You would be amazed at how many chords from the key of C major there are. I have 199 closed chords and 377 open chords from the key of C major.
This article covers all the chords for C, F & G major triads and various add chords. The add chords I’m including are 6, add9. 6 add9, add9/11, and 6 add9/11.
Don’t worry if you have never heard of some of those chord types because I have plenty of easy closed and open chords that sound great and that you will want to use in your songwriting.
Major chords in the key of C major
There are many chord types that can be built from the major scale. This article is only on major triads from C major and the add tones (6, 9, 11) for the major triads. I have 89 chords in total (19 closed, 70 open).
Major chords from the key of C major
Here are the chords types I cover: major triad, 6, add9, 6 add9, add9/11, and 6 add9/11. Read my Music Intervals article if you are unfamiliar with the terms or symbols below.
Major chord / triad
Chord intervals: root note, major 3rd, perfect fifth = R-M3-P5 = 1-3-5
Alternate names: none
Resolve tendency: acts as a V chord and resolves to its perfect fourth, e.g. C > F
Chord intervals: root note, major 3rd, perfect fifth, major 6th = R-M3-P5-M6 = 1-3-5-6
Chord equivalent: minor 7th on the vi (C6 = Am7)
Alternate names: maj6, ma6, M6, sixth
Resolve tendency: resolves to its perfect 5th, e.g. C6 > G
Chord intervals: root note, major 3rd, perfect fifth, major 2nd\9th = R-M3-P5-M9 = 1-3-5-9
Alternate names: none that are correct – “add9” pretty much does it
Resolve tendency: resolves to its perfect 5th, e.g. C add9 > G
6 add9 chord
Chord intervals: root note, major 3rd, perfect fifth, major 6th, major 2nd\9th = R-M3-P5-M6-M9 = 1-3-5-6-9
Chord equivalent: minor 11th on the 6th, 9 suspended on the 2nd/9th (C6 add9 = Am11 = D9sus)
Alternate names: 6/9 or 69
Resolve tendency: resolves to its perfect 5th, e.g. C6 add9 > G
Chord intervals: root note, major 3rd, perfect fifth, major 2nd\9th, perfect 4th\11th = R-M3-P5-M9-P4/11 = 1-3-5-9-11
Chord equivalent: 13 suspended on the perfect 5th (C add9/11 = G13sus)
Alternate names: Some people may call it a sus add9 but that would be incorrect since the 3rd is present
Resolve tendency: resolves to itself (I maj) best and it’s perfect fourth and fifth, e.g. C add9/11 > C or F or G
6 add9/11 chord
Chord intervals: root note, major 3rd, perfect fifth, major 6th, major 2nd\9th, perfect 4th\11th = R-M3-P5-M6-M9-P4/11 = 1-3-5-6-9-11
Chord equivalent: maj9/13 on the IV (C6 add9/11 = Fmaj9/13)
Alternate names: none
Resolve tendency: resolves best to its major triad version (I maj) and slightly to it’s perfect fourth, C6 add9/11 > C or F
Note: This chord is a polychord of a major triad and a minor triad a whole step apart, either the I and ii or V and vi, for example, C & Dm or G and Am in the key of C major.
The chord shapes for 6, add9 and Cadd9 chords are in my previous articles:
Notes on my term “resolve tendency”
The resolve tendency is the scale degree or chord that the chord type seems to come to rest on. I tested every chord type in a way to indicate the ending of a song to see which chord(s) offered the best resolution.
Keep the resolution tendency in mind if you are unsure of the next chord in a song you are writing. Often the relative minor of the resolution chord mentioned above works as well, though I have not tested that out for every chord type.
But the tendency is only if you are looking for consonance. Follow any chord with any other chord as you see best. Let me know if you disagree with any of the tendencies.
Open major chords for C, F, and G
I’m not covering the chord types with an 11 for F since it has an augmented 11th in the key of C major. Also, I already did an article on C add9 chords which I referenced above so I will not include those chord shapes in this article.
Here is a chord diagram of the symbols I use in my chord blocks:
C major chord types: major triad, 6, 6 add9, add9/11, 6 add9/11
C major chord tones: C-E-G
C6 chord tones: C-E-G-A, equals Am7
C6 add9 chord tones: C-E-G-A-D, equals Am11 & D9sus
C add9/11 chord tones: C-E-G-D-F, equals G13sus
C6 add9/11 chord tones: C-E-G-A-D-F, equals C and Dm polychord and Fmaj9/13
Notes on the open C voicings:
C major: For #1 the slashes are for optional G notes as a variation. #3 sounds great, #2 not so much.
C6: I like #1 and #2.
C6 add9: #2 and #4 are my favorites.
C add9/11: Like both of them.
C6 add9/11: They are both hard to hold, but #2 sounds great.
F major chords from the key of C: major triad, 6, add9, 6 add9
F major chord tones: F-A-C
F6 chord tones: F-A-C-D, equals Dm7
F add9 chord tones: F-A-C-G
F6 add9 chord tones: F-A-C-D-G, equals Dm11 & G9sus
To be an open chord, you have to have at least 1 open string and for F major, that’s all I have – the open A.
Notes on the open F voicings:
F major: #2 and 3 sound good.
F6: They all sound good. For #4, I have a 3-string pinky barre, but you could also use your ring finger. I naturally use my pinky for that voicing.
F add9: #1 sounds fantastic!
F6 add9: Of the 4 in 1st position, #1 sounds the best followed by #2. #7 sounds good also.
G major chords from the key of C: major triad, 5, 6, add9, 6 add9, add9/11, 6 add9/11
G major chord tones: G-B-D
G6 chord tones: G-B-D-E, equals Em7
G add9 chord tones: G-B-D-A
G6 add9 chord tones: G-B-D-E-A, equals Em11 & A9sus
G add9/11 chord tones: G-B-D-A-C, equals D13sus
G6 add9/11 chord tones: G-B-D-E-A-C, equals G and Am polychord and Cmaj9/13
Notes on the open G voicings:
G major & G5: Thought I would throw in 2 open G5 chords. As for the major chords – it’s G, they sound great – but #’s 4 & 6 sound really good.
G6: #’s 2 & 4 sound the best.
G add9: #1 sounds great. #2 also sounds great but it is a little hard to hold. Numbers 4 and 6 sound fantastic.
G6 add9: I prefer all the odd ones: 1, 3, 5, & 7.
G add9/11: 1 is difficult to hold, 2 sounds great, and 4 is pretty good.
G6 add9/11: #1 sounds amazing, 4 is pretty good, and #3 is really hard to hold.
If you like major chords, then take a look at these articles of mine:
- Cmaj7 Chords: 29 guitar chords for Cmaj7, Cmaj9, Cmaj13, and Cmaj9/13.
- Fmaj7 Chords: 51 guitar chords for Fmaj7, Fmaj9, Fmaj13, and Fmaj9/13.
- F Lydian Chords: F major chords that have the #11 in them.
- G Dominant 7th chords:71 guitar chords for G7, G9, G11, and G13.
- G Double Extended 7th Chords: 27 G guitar chords for G9/11, G9/13 & G11/13 chords.
- Comprehensive List of Chords: Tables that show every chord built from the major scale, as well as other popular scales.
That’s a lot of chords and I’m not even close to being done for the key of C major. Check out my article Chords from Scales to see all the chord types I cover in my other C major scale chord articles. Check out my Diminished Chord article for the open B dim chords from C major.
I have some great chords in this article. Remember, a lot of the add chords can substitute for the regular major triad. Use these chord types to embellish a chord progression that you cover or for your originals.