Music Theory 5 - Chord Families

Recall how, in a previous lesson, we derived chords based on the notes of a scale. This means that, at the fundamental level, each key has a fixed set of 6 chords. We call each set a chord family.

Writing the most common chord families out in a table (try doing it on your own first!), we obtain:

Key

I

IIm

IIIm

IV

V

VIm

C (Am)

C

Dm

Em

F

G

Am

D (Bm)

D

Em

F#m

G

A

Bm

E (C#m)

E

F#m

G#m

A

B

C#m

F (Dm)

F

Gm

Am

A#/Bb

C

Dm

G (Em)

G

Am

Bm

C

D

Em

A (F#m)

A

Bm

C#m

D

E

F#m

B (G#m)

B

C#m

D#m

E

F#

G#m

For harmonic minors, use III instead of IIIm (e.g. for A minor use E instead of Em)

This table is useful for two reasons.

Firstly, you can use the table if you need to figure out the chords for a song, since it restricts your choice to just 6 chords.

Secondly, it helps when you need to transpose the song to a higher or lower key, to suit the worship leader. For example, if you need to change the key from G to F, all you need to do is to replace all I chords from G to F (G to F), IIm chords from G to F (Am to Gm), and so forth.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Kenny,

Im Robert and im from LA. I believe what you've done here is very informative and great for people who are wanting to learn how to play christian music. Maybe you can get a little into music theory, but more particularly on guitar theory such as the modes (e.g. mixolidian, aeolian), and the circle of fifth's.

Yuri said...

I've got another question (sorry..!)

If the C Major family equals the A minor family, and the B Major family equals the G# minor family.

does that mean the the 6th chord of a family has the same set of chords as the original key?

(C= C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am.....Am=C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am..... D=D,Em,F#m,G,A,Bm....Bm=D,Em.F#m,G,A,Bm... and so forth?)

john0307 said...

what key would these chords be in?
D, E, G, A.

kenny said...

Any minor chords?

john0307 said...

none

Yuri said...

Are they by any chance "Power Chords"?

Anonymous said...

For harmonic minors, use III instead of IIIm (e.g. for A minor use E instead of Em) i dont get his where is III?

Anonymous said...

John... its not possible, maybe because its all power chords for you, where power chords doesnt involve the third which makes it a minor or a major. if E is the Minor it is in D. If G is actually a G#dim, then it is in A. if A and E are minors then it is in G.

BTW, aren't there 7 notes in a scale not counting the octave. I think you forgot to mention that the vii is a diminished chord = VII(dim). Oh well its not common.

Anonymous said...

can u write the chord families for flay keys...?

Colin said...

isn't b in the key of A?

edwinsagun said...

also to know the the relative minor of each key, scale, or chord, remember that a minor is always negative 2 intervals of the root note of a major scale. For example,

C D E F G A B
I(root) II III IV V VI VII

As u can see i wrote each interval as represented by numbers...

Now to find the relative minor of a scale, u need to go negative 2, or the VI, intervals: C -> B -> (Am). Therefore the relative minor of a major scale is negative 2 intervals.

In order to be successful, you would also need to learn the number of #'s in each scale.

for example:

A major Scale has a relative minor of F#m. So how did i get that #??

A B C# D E F# G#
I II III IV V VI VII

Therefore, the relative minor of the A is: F#m.

Jam said...

thanks very cool.

charlie said...

aka the nashville number system. known by every session player.

philip said...

question, how will u know the key of a certain song? u sed dat the table is useful for getting the chords of a song(if u know the key ryt?) wat if u dont know..

philip said...

hey, kenny..
pls help me out.. i really nid the answer.. tnx

rein_upther said...

to know the key of a certain song is to know the notes that the song is playing.

example:

if the notes are E C G D A B F#
then this should be in the key of G. You can check this by listing down the notes of key of G by using 2212221 formula.

another way is to identify the chords that comprises the song.

example: Em C G D Am D
this is in a Key of G relative to minor E.

But there's a little trick. sometimes a song starts with the key of the song. It means that the first chord that is used in a song is the Key.

Or when the song is in the ehorus part, most of the time, it starts with the key (root note). This would mean that the first chord used in the chorus should be the Key.

God bless you all

jcolins05 said...

If the C Major family equals the A minor family, and the B Major family equals the G# minor family.

does that mean the the 6th chord of a family has the same set of chords as the original key?

(C= C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am.....Am=C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am..... D=D,Em,F#m,G,A,Bm....Bm=D,Em.F#m,G,A,Bm... and so forth?)

Please explain and rewrite them if possible? thanls

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