|Component intervals from root|
|Forte no. / |
|3-11 / |
In music theory, a major chord (Play (help·info)) is a chord that has a root note, a major third above this root, and a perfect fifth above this root note. When a chord has these three notes alone, it is called a major triad. In Western classical music from 1600 to 1820 and in Western pop, folk and rock music, a major chord is usually played as a triad.
The major triad (or major chord), along with the minor triad (or minor chord), is one of the basic building blocks of tonal music, the Western common practice period and Western pop, folk and rock music. It is considered consonant, stable, or not requiring resolution. In Western music, a minor chord, in comparison, "sounds darker than a major chord".
Major triads with additional notes, such as major seventh chord, are also called major chords. Major seventh chords are used in jazz and occasionally in rock music. In jazz, major chords may also have other chord tones added, such as the ninth and the thirteenth scale degrees.
A major triad can also be described as a major third interval with a minor third interval on top, or as a root note, a note four semitones (half steps) higher than the root, and a note seven semitones higher than the root.
A minor chord can also be described as a minor third with a major third on top, in contrast to a major chord, which has a major third with a minor third on top. They both contain fifths, because a major third (four semitones) plus a minor third (three semitones) equals a perfect fifth (seven semitones).
An example of a major chord is the C major chord, which consists of the notes C, E and G. In harmonic analysis or on a lead sheet, a C major chord is usually notated C, Cmaj or CM. The notes of a chord can be placed in a different vertical order and the chord will still retain its identity, although if a note other than the root is the lowest note, the chord is said to be in an inversion. A root position C major chord contains (from lowest to highest notes) C, E and G. A first inversion C Major chord contains E as its lowest note, followed by a G and C above the E. A second inversion C major chord contains G as its lowest note, followed by a C and E above the G. The additional notes above the bass note can be in any order and the chord still retains its inversion identity. For example, a C major chord which went from lowest to highest note E, followed by C and G above the E, would still be heard as a second inversion C major chord.
In this table, the chord names are in the leftmost column. The chords are given in root position. For a given chord name, the following three columns indicate the individual notes that make up this chord. Thus in the first row, the chord is C major, which is made up of the individual pitches C, E and G.
Most pianos and electric pianos and synthesizer keyboards are tuned to equal temperament. In equal temperament, each semitone is the same distance apart. Another tuning system that is used is just intonation. In just intonation, a major chord is tuned to the frequency ratio 4:5:6 (play (help·info)). This may be found on I, IV, V, ♭VI, ♭III, and VI. In equal temperament it has 4 semitones between the root and third, 3 between the third and fifth, and 7 between the root and fifth. It is represented by the integer notation (0, 4, 7). In equal temperament, the fifth is only two cents narrower than the just perfect fifth, but the major third is noticeably different at about 14 cents wider.