I would like to understand how chords are made (like G/F# or Bb etc.) so I can figure out what a chord is by remembering the scale.

Is there a good resource for learning this? If I want to learn how to do this, is it recommended that I learn all of the scales first (Blues, Major, Minor, Pentatonic etc.)?


I learned a few of the scales first and learned some chord progressions that a teacher told me fit over them, and then learned chord theory, and that worked out. For chord theory you should learn first major and minor scales, because those are the most straight forward. The chord has to have only the notes of the scale in it. A chord is formed by the root, (the letter of the chord i.e. for a C major chord, it's C.) the third (two scale notes above the root) which is either major or minor, and the fifth (two scale notes above the root) which (other than in more advanced scales) is perfect or diminished. If you're playing the C major scale, the notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. You can form a chord on any of these notes by making any of these notes your root. For example, if you want C to be your root, you would play C, play E, which is two notes above it, and play G, which is two notes above E, so it's sort of like O x O x O. If you want to make your root G, you would play G, play the note two notes above it (B), and play the note two notes above that (D). This is also called 1 3 5, because if C is the first note of your scale, E is your third note, and 5 is your fifth note. A major third is 4 semitones, a minor third is 3 semitones, a perfect fifth is 7 semitones, and a diminished fifth is six semitones. Here is a helpful guide of which root forms which chord, which is pretty easy to memorize. This is in C major, and if you want to change the key, just move everything up or down the same amount of semitones.

C = Major; D = Minor; E = Minor; F = Major; G = Major; A = Minor; B = Diminished

If you put the most emphasis on the A (The sixth note of the scale) in C major (and start on A), it becomes A minor, and you play the A minor scale over it.

Also, certain chords lead to other chords, but those rules aren't set in stone and you can just do that by ear.

(You should master this part before you move onto the next. You could make thousands of songs with just the first part, so don't feel rushed to do the second part. That being said, if you can do the first part you can always challenge yourself.)

You can do the same with any note of the scale (the thing about the emphasis) and it's called a "mode". For example, if you start on/emphasize D it's called the Dorian mode and sounds like a shanty minor. If you start on/emphasize E it's called the Phrygian Mode and it sounds like an exotic minor.

There are many other things you can do with chords (added 9ths 7ths, etc.) and you can also make change the octaves of the notes for a different sound, but this is your very basic chord theory. Those add-ons just mean that you add the 7th/9th note above the root or whatever number it is. For the minor blues scale, though, you pretty much just use the 12 bar blue chord progression for it or play a chord progression in a minor key.

You should master the first part before you do this, but the C major pentatonic scale doesn't have F or B, so you can play chords that use F or F# and B or Bb.

This is definitely not the limit of what you can do with scales and chords. Once you've mastered that, look up synthetic scales, chord-scale theory, and accidentals.

That being said, you could make your whole music career with chord progressions that have already been used, and many people have.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

  • 1
    Note: that the C major notes are the same notes exactly as A natural minor, just centred on A. Also the Aeolian mode. So you don't necessarily need to learn another scale, just adapt the major you already know.Speeds things up. – Tim Jul 4 '14 at 10:38
  • can you explain the 4th para up, please? – Tim Jul 4 '14 at 10:39
  • The chord on the fifth note usually leads to the first or fourth note (especially when the chord on the fifth note is major, but I forget if the fifth leading to the fourth is more of a modern harmony thing (either way it sounds fine)), and the chord on the seventh note usually leads to the chord on the first note (but usually an octave higher), etc. But modern artists break these rules all the time and it's really just what sounds good to you. That being said, if you fiddle around with your chords, you'll probably think that doing these things sounds pretty good. – Nick of Music Jul 4 '14 at 16:46
  • And the thing Tim said about the major and minor scales also applies for the scales of the modes, so if you know the major scale, you actually know 7 scales! – Nick of Music Jul 4 '14 at 16:50
  • 1
    Mostly, the dominant (5th) chord leads to the first.(Circle of 4/5ths). In a 3 chord song (thousands) if it doesn't go there, there's only one other place it can go...The chord on the 7th - half dim - is actually the top part of the V7.So it'll often go to I as well. – Tim Jul 4 '14 at 17:05

Whilst leaning all the scales will be of great help in your playing, and probably understanding, the main one for this purpose is the major scale. Chords basically are made up of 1-3-5 of a scale. These are triads- 3 notes. Using the major scale, these will be major chords. To get minors, you could just make the maj. 3rd into a min. 3rd, rather than use the minor scale - the end product is the same.

Chords with numbers - C7, C9 etc. will use the extra number note of that scale as well, although various rules need to be brought into play as well.Slash chords will be the basic chord from the first letter name, with the second letter name as the lowest note played, sometimes as an extra note to the chord.

There have been numerous questions pertaining to this and related questions on this site, so not going into more depth right now.


Don’t begin with pentatonic or blues scales. The best help to understand the chords is a keyboard as it represents much better the western tone system than any other instrument. A virtual keyboard on a phone or tablet will fit!

  1. Start by playing (and singing) the intervals of 3 rds on the white keys of a piano. Write them down in the folloing ways: as schema of the keyboard, as sheet music, by arabic numbers, by roman numbers and by the names of abc and doremi.
  2. play (and sing) all the triads of the C major scale and note them on a sheet as described above. Don‘t forget to sing them or image wth you inner ear pitch (as well as their whole affect) while notsting by pencil and paper.
  3. continue with 7 by adding another 3rd tonthe trads of C major scale and study they in the same way as the intervals of 3rd and triads, playing, singing, writing in the above described ways of abstraction.

(later you may continue with the 79 11 and 13 chords)

but now is the point to transfer your knowledge about the triads on your guitar: find out the chord scheme, the tab, play and notate in a staff.

From here you will be able to elaborate and develop yourself the same chords in all scales (in the circle of fifths)

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