Your Guide to the A Flat Major Chord

Once you’ve mastered the A flat major scale, you can move on to playing chords within the scale. Today, we’re going to take a look at the A flat major chord.

This is a popular chord across genres of music. Bet you didn’t know that Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Pharrell’s “Happy” were both written in the key of Ab major [1]!

To help you understand what the chord is and how to play it, we’ve put together an easy guide to A flat major chords. Read on to learn more.

What Notes Do You Play In A Flat Major Chords?

Let’s start off by analyzing what this chord is. Chords can have three or four notes depending on what you’re playing. The Ab major chord is three notes.

There’s also a name for each note: the root note, the major third, and the perfect fifth.

If you have your A flat major scale memorized, you probably already know what the three notes in this chord are going to be. If not, take a look:

  • The root note is Ab.
  • Our major third is C.
  • Our perfect fifth is Eb.

This is how you form every major triad chord, so it’s a good rule to remember!

This is the standard way to create the Ab major chord, but there are also inversions of chords that you can play with to change up your sound. To create a scale inversion, you’re basically going to move your root note up or down one octave.

For example, for the first inversion, you’d move up to the next Ab on the scale. C becomes our root note, so you’d play the same C as you did in the original chord. Eb is our second note and Ab (one octave higher) is our third note.

For the second inversion, we’re actually going to go one octave down instead of up. Eb is the root note, one octave below the Eb played in the original chord. Ab is our second note, and C is our third.

You’re playing the same C no matter which inversion you use — the only notes that change are our Ab and Eb.

What Are The Other A Flat Major Chords?

Of course, there are other chords within the A flat major scale. (In case you forgot, those notes are Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb-F-G.) This is just the first one.

There are three major chords, three minor chords, and one diminished chord. They follow this pattern: Major-Minor-Minor-Major-Major-Minor-Diminished.

Remember how we mentioned that chords can have either three or four notes? In the Ab major scale, there are both triad and four-note chords. The first triad chord in the key of Ab is the Ab major chord.

If you’re just starting out, it can sometimes be confusing when you hear about multiple A flat major chords. If someone asks you to play the Ab major chord, they’re talking about the chord we just dissected above. If they’re talking about chords in the key of Ab major, it can be one of seven different chords.

You use Roman numerals to represent each chord. If it’s capitalized, that means it’s a major chord. If not, it’s a minor chord.

Here are the triad chords, along with the notes they consist of.

I: Ab major, Ab – C – Eb

ii: Bb minor, Bb – Db – F

iii: C minor, C – Eb – G

IV: Db major, Db – F – Ab

V: Eb major, Eb – G – Bb

vi: F minor, F – Ab – C

vii: G diminished, G – Bb – Db

Finally, those four-note chords we mentioned are formed by adding sevenths, so they’re usually called major or minor sevenths. (Easy enough.) Check out the Ab major four-note chords and see how they only add one extra note.

I: Ab major seventh, Ab – C – Eb – G

ii: Bb minor seventh, Bb – Db – F – Ab

iii: C minor seventh, C – Eb – G – Bb

IV: Db major seventh, Db – F – Ab – C

V: Eb dominant seventh, Eb – G – Bb – Db

vi: F minor seventh, F – Ab – C – Eb

vii: G minor seventh flat five, G – Bb – Db – F

You might also see these chords called extended chords instead of four-note chords.

Recognize Quality

Now that you know which notes make up each Ab major chord, let’s take a look at their qualities.

No, we don’t mean which chord is better than the other. We’re talking about how you know if a chord is major, minor, augmented, or diminished.

Sure, you could memorize the pattern above. But to really understand these chords, you should know the theory behind it.

We already know that to create a triad chord, you combine the first, third, and fifth notes on the scale. That’s why the Ab major chord is Ab – C – Eb. The second triad does the same thing, but this time using the second note on the scale as the root note. Then that pattern is repeated all the way down the scale.

That’s the easy part. Knowing the quality gets just a little trickier.

To know what the quality of the chord is, you’ll look at its third and fifth notes [2]. You’ll be able to identify the quality based on the intervals of those last two notes. Each quality is determined by a combination of major (M3), minor (m3), perfect (P5), diminished (d5) and augmented (A5) intervals.

Here’s how you can tell what quality a triad chord has:

  • Major triad: M3 and P5 note intervals
  • Minor triad: m3 and P5 note intervals
  • Diminished triad: m3 and d5 note intervals
  • Augmented triad: M3 and A5 note intervals

Play On

Now that you have a better understanding of A flat major chords, you can put this knowledge to good use. This is a great chord to know for every genre of music [3]!

If you’re feeling confident in your musical skills, you might want to get a new instrument to celebrate the occasion. Make sure you get the perfect instrument for your needs by reading our buyers’ guides before you make a decision. We’ve got you covered!

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