Steve Taylor

Steve graduated from Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music in 1995 with a degree in Songwriting.  In...

Chords in the Key of C

I can be hard for beginners to understand when and why to use Major or Minor chords at different times. This lessons aims to shed light on that and explain which chords FIT in the key of C and why.

The Key of C is the typlical place to start, because it has no sharps or flats. It is made up of each note -  C, D, E, F, G, A and B. As you can see on the fretboard, this makes a pattern that is somewhat irregular, because some notes are one step apart, while other notes are two steps apart.

C Major Chord - If you look at the C Major Chord, it is made up of the notes C, E and G, or the first, third and fifth notes in the scale.

D Minor Chord - The D Minor Chord is made up of the notes D, F and A. Like the C Major, you alternate notes from the C scale, only you start with the 2nd note (D). This is a minor chord because D is closer to F than C is to E.

E Minor Chord - The E Minor Chord is made up of the notes E, G and B. The distance between these notes is the same as they are in the D Minor (and A Minor which will be shown later).

F Major - The F Major Chord is made up of the notes F, A and C.

G Major - The G Major Chord is made up of the notes G, B and D.

A Minor - The A Minor Chord is made up of the notes A, C and E.

B Diminished - The B Diminished Chord is made of the notes B, D and F. This is called Diminished because the distances between the notes B and D as well as D and F are shorter than with the other chords. You still have the same pattern of playing every other notes in the key (starting with B), but the pattern on the fretboard is different.

C Major Scale - here you see the C Major Scale by itself. Instead of showing the note names - we are showing the degrees. For this lesson it is more important to pay attention to the distance between the notes, so the names don't really matter.


G Major and G7

Hi, Steve.

These diagrams really simplify chord theory.

I have read elsewhere that G7 is the chord in the key of C and not G Major. Could you explain the difference between the two and whether both of them are acceptable in the key of C or not?


RE: G Major and G7

Hey, AR.

I'll try to answer your question. Let's compare the two scales:

G Major: G A B C D E F# G

G7: G A B C D E F G

The dominant 7 chord has the 7th note of the scale flattened as compared to the corresponding Major scale. So, the F# in G Major scale gets flattened to F in G7 scale.

Now, notice how the G7 scale has the exact same notes as the C Major scale: C D E F G A B C. That's why G7 is a chord in the key of C and not G Major.

I hope this makes it clear for you.

Happy guitaring!


That makes so much sense. Thanks!

Happy guitaring to you, too! :)