If we take a major scale and build a chord on each note of the scale, we can form seven different chords. The pitch of the scale that the chord is built upon is called the root. The root also corresponds with the chord’s letter name. (The root of the ‘C chord’ is ‘C’; the root of the ‘D chord’ is ‘D’; etc.)
Chord Qualities of the Major Scale
As you can see in the preceding diagram, there are a total of three major chords, three minor chords, and one diminished chord.
It is important to understand that the chord qualities found in the major scale always appear in the same order no matter what the scale. Here is an example of the chords that can be formed using only the pitches of the D major scale.
Notice that once again there are three major chords, three minor chords, and one diminished chord, and that they all occur in the same order (M-m-m-M-M-m-dim)
The reason so many of the notes in the preceding diagram have sharps next to them is because the chords are formed using only the pitches of the D major scale: D, E, F sharp, G, A, B, and C sharp. Therefore, all ‘F’s’ and ‘C’s’ in any of the chords must be sharp.
Roots of Scales and Keys
At the beginning of this chapter, we know that every chord has a root. Scales and keys also have roots. The root of a scale is the pitch that the scale is built upon. For example, a ‘C major’ scale will have ‘C’ as its root.
The root of a scale (or key) is also sometime referred to as the ‘key-note’ or ‘home note’. It is the pitch where the music feels most peaceful and at rest. The root of a key is the tonal center of a piece of music (or section of music). A tonal center is a specific pitch which the piece (or section) center around. For example, a piece of music in the key of ‘F major’ will have ‘F’ as its tonal center, I.e., ‘F’ will be the pitch which the music is centered around. There are numerous ways a piece of music can be centered around the pitch of ‘F’.
- ‘F’ may be the first and last pitch of a song.
- ‘F’ may be the most frequently heard pitch.
- The chord built on ‘F’ may be the most frequently heard chord.
- Chords with the strong relationships to the ‘F’ chord will be used to refer the listener back to the tonal center ‘F’.
Note: Since the key of a piece originates from the pitches of the scale, the root of the scale and the root of the key will always be the same pitch.