Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Can you please simply explain the definitions?

And then explain it in terms of triad, root notes, and inversions.

share|improve this question
The difference I think already answered here: – seseorang Apr 18 '14 at 6:42
+0 This is a basic and broad question. Usually, I'm willing to upvote basic questions, but this looks like something that would have been very easy to Google. – Kevin Apr 18 '14 at 21:13

Major and minor chords are both triads: a root note, a third, and a fifth.

  • Major chords have a major third, four semitones above the root.
  • Minor chords have a minor third, three semitones above the root.

The fifth is usually a perfect fifth, seven semitones above the root. However, a chord with a minor third may have a diminished fifth (only three semitones above the minor third), and a chord with a major third may have an augmented fifth (four semitones above the major third). In those cases, you’d typically call the resulting chord diminished instead of minor, or augmented instead of major.

Inversion does not change the notes from root, third, and fifth. It merely indicates which of the three notes has the lowest pitch: root position starts with the root, first inversion starts with the third, and second inversion starts with the fifth.

share|improve this answer
If the fifth of the minor chord is diminished, the chord isn't minor, is it? It's diminished. The same with the major chord. If the fifth is augmented, the chord is augmented and not major. – Shevliaskovic Apr 18 '14 at 0:23
I think you can call that a diminished chord, a minor diminished fifth, or a minor flatted fifth. I chose the second one to emphasize that it’s built on the minor third, but I suspect that musicians would more often call it a diminished triad. But thanks for the feedback – I've incorporated it into the answer. – Bradd Szonye Apr 18 '14 at 0:28
The fifth of a major chord can also be diminished, in which case the chord is called a flattened fifth, probably denoted in this form C(b5). The seventh is normally added to this chord, denoted as C7b5. – No'am Newman Apr 18 '14 at 3:20
And a root-m3-+5 becomes the first inversion of the chord of the b6 above the original chord, just for fun. – Tim Apr 18 '14 at 6:16
@No'amNewman can you provide a progression in which such a chord (major 3rd, diminished 5th) appears? Preferably with an example song. Just curious... – Roland Bouman Apr 18 '14 at 9:49

A major chord has a Major third and a perfect fifth. A minor chord has a minor third and a perfect fifth. You need to know your scales for it to make sense but I will try and demonstrate with an example anyway.

A perfect interval means that the note fits into both the Major and the Minor scale of the root note. So for Instance if you have the interval F-C It would be a perfect fifth because both F Major and F minor has a C natural in the scale.

Remember that only the Unison, the Fourth, the Fifth and the Octave can be perfect. The other intervals are either Major, Minor, Augmented or Diminished.

If you have the notes F-A-C. You first do the third. F major has a A natural. So that chord has a Major third and then again the C that fits into both the F Major and Minor scale so it is Perfect.

If we would have the chord F-Ab-C then we would have F - Ab which fits into F minor (It being the relative minor of Ab Major) and a perfect fifth again. We would then call this a Minor chord.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.