Chord Notes and Scale Degrees

In this lesson we discuss how the notes of a given chord are defined, relative to the chord root, in terms of scale degrees. We use a C Chord and the C Major Scale to demonstrate this.

Scale Degrees

We know that every chord has a ‘root‘. When we talk about a C Chord, the root is C. An F Chord has as its root the note F.

Using the Major Scale of the chord root (for example the C Major Scale for a C chord) enables us to define each note of the chord in terms of Scale Degrees. Playing notes of the major scale beginning from the root gives us the following scale degrees:

  • Root (C)
  • second (D)
  • third (E)
  • fourth (F)
  • fifth (G)
  • sixth (A)
  • seventh (B)
  • eighth, or Octave (C)
  • ninth (D)
  • tenth (E)
  • eleventh (F)
  • twelfth (G)
  • thirteenth (A)

Some of the notes in a given chord can be flatted or sharped (lowered or raised by one semitone). This occurs most commonly with the third, fifth, seventh, ninth and eleventh. As these notes are flatted or sharped, their names become as follows:

  • the ‘third’ (E) is called a Major Third, a flatted third (Eb) is called a Minor Third.
  • the fifth (G) becomes a flatted fifth (Gb) or sharp five (G#).
  • the seventh (B) is called Major Seventh, the flat seven (Bb) is called the Minor seven.
  • the ninth (D) becomes a flatted nine (Db) or sharp nine (Eb).
  • the eleventh (F) becomes a sharp eleven (D#).

We end the lesson by playing three chords:

  • F Major seven with an added sixth and ninth
  • G minor seven with ninth and flatted fifth added.
  • F Major seven with an added ninth and sharp eleven.

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