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Spelling Triads And 4-note Chords

Pages: 1 2 3

Finding any Triad using the C Major Scale

How many Keys do we have?
Let's find out by using the Circle of 5ths:

C_G_D_A_E_B_F# = Gb_Db_Ab_Eb_Bb_F_C, going from left to right the last C completes the CIRCLE

The Keys on the left side in red, except for C, contain sharps (#)
The Keys on the right side in blue, except for C, contain flats (b)
The Key of C is the only key with no sharps or flats

Counting each letter once gives us 13 keys, but since F# = Gb we have only 12 Keys.
Some notes are called enharmonic equivalents.
Enharmonic equivalents are notes that have the same pitch but are named differently.
For example: F#/Gb, G#/Ab, A#/Bb, C#/Db, D#/Eb are the most common.
B/Cb, Fb/E, B#/C and E#/F are the uncommon ones.
I use the latter only to simplify the spelling of chords.

The following table is set up according to the type of triad that can be found in the C Major Scale.
The C Major Scale is ideal to use because it contains no sharps or flats.
  • Major Triads I, IV, V located in Major column (used for all chords beginning with letter F, C, G)
  • Minor Triads ii, iii, vi located in Minor column (used for all chords beginning with letter D, A, E)
  • dimTriads viilocated in dim column (used for all chords beginning with letter B)


The 3 columns of the table below contain all the letters of the musical alphabet.
Finding chords belonging to other keys becomes a matter of picking the column
containing the Root of the new chord and making a slight change to it in terms of sharps
or flats, THE SPELLING DOES NOT CHANGE.
When picking a column, the letter is the thing to look at
D or Db belong to the second column, as does E or Eb
In other words, ignore the # or b sign when picking a column

Chords using Arabic Numerals______________________________1_3_5_7_2_4__6
The best way to use the C major Scale is to stack it in thirds as follows: C_E_G_B_D_F_A_C
CHORDS using Roman Numerals____________________________I_iiiV_vii_ii_IV_vi
Picking any 3 consecutive letters yields a chord belonging to the scale (see details in table).

To find chords whose Root is either sharp or flat use the Rule provided at the bottom of table.
For all other chords make changes to formula as specified by the row.

IMPORTANT: B# = C and E# = F
Fb = E and Cb = B

The C Major Scale by Triad Type
Major Minor dim
IV=F_A_C ii=D_F_A
I=C_E_G vi=A_C_E
V=G_B_D iii=E_G_B vii=B_D_F
Formula 1_3_5 1_b3_5 1_b3_b5
ToMakeMinoruse b3 5
ToMakeMajoruse 3 35
ToMakeAuguse #5 3#5 3#5
ToMakedimuse b3b5 b5
Rule = if you sharp(#) or flat(b) a Root, do the same to all other notes in the chord before proceeding


The Formula row shows the chord formula for each type of triad in the C Major Scale.
The other rows show how to alter the formula to get your new chord.

It is very important to memorize the note pattern of C_E_G_B_D_F_A_C in that order
because the pattern is the same for all keys and chords, the only things that change are:
  1. the starting point
  2. some notes will become sharp or flat depending upon key


For example, the key of E major starts on the E so the pattern becomes: E_G_B_D_F_A_C_E
The pattern for the key of A major starts on the A so the pattern becomes: A_C_E_G_B_D_F_A
The sequence is always the same