After discussions at recent club nights from Chris & Paul about movable chords & different chord fingerings, here’s another article to help those with little or no music theory background learn about major chords.
Do have a look at our very basic intro to musical notes for complete beginners; notes on the ukulele fretboard and the Circle of Fifths (which helps explain about the different keys) first if you’re totally new to these areas.
Chris’ basic introduction explains about notes & how they fit together in a particular pattern (Tone – Tone – Half Tone (or Semi Tone) – Tone – Tone – Tone – Half Tone) to make the familiar major scale we are used to hearing in Western music. All major scales have this same pattern between the notes.
Going one step further, when you want to start playing chords, which are a group of notes played together, these also obey certain patterns for each type of chord.
The first few chords most people learn when starting out are major chords. These always contain the same three notes from the major key they are from. They will have the first note from the scale, the third note from the scale & fifth note.
(Some chords have more notes, ie if you have four or six strings on the instrument you’re playing, you will double up on one or more of those same notes).
PART ONE – Major chords always use notes I – III – V from that key
C Major Scale (all the white notes on the keyboard, ie no sharps or flats)
C Major Scale - the same pattern holds for all major scales I II III IV V VI VII VIII C D E F G A B C Tone Tone Half Tone Tone Tone Half
Listen to a C major chord being played from Wikipedia:
For example, if you play C as 0-0-0-3, you are playing the notes G (which is V in the C major scale above), C (note I above), E (note III above) & another C (note I again for the extra note). So you are playing the I – III – V pattern.
G Major Scale (one sharp – F#)
G Major Scale - this is in the same pattern as C major I II III IV V VI VII VIII G A B C D E F# G Tone Tone Half Tone Tone Tone Half
Now listen to a G major chord from Wikipedia:
By playing a G chord as 0-2-3-2, you are playing the notes G (note I in the G Major scale above), D (note V above), G (note I again) & B (note III).
Again, this fits the pattern of playing notes I-III-V.
D Major Scale (two sharps – F# & C#)
D Major Scale I II III IV V VI VII VIII D E F# G A B C# D Tone Tone Half Tone Tone Tone Half
Moving onto D, by playing this as 2-2-2-0, you are playing the notes A (note V in D major), D (note I), F# (III above) & A (another V).
So you have the same I-III-V pattern ,with note V repeated instead of note I repeated this time.
PART TWO – Movable Chords
This is a term used for the shape of a chord that can be moved up & down the fretboard to play the same type of chord but in a different key.
A Major Scale (three sharps – F#, C# & G#)
A Major Scale I II III IV V VI VII VIII A B C# D E F# G# A Tone Tone Half Tone Tone Tone Half
Playing A as 2-1-0-0 gives the notes A (I), C# (III), E (V) & A (I again).
If you imagine the nut of the fretboard (the open strings end) as a finger barring all the strings, now think of moving the entire chord up one fret, or half a tone, from 2-1-0-0 to 3-2-1-1. This gives you a Bb chord.
Move this up another fret & you now get 4-3-2-2, which is a B chord. And move up yet another fret to 5-4-3-3 & you are playing the notes C-E-G-C. You’ve now moved all the way back to C & found a second way to play it.
You can keep moving up the fretboard using this fingering pattern to play C#, D, Eb, E etc.