# Proper naming of chords

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? 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
• @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). Jun 18, 2021 at 19:41
• 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 Jun 19, 2021 at 18:49

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? 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

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.

• 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 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. Jun 18, 2021 at 23:54
• @Henry No worries. Did your question get answered? 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.