I'm not familiar enough with music theory to know whether I'm jumping the gun here.

I'm starting to learn the major scale by playing through all the positions in a key. It gets rather boring just playing the scale by itself.

That being said, I would like to record a rhythm piece that I can play over as part of my practicing routine.

I have not studied far enough in this book I'm currently using, as it covers chords only in a few chapters from where I'm currently at.

Is there an easy way for me to determine chords I can play or should I rather just google what chords go with the scale at this point?

3 Answers 3


To determine chords to play from a major scale; take C Major Scale - C D E F G A B

C Major Scale harmony (the chords):

  • C major
  • D minor
  • E minor
  • F major
  • G major
  • A minor
  • B minor b5

You can apply the chord in the above order to all major scales.

  • for a little more spice, the same thing can be done with 7 chords.. in C Major it's: CMaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, FMaj7, G7, Amin7, Bmin7b5. The important thing is learning the order, as it can be applied to any key. (M, m, m, M, M, m, dim)
    – charlie
    Sep 18, 2014 at 19:09
  • @Charles - good idea, but better to call the dim one m7b5 - not quite diminished. As a triad, it is, though.
    – Tim
    Sep 19, 2014 at 11:38
  • Right.. I was just listing the general order of the triads in the parentheses. I probably should have been more specific, thanks.
    – charlie
    Sep 19, 2014 at 16:37

I'm going to start with the very basics. Things can, of course, get more advanced than this, but its ultimately all based on what follows:

Every note in the scale has a corresponding chord that can be built on it. The starting note is called the "root" of the chord.

A chord is then built simply by "stacking" more notes on top of the root. Specifically, these notes should be (1) in the scale and (2) separated by an interval of a third from the previous note. A basic triad (three-note chord) is built by stacking two thirds on top of the root, a "seventh" chord adds an additional third on top of that.

For example, lets say that you're playing in the key of E major (a common guitar key, which includes the notes F#, G#, and C#). You can construct a chord on E by using the notes E then G# then B. You would construct a chord on A as A, C#, E.

One last thing to note: the order of notes in a chord, the number of times each one appears, and octave they appear in, is largely unimportant (this property is called the "voicing" of a chord). So any combinations of A's, C#'s, and E's would make a A chord. Most often, though, the lowest note will be the root.

As rlo notes, if you're playing in a major key, the chords that are formed on the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes of the scale will be "major" while the chords that are formed on the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th degrees of the scale will be "minor". This term refers to the distance (in half-steps) from the root to the first 3rd that you stack -- in minor chords, that distance is 3 half steps (e.g. A to C), while in major chords, that distance is 4 half-steps (e.g. C to E).


You asked for an easy way. Here's the easiest way:

To determine what chords go with a scale, you can use a reference.

Here's the best way:

Learn what @Caleb has described. There are excellent, free lessons online at musictheory.net, which will spoon-feed you the necessary information. Start with the lesson on scales and work your way through intervals and chords. Then you will understand not only which chords go with which scale, but why.

  • Wow... A# and Bb may have the same shape on the fretboard, but I am shuddering to my very core at the idea that "A#" is listed as a chord in F major. So very wrong! Sep 18, 2014 at 19:11
  • It is very wrong. There is so much bad info out there. I get lead sheets like that all the time!
    – r lo
    Sep 18, 2014 at 19:23
  • 1
    I think you're correct. I've removed the link to that particular site. I stand by the answer that a correct reference is the easiest way, but that site really isn't helping anyone.
    – trw
    Sep 18, 2014 at 19:43

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