Questions about major/minor scales and major/minor chords

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    Hi Andrew,

    I’m following the music theory course in rockclass101 on and off for a while, but as a total noob to music theory, I am confused with major/minor scales and major/minor chords…

    1) The lesson says “chord formulas are derived from the parent major scale formula”. Does it mean that e.g. for an A chord, regardless whether it’s major chord or minor chord or even other chord formulas like diminished or dominant etc., the 1/3/5 or 1/3b/5 etc. is always referring to the notes in A major scale, which is A / B / C# / D / E / F# / G# / A ? If so, then what’s the use of minor scale? Is minor scale related to chords in any way?

    2) When we say some songs are in for example D major or E minor, is this major/minor referring to the scale or chord or something else? I’m assuming it means major/minor scale (or key? is it the same thing as scale?). Then does it mean that all (or most of) the notes in the melody line of that song should be using the 7 available notes in that scale? Or, does it mean that even the notes used in the chords of that song should be the 7 available notes in that scale?

    3) If I just grab a song, how do I know which key/scale it is using? Can I change it from major key/scale to minor key/scale or a something different? For example, C major scale is C / D / E / F / G / A / B, and C minor scale is C / D / Eb / F / G / Ab / Bb, so do I just switch the melody notes as E->Eb, A->Ab, B->Bb and keep the rest the same? How about the chords then? For example, C chord is C/E/G (G-C-E-C on ukulele), and when I change the song from major to minor, is that still C/E/G or would it be C/Eb/G ?

    4) The lesson says major chord usually sound happy and minor chords usually sound sad, and some other formulas may sound tensioned, etc., but I’ve also heard people saying that major key sounds happy and minor key sounds sad… Are these two concepts somehow related?

    Sorry for so many (probably dumb) questions!



    Great questions! Let’s knock them out.

    1) You have to compare the chord tones against the parent major scale. So if you have:

    A C E G

    Compare it to the A Major Scale:

    A B C# D E F# G#

    You can determine it’s:

    A (1) C (b3) E (5) G (b7)

    A minor 7


    Chord qualities and harmonization can be derived from the minor scale. We didn’t cover that in the course.


    2) Each scale contains 7 chords that are built by thirds. When you determine the quality of the chords using the method above, for major you end up with (using C Major as an example):


    This is better explained in our songwriting course (ebook – page 2).

    Some songs stay diatonic to the key – meaning they never venture beyond the 7 notes/chords. Some songs do not.

    3) This is a hard one to answer as there are different approaches you can use. A good place to start is to figure out the chord progression to determine the key.

    4) Yes! I’d start with learning intervals (distance between 2 notes). For example, a minor 2nd is the Jaws theme. If you can associate sounds to something familiar, that’s a great first step to memorizing and recognizing tones.

    A lot of these questions you asked can be further explained. I’d recommend taking a Skype lesson with Stephen. He can help you understand these concepts better by demonstrating and breaking them down in real time.


    Thank you Andrew! Very helpful! Guess I’ll have to learn more to have more answers (and probably more questions too) ๐Ÿ˜€

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