C Major Scale Chords (Every Diatonic Chord)

C Major Scale Chords (Every Diatonic Chord)

There are approximately 36 different chord types that can be built from the major scale. For any major scale, like C major, you can build approximately 81 chords on the 7 scale degrees of the scale. It is the modes of each scale degree that dictates the qualities of each of those chords.

In this article, I have tables for the notes in every diatonic chord from C major, as well as the intervals for the major scale modes.

 

All “valid” C major scale chords

All major scales build anywhere from 36 to 42  different chord types with 81 chord names for the 7 scale degrees. Multiply that by the # of voicings on the guitar and that is a lot of chords to choose from.

I have tables below that shows each possible chord that can be built on each of the 7 major scale degrees. However, what are the acceptable possible chord types that can be derived from the major scale?

I have a list of 36 definite chord types, but I include another 6 chord types for 42 total. I’ll talk about those additional 6 chord types, as well as cover every other possible chord type that can be built but are invalid names.

This list of chords is my list. I only consider chord types/names if I have seen them in actual songs. You can have really wild chord types if you are a composer. This article, and this site in general, is geared towards songwriters, not composers. I’m not a composer.

I have the notes and intervals for each mode but keep in mind the major 2nd (2) and the major 9th are the same. The same goes for the 4 vs the 11, and the 6 vs the 13. I prefer the chord intervals of 9, 11 and 13, although you will see 6 and the 2 for sus2 chords. Read my Music Intervals article if you are unfamiliar with intervals.

 

C major and suspended chords from the C major scale (I)

The tonic note C builds 13 different chords from the notes in the C major scale. I have a section below for my term “Equal Chord”, but for now the tern is for 2 or more chords that have the same notes in them.

The Ionian mode has only major or perfect intervals. Here are tables for the intervals in C Ionian and the notes and chords built on C:

Intervals For C Major / Ionian Mode
ModeNote1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
C IonianC1234567
C Chords From The C Major Scale
Chord Name1st Note2nd Note3rd Note4th Note5th Note6th NoteEqual Chord1Equal Chord2Equal Chord3
C MajCEG
C5CG
C6CEGAAm7
C add9CEGD
C6 add9CEGADAm11D9 sus
C add9/11CEGDFG13 sus
C6 add9/11CEGADFFmaj9/13
Cmaj7CEGB
Cmaj9CEGBD
Cmaj13CEGBAAm9
Cmaj9/13CEGBDAG6 add9/11
CsusCFG
Csus2CDGGsus
Csus add9CFGDG7sus

 

D minor and suspended chords from C major (ii)

D builds 14 different chords from the C major scale. Dorian mode is distinguished from the 2 other minor modes by the major 6th interval: only Dorian builds a minor 6 chord.

Here are tables for the intervals in D Dorian and the notes and chords built on D:

Intervals For D Dorian Mode
ModeNote1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
D DorianD12♭3456♭7
D Chords From The C Major Scale
Chord Name1st Note2nd Note3rd Note4th Note5th Note6th NoteEqual Chord1Equal Chord2Equal Chord3
DmDFA
D5DA
Dm6DFABBm7b5
Dm add9DFAE
Dm6 add9DFABEE7sus b9Bm11b5
Dm7DFACF6
Dm9DFACEFmaj13
Dm11DFACGF6 add9G9 sus
Dm13DFACB
DsusDGA
Dsus2DEAAsus
Dsus add9DGAEA7sus
D7 susDGACGsus add9
D9 susDGACEAm11C6 add9
D13 susDGACBG add9/11

 

E minor and suspended chords from C major (iii)

E only builds 6 different chords from the C major scale. The most important interval that defines the Phrygian mode is the ♭9 – Dorian and Aeolian both have a major 2nd/9th.

Here are tables for the intervals in E Phrygian and the notes and chords built on E:

Intervals For E Phrygian Mode
ModeNote1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
E PhrygianE1♭2♭345♭6♭7
E Chords From The C Major Scale
Chord Name1st Note2nd Note3rd Note4th Note5th Note6th NoteEqual Chord1Equal Chord2Equal Chord3
EmEGB
E5EB
Em7EGBDG6
Em11EGBDAG6 add9A9 sus
EsusEAB
E7 susEABDAsus add9
E7sus b9EABDFDm6 add9Bm11b5

 

F major chords from the C major scale (IV)

F builds 16 different chords from the C major scale, 2nd only to G Mixolydian. The most important interval is the augmented 4th, also called the #11. If you have a #11 in the chord then it’s called a Lydian chord.

Here are tables for the intervals in F Lydian and the notes and chords built on F:

Intervals For F Lydian Mode
ModeNote1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
F LydianF123#4567
F Chords From The C Major Scale
Chord Name1st Note2nd Note3rd Note4th Note5th Note6th NoteEqual Chord1Equal Chord2Equal Chord3
F MajFAC
F5FC
F6FACDDm7
F add9FACG
F add#11FACB
F6 add9FACDGDm11G9 sus
F add9/#11FACGBG9/11 N5
F6 add9/#11FACDGBG9/11
F maj7♭5FABE
Fmaj7FACE
Fmaj9FACEG
Fmaj13FACEDDm9
Fmaj9/13FACEGDC6 add9/11
Fmaj7#11FACEB
Fmaj9#11FACEGB
Fmaj13#11FACEDB
Fsus2FGCCsus

 

G major and suspended chords from the key of C (V)

G builds 19 different chords from the C major scale, however, 3 of them are my “double-extended” 7th chords. It’s the only major mode that builds a dominant 7th chord. Both C Ionian and F Lydian build major 7th chords.

Here are tables for the intervals in G Mixolydian and the notes and chords built on G:

Intervals For G Mixolydian Mode
ModeNote1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
G MixolydianG123456♭7
G Chords From The C Major Scale
Chord Name1st Note2nd Note3rd Note4th Note5th Note6th NoteEqual Chord1Equal Chord2Equal Chord3
G MajGBD
G5GD
G6GBDEEm7
G add9GBDA
G6 add9GBDEAEm11A9 sus
G add9/11GBDACD13 sus
G6 add9/11GBDEACCmaj9/13
G7GBDF
G9GBDFA
G11GBDFC
G13GBDFE
G9/11GBDFACF 6 add9/#11
G9/13GBDFAE
G11/13GBDFCE
GsusGCD
Gsus2GADDsus
Gsus add9GCDAD7sus
G7 susGCDFCsus add9
G9 susGCDFADm11F6 add9
G13 susGCDFEC add9/11

 

A minor and suspended chords (vi)

The note A builds 10 different chords from the C major scale. The Aeolian mode is also called the Relative Minor. You can look at it as in between the Dorian and Phrygian modes: it has a major 2nd like Dorian, but a minor 6th like Phrygian.

Here are tables for the intervals in A Aeolian and the notes and chords built on A:

Intervals For A Aeolian Mode
ModeNote1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
A AeolianA12♭345♭6♭7
A Chords From The C Major Scale
Chord Name1st Note2nd Note3rd Note4th Note5th Note6th NoteEqual Chord1Equal Chord2Equal Chord3
AmACE
A5AE
Am add9ACEB
Am7ACEGC6
Am9ACEGBCmaj13
Am11ACEGDC6 add9D9 sus
AsusADE
Asus2ABEEsus
Asus add9ADEBE7sus
A7 susADEGDsus add9
A9 susADEGBEm11G6 add9

 

B diminished chords from the C major scale (viio)

B only builds 3 different chords from the C major scale. See my notes on the m11♭5 chord in the next section. It’s common to see the diminished triad and the half-diminished 7th chords (m7♭5), but the m11♭5 is rarely seen.

Here are tables for the intervals in B Locrian and the notes and chords built on B:

Intervals For B Locrian Mode
ModeNote1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th
B LocrianB1♭2♭34♭5♭6♭7
B Diminished Chords From The C Major Scale
Chord Name1st Note2nd Note3rd Note4th Note5th Note6th NoteEqual Chord1Equal Chord2Equal Chord3
BdimBDF
Bm7♭5BDFADm6
Bm11♭5BDFAEDm6 add9E7sus b9

 

Valid odd name chords from the C major scale (IMO)

Here are the 6 non-standard chord names that I think are valid:

  • Add sharp eleven, add#11: a Lydian chord that I only found by accident and I like it because it’s dissonance sounds interesting.
  • The add9/11 equals a 13sus and both sound fantastic!
  • Add 9 sharp 11, add9/#11: another Lydian chord that sounds great.
  • Suspended add 9th chord, sus add9: equals a 7sus chord. There is a sus4 sus2 chord (sus add9) in Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue.
  • The suspended flat 9, 7sus ♭9 equals m6 add9 and m11♭5. Minor 6 add9 chords are a standard jazz chord, and jazz sites list the 13sus ♭9 chord which is built on the 2nd scale degree of the Melodic Minor scale. So if 13sus ♭9 is valid, then why not the Phrygian 7sus ♭9?
  • Minor 11 flaf 5, m11♭5 equals m6 add9 and 7sus ♭9. Stevie Wonder uses a m11♭5 chord in If You Really Love Me. Here are some interesting things about this chord involving Blues, the Blues scale and Dominant 7th chords:

Minor 11 flat 5 chord

  1. You can build a m11♭5 on the root of any blues scale.
  2. The Locrian pentatonic scale is the blues scale without the perfect fifth and is an arpeggio for the m11♭5 chord.
  3. It’s common for blues & jazz guitarists to play a dominant 7th without the root (=’s a dim triad) and a dominant 9th without the root (=’s a m7♭5).
    1. There is a common dominant chord voicing is that is labeled as a 13 chord but it contains both the 9th and 13th often without the perfect fifth. If you include the 5th but drop the root it equals a m11♭5.
  4. Here is an Em11♭5 open chord: 0-1-0-2-3-3 which equals C9/13 NR. Try that chord in place of a C7 chord or use the E Locrian Pentatonic in a C blues song.

 

Invalid odd-name chords from the C major scale

Here are the chords that, although technically possible to build, are invalid chord names in my opinion. Meaning, no one really actively tries to add them to their harmonies.

 

Odd major chords

No one deliberately plays an “add11” chord. It can happen in alternate tunings or with pedal tone chords, but no one thinks that is a chord they need – just play a sus4 chord. However, this is a valid chord name that does not equal another chord.

Here are the other possibilities. I’ll use C for all but the Lydian option. None of these are valid chord names in my book because they equal other common chord names. They all involve the 4 or 11

C6 add11 = Fmaj9
Cmaj7 sus = G11 N5
Cmaj9 sus = G11
Cmaj13 sus = G9/11 N5 and F add9/#11
Cmaj11 = G11/13 N5
Cmaj9/11 = G11/13
Cmaj11/13 = Fmaj9#11

* For the record, all maj11 or maj7 sus chords sound like dirt. Try one out for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

F6 add#11 = Dm13

 

Odd Minor chords

Like the add11 chord, no one deliberately plays a minor add11 chord to their songs. The other possible chords all equal normal chord names, so none of these are valid. Here are some examples:

Dm add11 = F6 add9 no 5.
Dm9/11 = Fmaj9/13 & C6 add9/11

The Aeolian mode has a ♭6 interval and the Phrygian has a ♭9 and a ♭6. If you try every possible combination of adding those two intervals, they end up equaling inversions of common chord names.

No one uses a ♭6 or add ♭9 chord. I’ll give you a few examples, but you should build some chords for yourself:

Em ♭6 = Cmaj7
Em add ♭9 = G13 N5
Em7♭9 = G13
Em7♭13 = Cmaj9

NONE of the above are valid chords.

 

Odd suspended chord names

The 7sus ♭9 is kind of odd, and most people are probably not familiar with the 9sus and 13sus chords. Here are a few more that can be built from the major scale and that are NOT valid chord names:

C6sus = F add9
G6sus add9 = C6 add9 and D9sus
A7sus ♭13 = Fmaj9/13 no 5

 

Diminished chord odd names

The Locrian mode build a diminished triad, half-diminished 7th, and the m11b5 chord. That’s it. Similar to the Phrygian mode, no one adds the ♭9 or ♭13 intervals to the diminished triad or to the 7th. If you did, in all but 2 cases they equal dominant 7th chords. Here are a handful of examples, try the other combinations out for yourself:

Bdim ♭6 = G7
Bdim add ♭9 = Dm13 N5
Bdim ♭6 add11 = G13
Bm7♭5♭13 = G9
Bm11♭5♭13 = G9/13

Look at all those G7 chords. This is why I rarely use diminished chords unless I’m playing blues. The exception is the dim7 chord which can’t be built from the major scale.

NONE of the above are valid chords.

 

Unique vs multi-name chords from C major

I always thought it would be interesting to write a song with only unique chords of the major scale. And by unique I mean a chord that does not equal another chord regardless of the inversion. Examples of unique chords are a major, minor or diminished triad, or major 7th and dominant 7th.

Contrast that with what I call chord equivalents or multi-name chords. The perfect example of that type is the C6 chord which has the same notes as an Am7 chord.

I’ve done an analysis of the “equal” chords that can be built from the major scale and found some interesting relationships. I have not analyzed the equal chords from other scales, but I’m assuming the same relationships are in other scales as well.

Below is the list of all unique and equal chords. There are 20 uniques and 10 equal chords that are actually 22 chord types. If that last statement is confusing, just check out the list below and you’ll understand.

Unique Major types

Major triad, add9, add#11, add9/#11
7, 9, 11, 13, 9/13, 11/13
maj7, maj9, maj7♭5, maj7#11, maj9#11, maj13#11

Unique minor types and 1 dim

Minor triad, m add9, m13
dim triad

Equal or multi-name chords

Here are the multi-name chords, but let me cover some of the interesting things I found.

  1. Most of them are in the relationship of I to VI.
  2. The next most common have the relationship of the I to the V
  3. The final one is the I to the ♭VII
  4. Every single set of chords involves the 6, the 9, or in most cases, both the 6 and 9. And sometimes the 6 and/or 9 are in each set of chords. Remember that the 2 in sus2 is a 9 and the 13 is the 6.

There is a good chance that none of that made sense to you. Here they are:

I and VI chords

6 = m7 , e.g. C6 = Am7
m6 = m7♭5, e.g. Dm6 = Bm7♭5
maj13 = m9, e.g. Fmaj13 = Dm9
6 add9 = m11 = 9sus, e.g. F6 add9 = Dm11 = G9sus
m6 add9 = m11♭5 = 7sus ♭9, e.g. Dm6 add9 = Bm11♭5 = E7sus ♭9

I and V chords

sus2 = sus4, e.g. Csus2 = Gsus4, or just Gsus
sus add9 = 7 sus, e.g. Csus add9 = G7sus
13sus = add9/11, e.g. G13sus = C add9/11
maj9/13 = 6 add9/11, e.g. Fmaj9/13 = C6 add9/11

I and ♭VII chord

9/11 = 6 add9/#11, G9/11 = F6 add9/#11
* You can skip these two. Most people do not play 6-note chords, so why bother thinking about them.

The takeaway is that many chords with the 6 and/or 9 in them equal another chord. The exceptions to that rule are the chords with the 6 and/or 9 in them in the unique chords section.

So it would be good to memorize the following chord types: add9, add9/#11, 9, 13, 9/13, 11/13, maj9, maj9#11, maj13#11, m add9, and m13. Those chords are all unique. Any other chord with a 6 or 9 in it, built from the major scale, equals another chord name.

By the way, I consider a chord unique if it does not equal a straight-up chord. It doesn’t count it if it equals a chord with an omitted root of 5th. However, there is always an exception or two.

 

The I, IV and V chords: Are they the only chords?

I often heard other guitar players say, “You only need 3 chords to write a hit song”. My opinion of that was that they didn’t know more than 3 chords. But in a way they are right. If you don’t take suspended chords into account, then all the chords above can be grouped in 3 categories:

  1. C major and A minor
  2. F major and D minor
  3. G major, E minor and B diminished

Let me explain.

Of all the A minor chords, only 2 of them are unique (Am, Am add9), but the other A minor chords equal C chords (Am7, Am9, Am11). So I would call the relative minor chords as variations of C major. That’s not exactly correct, but it’s the idea that’s important.

D minor fares a little better with the Dm13 chord being unique, making 3 unique D minors and 3 that equal F chords.

Same for G and E minor but you can throw the 3 B diminished chords in with G dominant 7th chords.

  • B dim = G7 no root. That is a common chord in blues tunes, especially the D7 shaped diminished triad.
  • Bm7♭5 = G9 no root. Also, a great chord used by rock and blues guys, jazz as well I assume.
  • Bm11♭5 = G9/13 no root.

B dim and G7 chords all do the same thing – they have a strong tendency to resolve the dissonance of the tritone by going to a C major chord.

This is food for thought. If most A minor chords are C’s, and D minor are F’s and E minor and B dims are G’s, then there is your 1-4-5 chord song – not really, but it is interesting.

 

Relevant Articles

What I did above for the key of C major, I did for every major key. I also did the same chord building for the following scales:

Harmonic Minor
Melodic Minor
Whole Tone
Augmented
Diminished Scale

My website is geared towards guitar players, and the name Every Guitar Chord refers to all open and closed chords relevant to singer-songwriters in “popular” genres.

I’m a big fan of Rick Beato and his music theory and guitar videos on YouTube. He has a music education and a lot of music industry experience. But his list of chords is different from mine. Rick mentions chords like maj7 sus add 3 or his Phrygian chord of 1-♭2-5.

I only consider chords that would be used in rock, blues, country, bluegrass, folk, reggae, etc. They are the genres that I like. So my idea of “every guitar chord” means chords used by songwriters in those genres – chords I’ve actually seen in songs.

Here is the list of articles that I have written that highlights what this site is about:

Major guitar chords from C major

1. Major Guitar Chords (Key Of C): notes and intervals for the triads C, F, and G including “add” chords.
2. Fmaj7 chords: guitar chords for Fmaj7, Fmaj9, and Fmaj9/13.
3. Cmaj7 chords: guitar chords for Cmaj7, Cmaj9, and Cmaj9/13.
4. G7 chords: all guitar chord shapes for G7, G9, G11, and G13.
5. F Lydian chords: all F chord with a #11 in it.
6. Double-extended G7 chords: all 6-note dom7 chords built on G. I also include B diminished chords in this article since they have the same function.

Minor guitar chords from C major

7. Minor Chords In The Key Of C: Same as the major triads article but for Dm, Em, and Am.
8. Minor 7 chords from C major: m7, m9, m11, and m13.

Suspended guitar chords from C major

9. 34 Suspended Chords From C: Guitar chords for all scale degrees that build a sus4 and/or sus2 chord.
10. 7sus4 chords from C major: guitar chords for the scale degrees that build 7sus, 7sus b9, 9sus and 13sus.

11. Chords From Scales: The final article I recommend reading. It covers the scale(s) where you can build all the chord types for which I have guitar chord shapes.

 

Final Thoughts

BOOM!

Sorry if all that information blew your mind. It’s a lot to take in. First, there are so many chord options from any single major scale. Just go nuts and try a whole bunch of different combinations and come up with some great chord progressions.

As for the unique vs equivalent chords, try to memorize them. You don’t want to follow a C6 with an Am7 chord – that’s not really a chord change. But going from C6 to Am add9, now that’s better! Check out the Modes page on Wikipedia for additional insights into modes.

 

C major scale chords infographic

 

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