Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Music Theory Chords

I’m confused. I understand Mr. G’s WWHWWWH formula and I can find the notes in different keys using the formula, but I can’t figure which chords are used. I also don’t really understand why the chords change in different keys. In the key of F, D is minor but in the key of A, D is major. Can anyone help me?

1.) order of chords in a major scale is M, m, m, M, M, m, dim,
2.) you start counting with the note of the key you are in example key = D…D is the “One” chord
3.) D is the (six) chord in the key of F so it is minor… F ,Gm, Am, B♭, C, Dm, and E
D is the (Four) chord in the key of A so it is Major .D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm, C#dim


I usually leave theory questions to the real musicians around here, but I’m gonna jump in on this one and just see how I do. Please correct me where I’m wrong, fellers!

When it comes to stuff like this, I feel like I can understand what I’m doing, but I’m still not sure how to speak the language.

So I kinda cheat.

Ever heard of the Circle of Fifths? I have an app on my phone called Circle of Fifths and it helps me see what I’m doing.

Within each key there are a certain set of chords that the ear says, “Hey, those sound good together!” They contain 3 major chords, 3 minor chords, and a diminished chord. @fiddle_wood set you up with that above.

So in the key of F those chords are:

  • Major: F, Bb, C
  • Minor: G minor, D minor, A minor
  • Diminished: E diminished
    (I think this is called the diatonic chord system, is that right y’all?)

That doesn’t mean the D major chord doesn’t exist in this key - it just means it doesn’t sound good like the D minor chord does.

Now in the key of A, everything stays constant, but it just shifts. Your chords that sound good together are

  • Major: A, D, E
  • Minor: B minor, F# minor, C# minor
  • Diminished: G# diminished

So again, it’s not that D minor doesn’t exist, but because everything shifted it just doesn’t sound good anymore like the D major does.

Here’s what that Circle of Fifths chart would look like for the Key of F:

and the Key of A:

Now, what makes something sound good to our ear and the other thing not? Beats me. I guess God just made music that way.


Oh, and one more thing…I’m not sure which instrument you fancy, but the banjo lesson Ben did with Alan Munde called Fretboard Geography really made this stuff stick with me. Especially the idea that everything remains constant, but it just shifts with different keys.


Above are some really good answers, so I’ll try to reference a little of the info without repeating it. My short answer is that it’s all relative to the root chord. Keeping in mind what Fiddle_Wood said above:

Check out this link:

And specifically this image in that link:

The most prominent chords in any key will be made up of the notes in THAT KEY’S major scale.

So, looking at the above chart and remembering what Fiddle_Wood said, in the key of F, D is the 6th note. That means that, using the notes making up the F scale, the D will be made up of D, F, and A. That’s a D minor.

If you’re playing in the key of A, D is the 4th note in the scale. Referring back to Fiddle_Wood’s 1st line and the chart, we see that the 4th note in the A major scale is D. So making D using only notes from the A major scale, we get D, F#, and A.

So, it’s really all about the notes that make up a particular key’s major scale.


How does D being the 6th note in the key of F have to do with what chords it’s made up of?

to play in Gm you would build the chord for the Gm scale: G A Bb C D Eb F (there are different minor scales…this one is Gm natural)

You can find further explanation from the link below

Chords in the key of G minor natural

What if it was Key of G (sharp key)? or Bb (flat key)?

That’s a good question. It has to do with the fingering of the chord itself. Check out this graphic of the F major chord:

So, if we take all 3 notes in the F major scale and walk them up the scale the same number of notes, we get:

F = F -> G -> A -> Bb -> C -> D
A = A -> Bb -> C -> D -> E -> F
C = C -> D -> E -> F -> G -> A

Now you have your D minor.

So when you move each note of a chord the same number of note in the major scale, you end up with Major / minor / minor / Major / Major / minor / diminished.

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It’s still the same. For any Major key, natural, sharp, or flat, it will always be WWHWWWH and it will also always be MmmMMmD. The first chart I posted above actually spells out what that looks like for every key.


key C
scale of C = C, D, E. ,F, G, A, B

F chord triad built from C major scale = F, A, C

The A is 3 half-steps above the F and is the “3rd” of the chord

This makes it a “flatted third” because in a regular F major scale the 3rd tone es Bb.

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Oh ok. I think it’s starting to make sense. Thanks

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So the chords are always in the MmmMMmD order no matter what?

no, not always

I suggest reading this for a simple understanding of what happens in harmonic and melodic minor scales.

Learn About the Types of Minor Scales | Deciphering Music

There are three types of minor scales: The Natural Minor scale The Harmonic Minor scale The Melodic Minor scale

No. The only rule in music is that there are no rules. :slight_smile:

For example, when playing in G, the 2 is Am. However, you’ll often hear an A Major played as a transition chord to the D. The reason it works so well is that the D is the 5th of G in the G major scale, and the A is the 5th of D in the D Major scale. So your using the 5th of the 5th as the transition chord. You can continue stacking those 5ths to come up with some really wild, but nice sounding chord progressions.

Is this how you write that in the Nashville Number System?


Oh, nicely put Dave. That helps me out too.

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Spot on Rance

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I think Rance missed a chord…:sunglasses:


I used this in my piano lessons and my instructor said not to cuz it boxes you into a “country” sound. I was like, “Exactly!”