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There are so many ways to arrange notes. How come these two scales, the major and minor , have stand head and shoulders above the rest? I try to answer this question in a short essay. To read it click here.

You can download a pdf version of this chart by clicking here. It has an extra page with a mnemonic to help you remember the order of sharps and flats in the keys signatures.

The difference between major and minor thirds is the cornerstone of music theory. How can you learn to tell them apart? One way is to apply the “Frere Jacques test”. Frere Jacques uses the major third. If you try this tune on a minor third it sounds a bit miserable. Here’s the tune first in F major, then our hero protests in Dm (the relative minor sharing the same key signature) then later in F minor (the parallel minor). Did he get out of bed to ring the bells? Click here and you might find out.

At one time you just needed C, Cm and G7. But chord symbols have gradually grown more elaborate. READING CHORD SYMBOLS is a guide through the rules that musicians use. Click here to read or download.

Chord symbols started to develop around 1850. Before that composers would indicate chord by noting the intervals above a bass line , known as figured bass. It works well so long as you stay close to the key signature but gets very messy when you get more adventurous in your key changes which is what the new generations of composers wanted to do.

A chord that got lost in the changeover is the diminished triad - a delicate ambiguous sound. If you write Bdim or Bo musicians  will play the full diminished 7th, that is B D F Ab. There is no way to tell them you just want B D F or B D Ab or   B F. Ab. Perhaps we could use ^ to show an element has been omitted. So:

B^o7  no 3rd so B F Ab

Bo^7  no 5th so B D Ab

Bo^   no 7th  so B D F

Another method is to show the diminished triad as Bo5. This is rather like the use of 5 in B5 which means, by convention rather than logic, that the 3rd of the chord has been omitted. Likewise Bo5 can be taken to mean that the 7th has beeen omitted.

Slash chords could be used to show inversion of the triad e.g.

Bo5 represents B D F

Fo5/B represents B F Ab

Abo5/B represents B D Ab

Its a lot of writing for just three notes but a little more conventional/

What do you think? Have you seen or can you suggest any other method.

Major and minor thirds - so important to chords and scales. Sing and play this little ditty to help make them part of your experience. Click here