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How do I know which notes of a scale may be a Major/Minor chord?

Take this question as an example. The OP states that the C major scale contains the following chords: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim

How do I accomplish this?

Thanks in advance.

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

What OP means is that if you use the notes of that scale (no sharps or flats added or removed) and play a third and a fifth on each note you get those chords.

Example on C major scale:

C (first note):
3rd up = E
5th up = G
Chord = C major

D (second note):
3rd up = F
5th up = A
Chord = D minor (note the half step between E/F making the minor third)

G (fifth note):
3rd up = B
5th up = D
Chord = G major

A (sixth note):
3rd up = C
5th up = E
Chord = A minor (note the half step between B/C making the minor third)

B (seventh note):
3rd up = D
5th up = F
Chord = B dim (note the half step between B/C making the minor third and also half step between E/F making the fifth not perfect like all others but dim)

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Does this pattern work with the minor scales too? I.e. taking the third and fifth of each note of the aforementioned scale. Edit: Nevermind, Kaz's answer pretty much said it. – TonySniper Oct 1 '13 at 14:33
@AntonioRisaldo, while there is only one major scale model, there are actually different minor scales (natural, melodic and harmonic). The pattern of getting a chord by using the 3rd and 5th is the same, but the chords you get would depend on the scale. – Sergio Oct 1 '13 at 21:29
I'm aware of the three minor scales hehehe, but thanks for the clarification. – TonySniper Oct 1 '13 at 21:49
@Antonio, ok, I didn't know so I explained a bit :) Cheers! – Sergio Oct 1 '13 at 21:58
btw sorry if I sounded rude in my last comment, I just wanted to thank you hehehe. Cheers. – TonySniper Oct 1 '13 at 22:04

This comes from walking up the scale and taking triplets of notes which are spaced every other note: CEG, DFA, EGB, ...

enter image description here

The majors and minors have a perfect fifth above their root note, for instance the Am chord's A-E interval.

The seventh degree chord, B, is diminished: it has a minor third (B-D) and a diminished fifth (B-F).

You can transpose this pattern into any key.

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The preformatted text diagram I made kept being turned into guitar chord diagrams. The documentation at editing-help was of no use, so I turned it into a .png image. – Kaz Sep 30 '13 at 23:48
A workaround for the diagram is to wrap it in <pre></pre> to prevent from being interpeted as guitar chord diagram. See this meta post on this issue. – awe Oct 1 '13 at 12:41

In the major scale, the first and fourth degrees are major. The fifth degree is dominant (major 3rd but minor 7th). The second, third and sixth degrees are minor, and the seventh degree is a minor with a diminished fifth (also known as minor 7th flat 5 or something like that, I'm not too good with chord names in English).

So for example in the C major scale: C and F are major, G is dominant, D, E and A are minor, and B is the one with the diminished fifth.

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