In this guitar lesson we are going to learn how major chords are made. We will be in the key of G major for our example, so lets review the G major scale before we get started. The G major scale is spelled G, A, B, C, D, E and F#.
There are two things that you need to know in order to make a major chord. The first thing is that major chords are made of the root of the chord, the 3rd and the 5th The second thing is that distance from the root to the 3rd is a major third interval and the distance from the 3rd to the 5th is a minor third interval.
Let’s number the G major scale to make this a bit clearer. The notes in a G major scale are 1G, 2A, 3B, 4C, 5D, 6E, and 7F#. If you take the 1, 3, and 5 of the G major scale, you would end up with G, B and D, the notes in a G major chord. The distance from the G to the B is a major third and the distance from the B to the D is a minor third. You can also think about starting with the G note and just skipping a note to get to the 3rd of the chord and then skipping another note to get to the 5th of the chord.
Just remember, to build a major chord, start on the first note of a major scale and pick out the root, 3rd, and 5th. If you don’t want to think about major chords like that, just remember to start on the root note and move a major third away for the 3rd of the chord and then move a minor third from the 3rd to get the 5th of the chord.
Now there is something that you should be aware of. If you were to start on the second note of the major scale and use that as your starting point for building a chord, you would end up with a minor chord. Those notes would be A, C, and E. You would still have a root, 3rd and 5th, but starting on the 2nd 3rd or 6th note in any major key would give you a minor third and a major third. That is the formula for a minor chord. Remember a major chord has to have a major third and then a minor third. If you build a chord starting on the 1st 4th or 5th note of a major scale you will end up with a major 3rd and then a minor 3rd. That’s the formula for a major chord.
I said that to say this. If you want to build a major chord just use the major scale for that chord. For example, just use an E major scale to build an E major chord. The 1st, 3rd and 5th of an E major scale would be an E, G# and B. This fits the formula of a major 3rd and a minor 3rd. If this is confusing for you don’t worry, it will come with some practice.
Go through the fretboard and try to find all of the G, B, and D notes that you can. Make up your own chords or at least try to identify all of the notes in the G chord shapes that you already know.