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Major is considered a "happy" sound.            Major will be Red        (1  3  5) 
Minor is considered a "somber" sound.         minor will be Blue.      (1 b3 5)

The minor triad is stable.
So is the
major triad  

Both are made of scale intervals from the Major Scale.
A minor triad is an inverted major triad.
Major  is a Major 3rd  +  minor 3rd         Minor   is a minor 3rd  +  Major 3rd

major minor

A minor triad can be (6  1  3) of the major scale.  
6 is the most stable "unstable" note, 1 and 3 are stable.  

See Modes for more clarification.  

Because each triad is stable
If you play a minor chord and add the major 3rd, it'll sound wrong.     (Blues music does this)
If you play a Major chord and add the minor 3rd, it'll sound wrong.

Each basic chord is Major or minor.     With the exception of chord 7.
major minor chords

The 7 chord is Diminished.  It has a b5 instead of 5.  
It's very tense, and it ussually resolves to the 1 chord.   It always does in popular music.

chord relationships

Label Major, minor and diminished with roman numerals.  You'll see this quite often.

roman numerals

"I haven't played a proper chord in years.  I don't play proper guitar [laughs].  I avoid the major third like the plague.  I like the ambiguity between the major and the minor chords.  I tend to isolate the chords down to two or three notes and then octaves of the notes."      -The Edge


The first chord you play sets the tone.  It influences the sound of the next chord.  

Relative Major and Relative Minor  describe patterns of chord usage. 

Every key has a relative Major and minor.
The systems use the exact same notes and chords.  They're just labeled differently.

The reason: Chords control the "tonality".  
If you're playing minor chords, no scale will make the music sound Major.  
You have to play Major chords to sound Major.

That's why Major and minor are two different systems.  

Em is the Relative minor Key of G major.      
If your song is in G major (G), but you start playing in E minor (Em)
your song will be minor until you switch to Major, and then it will be Major.  


A minor key starts on the 6 chord, instead of the 1 chord.
The 6 chord becomes the 1 chord.

Chords  1, 4, 5 in minor are 
6, 2, 3 in Major.
Chords  1, 4, 5 in Major are still  1, 4, 5

relative major minor

E minor       1 note is E            1 chord is E minor       The 4 and 5 chords are minor.
G Major       1 note is G            1 chord is G Major       The 4 and 5 chords are Major.

Em is part of G Major.  But you can think of it as a seperate key.  

1 4 5 chords in Major and minor.


1 4 5 in minor and 1 4 5 in Major are Defining Chord Progressions.  They define the key or mode.

These progressions can only occur certain ways (in a key).  When you hear one, it tells your ear the root note.
Make your music ambiguouse by avoiding these progresions until you're ready to identify the key.     

Defining Chord Progressions         Modes       Chord Progressions    
HARMONIC CHOICES (songwriting)

scale comparison

The minor scale is also called the Aeolian mode.   (mode 6)

The Chords follow the same pattern, but are labeled differently because of the different interval qualities.

maj min mode

NEXT PAGE:    Modes

Theory page