Another method for creating the 4 chord types

If you’ve not yet mastered all of the note names in the major scales, it can be challenging to remember which notes are the 3rd and 5th notes of any given scale.
A simpler approach is to learn two different intervals: a major 3rd and a minor 3rd. An interval is the distance between any two notes.

A major 3rd interval = 4 semitones.
A minor 3rd interval = 3 semitones.

All 4 chord types are different combinations of these two intervals:

Major chord = a major 3rd + a minor 3rd
Minor chord = a minor 3rd + a major 3rd
Augmented chord = a major 3rd + a major 3rd
Diminished chord = a minor 3rd + a minor 3rd

Let’s use an A as our root for the 4 chord types.

A Major chord = a major 3rd + a minor 3rd
Using the circle of notes, find the A and count the next 4 semitones moving clockwise. The note you end on is C#. So, C# is a major 3rd above the note A. So the first two notes of the A major chord are A and C#. Next, start at the C# in the circle of notes and count the next 3 semitones, again moving clockwise. You’ll find that a minor 3rd above C# is an E. So, the A major chord is A, C# and E as the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes in the A major scale.

A minor chord is the opposite of a major chord. It has a minor 3rd at the bottom and the major 3rd above that. Again, starting on A using the circle of notes, three semitones (a minor 3rd) to the right of A is C. A major third (4 semitones) above the C is an E. So the A minor chord is spelled A,C and E.

An augmented chord is two Major 3rd intervals. We know from the major chord that C# is a major third above the A. What note is 4 semitones (a major 3rd) clockwise from C# in the circle of notes? E#.
So, the A augmented chord is spelled A, C# and E#.

The diminished chord is two minor third intervals. We know from the minor chord that C is a minor third above A. What note is a minor 3rd (3 semitones) clockwise from C? D# or Eb, which are e harmonic equivalents. So the A diminished chord is A, C and D#.

This works no matter what key you’re in, what the root of the chord is, etc.
Just using the circle of notes and two intervals (a major third and a minor third), you can make any of the 4 chord types starting on any note. For me, remembering those 3 things (the circle of notes, a major 3rd interval = 4 semitones, and a minor 3rd interval = 3 semitones) is much easier than memorizing the notes of the 11 possible major scales.

Just a different way to look at chord construction.

Let me know if this works for you!

Julia Gatliff


Welcome, @jgatliff !

Welcome to the Community, Julia.

Does make sense and I expect in time may aid you in learning the scales as well.