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Summary: How to work out four-note chords

Chord Formulas - Extended Triads

All chords, no matter how complex, can be seen as extensions of the four basic triads.

Once you have a good understanding of triads it is useful to look at the most commonly found chords that are simple extensions of the Major and Minor Triads.

Chords created by extending the Major triad

1 3 5 8 = Major (Example C E G C = C)
(The formula is 1 3 5 as the 8th note is a repeat of the key note)

1 3 5 7 = Major Seventh (Example C E G B = Cmaj7)

1 3 5 b7 = Dominant Seventh (Example C E G Bb = C7)

1 3 5 6 = Major Sixth (Example C E G A = C6)

Chords created by extending the Minor triad

1 b3 5 8 = Minor (Example C Eb G C = Cm)
(The formula is 1 b3 5 as the 8th note is a repeat of the key note)

1 b3 5 7 = Minor Major Seventh (Example C Eb G B = CmMaj7)

1 b3 5 b7 = Minor Seventh (Example C Eb G Bb = Cm7)

1 b3 5 6 = Minor Sixth (Example C Eb G A = Cm6)

There is sometimes quite a bit of confusion over the naming of seventh chords. In the world of Jazz musicians the Maj7th chord is more common so when a Jazz Guitarist talks about a seventh chord he may be referring to the Maj7th. But a blues guitarist is going to come across Maj7ths almost never, so to him, the seventh chord is the one with the flatted seventh note in. The Jazzman will give this it’s full name - the dominant seventh.

Chords created by extending the Augmented triad

1 3 #5 b7 = Augmented Seventh (Example C E G# Bb = C7+)

Chords created by extending the Diminished triad

1 b3 b5 b7 = Half-diminished seventh (Example C Eb Gb Bb = C?)

1 b3 b5 bb7 = Diminished seventh (Example C Eb Gb Bbb = Co)

More possible cause for confusion:

There is little common consensus about chord symbols and this has given rise to a number of possible ways of writing the same chord. Please see List of Commonly Used Chords, their names, formulas and symbols for a guide that will lead you out of the chord-symbol maze!

Related pages

 -Chord Formulas - Basic Triads
 -Chord List

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