Last Updated on May 14, 2019 by Klaus Crow
Why do you need chord formulas? Why do want to learn about them in the first place and what are their benefits?
Knowing some basic chord theory can make all the difference to your playing. It makes guitar playing more fun, interesting and a lot of what you play will make more sense. The pieces of the puzzle will fall in place.
Knowing how chord formulas work and knowing the notes on the strings is the ultimate combination.
Let’s see what you can do with chord formulas:
– Learn how to make your own chords.
– Figure out how to play a chord when you only have the name of a chord.
– Understanding the difference between chords like Dom7, Maj7 and min7.
– Make a chord easier to play if your pinky can’t reach for the major 7 or any other nasty note.
– Quickly turn a G major chord into Gsus4, G7, Gmaj7, G13 or any other variation you think of.
– Learn to see how easy it is to change from major to minor or any other chord.
– Apply the knowledge to your rhythm playing, songwriting, soloing and improvisation.
– Discover how it relates to every aspect of guitar playing as your knowledge expands over time.
What is a Chord Formula?
Chord formulas reveals the chord structure. It shows all the notes that are played in a chord, in other words, which specific notes make up a particular chord.
The notes in a chord are taken from the major scale.
The notes of the major scale are referred to as numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 and 8 (=1)
The notes below are from the C major scale referred as number 1 through 8.
C D E F G A B C 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 From 8 the notes repeat only an octave higher: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. 8 = 1 (C) 9 = 2 (D) 10 = 3 (E) 11 = 4 (F) 12 = 5 (G) 13 = 6 (A) Here below you can pick a major scale key for the chords we're going to build in the next section. Major Scales in Every Key: A major scale = A B C# D E F# G# A Bb major scale = Bb C D Eb F G A Bb B major scale = B C# D# E F# G# A# B C major scale = C D E F G A B C Db major scale = Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db D major scale = D E F# G A B C# D Eb major scale = Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb E major scale = E F# G# A B C# D# E F major scale = F G A Bb C D E F Gb major scale = Gb Ab Bb Cb (=B) Db Eb F Gb G major scale = G A B C D E F# G Ab major scale = Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab Building a Major Chord To build a chord we need the chord formula and the major scale. Let's build a C major chord. The chord formula for a Major chord = 1 - 3 - 5 C major scale = C D E F G A B C Now take the 1st, 3rd and 5th note of the major scale. Playing these notes simultaneously will result in a major chord. That means a C major chord consists of the notes: C E G (1 - 3 - 5) You might wonder, "How can you hear only three notes when there are six strings on the guitar?" Well some notes in a chord appear twice. When you strum a C major chord you hear the following notes from the low E-string all the way to the high E-string.: Low E string = mute A string = C note D string = E note G string = G note B string = C note high E-string = E note Check out some other major chord examples: A major scale = A B C# D E F# G# A A major chord = A C# E (1 - 3 - 5) G major scale = G A B C D E F# G G major chord = G B D (1 - 3 - 5) The chord diagrams below show where notes are on the strings: Building a Minor Chord Let's take the A minor chord for this example. The chord formula for a Minor chord = 1 - b3 - 5. A major scale = A B C# D E F# G# A b3 (flat three) means you take the third note of the major scale only a half step down. The third note of the A major scale is C#, so if you go down a half step C# becomes C. That means the notes of the A minor chord consists of the notes A C E (1 - b3 - 5) Building a Maj7 Chord One last example: Gmaj7 G major scale = G A B C D E F# G Maj7 chord formula = 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 Gmaj7 = G B D F# OTHER CHORD FORMULAS Below you can see the most common chords and their chord formulas. I've taken the C root as example for all the chord names. Chord name = chord formula | C root + chord name Common Chord Types: Major = 1 - 3 - 5 | C or Cmaj Minor = 1 - b3 - 5 | Cm, Cmin, C- Suspended Second = 1 - 2 - 5 | Csus2 Suspended Fourth = 1 - 4 - 5 | Csus4 Added ninth = 1 - 3 - 5 - 9 | Cadd9 Dominant Seventh = 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 | C7, Cdom7 Major Seventh = 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 | Cmaj7 Minor Seventh = 1 - b3 - 5 - b7 | Cm7, Cmin7, C-7 Major Formulas: Major = 1 - 3 - 5 | C or Cmaj Major Sixth = 1 - 3 - 5 - 6 | C6, Cmaj6 Six Nine = 1 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 9 | C6/9 Added ninth = 1 - 3 - 5 - 9 | Cadd9 Major Seventh = 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 | Cmaj7 Major Seventh Flat Five = 1 - 3 - b5 - 7 | Cmaj7b5 Major Seventh Sharp Five = 1 - 3 - #5 - 7 | Cmaj7#5 Major Ninth = 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 | Cmaj9 Major Eleventh = 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - (9) - 11 | Cmaj11 Major Thirteenth = 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - (9) - (11) - 13 | Cmaj13 Major Seven Sharp Eleventh = 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - #11 | Cmaj7#11 Major Flat Five = 1 - 3 - b5 | Cb5 Minor Formulas: Minor = 1 - b3 - 5 | Cm, Cmin, C- Minor Sixth = 1 - b3 - 5 - 6 | Cm6, Cmin6, C-6 Minor Seventh = 1 - b3 - 5 - b7 | Cm7, Cmin7, C-7 Minor Added Ninth = 1 - b3 - 5 - 9 | Cmadd9 Minor Six Add Nine = 1 - b3 - 5 - 6 - 9 | Cm6/9 Minor ninth = 1 - b3 - 5 - b7 - 9 | Cm9 Minor eleventh = 1 - b3 - 5 - b7 - (9) - 11 | Cm11 Minor thirteenth = 1 - b3 - 5 - b7 - (9) - (11) - 13 | Cm13 Minor Major Seventh = 1 - b3 - 5 - 7 | Cm(Maj7) Minor Major Ninth = 1 - b3 - 5 - 7 - 9 | Cm(Maj9) Minor Major Eleventh = 1 - b3 - 5 - 7 - (9) - 11 | Cm(Maj11) Minor Major Thirteenth = 1 - b3 - 5 - 7 - (9) - (11) - 13 | Cm(Maj13) Minor Seven Flat Five = 1 - b3 - b5 - b7 | Cm7b5 Dominant Formulas: Dominant Seventh = 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 | C7, Cdom7 Ninth = 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - 9 | C9 Elventh = 1 - (3) - 5 - b7 - (9) - 11 | C11 Thirtheenth = 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - (9) - (11) - 13 | C13 Seven Sharp Five = 1 - 3 - #5 - b7 | C7#5 Seven Flat Five = 1 - 3 - b5 - b7 | C7b5 Seven Flat Ninth = 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - b9 | C7b9 Seven Sharp Ninth = 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - #9 | C7#9 Nine Sharp Five = 1 - 3 - #5 - b7 - 9 | C9#5 Nine Flat Five = 1 - 3 - b5 - b7 - 9 | C9b5 Seven Sharp Five Sharp Nine = 1 - 3 - #5 - b7 - #9 | C7#5#9 Seven Sharp Five Flat Nine = 1 - 3 - #5 - b7 - b9 | C7#5b9 Seven Flat Five Sharp Nine = 1 - 3 - b5 - b7 - #9 | Cb5#9 Seven Flat Five Flat Nine = 1 - 3 - b5 - b7 - b9 | C7b5b9 Seven Sharp Eleven = 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - #11 | C7#11 Miscellaneous Formulas: Diminished = 1 - b3 - b5 | Cdim Diminished Seventh = 1 - b3 - b5 - bb7 | Cdim7 Half diminished = 1 - b3 - b5 - b7 | Cm7b5 Suspended Seventh = 1 - 4 - 5 - b7 | C7sus4, C7sus Augmented = 1 - 3 - #5 | Caug, C+ Augmented Seventh = 1 - 3 - #5 - b7 | Caug7, C7#5, C7+ Fifth, Power Chord = 1 - 5 | C5 Flat Fifth = 1 - b5 | Cb5, C-, C-5 Suspended Second = 1 - 2 - 5 | Csus2 Suspended Fourth = 1 - 4 - 5 | Csus4 Assignments 1 - What are the notes of an Am7 chord? (Use the A major scale and Minor Seventh formula) 2 - Draw an Am7 chord diagram and write down the notes that are played on each string. (check the most common types of 7th chords) 3 - Check if the notes from the chord formula and the notes in the chord diagram correspond. 4 - Now build a G diminished seventh chord.(Go through steps 1 to 3) 5 - Play a random chord on your guitar. Use the appropriate chord formula and check if all the notes from the chord on your guitar correspond with the notes from the chord formula. 5 - Write down the difference between a major chord and a minor chord formula? 6 - Write down the formulas for a Maj7, Dom7 and Min7 chord. What they have in common and what are their differences? 7 - Start with memorizing the formulas common chord types. Enjoy building your chords! P.S. Check out the brand new design for 50 COOL BLUES LICKS IMPROVISATION. It's about time! LEARN THE LICKS, THE SCALES, THE TRICKS AND HOW TO USE IT FOR IMPROVISATION. Have a great one!