Everything You Need to Know About C Major Chords

Good music doesn’t just happen. There are specific rules of music theory which determine the notes and chords that sound pleasing to the ear.

This article gives you everything you need to know about the progression of C major chords.

C Major Chords

Music is like math. Once you understand the principle of concept, it is applied across the board.

If you don’t know the rules of chord progression, a composition can only be accomplished by accident. The key of C is the simplest place to start to learn how chord progression works.

The principles that apply to the progression of C major chords equally applies to all musical key signatures. C major is the easiest key to start with because it does not feature any accidentals in the key signature.

Circle of Fifths

The circle of fifths features every key signature in music. Each key signature indicates a major and minor key. The key is designated by the accidentals or sharps and flats on the scale.

The circle has 12 keys that begin with C shown at the 12 o’clock position. C features no sharps or flats. The key of G, to the right, has one sharp, and the key of F, to the left, has one flat.

The outermost key designation indicates the major key, with its relative minor key shown to the inside. The circle of fifths enables a musician to find the notes that reside in their key of choice [1].

C Major Scale

Chords are constructed of three or four notes that reside in the given key. In this case, the key is C major, so chords will consist of notes in the C major scale. The C major scale includes the notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and the C octave.

The root of a chord is the first note played within it. So the root of a C chord is the C note and is the first degree on the C scale.

The rules of the C minor scale is similar but with some differences, so stick to the C major scale for now.

Major, Minor, and Diminished Triads – C Major

Each note on the scale is assigned a numeric degree, from one to seven. In the key of C, C is scale degree one, D is two, F is three, and so on to seven.

A three-note chord is called a triad. A four note chord is a 7th chord. Triads and 7th chords can be major, minor, or diminished.

A major triad includes the notes with scale degrees one, three, and five. The 1,3,5 triad is the basic form of a major chord.

A minor triad lowers the third degree by a half step, which gives it a flat. So, a minor triad has scale degrees one, flat-three, and five.

To make a triad diminished, the fifth degree is, also, lowered by a half step. So, a diminished triad includes scale degrees one, flat-three, and flat-five.

In the key of C, a C major triad would include, the notes C, E, and G. A minor triad would include C, Eb, and G. And, a diminished triad would be C, Eb, and Gb.

C Major Chords

Each key has seven corresponding chords. The chord progression of any major key goes major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished.

Each chord has a numeric designation, from one to seven. The roman numeral I indicates the first chord in the key. The vii chord is the last chord before circling back to the I octave.

So, the chords in the key of C major are:

  1. C Major – I
  2. D minor – ii
  3. E minor – iii
  4. F Major – IV
  5. G Major – V
  6. A minor – iv
  7. B diminished – vii

Notes in C Major Chords

If you are composing in the key of C, you are left with seven chords that each have three or four notes. The chord notes in the key of C major are as follows:

I. Cmaj – C, E, G

ii. Dm – D, F, A

iii. Em – E, G, B

IV. Fmaj – F, A, C

V. Gmaj – G, B, D

vi. Am – A, C, E

vii. Bdim – B, D, F

Common Progression of C Major Chords

There are only so many combinations of chords and chord progressions within any key signature [2]. You can listen to a hundred different songs that have the same chord progression, but all sound completely unique.

A few common progressions of chords in the key of C major, are as follows:

  • I, IV, V (C, F, G) – Standard 12-Bar Blues
  • I, IV, I, V (C, F, C, G) – Angel by Shaggy
  • I, V, vi, IV (C, G, Am, F) – Knocking on Heavens Door by Bob Dylan
  • I, ii, IV, V (C, Dm, F, G) – Everyday by Buddy Holly
  • I, vi, ii, V (C, Am, Dm, G) – Baby, Baby, Baby by Aretha Franklin
  • I, vi, IV, V (C, Am, F, G) – Stand By Me by Ben E. King

Final Thoughts

Once you begin to hear the progression of chords, you can identify the structure of a song in any key signature. The construction of music hinges on the positions and progression of chords. The key of C is a great place to start to apply the basic principles of C major chord progression. Don’t also forget to have checked the B major chord and D major chord.

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Stephanie Su

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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