Chord Structure

Chords, Symbols, Formulas...

Chord structure consists of notes and intervals. The chart below details each chord by name, type, symbol and formula.

Triads: 3-note chords

When we refer to these chords, major and minor always refer to the 3rd interval, while augmented and diminished refer to the 5th interval.

  • major and minor always refer to the 3rd interval
  • augmented and diminished refer to the 5th interval
  • major infers the 3rd and 5th are untouched
  • minor infers the 3rd is flattened
  • augmented infers the 5th is sharpened
  • diminished infers the 3rd and 5th are flattened
  • sus or sus4 infers the 3rd is sharpened (4th)
  • sus2 infers the 3rd is double flattened (2nd)

You will find a more detailed explanation about these intervals including relevant charts on the music chords page.

There are many symbols associated with chord types, and each one describes the type of chord and what notes will be played in the chord. Simply break each chord down to its seperate parts and build it. Consider the following:

  • Cm - infers a C chord with a flattened 3rd.
  • Cm7 - infers a C chord with a flattened 3rd and a dominant or flattened 7th.

Chords - Types - Symbols - Formulas

The following chart shows you the chords, symbols and formulas for almost every chord you will ever play. If you know your scales and chord formulas you will be able to calculate the notes of any chord for any instrument that utilizes chords. With the major chords, the symbol ? indicates the chord in question, therefore a C major chord can quite simply be written as C... any chord written without other references or symbols is always a major chord.

Chords Chord Type Chord Symbols Formula (notes)
Triads: Major ?,  M,  Δ,  ma, maj 1 - 3 - 5
3 note chords Minor m,  - ,  mi,  min 1 - ♭3 - 5
  Diminished dim,  º ,  m(♭5) 1 - ♭3 - ♭5
  Diminished 5th  -5 1 - 3 - ♭5
  Augmented aug, +  1 - 3 - #5
  Suspended 4th sus, sus4 1 - 4 - 5
  Suspended 2nd sus2 1 - 2 - 5
 
7th Chords: Dominant 7th 7, dom7 1 - 3 - 5 - ♭7
4 note chords Minor 7th m7, min7, -7 1 - ♭3 - 5 - ♭7
  Major 7th maj7,  M7,  ∆7 1 - 3 - 5 - 7
  Minor Major 7th  mM7, minMaj7 1 - ♭3 - 5 - 7  
  Suspended 7th 7sus4 1- 4 - 5 - ♭7
  Augmented 7th  +7,  aug7,  7+5,  7#5 1 - 3 - #5 - ♭7
  Augmented Major 7th +M7,  M7+5,  M7#5 1 - 3 - #5 - 7
  7th Augmented Ninth  7+9 1 - 3 - 5 - ♭7 - # 9
  Half Diminished 7th ø7,  m7b5,  m7-5, -7(b5) 1 - ♭3 - ♭5 - ♭7
  Diminished 7th о7,  dim 7 1 - ♭3 - ♭5 - ♭♭7
  7th Diminished Fifth 7 -5 1 - 3 -♭5 - ♭7
  7th Flat Nine 7 - 9 1 - 3 - 5 - ♭7 - ♭9
 
6th Chords: Sixth 6 1- 3 - 5 - 6
4 note chords Minor 6 m6 1 - ♭3 - 5 - 6
5 note chords Major 6th with added 9th 6/9 1 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 9
 
9th Chords Ninth 9 1 - 3 - 5 - ♭7 - 9
5 note chords Minor Ninth  m9 1 - ♭3 - 5 - ♭7 - 9
  Major Ninth  maj9,  M9,  ∆9 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9
  Ninth Diminished Fifth  9 -5 1 - 3 - ♭5 - ♭7 - 9
 
11th Chords: 6 note Eleventh 11 1 - 3 - 5 - ♭7 - 9 - 11
       
13th Chords: 7 note Thirteenth (11th usually omitted) 13 1 - 3 - 5 -♭7 - 9 - 11 - 13


Chord Structure
I hope you have enjoyed this session on Chord Structure. Next time you are playing chords and are unsure of how to play a chord, if you know the chord formula, you can work it out. You might be thinking, how can I remember all these formulas? Trust me when I tell you, the more you play and take note of chord formulas, the more you will remember them. This is especially useful when playing guitar and you need that chord high up the neck towards the guitar body. As long as you know your scales, formulas, and guitar notes, you can make up any chord, anywhere... very handy.
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