Playing with the Three Popular Chords


in Music Theory

Recently, I've gotten a few questions about which chords to learn first or what are the 3 most popular chords to know. This has always been a struggle for the beginning musician to understand what to learn. Let's look at what this means and how it's just a start.

The three most popular chords usually refers to the three major chords of the diatonic major harmonic system. Don't let that scare you, it's a lot of big words to describe the major chords used in any major key signature.

I believe you have to learn all the chords of these systems. Major chords become very boring after a while and wouldn't be nice to through in a few minor chords or others?

There's More than Major Chords

four chord types in CIn the music theory course and workshops we go into the chords very heavily after you've learned some of the other basic concepts.

Getting to chords, you learn the 4 basic triad chords of major, minor, diminished, and augmented. The diatonic major system uses the major, minor, and diminished chords.

Learning the principles you then apply these to all the scales in the different keys, where you will get a very deep understanding of chords, scales, in all the keys.

OK, back to the ..

Three Popular Chords

The 3 major chords in the major systems are I – IV – V (V7 is also used as this creates tension to resolve back home to the I chord).

These chords are build on the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes of a major scale. Each chord is built with the pattern of 4 half steps plus 3 half steps or in the interval language root plus major 3rd plus minor 3rd.

Refer to the chords of In the key of C Major system below, those base notes are C, F, G. and the chords are:

I – C major chord, plays the notes C – E – G
IV – F Major plays the notes F – A – C
v7 – G Major, which is expanded to use the 7th interval playing notes G – B – D – F.  Leave off the F to use just the G major chord.

Of course these basic major chords change with each key signature, but the basic principles are the same.

Mistakes in Notation

I've included this C Major system representation above to see if you can pick up on the error in the call outs.

Using the roman numeral system we use upper case to define major chords and lower case to define minor chords. The degree sign is used to define diminished chords.

Did you pick up that the III chord really should have been iii, that is its a minor chord. These kinds of mistakes happen and you have to know your theory to determine if indeed it's a mistake or if it was meant to be changed to enhance the song.

Some times it's these little things that can really throw you when you are trying to learn.

To review the basics of chords scales and other elements go to the following:

For chords:

For Scales:

For Other music elements:

If you're going to be a good musician and learn to play well you have to get these principles down cold. If you are struggling with these concepts consider the music course, it was designed to condense 4 years of music theory down to one year to get you past these hurdles.

Remember learning and enjoying music is a lifetime journey. So be patent and prescient and you'll love that journey.

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