05 May, 2009

HOW TO know which chords belong to which family

Before you start asking "chords have families???", let me explain what it means. Basically, what this means is that for every key that you play a song in, there are certain chords that go with that key.

What is a key? Well, whenever you play a song, you have to choose a key to play that song in. This key determines how high or how low the song is. So for example, if you play a song in the key of G, and it is too high to sing, you can try a lower key like F or E etc.

Okay, back to chord family. I'll just take the most common key that beginners play songs in (mainly because playing songs in the key of G has simple chords):

The G family
Common chords that can be used for songs in the key of G are G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em. Of course, there are other chords that can be played, but these are the more common ones.

Here are some other chord families:

G family - G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em
A family - A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m
C family - C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am
D family - D, A, Bm, F#m, G, Em
E family - E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m

So there you have it, if you ever play a song in any of the above keys I mentioned (G, A, C, D, E), be sure to go through the chords above. This will greatly help you in figuring out the chords for songs. Of course with that being said, the most important thing then is to find out what key the song is played in. After that, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out the rest.

There is another way to find out which chords can be used for which family. However, it will require you to know how to write out a major scale. So, I would suggest to read the post on writing out a major scale before progressing any further.

After you have done so, the next step is just to add a minor to the 2nd, 3rd and 6th note. Here is an example of what I mean:

C major scale

C    Dm    Em    F    G    Am    B 

Yup, so this is the other way you can figure out the different chords of a family. Hope it helps!


_A_ said...

I find your site helpful and relevant to my site for music ministries. Can I copy portions and refer some articles to our site?

Music Ministry Tips

daniel said...

sure :)

Alfred said...

What are some songs that have their originals in each family ?
like... which songs have their originals played in key of G, played in key of D etc.

Raz0rX said...

why do we have to add a minor to the 2nd, 3rd and 6th note ??

daniel said...

Hi Raz0xr,

unfortunately, I am not sure why a minor is added to the 2nd, 3rd and 6th note. Just think of it as... music theory.

The same thing can be said about why there are sharps and flats in music. I can't explain that either.

Anonymous said...

Awesome bro...

Anonymous said...

HI Daniel,

how can you differentiate chord family and scale??

Thanks :))

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

I think the simplest answer I can give is that when you talk about chord family, you are talking about chords.

When you talk about scales, you are talking about notes.

Chords are not notes, and notes played together make up a chord.

Hope it helps!

Harfan said...

hey there, Daniel! I find your blog is extremely helpful. I just want to ask, is it possible to write a song consists of chords from different chord families?

daniel said...

Hi Harfan,

I think there are a few things you could follow when writing a song:

1. You can use chords from different family chords. You will notice that in some chord families, there are similar notes. Eg. If you play a song in the key of G / G family, you can use the C chord, which also appears in the key of D.

2. There are some chords that do not go with the chord family. Eg. If you play a song in the key of G / G family, playing a C#m doesn't go with it.

3. It is possible to use chords from different families. You can do this when you transpose the song into a different key. Eg. I play a song in the key of E and then transpose it to the key of F. Hence, after transposing, I can use the chords in the F family.

4. There are songs that play the verse in one key, and the chorus in another key. Eg. Take a listen to "Amazed" by Lonestar. You will notice that the verse is played in the key of G# and once it reaches the pre-chorus, it changes to the key of B, and goes back to G# again at the verse.

Jesse Roche said...

thank you Daniel.Godbless

PurpleRose said...

He Daniel. This was very helpful and simplified. I have a question. After I do the major scale formula and find the family chords, there is an extra 7th chord left. The last semitone. Why is this not included in the family if chords? Eg for key of E, it is Dsharp. For key of B, it is A#

PurpleRose said...

Hi Daniel. Thanks. This was very useful. Could you please explain why we drop the 7th note in the family of chords. For example in key of E we drop D# and in key of B we drop A #. Shouldn't it be 7 in total not 6? Thanks!

daniel said...

Hi PurpleRose, you are right, I did not mention about the 7th chord.
Let's take the C major scale for example, the 7th note is B.

In order to play a B chord that fits the family, you would need to play Bdim (diminish). So if you want to complete the formula, the 7th chord will be a diminish chord.

In any case, the diminish chord is seldom used.

Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Daniel it helped a lot.

Anonymous said...

I cant understand...