How does this work in regards to the notes that a chord has?

For example, E major has

|0 E
|0 B
|1 G#
|2 E
|2 B
|0 E

Which, out of E, B, and G# is the 1, the 3, and the 5?

How does this work? And my question also applies to Minor chords and how they work?

What I'm trying to learn here is how to apply it on the fret board but first I need to understand how it works to that I can! :P Not really sure how to word this. Other than, basically I just don't know how the numbers corrospond to the notes in a given chord, major or minor for that matter. ;(

Without making it super complicated, is there anyone that might help me understand this stuff? ^.^
E is 1, G# is 3, B is 5. Its because its an E chord, so E is default the 1, then you go E F# G# A B C# D#, which gives 3 and 5. The octave its in doesn't matter.
Let's think about it differently for a moment. The major E scale is set up like this... (1)E(2)F-sharp(3)G-sharp(4)A(5)B(6)C-sharp(7)D-sharp. Now the minor E will have a flat (3). That is the basic of your question.

this is because that is the order they appear on the E major scale

but i can't really tell you much more than that
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Think about the musical alphabet:

Now think about it in E Major, starting on E:
E - F# - G# - A - B - C - D# - E

Now assign each note a number starting at 1:

E(1) - F#(2) - G#(3) - A(4) - B(5) - C(6) - D#(7) - E(8/1 again)

Basic, unmodified chords are made using every other note (1/3/5), starting on the note the chord is named for. The same counts for minor chords. It doesn't matter what order they show up in the chord, just that they're all there. Musictheory.net is a great resource to learn more about this stuff and why it works that way.
Last edited by sonnikkthunk at Aug 27, 2010,
It should be obvious that E is the "first" as you say.

Now a chord with 3 different notes can either be major or minor. If it's a major chord it the 3rd will be a halfnote (one fret) higher (higher is downwards on the fretboard) than if it's a minor, and vice versa.

The 5th is always the same, unless it's stated that it's E7b5 fx, which just means that the 5th is flat (a halfnote lower).

So, looking at the difference between an E major chord, and an E minor chord - which note changes?

If it's G/G#, you've done well, and found out that G# is the the major 3rd.

Edit: If you know the major and minor scale, you can always count 3 steps and find the 3rd (or any other extension of a chord, like 7ths, 9ths and 13ths.
Last edited by cheesecakes4 at Aug 27, 2010,
These numbers correspond to musical intervals. I'm sure you've heard terms like "minor second" major third" etc. Basically the numbers are a way to notate that. So a minor second would be "b2", a major third would be just "3". Here's a chart that summarizes that in terms of half steps:

unison 		0
m2 		1
M2 		2
m3 		3
M3 		4
P4 		5
Tritone 	6
P5 		7
m6 		8
M6 		9
m7 		10
M7 		11
P8 (octave) 	12

So now since the chord is an E chord, we know that the root is E. This will be notated as "1". Do not confuse this with the numbers under the half-steps column (this is completely different).

Ok then next all you need to do is find the number of half-steps between the other notes and the roots, look at what the interval is and you've got the intervals for the chord.

So for E that would give us:
Root, M3, P5 (Root, Major Third, Perfect Fifth).  

This would then translate to:
^Nice post. This is exactly right.

The numbers represent intervals - not necessarily scale degrees. For example A C E makes an Am triad and those notes also represent the first third and fifth scale degree of the A minor scale. But, you wouldn't write the minor chord as 1 3 5, you write it as 1 ♭3 5 because you are representing the intervals that the chord is made up of NOT the scale degrees.
Oh wow.. I think I've got it now! I knew if i just asked, some smart folks would help. And look, here you all are!

So, just to be certain that i've got it:

If it's a major I can just start at the root note, in my example it was E, which is the 1st. And then work my way up using major pentatonic scale to find that the 3rd is G#, and follow the scale to the 5th, which gets me to B.

And if it's E minor, I start on the root/1st, which would be E again. But being minor, i'd need to drop down a half-step from (in my example) the first fret on the G string and let it be open G. And the 5th would also then just be regular old B, like it is in the chord E major.

I knew how the chords work and how to finger them on the fret board, of course, but yay! Now I understand this portion of theory MUCH better and each of your replies helped me get it through my head.

Sorry if it seemed like such a silly question hehe. I never have known much about actual theory and am trying to learn as best i can. Sorry for the long posts. Taking all this pain medicine for my severe nerve damage really messes with my head.

So what it sounds like my next step would be then to really cement this knowledge in my head is that I should learn the Major pentatonic scale now that i've got the minor version down as far as placement goes.

And i'm not even gonna begin to think about combining the 2 scales when i improvise just yet. As in my other post, i clearly still have much things to learn!

Again, thank you all that replied Very much!

PS. if how i described my understanding of this, after reading your posts seems like i don't hav ethe main idea down, feel free to correct me. :P

Edit: hopefully to help clarity of my post
Last edited by Rvn at Aug 27, 2010,
I think you should get in the habit of using the major (heptatonic) scale to construct chords as opposed to the pentatonic.

If you really want this ingrained with a solid structure from the basics, learn about key signatures, scale construction (for basic major and minor), intervals, and then chord construction.
Quote by DiminishedFifth
Who's going to stop you? The music police?
Ok, am curious now :::

Why do you think major heptatonic(not having heard this term before) is better than pentatonic.. like, what are the difference? I'm asking that bc if i just look at an online fretboard and compare the two my head will explode.

How do you mean, 'intervals'? Is that transitioning between chords when improvising or ???

Quote by Rvn
Ok, am curious now :::

Why do you think major heptatonic(not having heard this term before) is better than pentatonic.. like, what are the difference? I'm asking that bc if i just look at an online fretboard and compare the two my head will explode.

How do you mean, 'intervals'? Is that transitioning between chords when improvising or ???


Well the heptatonic scales are just the traditional 7 tone scales (C D E F G A B C) as opposed to the pentatonic which has 5 tones. It's not that I think it's better, but when it comes to chord construction the major scale is the better choice in my opinion. As far as I know, the major scale is what is always referred to with the numerical notation (1 3 5, 1 b3 5 b7, 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 etc)
I recommend getting into the habit of using that for construction because some things simply can't be constructed without some extra thinking when using the pentatonic scale, especially if you don't know the notes of the scale/chord well.

If you had to construct a Gmaj6add 9, this is much simpler with a heptatonic scale.
G major 6 = 1 3 5 6, then the add 9 which is the second degree
so 1 3 5 6 9(2).

I can just pick out the notes I need easily instead of having to think about where the notes that aren't in a pentatonic scale would be. This is especially true when it comes to figuring them out using the guitar itself. Of course with a certain amount of experience it's irrelevant but that's beside the point

A major pentatonic has the degrees:
1 2 3 5 6

A major scale has the degrees:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Hell, even the major scale is used in my numerical description of the pentatonic.

The major scale has a fourth and a seventh which the pentatonic doesn't.

Forgive my wall of text

An interval is the distance between two notes. Chords and scales are constructed from intervals.

1 3 5 means a root, a major third, and a perfect fifth.

Learning key signatures and intervals is the first step towards learning chord and scale construction which is why I recommended it. Once you can construct these on your own, you'll be able to do it without needing a specific scale or pattern to play, you'll be able to do it for any chord, scale or what have you, in any key; and you will be able to do this in your head on the spot. Then move it to the instrument, whatever instrument that may be.
Quote by DiminishedFifth
Who's going to stop you? The music police?
Last edited by FacetOfChaos at Aug 27, 2010,
Great info thank for another reply, appreciate it!

It's a lot to take in all of this stuff but the suggestions in this thread and ideas are definitely gonna be helpful for me. Who knows, maybe someday i'll get frisky and upload a video with some progress!

Thank again, really helpful.
Take it all bit by bit and definitely don't forget to actually apply everything you learn!
Good luck, and whenever you get more questions feel free to ask us here
Quote by DiminishedFifth
Who's going to stop you? The music police?