What are the 4 Main Types of Chords?
When it comes to chords, at the most basic level, we have what is called Triads. They are made up of 3 notes played simultaneously, and there are different types of triad chords which have very distinct sounds.
The four main types of chords are Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented. Each are made up of 3 notes, but the interval distances between those notes can make them sound vastly different and evoke different feelings in the listener depending on the type.
Each also has a specific formula which we will discuss in the sections below.
Major – Formula: 1, 3, 5
Major chords are the happy sounding chords.
They are made of a root, major third and a fifth.
If we look at the scale of C Major, the notes of that scale are C, D, E, F, G, A, B. If we take the 1, 3, and 5th notes we can make a C Major chord – C E G. This is how you build major chords. Easy right?
Minor – Formula: 1, b3, 5
Next up we have the Minor chord. These are the sad sounding chords.
The Minor chord formula is the exact same as the Major formula, with a small difference. The third note is flattened, or taken down half a step. This is what gives it the sad sound in comparison to the Major chord.
So C Major is C E G, and C Minor is C bE G.
Diminished – Formula: 1, b3, b5
Diminished chords sound dissonant. They sound very tense, dark, and a bit creepy.
Because they are so tense and unstable, they want to resolve to a more stable chord so they can be useful to pull you back to the first chord in the key.
A Diminished chord is like a Major chord but with a b3rd and a b5 so both of those notes are taken down a half step from what a Major chord has.
So if C Major is C E G, then a C Diminished chord is C bE bG.
Augmented – Formula: 1, 3, #5
Augmented chords are mysterious sounding chords.
They are also more tense and dissonant than a Major or Minor chord but not as much as a Diminished chord. This means they can also be used as a chord that can pull the listener to another chord.
Songwriters sometimes use Augmented chords instead of a Dominant seventh chord in a chord progression. This is because in a Major chord progression, the fifth chord in the key tends to have a sound that wants to pull you back to the first chord.
That fifth chord could be played as just a plain Major chord, a Seventh chord, or an Augmented chord and it will still have that pulling sound but each will sound different, with the Augmented chord sounding more mysterious and dissonant compared to the other options.
Augmented chords are built like a Major chord but with a raised or sharp 5th. So 1, 3, #5.
So in the case of C Major C E G, an C Augmented chord would look like C E G#.
Wrapping it up
We’re gonna end this one here because I don’t want to overwhelm you with information about chords. This covers the basics you need to know and I will be making more posts on other kinds of chords.
Of these 4 types, you will most likely use Major, Minor and maybe Diminished the most at first.
Once you have these down I suggest you check for other posts on chords here as we get deeper into the subject.
Catch you on the next one!