Okay, when people say that A Ionian has chords Amaj, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim, what exactly do they mean? I understand intervals and all that, but I guess I don't understand why II, III, and VI are minor, and why VII is dim. Are these the chords you're supposed to use over this mode or scale?
Quote by gamayshark
Okay, when people say that A Ionian has chords Amaj, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim, what exactly do they mean? I understand intervals and all that, but I guess I don't understand why II, III, and VI are minor, and why VII is dim. Are these the chords you're supposed to use over this mode or scale?

Ok, let's use something simple like C major.

Now, chords are built off of intervals of thirds in most cases with the exception of extensions and the like.

Now, take The C major scale.


Then, take each degree and stack two thirds on top of them to get the basic triad. Since we are in C major, we can stack thirds with the notes in C major.


There are our stacked thirds for the root note, C.

Do this with every scale degree and you get this:


Now, all you have to do is determine whether each triad is major, minor, or diminished.

Remember, a major triad has these intervals in relation to the root note: major third, perfect fifth. A minor triad has: minor third, perfect fifth. Lastly, a diminished triad has minor third, diminished fifth.

When that's all done and you've analyzed the triads with the chords, you have these chords in the key of C major.

C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, B diminished. Every major scale follows this pattern of chords.

If you use these chords over it's respective major scale's modes, it'll usually fit, depending on how you use them. Other scales will work too, so remember, nothing is set in stone.

Hope that helped!

Last edited by kirbyrocknroll at Sep 8, 2006,
Chords are constructed using diatonic triads within a scale - it might be easier for you to think of it as 'taking your first note, and then taking every other note to construct a chord' - i.e - we want a triad, we take our first note, then take the next two notes every other note.

You'll have seen people say that the chords for a major scale are
I - ii - iii - IV - V - vi - vii°
and wondering how they came to that conclusion.

So in, A.. you'd see.

I - Amaj.
ii - Bmin.
iii - C#min.
IV - Dmaj.
V - Emaj.
vi - F#min.
vii° - G#dim.

For the purpose of this...

Uppercase numeral - I/IV/V/III... signifies a major chord.
Lowercase numeral - i/ii/iii/v... signifies a minor chord.
° - ii°/iii°/vii° signifies a diminished chord.

And to understand that, you have to use diatonic thirds to build each chord. And I'll show you how..

Take our first note, A. We want to find the first chord of A Major, so we take the A major scale.

Then, we take our first note, A - and count two diatonic thirds, or a perfect fifth away from that A note, to find our first triad in A major. Like this...

[B]A[/B] - B - [B]C#[/B] - D - [B]E[/B] - F# - G#
[B]1[/B]   2   [B]3[/B]
        [B]1[/B]    2   [B]3[/B]  

Using diatonic thirds, every other note we land on, we have a chord tone. Using that starting on A - we have the notes A - C# - E. 1 - 3 - 5 of A major, which we know is the formula for a major chord, so we have an Amaj chord. Our I chord.

Then, on to our second note, B.

A - [B]B[/B] - C# - [B]D[/B] - E - [B]F#[/B] - G#
    [B]1[/B]   2    [B]3[/B]
             [B]1[/B]   2   [B]3[/B]

Using diatonic thirds, we have the notes B - D - F#, refer to the B major scale..

B - C# - D# - E - F# - G# - A#

We have the notes B - D - F#.

From the major scale..

B = 1.
D = b3.
F# - 5.

1 - b3 - 5 is the formula for a minor triad, so we know our chord is Bmin. Our ii chord.

And on it goes using simple diatonic thirds, and you have the chords for your key.

Edit: OMG! Brando I hate you!
Last edited by Johnljones7443 at Sep 8, 2006,
The G#minor will not work cause it needs a D# for its 5th. Instead, since the A majar scale has A B C# D E F# G#, a D# will not work. Instead you have a D which will make it a Diminished.

Dim= 1+3b(minor iii)+5b. Isnt it called a tritone? (srorry if I confuse you even more.)

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Ok, well then are you "supposed" to use only those chords over the major scale, then move over to the next note as the root (sorry, I don't know what else to call it) for the next mode. Like, in A major, would you use Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim, Amaj over B Dorian, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim, Amaj, Bm over C# Phrygian, and so on?
^I don't know if you're asking something like 'Do you play a specific mode over a specific chord?' .. and well, no - you don't have to. But if you use that thirds pattern and extend the chords, you see the chords become specific to a particular mode.

The order of modes in A Major goes like this...

I - A - Ionian.
ii - B - Dorian.
iii - C# - Phrygian.
IV - D - Lydian.
V - E - Mixolydian.
vi - F# - Aeolian.
vii° - G# - Locrian.

Now, it's a good idea you're familiar with each mode and it's scale degree formula, if you will.. and how to construct chords using thirds and reference to the major scale.

I'll use E, Mixolydian and a dominant chord as an example here. So, we go back to our A major scale and use thirds to build, not a triad this time, but an extended chord, by adding another diatonic third.

Like so...

A - B - C# - D - [B]E[/B] - F# - [B]G#[/B] - A - [B]B[/B] - C# - [B]D[/B] - E....
                 [B]1[/B]   2    [B]3[/B]  
                          [B]1[/B]    2   [B]3[/B] 
                                   [B]1[/B]   2    [B]3[/B]

So, using diatonic thirds.. or counting every other note until we have four different notes starting on E, we finish with the notes: E - G# - B - D. We're in E, so we refer back to the E Major scale and see where our notes fit in and what formula we come up with.

E ([I]1[/I]) - F# ([I]2[/I]) - G# ([I]3[/I]) - A ([I]4[/I]) - B ([I]5[/I]) - C# ([I]6[/I]) - D# ([I]7[/I])

Taking the notes you get from counting in thirds, you compare them to the E Major scale.

E = 1 of Emajor.
G# = 3 of Emajor.
B = 5 of Emajor.
D= b7 of E major.

We end up with [B]1 - 3 - 5 - b7[/B].

Which is the formula for a dominant 7th chord. So the chord we have is E7. Then, take a look at the formula for the Mixolydian scale in reference to the Major scale.

[B]Major[/B]: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7.
[B]Mixo[/B]: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7.

You see that our E7 chord (1 - 3 - 5 - b7) fits perfectly into E Mixolydian because of the b7 (D# to D) - so from that, you can take the knowledge that you know that playing E Mixolydian over E7 is going to work, because they notes in our E7 are present in E Mixolydian. It's a mode specific chord, if you will.

Then you can try it with other chords and modes. Take D Lydian from A Major and count 6 diatonic thirds. (Getting really mode specific here).

A - B - C# - [B]D[/B] - E - [B]F#[/B] - G# - [B]A[/B] - B - [B]C#[/B] - D - [B]E[/B] - F# - [B]G#[/B] - A...
             [B]1[/B]   2   [B]3[/B] 
                     [B]1[/B]    2    [B]3[/B]
                               [B]1[/B]   2   [B]3[/B]
                                       [B]1[/B]    2   [B]3[/B] 
                                                [B]1[/B]   2    [B]3[/B]

Doing that, we're left with the notes:D - F# - A - C# - E - G#. And so, we refer back to our parent scale, D Major; counting our notes in order.

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

So, lets compare them..

D = 1 of Dmajor.
F# = 3 of Dmajor.
A = 5 of Dmajor.
C# = 7 of Dmajor.
E = 9 (2) of Dmajor.
G# = #11 (#4) of Dmajor.

We end up with 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 - #11.

Which, is the formula for a maj7#11 chord. We have Dmaj7#11. Then refer to the mode synonymous with our IV, Lydian and compare it to major again.

Major: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7.
Lydian: 1 - 2 - 3 - #4 - 5 - 6 - 7.

And you see.. that #4 (#11) (G to G#) in Lydian fits perfectly into the chord we built using thirds off D.

That's really how you come to decide which mode to play over which chord, and of course.. they're not rules, you don't have to, but atleast you now know why they're suggested as a mode, because once you get into extended chords.. you see how they fit and get chord specific.

So to answerr your question, you can play them, but you don't have to.
johnljones you know your stuff haha
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it took you 15 consecutive hours of practice to realize that playing guitar makes you better at playing guitar. congratulations.

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hey wots a quick way to get the scale without working out the notes in the chords then figuring out what scale has them notes and all that cos im crap it takes me ages, say i was playin like 4 or 5 powerchords and wanted to solo over it how would i go about gettin the key quickly?
^learn and study the circle of fifths so that you memorize how many sharps and flats each key has, as well as the notes in these keys...and there's the easy way out; apply the minor pentatonic scale shape to the root note of whatever chord you're playing over (which i highly advise against, scales are more than shapes)...but if you want to be able to see which scale to use over which chord quickly, you just have to do it; learn the theory and apply it - practice it daily and you will become familiar with different chords and which scales go along with it

what i mean by apply it is to just do it...for example, anyone can learn how to read sheet music in enough time, but to become any better at sight-reading is to find which notes correspond to certain frets on the fretboard - you can't learn this simply by looking at sheet music, you have to break it into different parts and work on it...same idea applies here
Quote by BigFatSandwich
it took you 15 consecutive hours of practice to realize that playing guitar makes you better at playing guitar. congratulations.

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Axe_grinder pwns!!!!

Member #2 of the "Official UG Teabaggers' Cult". PM Slayer224 to join.

Yumm circle of fifths.

The Circle of Fifths

This is a device used to determine the notes of each key in the major scale. Here is a lovely picture of it. Take it, hold it, and love it.

Now, as you can see, C is up at the top and is in the middle. That is because it has no sharps or flats. As you move clockwise, you will move into the sharp keys. As you move left, you will run through the flat keys. By sharp and flat keys, I mean that is how you would write the scales.

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

I've bolded every new sharp written in each key, progressing clockwise through the circle of fifihs. As you can see, the sharps are added in this order:


This can be remembered with the acronym:


This is where the sharp keys end.

Now for the flat keys, going counter-clockwise.

F major: F G A Bb C D E
Bb major: Bb C D Eb F G A
Eb major: Eb F G A Bb C D Eb
Ab major: Ab Bb C Db Eb F G
Db major: Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
Gb major: Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb
Cb major: Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb

I've bolded the new flats this time. the order is reverse of the order that you add sharps, B E A D G C F. Which can be remembered with the acronym:


I know this is hard to take in at first, but give it time and don't rush into it. It'll come. It's like a language. The more you use it, the easier it'll come eventually.