August 2016 Archives

Basic Song Theory Part 2

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Family of chords - song writing 101


As a teacher I am often asked how are songs made?

Songs use many techniques that I will discuss over the next few months.

First I will explain the harmonized major scale.

Using just the notes of the C major scale lets see how the family of chords are created.

First the notes of C major  

        C       D        E       F       G       A       B       C 

C major scale.png

By taking every other note in a group of three notes this creates chords. We do this for each note (scale degree) in the major scale. (Also we use large and small roman numerals for each position of the scale so that one number system works for all fifteen written keys). Starting with the first note of C major, take C (skip D) take E (skip F) take G.

See below:

I    =     C major   = C, E G  also called Root, third and fifth.

ii   =     D minor   = D, F, A

iii  =     E minor   =  E, G, B

IV =      F major   =  F, A, C

V  =     G major   =  G, B, D

vi   =    A minor   = A, C, E

viio =   B diminished  = B, D, F


maj = major or 


small m = minor also -  (hyphen)

o means diminished


These chord types (major, minor, diminished) stay exactly in the same relative sequence in all keys. Just the root or starting note changes. More on this later.


The chords below are created from the notes in the C major scale. 



C, E, G =  C maj

D, F, A  =  Dm

E, G, B =   Em

F, A, C =   F maj

G, B, D =  G maj

A ,C, E =   Am

B, D, F =   Bo

C, E, G =  C major


It is important to memorize these chords in all possible positions on the fret board and or the keyboard. Later transpose to all keys (twelve notes fifteen written keys).

Now transpose these to each position (register) of your instrument, then to all 15 keys.

All materials copyright 2010. For personal use only.

Vince Lauria Sun and Earth Music