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Chords basic crash course

Hi there, lets learn about chords. The first step is DO NOT PANIC. Chords are easy!

What are chords?

A chord consists of notes played together. Playing a chord sounds fuller and has a character to it (e.g. happy/sad) compared to playing a single note on its own. Usually, ‘major’ chords portray brighter and happier sounds, while ‘minor’ chords sound sadder and darker.

C major chord

Lets use the C major chord for example. For C major, C is the 1st note. Chords are made of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th note. Since the 1st note is C in this case, the other notes will be E (3rd note from C) and G (5th note from C).

The letter assigned to the chord will always be the 1st note. This means that for G major, its first note is G, and for A minor, its first note is A. Don’t worry about the word ‘major’ or ‘minor’ for now, we will cover that later!

G major chord – G, B, D
A minor chord – A, C, E
F major chord – F, A, C

These 4 chords, C major, G major, A minor and F major are the 4 ‘MAGIC’ chords you can use to make your first pop song. The short form of these chords are C, G, Am, F.

See this little list of songs which use C, G, Am, F as their chord progression!

  1. Demons (Imagine Dragons)
  2. I’m Yours (Jason Mraz)

If we mix up these chords a little, we can get the pattern of other songs like

  • Baby (Justin Biber) C-Am-F-G
  • Chasing the Sun (The Wanted) Am-F-C-G
  • Ghost (Justin Bieber) Am-F-C-G
  • Rude (MAGIC!) F-G-C-Am
  • Hey, Soul Sister (Train) C-G-Am-F

The 4 chords C, G, Am, F are actually the 1st, 5th, 6th and 4th chords of C major scale. The C major scale refers to the 8 notes in running order which make up the key of C major. (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C)

C, G, Am, F are the 1st, 5th, 6th, 4th chords with reference to C major scale.

This means that if you choose C major as your key for your song, you can use these notes and chords when making the song.

In this section, you have just learnt

  1. What are chords
  2. What are the 4 main chords for pop songs
  3. The C major scale

Next, we will take a look at how to use chords to create a foundation for your song.