Guitar Harmony Chart

Note: A PDF document for the Harmony Chart in this lesson can be found here.

There is quite a lot of information given by the phrase “in the key of …”. A key describes the notes used in the melody and, importantly, the chords that you can expect to play for the harmony. The following harmony chart will hopefully help you learn this information.

Now this chart can look like a crazy bingo card at first sight. Let’s try to crack the code, shall we?

Follow the left hand side to the key you want to work with. Once there, read left to right to get the notes in that key. For example the key of “C” would use the notes: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. The key of “F”: F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F and so on.

Now when reading left to right notice some note names are uppercase and some lowercase. This describes the type of chord, major or minor, needed to keep all chord tones within the original seven note scale. It works simply like this: If the note name is uppercase, play a major chord. If lowercase, play a minor chord. The oddball of the bunch is the chord on the seventh note of the scale which is a diminished chord.

Give it a try for the key of C. The chords would be C – Dm – Em – F – G – A- Bdim – C

harmony_chart1

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Keeping all the chords true to this chart won’t guarantee a great chord progression but all the chords will sound like they “fit” because every note of each chord is drawn from the original scale. We call this “diatonic”.

Roman numerals are used in music theory to name progressions and chord qualities. Uppercase again means major. Lowercase means minor. So a I-vi-IV-V progression in C would mean to play the chords built off the 1st-6th-4th and 5th notes of the key. Staying diatonic this would be: C-Am-F-G. The same progression in G would mean to play G-Em-C-D. Moving a progression from one key to another is called “transposing” and is an extremely useful function of this chart.

This chart also shows minor key progressions. Each major key has a “relative” minor key that starts on the major key’s 6th note. Because these relative keys share the same notes, they also share the same chords.

A final point about the chart numbering past the octave to ’13′. This can be useful when used as a reference in chord construction. That’s for another lesson!

If you have questions on how to use this chart please write me in the comments and I will be happy to answer!

Storm

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64 Comments on “Guitar Harmony Chart”

  • Peter Vögel wrote on 3 March, 2009, 7:55

    Doesn’t the B maj scale has to have an a# instead of a?

  • Storm wrote on 3 March, 2009, 14:25

    @Peter Vogel: Correct and corrected. Thanks!

  • phetAgreego wrote on 9 March, 2009, 23:05

    now in my rss reader)))
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  • Storm wrote on 10 March, 2009, 6:11

    @phetAgreego: Nice! We could do without the ads though…

  • Bryan Dunn wrote on 29 April, 2009, 9:29

    Peter Vogel rocks! and so does Storm

  • Aqeel Anwar wrote on 4 June, 2009, 14:39

    wow thank you so much for this Storm, it is somewhat helping me figure which chord fits together, still a long way to go but thankfully this has pointed me in the right direction :)

  • james wrote on 18 February, 2010, 21:56

    wow my mind has been blown about “keys” for so long, its finally starting to make sense!
    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH thank you! haha

  • mj wrote on 16 October, 2011, 2:31

    i have a major problem with how to use chord progression in pentatonic scales and modes plus how to exchang simple major and minor chords with sus aug 7th …. chords can you help me with this plz

  • Geoffro wrote on 2 November, 2011, 23:08

    awesome chart man easy to use but whats with the quality thing?

  • Ashish wrote on 14 November, 2011, 23:03

    Is there a similar chart for chords in all Minor Scales?

    (most commonly used minor scales maybe?)

  • Henri wrote on 27 November, 2011, 4:32

    wow my mind has been blown about “keys” for so long, its finally starting to make sense!AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH thank you! haha . ALSO

  • matthew trevitz wrote on 13 December, 2011, 8:11

    pleaase send me any info on how to play guitar for me please. my email is trevitzm@gmail.com

  • Austin wrote on 1 January, 2012, 3:49

    what is that pyramid shape?

  • Robert wrote on 17 January, 2012, 6:03

    Storm Hi
    Why is the A note not Am? 
    Give it a try for the key of C. The chords would be C – Dm – Em – F – G – A- Bdim – C

  • Robert wrote on 17 January, 2012, 6:09

    Moving a progression from one key to another is called “transposing” and is an extremely useful function of this chart.
    HOW TO TRANSPOSE SO IT STILL SOUNDS SOLID GOOD? FROM WHICH KEY TO WHICH KEY OR CAN THIS ONLY BE AN OCTAVE HIGHER OR LOWER.?

  • Storm wrote on 17 January, 2012, 12:45

    Hi Robert,
    As stated in the post, uppercase letters represent major chords and lowercase means minor chords. Use the note names as roots but play the appropriate chord type. And you are correct, the VII chord is diminished.

  • chris wrote on 6 February, 2012, 11:55

    in the chord chart are all the chords a whole step between each notes or chords?

  • chris wrote on 6 February, 2012, 12:05

    have no idea how you visit me.the question i ask that all chords are they a whole step in the h chart

  • Dave wrote on 7 February, 2012, 2:42

    What does the pyramid shape signify please ?

  • Dave wrote on 7 February, 2012, 2:43

    Also, what is the major minor formula pattern for the minor scale.  Is it Still M m m M M m D Oct ?

  • daniel wrote on 23 April, 2012, 16:48

    pls,as far as am concern, am a beginner and the chart is not clear. I will like u to make it more intersting for me. Good work, keep it up.

  • galvatron wrote on 16 May, 2012, 20:07

    at the beginning it says for C: C-Dm-Em-F-G-A-Bdim-C but according to the roman numerals harmony wouldnt it be C-Dm-Em-F-G-Am-Bmdim-C?

  • catherine wrote on 3 July, 2012, 21:57

    Hi Storm,
    my music teacher told me before that there is a reason why some chords in the major scales are played in minor instead of major and I totally forget about the reason. i really wanted to know the reason behind and hope you can help me out. Thank you.

  • Agnel wrote on 26 July, 2012, 1:48

    I need to know why the F scale is after C scale and the vertical sequence of key C,F,Bb, Eb,……A,D,G Why is so??????????

  • Famoty wrote on 23 August, 2012, 1:44

    Bb,cld it still be A#?

  • adedapomola martins wrote on 14 October, 2012, 15:09

    hi storm,pls aw can i solo wit chords.

  • Luke wrote on 23 September, 2013, 3:00

    Hi there, thanks so much for this, it clears up a lot of mystery around keys and is invaluable to me! Just a couple of questions, I believe firstly in your example directly above the chart it should read Am not A(major). Secondly, the notes here are major right? Eg if you took the most common minor pentatonic scale the second (ii) note in the scale for C would be D# (three half-steps) as opposed to D (two half-steps)..

  • Abimbola Ayodeji wrote on 24 January, 2014, 6:23

    I WANT TO SAY A BIG THANK YOU FOR THIS POST, AND ALSO SAY THAT IT’S BEEN SO INTERESTING, HAVING TO LEARN GUITAR CHORDS THIS WAY. HOWEVER, I’LL WANT TO SAY THAT I’VE GONE THROUGH THE CHORDS ON KEYS; C-D-E-F-G-A (ALL MAJORS). But to be frank; i somewhat have problems on strumming chords for the 5 minor keys. I would so much appreciate it if you could explain once again…and also to drop a mail address i could reach you on. Many thanks once again, Ayodeji

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