Major Guitar Chords

Learn How To Play Major Chords On The Guitar!

Major Guitar Chor DiagramIn 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.

Major Guitar ChordJust 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.

This Lesson Has 19 Comments

  • hunter says:

    whats a triad? whats a major 3rd? did you teach us this?

    • Eliana says:

      The very crux of your writing while sonuding reasonable initially, did not really sit very well with me personally after some time. Someplace within the sentences you managed to make me a believer but just for a while. I nevertheless have got a problem with your jumps in logic and one might do nicely to fill in those breaks. If you can accomplish that, I would undoubtedly be amazed.

  • whats a triad? whats a major 3rd? did you teach us this? says:


  • Mattx69x says:

    i think i got this, music theory blah…. dead important, kind makes things easier later on… correct me if im wrong… a triad is what it says three, like a tri-plane… so the root note is the first note you play e.g a C… count on your fingers from your thumb on your left hand the 2nd pointie finger will be D, the next bad mother finger will be E the 3rd, 4th ring finger is F, pinkie finger the 5th which will be G… so root note/1st is C, 3rd is E, 5th is G so any mix of C,E,G notes will produce a C chord anywhere on the fret board.
    another example on your hand, thumb 1st note A, bad mother finger 3rd C, pinky 5th E. A,C,E any mix will produce an A chord, its like this because it is some really old greek guys worked it out a long time ago before electic guitars were invented. and for minors you simply drop a fret backwards towards the nut/headstock dirction on the 3rd note, the E would instead be Eminor…. that is right is it, i think it is, don’t quote me on that… etc blahblah music theory, makes life easier later on so worth looking into get books etc.

  • Mattx69x says:

    also a good thing i found was to draw a picture of you fret board, draw in as many frets as your axe has, 6 strings running down, then write in each note on each string, so the top and bottom strings are both E so E,F,F#/Gb,G,G#/Ab,A… and so on and so forth, it helps to beable to see the note also with building chords.

  • Wisdom says:

    Am not getting dis but i guess it will kum afta writing d scales of each string den i kan pik my root den do the skips to get my majors den get minors frm majors…… Nate am i correct?

  • stan says:

    i need a explanation as to why the same distance between B to D is a minor third and G to B is a major third,

    can you explain please?

    • Muzquiz says:

      From B to D spans 3 semitones (B, C, C# there are 3 semitones to D

      From G to B spanas 4 semitones (G, G# A A# there are 4 semitones to G

      3 semitones is MINOR
      4 semitones is a MAJOR

  • jfdkjhf says:

    don’t understand sorry i’m leaving this website to find a better one bye.

  • prantik nath says:

    what does f# means??

  • Mariusz says:

    It’s a guitar lesson for intermediate -.- if you don’t know what f# means, check out some basic information about music theory first… You should learn name of sounds, strings, where you can find for example F# on fretboard :D I used a ‘MaySzkoła’ (‘MaySchool’)in the past. It’s Polish online guitar lesson made by “Mayones guitars”. [I recomended it for those who want learn new language ;)] There were a lot of lessons, many important informations but without video for that. I think that it can’t be easier and better explain than in this lessons. I understand more from this video and description than from ‘MaySchool’ despite language barrier :D
    Sorry about my English :D
    Respect for You Nate, perfect job !!!

  • Raiven says:

    Fender Presents: Getting Started on Acoustic Guitar — A Guide for Beginners (2002)
    Amazing Dvd To teach you the basics of guitar playing i’ve had it about 2 weeks and i can play all major and minor chords so far try it out

  • sammy says:

    Am som aw confused

  • Sanskar says:

    Guys,these are Intermediate lessons,you guys are beginners probably ,so first check out beginner,then this.
    Thanks Nate!
    Good lesson as usual!

  • sMann says:

    Is a chord only considered a Triad if the three notes are on three adjacent strings?

  • if we have just signed up but I really would really like to see a specific letter (Lorelei Lee’s) is there some place i’m able to possibly watch it or obtain a copy somehow?


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