Note: A PDF document for the Major Scale Chord Chart in this lesson can be found here.
In a previous post, I presented a Guitar Harmony Chart for twelve major keys. In teaching guitar I find that there are five keys that are far and away the most common. In fact, any one of these five might be used more than the remaining ones put together! These keys are C major, G major, D major, A major and E major. If we reorder the key note names we can call them the ‘CAGED’ keys – C,A,G,E and D.
The following chart shows the chords for the five most common guitar keys. Simply find the key you want to work with and then read left to right to get the chords in that key. The roman numerals at the top show the position and quality (major or minor) of each chord in key.
The above Major Scale Chord chart shows a major chord for ‘VII’ rather than the diminished chord indicated by the previous harmony chart. While technically out of key, in practice this is a common substitution for the diminished chord in a major key: go down a half-step from the diminished chord and play a major chord in its place. This is a ‘borrowed’ chord from the minor scale or Mixolydian mode starting on the same key note and is a very common substitution in rock and pop styles.