You may have noticed that when you play a song in C major, chords C, F and G often appear. Likewise, in a song in G major, you may have noticed chords G, C and D appearing regularly. This is because each key has a specific set of chords called the scale tone chords. It is important for you to know these scale tone chords. The reasons for that are:
- Song writing – knowing what chords are in a key, makes it easier to create a chord progression for your song that works well.
- Figuring out songs by ear – It simplifies the process as it is likely that many of the chords in the song are scale tone chords.
- Improvising – If you know the scale tone chords of the key of the song, you can choose the appropriate scale to improvise with.
The Major Scale Interval Pattern
Before looking at the scale tone chords of all major keys, let’s first analyse what a major key consists of. Below are the notes of the C major scale. This major scale is based upon the following interval pattern of semitones and tones:
Tone – Tone – Semitone – Tone – Tone – Tone – Semitone
C MAJOR SCALE
The Chords in the key of C Major
The notes of the C major scale above are also referred to as scale degrees. If you use each of those scale degrees you create the following chords:
Note that in all major keys, chords ii, iii, and vi are minor chords. Also, chord vii° is a diminished chord.
The method described above can be used to workout the chords of all other major keys. With that in mind, let’s now analyse another example.
Below is the A major scale. To create the A major scale, we again use our major scale interval pattern of semitones and tones. Notice that the A Major scale uses notes C#, F# and G#. This is because the interval between notes B and C is only a semitone apart. Likewise, the interval between notes E and F is also a semitone apart. To create a tone interval between these notes, we raised note C to C# and note F to F#. In addition, we had to raise note G to G# to make it a tone interval from note F#.
A MAJOR SCALE
Below are the A major key chords. Note again that chords ii, iii, and vi are minor chords and chord vii° is a diminished chord.
Below is a summary of all the major key chords.