Many simple, happy songs use only major chords. Many dreamy, pensive, reflective and sorrowful songs use minor chords. Most songs use a mixture of the two, which is how they create complex moods and emotions.
Major chords are written using a single capital letter – A B C – followed by a sharp or flat sign if required – C♯ D♭ F♯.
Minor chords are written the same as major chords with a lower-case 'm': Am Bm Cm C♯m D♭m F♯m.
Advanced chords have additional numbers and symbols – A6 B9 Cm7 C♯−5 D♭m+5 F♯79. Beginners can simply ignore these additions: just use the basic chord, major or minor.
The first chords to learn are those which are not bar chords on the guitar:
Major and minor scales have seven notes called the degrees of the scale. These are referred to by number – 1st 2nd 3rd etc. Every song is sung in a key that is the 1st degree of the scale it uses. The three most important chords in any key are those of the 1st 4th and 5th.
Every major chord has a relative minor, and every minor chord a relative major. This can be summarized in the following tables:
|Major keys||Relative minors|
|Minor keys||Relative majors|
Assume you have chords for a song in C that requires F – a bar chord that beginners find difficult. You could transpose – shift – it into the key of D:
C becomes D.
F becomes G.
G becomes A.
Am becomes Bm etc.
Or maybe a song in E is too low to sing. Try transposing it to G:
E becomes G.
A becomes C.
B becomes D.
C♯m becomes Em etc.