Major and Minor are two basic qualities that pervade our musical system. We talk about major and minor keys, major and minor scales, major and minor chords, major and minor intervals… Hearing the difference between them is a crucial step in growing your musicality.

Many times we simply resort to the old idea that major is “happy” and minor is “sad”. That might work with chords in isolation. But it’s usually not quite that simple when we encounter major and minor “in the wild.” What happens when playing minor chords in a major key? Major chords in a minor key? And how can a simple interval sound major or minor?

The unique way in which notes are laid out on your instrument, and the resulting patterns required to play major and minor scales, chords, and intervals, can actually help to untangle it all.

In this month’s Instrument Packs Musical U’s Resident Pros take on the topic of major and minor – how to find them, play them, and hear them on your instrument.


According to Resident Pro Dylan Welsh, 99% of Western Music falls into either a major or minor key. Thus, it’s really important to be able to tell the difference between the two, and be able to control and change back and forth on the guitar. Fortunately, the guitar fretboard layout offers many handy ways to visualize and transpose these patterns:


  • How to hear the difference between major and minor scales/chords.
  • How major chords are built, and how to change them into minor chords on the fretboard.
  • How to convert a major scale into a minor scale.
  • A major/minor scale exercise, based on one that was originally introduced in Major Pentatonic Resource Pack.
  • Six MP3 tracks that demonstrate the exercises on each string.

After Dylan’s thorough run-down of major and minor chords and scales, you’ll have a thorough fretboard mastery of the subject, take a huge leap forward in your understanding of theory, and take your ear to the next level.


Once you have major and minor chords under your piano fingers in so many ways, you have made a huge step towards playing by ear, reading lead sheets, and improvising. Resident Pro for piano, Sara Campbell, zeros in on major and minor chords – how to find them on the keyboard and have them thoroughly ingrained through different inversions, patterns, and even some improv:


  • Explanation of major and minor triads.
  • A series of chromatic crawl exercises that work through all 12 major and minor triads.
  • An exercise that applies these concepts to major and minor chords in the diatonic scale.
  • Playing the chords in blocks, arpeggios, and a variety of different right- and left-hand patterns.
  • A fun call-and-response improvisation exercise
  • MP3 tracks to demonstrate the exercises, and backup tracks for the improv exercises.

After working through this Piano Resource Pack, you will thoroughly own your major and minor chords in a big way. And Sara knows how to combine a thorough, systematic training with enjoyable music-making experiences that will have you running to the piano every chance you get.


In this resource pack, Resident Bass Pro Steve Lawson begins by looking at the three primary major/minor distinctions – interval, chord and tonality/key

Then the focus turns to chords: recognising them, playing the arpeggios, hearing the difference, and then looking at how both major and minor chords appear in a major key:


  • Three positions for a C major Triad and three positions for a D minor triad (and how to transpose these patterns to other chords).
  • Building a lexicon of ways to play each pattern on the neck, depending on the context and the sound that you are looking for.
  • Looking at – and practicing – what happens to the major and minor qualities when you change the bass-note.
  • Where the major and minor chords appear in the key of C Major, and any major key.
  • Practice MP3s with backing tracks to explore these concepts through patterns and improvisation.

Bassists have the power to decide minor or major with just one note. Hearing these qualities and knowing where they are on the fretboard will help you create the sound that you’re looking for.

Coming up next month…

Timbre (pronounced “tam’ ber”) is also called “tone color”, or many times simply “tone”. Timbre refers to the qualities and techniques that make one instrument sound different than another, and can often vary widely from instrument to instrument and player to player. Next month our Resident Pros will address how to work with the timbral possibilities of your instrument and the influence of timbre on your musicality.

Interested in getting access to these resources and much more, with an Instrument Pack membership? Just choose that option during checkout when you join Musical U, or upgrade your existing membership to get instant access!