Chords in a Key

In order to start your songwriting journey you must have a desire to start songwriting.

Without this it will be very hard.

That being said, Songwriting can be, and is, a very rewarding thing to take on.

The 2nd thing you must do is to know your guitar chords.

Resolve today to take some time and review this lesson and make sure you know it by heart.

That way when you start songwriting…it becomes second nature to you.

We will cover the Major Scale, Roman Numerals, Guitar Chords and what I like to call The Laws of the Key.


The Major Scale and Formula

In this lesson we will look at the Major Scale and its formula and how they are written in Roman Numerals for navigation of chords in any of the 12 Major Keys.

The formula is a way for you to figure out chords in ANY key.

We will also look at what basic chords (triads) are within a given key.

We will look at 4 different examples.

Major Scale Formula =


W = whole step

H = half step

On the guitar a whole step = 2 frets and a half step = 1 fret.

This formula gives you the amount of whole steps and half steps in between each note of the Major Scale and should be memorized.  

Say it out loud to yourself 10x. Whole Whole Half…Whole Whole Whole Half

Roman Numerals:

I – ii – iii – IV – V – vi – viio

The Roman Numerals are given here to make it easy to play the same progression in ANY Major key and are another way of looking at chords in a key.

Capital Roman Numerals stand for Major Chords. Lower case Roman Numerals are minor chords.

The viio symbol stands for a Half diminished chord. This will be covered in depth in a later lesson.

The Laws of the Major Keys 

  • The 1st, 4th and 5th chords in a Major Key are Major.
  • The 2nd, 3rd and 6th are Minor.
  • The 7th is diminished.

Here are examples of the basic triads in the key of C Major

C Dm Em F G Am Bo C

Here are examples of the basic triads in the key of G Major

G Am Bm C D Em F#o G

Here are examples of the basic triads in the key of D Major

D Em F#m G  A  Bm  C#o  D

Here are examples of the basic triads in the key of A Major

A Bm C#m D E F#m G#o A

Notice how the Chords above follow the FORMULA to the tee.

Remember, it MUST be memorized for ease of Navigation through any key.

So there you have it. Guitar chords for 4 major keys.

Takeaway Points
  1. Memorize the Formula.
  2. Memorize the Roman Numerals.
  3. Memorize the Laws.
  4. Write til your hands fall off.

You’re gonna write some stinkers.

Go for quantity now and once you’ve written many songs THEN and ONLY THEN shoot for Quality.

You have to get used to the writing process.

“I know that you might be thinking shoot for quality first…but….you don’t know what quality is yet or how to get there so shoot for quantity.” –  Graham English.

If you follow the formula you can figure out all the chords in all 12 Major Keys.

The rest I cannot do for you.

It is up to you to put these chords together into a guitar chord song.

One easy way is to start with a section of a song…For example:

Pick 4 chords and strum each one for a measure each…then repeat.

P.S. Lots of popular songs use the same 4 chords for the entire song.

Having trouble getting started or finishing an Idea. Buy and read this book right now:


by Steven Pressfield.

Til’ next time.

For Local (Miami, Fl USA) or Online Guitar Lessons Visit the link below:

or just contact me right here on this post or site.