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Comparing major and minor chords

Being able to understand the difference between a major and a minor chord is a good first step in understanding how different types of chords are built. A C major chord is build from the 1st, 3rd and 5th degrees of a C major scale.

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C - C major scale
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1 - Scale degrees
|_____|_____| = C (C major chord)

A Dm chord is build from the 2nd, 4th and 6th degrees of a C major scale

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C - C major scale
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1 - Scale degrees
   |_____|_____| = Dm (D minor chord)

This again was the idea that you learned in the basic chord construction lesson. Be sure and read that lesson before attempting to understand this one.

A D major chord consists of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees of a D major scale.

D  E  F G  A  B  C D - D major scale
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1 - Scale degrees
|_____|_____| = D (D major chord)


So now with this information we can do a comparison between the D major that we have built from the 1st degree of a D major scale, and the Dm chord which is build from the 2nd degree of the C major scale.

A D major chord is made up of the notes D, F, and A. And a D minor chord has the notes D, F and A.

 

   D  E  F G  A  B  C D - D major scale
   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1
   |_____|_____| = D (D major chord)

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C - C major scale
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1
   |_____|_____| = Dm (D minor chord)


If you look at a D major scale and give each different note in the scale a number, then a D major chord is made up of 1, 3, and 5 from the major scale.

If you look at a D minor chord and compare it to a D major chord, you will see that there is only one note that is different. There is an F in the D major chord, and there is an F in the D minor chord.

So if D major is 1, 3 and 5, then D minor is 1, 3(flat 3) and 5. No matter what chord you are looking at, you are always going to compare it to the notes of a major scale with the same root. So what you have learned here is the formula for a major and minor chord. Each number within the formula is sometimes referred to as the function. D has the function of being the 1 in a D major chord. An F note functions as the 3 in a D major chord. Remember....read and re-read....it is not all going to make sense the first time around.

Here is is a basic D major and D minor chord with the note names and chord functions written below. We will be talking later in this lesson about applying this theory to the neck of the bass, but here is a quick example of the different between major and minor chords on the neck.

Basic D major chord

D major chord grid

Basic D minor chord

D minor chord grid

Intro to 3 note chords
Comparing major and minor chords
Major and minor chord formula
Applying the formula to the neck
Chord formulas for augmented, diminished, sus2, and sus4 chords



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