The Difference Between Major and Minor Chords

Today's topic is the difference between major and minor chords. Perhaps you've noticed this before, but the difference is only a single note! That note is the 3rd. The other two notes in the chord are the root note, and the fifth - those notes are the same regardless of whether you're making a major chord or a minor chord. So the difference between major and minor is quite minor, really. 🙂

Difference Between Major and Minor

Anyways, this is a handy bit of guitar theory to know, but even better is seeing the thirds pattern and how it can be used on the guitar. Major thirds and minor thirds are some of the sweetest sounding harmonies you'll hear, so it really pays to learn how or to hire someone to teach you to use those intervals on your guitar.

If you're not familiar with the scale degrees, and how they can be used like numbers, you might want to checkout my lesson on Unlocking I IV V, as it explains that in detail.

This video is really just an introduction to thirds, but stay tuned - I'll be doing more on this topic in future lessons.

Video Problems? Watch it on YouTube

So there it is, the difference between major and minor guitar chords. Any questions, fire away.

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17 Responses to “The Difference Between Major and Minor Chords”

  1. Barry Little Sr. July 6, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    Thanks so ie the 3rd note of the Maj chord is dropped a half step

    • Barry Little Sr. July 6, 2010 at 8:53 am #

      I'm the worst singer on the planet, a friend told me to sing to the 3rd note of the key so in G I find B and match my voice there. What do ya think?

      • Jonathan Boettcher July 6, 2010 at 8:56 am #

        Yeah - the third is the most common harmony out there, and it always sounds great. That's good advice.

  2. Jonathan Boettcher July 6, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    Hi Barry - yes, so if you drop the 3rd in the major chord a half step, you will create a minor chord.

  3. Kent September 11, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Awesome lesson!! I got your I, IV, V CD and am enjoying the great lessons. Thanks for the website stuff.

  4. steve September 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm #


    that was an excellent explanation of the "thirds" concept...might be the simplest, yet the easiest to understand lesson on thirds i have heard. and they do sound great...being a double stop freak like i am(chuck berry is my gittar god), i have been experimenting with them lately...i had never heard of the 3 semi tone 4 semitone method of changing/determining minor and major either...just never noticed it when i was playing..

    all in all, just a great piece of theory explanation on both counts there jonathan...

    it is greatly appreciated...


  5. ger December 7, 2010 at 12:14 am #

    good man yourself Jonny i find most of your stuff very good--even if ya do go into it in too much depth at times--best of all are the little tips and rule of thumb tips--keep up the good work--you are a good teacher--I should know as i am one too--Ger

  6. ted woodcock August 31, 2011 at 4:56 am #

    Hi Jonathan,just a short note to let you know that i found the 1,4,5 course invaluable,i've always wondered how it fit in to the whole skeem of things and have come to realize that it is the best beginning for any guitarist.I have gone back to it for a refresher yesterday and picked up numerous things that i have missed and find that the fret board is becoming more clearer.In my opinion it is,to date,along with the scale pattern courses,the best source of info in my arsenal,thankyou for enlighting me,i have been recommending it to everyone i know who plays or attempts to play guitar.

    • Jonathan September 2, 2011 at 9:13 am #

      Thanks Ted, that's great to hear!

  7. terry swails August 31, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    Good Lesson. How about a lesson on Tex Mex style picking,been trying to find something on it but not much info out there. They use it a lot in country music it ads a mexican or spanish flavor to the music. Thanks Keep up the good work.

  8. rick August 31, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    great lesson i learnt something

  9. nash August 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    fanx..Jonathan great lesson....i was wondering in G chord...example 1.3.5....can u still base ur lick around 3.5. which is B and D...while u still on G major?

    • Jonathan September 2, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      Hey Nash, yes you can do that, and it will sound good as well. If another instrument is playing a G chord, or even just a G note (for instance, a bass guitar playing the single note) and you play a riff using the B and the D, altogether that is going to create a G chord between the difference instruments, and that is going to sound great, guaranteed.

  10. bruce December 1, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Boring , you r not a good teacher .

  11. Harold April 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    i'v been looking for just this lesson ,i'ts helped me a lot

  12. Louie December 19, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Bruce was being dickish and not realizing that music, like learning a language needs to slowly saturate some peoples minds. I've been teaching myself theory for sometime and little clues like dropping the third by a half step is the formula for minor chords becomes another hard guideline for the higher density learners. I run a jamspace/cafe/ guitar repair shop and am home to the self taught. I have some friends that see their music in colors, others numbers, and yet others see complete and distinct patterns. So again, like language, where I hear an A minor another guy may hear a particular pattern of the A scale, as others can see streams of flowing numbers, we're all gathering what we percvieve of music and discribing it in diferent languages.
    anyway, nice lesson. I'll pass it on.
    PS... if you're ever lost around scotts bluff Ne. Stop by MojoMusicCafe in Bayard. 

  13. Douglas January 17, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    I have the one,four,five, and yes I can say to anyone who does not have that course should get it. It truly helps to understand everything your talking about and it truly helps to understand the fretboard.
    Yes the one,four,five is a course I think anyway you should have clears a lot of things that one may be having a problem with in understanding guitar playing.

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