If you are approaching music theory (and you should, if you want to improve your guitar playing to the next level), you may find useful this keys chords cheat sheet. This sheet gives you the big picture of the most used music keys. It contains the chords generated from the major scale and the harmonic minor scale of each music key. Music keys are shown following the circle of fifths, so you can understand the patterns of the sharps/flats of the keys. Starting from the C key, that has no sharps/flats, if you follow the circle of fifths clockwise, every next key has one added sharp (C has no sharp, G key has 1 sharp, D key has 2 sharps, and so on); if you follow the circle of fifths anticlockwise, every next key has one more flat (C has no flat, F key has 1 flat, Bb has 2 flats, and so on). This cheat sheet may be useful to study chords progression, modulation, fretboard intervals and composition.
In this tutorial, we're going to understand chords and keys relationship. A key is a group of chords that relates to a scale. The first note of the scale is the tonic, or root, and gives that name to the key. For example, the key of C major, is related to the C major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. As you can see, the first note of the scale is the C.
A key contains several chords. Those chords are constructed on the scale related to the key. For the sake of simplicity, in this tutorial, we're going to consider only 3 tones chords (chords composed of 3 notes). How are chords constructed? Chords are composed of third intervals stacked one of the top of another, so to obtain the basic chords of a key we can use a smart trick: for each note of the scale, we consider that note as the basic root of the chord, then we use 2 following notes, skipping 1 note at time. Here's an example of chords for the C major key:
As you can see in the picture, for each note of the scale we have created a chord, counting 2 notes forward (e.g. 1,3,5). When we reach the end of the scale, we continue on the higher octave, like in case of the G chord: 5, 7, 9. This 9 is the 2nd note of the higher octave, so we can consider it as a 2 (5, 7, 2)
Here below you find a table with the chords constructed on the most common keys. For a most complete reference, download the free pdf at the bottom of this page
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