5 sharps
Db (C#) Db   F   Ab   (C#   E#   G#) 5 flats (7 sharps)
Eb (D#) Eb   G   Bb   (D#   F##   A#) 3 flats (9 sharps)
F# / Gb F#   A#   C#   / Gb   Bb   Db 6 sharps / 6 flats
Ab (G#) Ab   C   Eb   (G#   B#   D#) 4 flats (8 sharps)
Bb (A#) Bb   D   F   (A#   C##   E#) 2 flats (10 sharps)

 

Major 7th chords

Major 7th chord Chord notes Number of sharps/flats

in the major scale

C∆7 C   E   G   B 0
D∆7 D   F#   A   C# 2 sharps
E∆7 E   G#   B   D# 4 sharps
F∆7 F   A   C   E 1 flat
G∆7 G   B   D    F# 1 sharp
A∆7 A   C#   E   G# 3 sharps
B∆7 B   D#   F#   A# 5 sharps
Db∆7 (C#∆7) Db   F   Ab   C   (C#   E#   G#   B#) 5 flats (7 sharps)
Eb∆7 (D#∆7) Eb   G   Bb   D   (D#   F##   A#   C##) 3 flats (9 sharps)
F#∆7 / Gb∆7 F#   A#   C#   E#   / Gb   Bb   Db   F 6 sharps / 6 flats
Ab∆7 (G#∆7) Ab   C   Eb   G   (G#   B#   D#   F##) 4 flats (8 sharps)
Bb∆7 (A#∆7) Bb   D   F   A   (A#   C##   E#   G##) 2 flats (10 sharps)

 

Dominant (7th) chords

Dominant chord Chord notes Number of sharps/flats

in the major scale

C7 C   E   G 0
D7 D   F#   A 2 sharps
E7 E   G#   B   D 4 sharps
F7 F   A   C   Eb 1 flat
G7 G   B   D   F 1 sharp
A7 A   C#   E   G 3 sharps
B7 B   D#   F#   A 5 sharps
Db7 (C#7) Db   F   Ab   Cb   (C#   E#   G#   B) 5 flats (7 sharps)
Eb7 (D#7) Eb   G   Bb   Db   (D#   F##   A#   C#) 3 flats (9 sharps)
F#7 / Gb7 F#   A#   C#   E   / Gb   Bb   Db   Fb 6 sharps / 6 flats
Ab7 (G#7) Ab   C   Eb   Gb   (G#   B#   D#   F#) 4 flats (8 sharps)
Bb7 (A#7) Bb   D   F   Ab   (A#   C##   E#   G#) 2 flats (10 sharps)

 

And now it’s time to practice all that you’ve learned in this lesson. The exercises below are an excellent way to practice your skills.

If you don’t know what chord inversions are, then do only the exercises in root positions. Otherwise, you can follow the lesson about inversions.

Major triads:

Place the notes of the major triad on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the major triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Dominant chords:

Place the notes of the dominant chord on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the dominant chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Major 7th chords:

Place the notes of the major 7th chord on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the major 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Mix of all chords (also minor!):

If you know how minor chords work, you can do also the following exercises. If not, look first at the minor chords lesson.

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (all the inversions)

 

I hope that you learned a lot in this lesson about major chords. Please tell us what you find of this lesson and the exercises by leaving a comment below.

 

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What is a chord? How do different chords sound?

What is a chord? How do the different chords sound?

So, what is a chord?

A chord is a group of notes (typically 3 or more) played simultaneously. When a sequence of different chords is played, we speak of a chord progression, like for example in a blues chord progression.

Different types of chords

Below, you can find a short description of the most widely used chords in Western music. For a more detailed description of all the types of chords, please refer to the articles about major chords, minor chords and diminished and augmented chords.

Triads

A special type of chords that we often use in Western music is the triad. A triad is simply a chord that consists of 3 notes: the first note (the first note is also called the root), the 3rd and the 5th note of a scale. This scale can be a major scale, a minor scale or another sort of scale.

Seventh chords

A seventh chord in its basic form consists of 4 notes:  the root, the 3rd, the 5th and the 7th note of a scale (minor, major , …). So it’s actually a triad with an added 7th.

How do the chords sound?

It’s important to give you an idea of how chords sound, and to hear the difference between the different sort of chords. Therefore, you can listen to the sound examples below:

The root of all the chords in the sound samples below is a C. Because in this way, it’s easier to compare the different chords.

Triads

Seventh chords

 

Listen well to the difference of the chords. So, start to listen to the difference between the major, minor, diminished and augmented triads to get a feeling for the major, minor, diminished and augmented sound. Then listen to what the 7th and the major 7th do to the sound by:

  • comparing a major triad with a dominant (or 7th) chord and with a major 7th  chord (so compare C with C7 and C∆7)
  • comparing a minor triad with a minor 7th chord and with a minor major 7th chord (so compare Cm with Cm7 and C-∆7)

 

Did you like this lesson on how different chords sound? Please tell us what you think of this lesson by leaving a comment below.

 

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