How do I tell the difference between major and minor
One of the ways is to play the first 3 notes of the scale. If all the notes are a full step apart (like the white keys C – D – E on a piano), then the scale is in a major key. If the 3rd note is a half-step up from the 2nd one (like the white keys C – D and the black key E-flat on a piano), then the scale is one of the minor keys or modes.
Well, the simplest way is to listen. They each have their distinct sound. Play some minor chords and the major of the same name and just listen to the sound. They are really very distinct.
Technically the music theory explanation is that all basic chords are made from two ‘thirds’ stacked on top of each other. A minor third is a third that spans three semi tones. A major third is a third that spans four semi tones.
A major chord is a chord that has a span of a major third between the root and third, and a span of a minor third between the third and the fifth.
A minor chord is the opposite, with a span of a minor third between the root and the third, and a major third between the third and the fifth.
What this means in practical terms is that you can turn a minor chord into a major chord by raising the third by a half tone, and a major to a minor by lowering the third by a half tone.
So if you have an A Major chord, which has the notes A (root), C# (3rd) and E (5th), you make it a minor chord by changing the C# to a C so you have A, C and E as the notes. Lowering that one note by a half step changes the bottom third to a minor third while turning the top third into a major third at the same time.
And just for extra credit, if you have two major thirds making up a chord that is an Augmented cord, and if you have two minor thirds that makes a Diminished chord.
If you have chord notations, lower case “m” is minor, and upper case “M” is major (or it will be a stand alone, like “C”). For instance Am = A minor, and C = C Major. A really good source for chord notations is Sylvia Wood’s chord chart. It lists all of them.
- The forum ‘Amateur Harpists’ is closed to new topics and replies.