Chord Construction 101
Chord construction is easy once you understand that chords are not unrelated combinations of notes, they are created from scales, i. e., chords are the children of the scale.
The basic process of harmonizing a scale is to stack notes in thirds on top of each other (much like a layer cake). Any scale can be harmonized, and will produce harmony unique to itself.
Here’s how it works, if we take a C major scale (shown below)
C D E F G A B C
Imagine that each note is a stepping stone, if we were to play a game of leap-frog and hop over every second note, we would be stepping on notes a third apart.
C D E F G A B C
For the purpose of this lesson we will only hop twice.
Starting on the second note of the C major scale the “D” note, we would produce the following :
This leap frog process can begin on any note of the scale and the chord structures this process creates in the key of “C Major” are shown below:
Notice how chord eight is the same as chord one.
It helps to think of the scales as horizontal structures and chords as vertical structures (derived from the parent scale).
Important : The above process always produces the same chord structures in every key.
Chord one in every key is a major chord
Chord two in every key is a minor chord
Chord three in every key is a minor chord
Chord four in every key is a major chord
Chord five in every key is a major chord
Chord six in every key is a minor chord
Chord seven in every key is a diminished chord
Chord eight in every key is a major chord
Special note: Chord seven (the diminished chord) can also be thought of as a minor chord with a flattened 5th.
Therefore “B diminished” could also be written as “Bmb5”
In the key of G major this “leap frog” process would produce the following chords:
Key of G Major
G Major scale : G A B C D E F# G
Chord 1 = G (major)
Chord 2 = Am (minor )
Chord 3 = Bm (minor )
Chord 4 = C (major)
Chord 5 = D (major)
Chord 6 = Em (minor )
Chord 7 = F# dim (diminished)
Chord 8 = G (major)
This layering process would produce the following chords in the key of F major:
Key of F Major
F Major scale : F G A Bb C D E F
Chord 1 = F (major)
Chord 2 = Gm (minor )
Chord 3 = Am (minor )
Chord 4 = Bb (major)
Chord 5 = C (major)
Chord 6 = Dm (minor )
Chord 7 = E dim (diminished)
Chord 8 = F (major)
Click HERE to watch a video to see the chord construction process in action.
Each scale produces it’s own set of chords these groups of chords can be thought of as chord families as all of the chords are related to the original parent scale.