In music theory, chords are a fundamental building block of harmony. A chord is a group of three or more notes played simultaneously, and naming chords in music theory is an essential skill for any musician.

What are Chords?

At their most basic level, chords are made up of three or more notes played at the same time. These notes can be stacked in different intervals to create different types of chords.

For example, a major chord consists of the 1st (root), 3rd, and 5th notes of a major scale played simultaneously. In the key of C major, this would be C, E, and G played together.

Types of Chords

There are many different types of chords in music theory. Some of the most common ones include:

– Major Chords
– Minor Chords
– Diminished Chords
– Augmented Chords
– Seventh Chords

Each type has its own unique sound and function within a piece of music.

How Do You Name Chords?

Chords are named based on their root note and the type of chord they are. For example, a C major chord is named after its root note (C) and its chord type (major).

When naming chords, it’s important to understand the basic principles behind chord construction. This includes understanding intervals (the distance between two notes) and how they relate to each other.

For example, a minor third interval is three half-steps (or three frets on a guitar) above the root note. Therefore, a C minor chord consists of C (the root), E-flat (a minor third interval above C), and G (a perfect fifth interval above C).

Chord Symbols

Chord symbols are shorthand notations used by musicians to represent chords in sheet music or lead sheets. They consist of a root note and a chord type symbol.

For example, a C major chord would be written as “C” or “Cmaj,” while a C minor chord would be written as “Cm” or “Cmin.”

Other common chord symbols include:

– “C7” for a dominant seventh chord
– “Cm7” for a minor seventh chord
– “Csus4” for a suspended fourth chord


Chords can also be played in different inversions, which means that the notes are rearranged so that a different note serves as the lowest note.

For example, a C major triad consists of the notes C, E, and G. In first inversion, the E note becomes the lowest note (or bass note) of the chord. This creates an E minor triad with a C in the bass.

Chord inversions are named based on the bass note. In this case, the first inversion of C major is called “C/E.”


Naming chords is an essential skill in music theory, and it’s important to understand the basic principles behind chord construction and naming conventions. By knowing how to name chords and understanding their function within a piece of music, musicians can create more complex harmonies and arrangements that are both pleasing to listen to and intellectually stimulating.