If I want to make chord progression in A Major scale. Should I use the A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A notes only?

  • 1
    Well, if you want to write a chord progression in the "A Major scale," then yes. But if you want to write a chord progression in the key of A Major, then not necessarily. Use whatever chords sound good. – ex nihilo Feb 25 '18 at 20:13

You can write chord progressions using only chords with notes from the A Major scale. These chords are called diatonic to A Major. The triads diatonic to A Major are:

AMaj, Bmin, C♯min, DMaj, EMaj, F♯min, G♯dim

The seventh chords diatonic to A Major are:

AMaj7, Bmin7, C♯min7, DMaj7, E7, F♯min7, G♯min7(♭5)

The chord G♯dim (also written as G♯°) is a diminished chord, while G♯min7(♭5) is called a half-diminished chord, often written alternatively as G♯.

There are many ways to introduce non-diatonic chords into a progression (these are sometimes called chromatic chords). One simple technique involves changing a minor chord to a major chord. For example, the common diatonic progression I7 - vi7 - ii7 - V7 in A Major: AMaj7 - F♯min7 - Bmin7 - E7 is often changed to AMaj7 - F♯7 - Bmin7 - E7. Here, the F♯7 contains an A♯, which is not in the A Major scale, so this chord is not diatonic to A Major. The second progression is not diatonic to A Major, but is still in the key of A Major.

The bottom line is that any chord can follow any other chord, if it sounds good. Not only is it fine to use notes outside of the A Major scale when writing in the key of A Major, but this is extremely common. Yet, if the goal is to write a strictly diatonic chord progression, then only the notes from the scale should be used.

  • Strictly diatonic progressions are not necessarily boring. It all depends on the effect one wants to create. It is important to understand how chords increase or decrease tension in the music, which helps one to know if a chord following another sounds good. Non-diatonic chords increase tension quite a bit, which many will find adds quite a bit of interest. But many good folk tunes, which are well-loved, are strictly diatonic and by no means boring. – Heather S. Apr 6 '18 at 22:11
  • @HeatherS. -- You are absolutely correct. My final sentence was too dismissive of diatonic harmony, and really served no purpose beyond rhetoric, so I have removed it. Thanks for the input :) – ex nihilo Apr 6 '18 at 22:36

By definition, yes! But that isn't what you're really asking I think. Songs 'in A major' routinely use plenty of chords outside the scale. Try the 'Get back' riff - A / |G D |A. Or 'Yesterday' A///|G#m7/C#7/|F#m/// etc. (not originally in A, but same difference). And that's just a couple of classics!


As a basic premise, yes. Of course they will work best, being diatonic chords from diatonic notes. There may be opportunities to use other chords which are not diatonic. Some 7ths come to mind, as do G and C majors, provided the melody line can be supported by them.

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