Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

1,4,5 or 1,3,5

I watched the video on what makes a chord is the 1,4,5 notes of the scale associated with the root. But in Scruggs book and other sources it says that the chord is made up of the 1,3,5 notes. What did I miss?


Hey @charles.f.corliss, welcome to the forum!

The chords themselves aren’t made up of the 1st, 4th, and 5th tones; however, the 1, 4, and 5 chords are the main chords of a major key. The major chords themselves are made up of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes. For example, the Amaj chord is made up of the notes A (1st), C# (3rd) and E (5th) notes, but the most common chords in the key of Amaj are A (1, or tonic), D (4th) and E (5th). Each of these chords has different notes that make them up- Amaj is made up of A (root), C# (#3rd), and E (5th), Dmaj is made up of D (root), F# (3rd), and A (5th), and Emaj is made up of E (root), G# (3rd), and B (5th). However, if you were to play a song using the 1, 4, and 5 major chords in each of these keys, you would use the major chords corresponding to the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of the major scale of that key. Hope that answers your question!



The 1,4,5 is the standard chord progression in a bluegrass song. For example in Boil Them Cabbage Down in G, the chords are G, C, G, D, G, C, G, D, G. Or 1, 4, 1, 5, 1, 4, 1, 5, 1.

The 1, 3, 5 are the notes used to create each chord. For example in a G chord, you have the notes G, B, D or 1, 3, 5.

Hope that makes sense and answers your question!


Welcome to the forum @charles.f.corliss! This is a subject that can be very confusing for sure, and we can all understand where you’re coming from…and it’s wonderful that you are willing to get in here and ask away! Good info above already, so I’ll try not to muddy the water. It did remind me of a recent topic relating to the Nashville Numbering System, and just wanted to share it with you in case it helps. Lot’s of info on that topic in the link below, and the long response from @BanjoBen can put an example or two in front of you of what the others above are talking about…hope it helps!
Nashville Number System