AP-007 Why are chords major or minor?

Guitar Question about Guitar Chords

Question

Why are chords called major chords or minor chords?

~Tony

Answer

Major and minor chords have a difference in one particular note, the third.  Let’s look at how it gets that name through a simple example.

C major chords are composed of three notes: C E G.  C minor chords have one slight variation: C E♭ G.

Because C to E spans 3 note letters (C D E), its interval is a third.  However, there are two different third intervals in our example.  The major chord has a major third interval.  The minor chord has a minor third interval.

C to E is a major third interval, which is 2 steps in pitch.
C to E♭ is a minor third interval, which is 1.5 steps in pitch.

All major chords have a major third interval from the root to the third.  All minor chords have a minor third interval from the root to the third.

If you are familiar with open chord forms, look at the difference between E major and E minor.  You will notice the third changes by a half step.  A major and A minor show the same difference.  Another example is D major and D minor.  All of these chords are great examples of the 1/2 step difference that separates the major chords from the minor chords.

For more on this topic, I highly recommend my lesson on chord construction and my lesson on intervals.  If you want even more, check out my book, which covers both topics and many more.

~Patmac

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