Is Theory Really What They Say It Is? Part 2

A continuation of lesson one. Expanding on the four basic types of chord classification, and us of harmony their-in.

Ultimate Guitar
Greetings! I recently put up part one of this lesson, and had one wonderful comment by a fellow UG member who said they are waiting for round two.

In this continuation of Part 1, I wanna start where I left off. I asked the readers (all of anyone who read the article) to start practicing Major, Minor, Augmented, and Diminished chords in the keys of A and B.

To touch on that basis: Reference these building blocks, or intervals. (Fig 1.)

When stacked create these chords. (Fig. 2) Please note that this is in the key of E.


  • Tonic or 1 - E
  • Minor 2nd - F
  • Major 2nd - F#
  • Minor 3rd - G
  • Major 3rd - G#
  • Perfect 4th - A
  • Flatted 5th or Tri-Tone - A#
  • Perfect 5th - B
  • Minor 6th - C
  • Major 6th - C#
  • Minor 7th - D
  • Major 7th or leading tone - D#
  • Tonic or 1 an octave higher - E


  • Major-Spelled 1, M3, P5
  • Minor-Spelled 1, m3, P5
  • Augmented-Spelled 1,M3, Aug5 (sharp 5)
  • Diminished-Spelled 1, m3, Dim5 (flat 5)
Lets translate these idea's into the challenge or practice regimen I set out for people trying to get the basics of these lessons and theory. Using the criteria I displayed and the notes I set out, lest build these four types of chords in A and B.

First here is the chromatic scale in A (I use a piece of paper and a pen to write these out big, then us the penned capped to count over to the next interval, not to leave a bunch of half circles to confuse you later).

A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#. All 12 notes in ascension from lowest to highest, in one octave. Start from the open A, or second fattest string. Take the list of intervals from above and re-write the notes starting with E and replace them with these.

Now we can begin building these chords.
  • A Major. 1, M3, P5 A, C#, E
  • A Minor. 1, m3, P5 A, C, E
  • A Augmented. 1, M3, Aug5 A, C#, F
  • A Diminished. 1, m3, Din5 A, C, Eflat
Listen to the tonality in each chord type. Major being a happier sound. Minor being a sadder sound. Augmented with its tension. Diminished with its eerie kind of dissonance.
  • Consonance- Defined as "stable" or "at rest"
  • Dissonance- Defined as "unstable" or "transitional"
Here they are in the key of B. Once again use a piece of paper and write out the intervals and notes. Starting again with the tonic and the note B. Here is the chromatic scale in B.

B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#. Again all 12 notes in ascending form lowest to highest.
  • B Major. 1, M3, P5. B, D#, F#.
  • B Minor. 1, m3, P5. B, D, F#.
  • B Augmented. 1, M3, Aug 5th. B, D#, G.
  • B Diminished. 1, m3, Dim5. B, D, F.
Here is a tab format for A. I like to use three string to play these "triads" and get a feel for the "shapes" your forming with your fretting hand. These are just the tree fattest strings or E, A and D. Just like above we will go Major, Minor, Augmented, and Diminished.
 M m Aug Dim

Now to transpose these or "modulate" to a different key, in this case being B, we simply move the shapes up to the seventh fret, or two spaces toward your picking hand.

Lets try these in the next octave. The strings are now A, D and G.

 M m Aug Dim 

Again, just move two space forward to get to your root or tonic of B from A.

In the midst of this lesson I hope you have seen, and heard the difference of the chords. For the next practice regimen I am going to tab below a "chord progression."

A chord progression is a series of chords played in succession over time, creating a vibe or musical backround, to either sing over, play with drums and or bass, keyboards, etc. The basic structure I want you to stick to is a diatonic chord formation.

Diatonic - to use the notes dictated by the scale to form chords only using these notes (my definition).

For this example in Fig3, we will use E minor. Spelled E, F#, G, A, B, C, D.

Here are the chords I would like you to use: Em, GM, CM, DM.

Fig 3.
  • E minor - E, G, B
  • G major - G, B, D
  • C major - C, G, E
  • D major - D, F#, A

Here is the tab. The chords are listed in order above in Fig. 3.

For the folkier players use the full chords, ass well as the jazzier people. 1st set. For metal and rock people think barre chords or power chords. 2nd set.

For set 1, think of any fun or challenging strumming pattern you like and focus on the changes. For set 2, think Iron Maiden. Things like the song "The Trooper." That galloping type riff.

In my opinion I would ideally like you to learn both, the case being that the above listed chords are a little harder to play based on the changes of the chords and the hand strength required to do it.

Again, the order is E, G, C, D.
I like to use a 4/4 meter to play these the pace or "tempo" is up to you. Strive for cleanliness and clarity as to hear all the individual notes in each chord especially the full sets in set 1.

Master these and in the next lesson we will get in to a few different chord progression, how to incorporate the other two types (Augmented and Diminished) and chord inversions, as well as a little more study work involving en-harmonics and key signatures i.e. the circle of fifths and fourths.

Remember this takes patience and can be practiced in your mind, while at work, eating breakfast, and as well as while your playing. All times of the day are useable for these types of lessons. Also, remember if you start to get frustrated, take a break and play something you know well. Then come back, or take a break all-together from the instrument.

Practice makes perfect, and patience makes endurance.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Hey man I loved this lesson. You def. know what you're talking about. Again, try and remember the spelling for augmented chords though. You spelled it A, C#, F. It should be A,C#,E#. The F is a minor 6 and I can argue that it is a Fm#5 chord. Don't mean to be an ******* or anything just trying to give you some constructive criticism. Thank you for the lesson!
    I just didnt want to get into the enharmonics quite yet. I thought that F would be easier to display instead of the explanation of E# (as you described above) But nonetheless you are correct.
    they say it is a door to a new world of thinking and playing. How you look at something. Ive noticed you dont have to be a theory guru to be a better player but knowledge is power. All my fav musicians are theory guys. Blackmore, page, satriani, the scorpions, Iron maiden, Black sabbath, megadeth, metallica, anthrax, symphony x, whitesnake, aeorsmith, ac/dc, ted nuget, peter frampton. The list goes on man. Im trying to show people the building blocks of music structure and hopefully, eventually, show them they can play in any key, any scenario, with just some basic knowledge. thats my intention.
    Oh right, you see I was wondering whether you meant how people say 'theory' is boring, or 'theory is hard', but I agree there.Theory is the best. I absolutely love it, so I agree with how you think people have said it is. Studying at University opened my eyes to what theory really does for you, I have a friend who never bothers with theory...(one of those that says Jimi Hendrix was self taught ((incorrectly of course)), then when he asks me how I come up with nice chords/melodies pulls a face when I say 'THEORY'.ha I think I might do a lesson on tips to knowing your keys, its so simple, but people over complicate it by trying to remember all their keys without knowing a very very simple way to know all Major/Minor keys (then with Modes you can just take the modes based on the relative maj/min keys). I ****ing love theory, so going to look forward to your other stuff, add me as a friend or something can throw some ideas for lessons back and forth on theory. I ripped you the other day for looking like a serial killer in your picture, but maybe we can put our differences the name of THEORY!