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Understanding the Basics of

Major, Minor, 7th and Sus Chords


Understanding basic chord forms (major, minor, 7th, Sus) starts with understanding the
basic musical alphabet (the major scale) and how that alphabet adjusts with each key
signature.
If you are not up on the major scale or key signatures yet, some of the following theory may
elude you, but you can still play through the chord exercises and forms; take the time to go
back and understand major scale and key signature theory.
For this study, we will look at the chord forms of A:
- A major (A, Amaj, A∆ )
- A minor (Am, Amin, A- )
- A 7th (A7)
- A suspended (Asus2, Asus4)
Let’s start with the basic, 3 note major chord, or 3 note triad. All chords start here, consider
it the foundation chord (just 3 notes) and all other chords are made by adding and/or
removing notes from these basic major chords.

The Major Chord Triad:


All major chord triads (3 notes) are made by using the Root (1st), 3rd and 5th notes in that
keys major scale (again, if you need to, go back and review that major scale and key
signatures).
Since we are looking at A chords, we’ll start with the major scale in the key of A, which is
made of these notes:

Root (1) 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th Octave (8th)
A B C# D E F# G# A

We can see then that the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes are A, C# and E. These are the 3 basic notes
of the A Triad.
So, we make an A chord using the 1, 3, 5 or A, C#, E notes:

Note: As we have these notes all over the guitar fretboard, there are a few places we can play an A chord by stacking these
notes in different orders, that’s called ‘inversions’ and we’ll save that for another discussion.
The Minor Chord Triad:
The next basic chord form is the Minor Chord.
Minor chords are formed by lowering the 3rd note in the major scale by a half step or flatten
it (flat = b ).
This relates to our musical major and minor intervals, again another discussion but for now,
just remember that to form a basic minor chord, the 3rd note is dropped a half step.
So in the case of our example in A, the 3rd note is a C#. To form an Am, we drop that C#
down to a C
So, we make an Am chord using the 1, b3, 5 or A, C, E notes:

The 7th Chord Triad


The next basic chord form is the 7th Chord, or Dominant 7th Chord.
7th chords are formed by lowering the 7th note in the major scale by a half step or flatten it
(flat = b ) and add it to the chord.
Again, this relates to our musical major and minor intervals, but for now, just remember
that to form a basic dominant 7th (or 7th) chord, the 7th note is dropped a half step and
added to the chord.
So in the case of our example in A, the 7th note in the scale is a G#. To form an A7, we drop
that G# down to a G
So, we make an A7 chord using the 1, 3, 5, b7 or A, C#, E, G notes:

Notice that the A of the chord is the Open A/5th string, and the G is the Open G/3rd string
The Suspended (Sus) Chord Triads
Suspended or Sus chords are simple variations to the major (or minor) and are considered
‘unresolved’ chord sounds, so are great for leading the listeners ear to the next musical
place!
Sus chords are simple to construct. Using the basic major chord form of 1st, 3rd and 4th
notes, you simply replace the 3rd with either of the 2nd or the 4th .
Simply, if you replace with the 2nd, it’s a sus2; if you replace with the 4th, it’s a sus4!
Let’s review the major scale in A again to see the options:

Root (1) 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th Octave (8th)
A B C# D E F# G# A

Amaj = 1, 3, 5 or A, C#, E
Asus2 = 1, 2, 5 or A, B, E
Asus4 = 1, 4, 5 or A, D, E

Notes:
- Notice that the B needed for Asus2 is the open 2nd/B string
- When playing an Asus4, one method is to hold the A form, use the pinky to play D
Now that we’ve looked at the major, minor, 7th and sus chords in A, using the D and E scales,
use the space below to work out those same chords for each of these keys.
As a hint, here’s the scale tables:

Root (1) 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th Octave (8th)
D E F# G A B C# D

Root (1) 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th Octave (8th)
E F# G# A B C# D# E

Then have a go at playing them in the short piece on the next page called ‘Sus’ing Around’