Chords In Keys

Let's tackle a bit about music theory. Understand what are chords in keys! :)

View the full lesson at Chords In Keys | JustinGuitar

easiest way to remember which is major/minor is in a major key chords 1-4-5 are major. in a minor 1-4-5 are minor. just think of the blues


Welcome to the forum Jason
If you’re going to remember in Major 1 4 5 are major you may as well add 2 3 6 are minor
and 7 is Diminished.
minors a little trickier. minor diminished Major minor minor Major Major

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Hello @gristam and welcome to the Community.

I’m sure that 1, 4, 5 memory aid will help a lot of people.

The 1, 4, 5 are major in major and minor in minor.

Nice, simple, neat.

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | Community Moderator, Official Guide, JustinGuitar Approved Teacher

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The note for the chords in the key of C in the learn more page shows the minor chords listed twice

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Hi, just wanted to say there’s a small mistake (duplicate writing) in the article:

Major Chords: C, F, G,Minor Chords: Dm, Em, Am

Minor Chords: Dm, Em, Am

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Not sure if this is the right time to be asking this so far in the lesson, but I saw the song Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones is in the key of G major. When I looked at all the chords in that song, I saw that they matched the scale (G, Bm, C, D) except for two of them. Am and F are in that song, but those notes are not in the G major scale. Is that normal to sometimes play chords that are not in the key of a song?


IMHO, the right time to ask, is when you have a question and ask :wink: I am still a very much beginner. But the more songs I look through, it seem to be much more common, that there are chords borrowed from other keys, one way or the other. Also some songs change keys in the middle of a song and then go back again to the key the song started in. Some start in one key and end in another. No limits really. - Richard have made an extensive post about borrowed chords.

using borrowed chords


That makes sense. Thanks for the reply!


Hello @abcdefg1234 and welcome to the community.

Many thanks for the alert, I have fixed the double-entry.

If you see any issues that require a fix can you please tag (using the @ symbol) myself and @DavidP and @LievenDV - that will ensure it gets prompt attention. Thanks. :slight_smile:

Good question based on your learning Dave.

Note that Am and is extension Am11 are in the key of G (diatonic chords) so it is only F (Fadd9) that seems not to fit.

The G major scale and its diatonic triads (chords):

In the borrowed chord topic kindly linked by Kim above, Example 5 has a progression in the key of G major too, from where I can use the same partial Circle of Fifths.

Look at the parallel key of G minor to see that the F chord (extended in the song to Fadd9) is borrowed from the parallel minor key.

I hope that helps.


Thank you for that very thorough and informative answer! Appreciate it.


I just wanted to say, I am so pleased that I now understand the point of scales!! It’s great that you can link them to the specific chords. Being I prefer finger picking it’s like a door has been push open. Many thanks


@Richard_close2u - I think the lesson text needs californication clarification.

The main riff, the verse and the chorus all use notes from the C major (/ A minor) scale.

However, when it goes to the solo, the song modulates to the key of A major. All the notes in the solo are derived from the A major scale. After the solo we go back to the key of C major (/ A minor).

Just thought I’d put it here in case people are trying to figure out the solo by ear and wondering why it sounds off in the key of C major. :slight_smile:

Alternatively, House of the Rising Sun might be a better choice for this lesson? I think everyone can sing the vocal melody which is in C major, so it should be doable.

My brain has just exploded. I’m piano trained so I can read scores and know the scales but when it came to guitar I never understood why someone would say the song is in C and then we end up strumming so many different chords. Now I do!!!


I really feel like I had a breakthrough “lightbulb” moment during this lesson. Just mastering the C scale in open position and playing around with C, F, A minor and D minor chord arpeggios, single note improvs from the C scale, and strum patterns with all stops really opened my eyes to the great songs I can do just with this scale in one position! Learning theory is so important (to me at least).