Assuming that no chord inversions are in use:

Am I right in believing that in a major chord, there are always 5 semitones between the 1st and 3rd and 4 semitones between the 3rd and 5th?

Am I right in believing that in a minor chord, there are always 4 semitones between the 1st and 3rd and 5 semitones between the 3rd and 5th?

Am I right in believing that in a diminished chord, there are always 4 semitones between the 1st and 3rd and 4 semitones between the 3rd and 5th?

Am I right in believing that in an augmented chord, there are always 5 semitones between the 1st and 3rd and 5 semitones between the 3rd and 5th?

Am I right in believing that in regular seventh chord, e.g. G7 or Am7, the 7th is always two semitones lower than the next tonic? Am I right in believing that in a major7 chord, the 7th is always 1 semitone lower than the next tonic? (7 and major7 chords have always confused me; when I saw them in chord charts, I was never 100% sure if I was supposed to play a 7th one or two semitones below the next tonic.)

Am I correct in believing that something like Gminmaj7 means a Gminor chord (G Bb D) with a major 7 (F#) added and Gmajmin7 means a Gmajor chord (G B D) with a 7 (F) added?

  • I’m voting to close this question because it's totally based on a false premise.
    – Tim
    Jun 18, 2021 at 19:25
  • @Tim False premise?
    – Aaron
    Jun 18, 2021 at 19:30
  • @Aaron - everything quoted is inaccurate. How would you phrase it? If I asked a question stating as a basis that 2+2=5 is what I believe to be true, where do we go?
    – Tim
    Jun 18, 2021 at 19:33
  • 1
    @Tim Okay, I see where you're coming from. I think we both addressed it in our answers — it's just miscounting (given the consistency).
    – Aaron
    Jun 18, 2021 at 19:41
  • 2
    I don't think this question should be closed. If a asker of question is operating under a false premise then that hardly deserves a close, people ask questions to improve there knowledge of a subject afterall
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 19, 2021 at 18:49

4 Answers 4


You're so close. Almost right in all counts. You probably started counting too early. First example - 4 semitones between 1 and 3, 3 semitones between 3 and 5.

I think your concept of intervals counts the first note as the first interval. It doesn't, shouldn't, and won't. C>E, for example. C>C♯ (1), C♯>D (1), D<D♯ (1) D♯>E (1). That makes just 4 semitones between C and E. Maybe you could explain where '5' came from.

  • You've got it exactly right: I counted the 1st and 3rd when counting from 1st to 3rd. I also counted the 3rd and 5th when counting between them. Sorry, I should have realized I wasn't counting in a standard way. Are the last two paragraphs (about the 7ths and the minmaj majmin chords right?
    – Henry
    Jun 18, 2021 at 23:53
  • @Henry - your last two paras are correct. How about making the rest correct also?
    – Tim
    Jun 19, 2021 at 7:28

semi-tone interval meme

My attempt at a joke set-aside you need to get away from counting semi-tones to get intervals. C - E is a major third. Yes it is 4 semi-tones, but you know what is also 4 semi-tones from C, Fb and that is not even a third, but a diminished fourth.

A more accurate and succinct definition of a major chord is three notes a set interval away from a root note. A major chord consisting of a root note, a Major third and a perfect fifth.

So C-E-G is a major chord, but C-Fb-G is not a major chord even if E and Fb is the same amount of semi-tones away from C. You need a certain amount of scale knowledge to start learning how to figure out intervals, but the effective teaching of it does most certainly not comprise the counting of semi-tones because there may be two or three different notes, all of which may be the same amount of semi-tones from the root, each changing the interval.

You unfortunately cannot learn it like this.

  • 1
    Good point on learning intervals over semitones. I would say in this case it looks like Henry is asking if a major third is always 4 semitones, not if 4 semitones is always a major third
    – Awalrod
    Jul 30, 2021 at 15:23

You're one semitone too large in every instance. For example, a major chord is four semitones and three semitones. It's likely you counted the first note as a semitone, but two notes are required to make a semitone. (C-C#, C#-D, D-D#, D#-E: four semitones make up the first interval in a C major chord in root position.)

  • Sorry about that. I expressed myself poorly and counted the intervals incorrectly.
    – Henry
    Jun 18, 2021 at 23:54
  • @Henry No worries. Did your question get answered?
    – Aaron
    Jun 18, 2021 at 23:55

Others have already pointed out you need to subtract one from all your semi-tone counts.

But, also there is one particular point to make about naming...

Gmajmin7 means a Gmajor chord (G B D) with a 7 (F) added?

That would be a G dominant seventh chord. The pop/jazz label for it is G7. Gmajmin7 does convey the right information, but by the conventions of the chord label system you don't need to explicitly list the majmin part, because those are the "default" qualities. The base triad is always major unless labeled otherwise and the 7 is always a minor seventh unless labeled otherwise.

Personally, the way I look at the pop/jazz labeling is this: chord tones above the root are assumed to be a dominant thirteenth chord, like G13 in C major. So, the intervals above the root G are: M3, P5, m7, M9, P11, M13 or major third, perfect fifth, minor seventh, perfect eleventh, major thirteenth. So, while a G7 has no modifiers and is understood to be a dominant seventh chord composed of M3 P5 m7 modifiers can be added to it to make something like Gmin7♭5, min changes the base triad from major to minor and the ♭5 changes the P5 perfect fifth to a d5 diminished fifth.

You can define chords as stacked thirds, but you can also think of chords are root plus third and fifth, and for seventh chords plus a seventh. This can be helpful, because you then see the importance of a perfect or not perfect fifth in various chords:

  • major triad: root + M3 + P5
  • minor triad: root + m3 + P5
  • diminished triad: root + m3 + d5
  • augmented triad: root + M3 + A5 (augmented fifth)

A basic list of seventh chords is:

  • major seventh chord: major triad + major seventh
  • minor seventh chord: minor triad + minor seventh
  • dominant seventh chord: major triad + minor seventh
  • half diminished seventh chord: diminished triad + minor seventh
  • diminished seventh chord: diminished triad + diminished seventh

Keep in mind there is a diminished fifth inside the dominant seventh chord between the third and seventh.

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