music theory 102 – basic major chord structure and symbols
Basic major scales: C D E F G A B 0 sharps/0 flats 2 sharps/0 flats 4 sharps/0 flats 0 sharps/1 flat 1 sharp/0 flats 3 sharps/0 flats 5 sharps/0 flats I C D E F G A B ii D E F# G A B C# iii E F# G# A B C# D# IV F G A Bb C D E V G A B C D E F# vi A B C# D E F# G# vii B C# D# E F# G# A# VIII/I C D E F G A B
The most commonly used chords are standard, tri-tone chords played on the I (“root”), iii (“third”) and V (“fifth”) notes of the scale. These chords are represented on a chord sheet simply by the name of the chord. For example a C chord uses the notes C, E and G; an A chord uses the notes A C# and E.
Another common chord type is a “suspended” chord, played on the root, fourth, and fifth notes of the scale. The third is “suspended” in favor of the fourth. These chords are represented by adding “sus” after the name of the chord. (Occasionally the chord will be indicated by “sus4,” but generally the “4” is assumed.) For example a Dsus chord uses the notes D, G and A; a Bsus chord uses the notes B, E and F#.
A “seven” chord takes a basic chord and adds the seventh note of the scale. These chords are represented by the “7” after the name of the chord. For example a G7 chord uses the notes G, B, D and F#; an E7 chord uses the notes E, G#, B and D#.
Another chord type that you’ll see occasionally is a “suspended second.” It uses the root, second, and fifth notes of the scale; the third is suspended in favor of the second. Since suspending the third in favor of the fourth is more common, a typical suspended chord is simply called “suspended” instead of “suspended fourth.” The suspended second will always identify the “second” specifically. These chords are represented by adding “sus2” or simply “2” after the name of the chord. For example Name Standard Suspended Seven Suspended Second an Fsus2 (or F2) uses the notes F, G and C; a Dsus2 (or D2) uses D, E and A. Symbol N/A sus 7 sus2 or 2 Notes used I, iii, V I, IV, V I, iii, V, vii I, ii, V