Guitar Chord Families – In-Depth Guide With Charts

Guitar Chord Families

It likely happened while you were learning a new song and found the sheer volume of chords and options somewhat overwhelming. You likely even attempted to compose your chord progression but became overwhelmed by the variety of options available from a single chord. In music theory, chord families are among the most crucial concepts.

How do chord families work? Chord families are collections of chords built around the fundamental chords in harmony. While any other chord can follow any chord, some will sound better because they are more aesthetically beautiful.

Every chord in the family will sound excellent if we follow it because they are all on the same scale. The chromatic scale has twelve notes; hence, for each of the twelve notes, there will be twelve distinct families.

Different Types Of Chords In The Family

Assuming that every chord in the major scale is a major chord is one of the most frequent errors. Those chords will sound different even though the scale is major. Each family of chords consists of three fundamental varieties: major, minor, and diminished chords.

The C major scale has the following notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C, one octave higher. This scale will yield the following chords: diminished, major, minor, minor, major, minor, and minor. Any other of the twelve notes on the scale can be used this way.

Here is a table that shows every chord family for the major scale.


I ii iii IV V vi vii

C major

C Dm Em F G Am B⁰

G major

G Am Bm C D Em F#⁰
D major D Em F#m G A Bm


A major

A Bm C#m D E F#m G#⁰

E major

E F#m G#m A B C#m D#⁰

B major

B C#m D#m E F# G#m


F# major F# G#m A#m B C# D#m


F major F Gm Am Bb C Dm


Bb major

Bb Cm Dm Eb F Gm A⁰
Eb major Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb Cm


Ab major

Ab Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm G⁰
Db major Db Ebm Fm Gb Ab Bbm


Gb major Gb Abm Bbm Cb Db Ebm


Cb major Cb Dbm Ebm Fb Gb Abm


We shall now proceed with the C major scale. We already know that the root note, or initial note, of the scale, is C. Regarding chord families, however, C major is tonic. Naturally, F major is the tonic for the major scale when discussing the F chord family.

Since the tonic will establish the song’s overall tonal centre, its function is fairly significant. As stated earlier, the families are built upon the fundamental chords in harmony. First, there is the tonic chord, sometimes known as the root. The fourth step, or F major, is the second, while the fifth step, or G major, is the last.

One of the most crucial skills you’ll need is chord family reading. Roman numerals are used to indicate chords in the scale; capital letters are used to indicate major chords, and non-capital letters, minor chords.

As a result, in the C major scale example, the I, IV, and V are C, F, and G, with all three chords being major. As we have already said, the first is tonic, the second is subdominant, and the third is dominant. This trio constitutes the primary harmonic family.

Interestingly, these three chords represent the scale’s major chords.

What Is The Role Of Each Chord?

The tonic is the first one. The Roman numeral I designates the role, and it is a major chord. Naturally, this is all relevant to this size and this mode alone, but more on that later. The tonic’s function in a musical composition is to establish its mood. Composing music is all about building tension and then finding a way to release it. This is accomplished by returning to the tonic following a sequence of sorts. The tonic is typically used to begin & conclude a piece or at least a portion.

IV designates the second chord, the major chord and the sub-dominant. The sub-dominant chord’s function moves you from the tonic towards the dominant chord.

The dominant chord, which is the fifth chord in the family & is denoted by V in the example of C major, is the final significant chord in the family. The dominating family desires to complete the circle and take you back to the tonic. Your chord progression will have a rather strong resolve if the dominant is played in order.

Chord Families Modes

Seven modes are available. So, let us begin at the outset.

Ionian Mode

As previously stated, there are twelve chord families, and all preceding examples are limited to the major scale. But the major scale is only one of the modes at your disposal.

The C major scale has seven distinct notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, & C. The construction of all the major scales is the same. First, we have the root of C; then, we have whole steps to D, E, and half steps to F, G, A, and B; finally, we have full steps to C once more.

For every major scale, therefore, the schematics are F, F, H, F, F, H, F. where H denotes half a step and F denotes a full step. The Ionian mode, or the beginning mode from which we begin everything, is another name for this major scale. Every chord can be used to create a triad; the first triad is tonic, the second is supertonic, the third is mediant, the fourth (as we previously mentioned) is subdominant, the fifth is dominant (as we previously mentioned), the sixth is submediant, the seventh is leading tone, and the final triad is tonic once more.

Dorian Mode

Using the same design but rotating everything around, we obtain F, H, F, F, H, F, F. If we shift the first complete step to the end of the line, we get the second mode, the Dorian mode. Therefore, the Dorian mode for our beloved C scale would look like this: C, D, bE, F, G, A, BB, C. Dorian mode is minor compared to the major Ionian mode, also referred to as the major scale.

Naturally, this mode will yield another twelve families of chords, each with a unique chord sound and method of approaching the previously discussed subject.

In Dorian mode, the Guitar Chord Families are i, ii, III, IV, v, vi⁰, and VII. The chords minor in the first place, minor in the second, major in the third and fourth, minor in the fifth, diminished in the sixth, and major in the seventh are all minor chords. As you can see, everything has changed. The scale will be smaller overall because the order of the full and half steps has been altered. Since there are no half-steps on the C major scale, which we already know, we always use it. If you were to play this on a piano, you would begin at C and play just white keys. On the other hand, the D Dorian would look like this: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D.

Phrygian Mode

Let’s take things further and relocate everything to a new location. H, F, F, F, H, F, F, F will now be in our possession. Phrygian Mode is the name of this third mode. For the C major example, we will obtain C, bD, bE, F, G, bA, bB, and C. E Phrygian, with notes A, B, C, D, and E, is the ideal scale for the Phrygian mode, as you may have already surmised. Although it can be used on minor and major scales, the Phrygian mode is also minor. But let’s avoid making matters more difficult. The Phrygian family consists of the chords I, II, III, iv, v⁰, VI, and VII. In this manner, you can construct the Phrygian family of chords for each of the chromatic scale’s twelve notes.

Lydian Mode

The fourth mode, Lydian, is obtained by advancing notes further from the scale (or beginning point) until we reach F, F, F, H, F, F, H. A major mode is the Lydian mode, and the Lydian scale for the number C would be C, D, E, F#, G, A, B, and C. Naturally, the F Lydian scale, with notes F, G, A, B, C, D, E, and F, is the ideal scale for Lydian mode.

The Lydian scale’s chord family is, at last, I, II, iii, iv⁰, V, vi, & vii. Another major mode is Lydian.

Mixolydian Mode

Mixolydian is the fifth mode, played on the piano from G to G using white keys. As in the earlier examples, G Mixolydian notes are G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G. This mode is represented by the graphic F, F, H, F, F, H, F. If we apply this to the C scale, we obtain C, D, E, F, G, A, BB, C. Of course, you might use the following technique to construct twelve different chord families, just as in the preceding examples. VII. I, ii, iii⁰, IV, v, vi. The dominant mode is Mixolydian.

Aeolian Mode

Aeolian Mode

Now that this is our normal minor scale, things become slightly easier for this mode. As you may already be aware, the minor scale for the letter A, also referred to as a natural minor scale, is as follows: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, & H. It does not contain any semitones. Applying this to C will result in C, D, bE, F, G, H, bA, bB, and C, only the C minor scale when we build an Aeolian mode. The sequence F, H, F, F, H, F, F is used to construct the scale.

I, ii⁰, III, iv, v, VI, & VII are the twelve additional chord families naturally constructed in this manner. And for the natural minor scale, these are the chord families. Since most songs are in either a major or minor key, this is one of the most widely used modes besides the Ionian one.

This comprehensive chart for the Aeolian mode, often known as natural minor, may aid your guitar learning.


i ii⁰ III iv v VI VII

C minor

Cm D⁰ Eb


Gm Ab Bb

G minor

Gm A⁰ Bb Cm Dm Eb


D minor

Dm E⁰ F Gm Am Bb


A minor

Am B⁰ C Dm Em F


E minor

Em F#⁰ G Am Bm C


B minor

Bm C#⁰ D Em F#m G


F# minor

F#m G#⁰ A Bm C#m D


F minor

Fm G⁰ Ab Bbm Cm Db


Bb minor

Bbm C⁰ Db Ebm Fm Gb


Eb minor

Ebm F⁰ Gb Abm Bbm Cb


Ab minor

Abm Bb⁰ Cb Dbm Ebm Fb


Db minor

Dbm Eb⁰ Fb Gbm Abm Bbb Cb
Gb minor Gbm Ab⁰ Bbb Cbm Dbm Ebb


Cb minor Cbm Db⁰ Ebb Fbm Gbm Abb


Locrian Mode

Lastly, we have Locrian, which is the seventh and last mode. H, F, F, H, F, F, F is the pattern for the Locrian mode; in the case of C, we shall obtain C, bD, bE, F, bG, bA, bB, C. We shall have a B Locrian scale with only whole notes: B, C, D, E, F, G, H, A.

We will receive our last twelve chord families for Locrian mode in the following forms: i⁰, II, iii, iv, V, VI, vii. This is similar to the other examples.

The Circle Of Fifths

The fundamentals are straightforward, even though they may appear somewhat complicated. We can construct and utilise twelve chord families for each mode. Eighty-four different chord families result from the twelve chords and seven modes, so memorising them can occasionally be confusing.

These modes can be grouped into three broad categories: Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian. Additionally, there will be three minor modes: Phrygian, Aeolian, and Dorian. Diminished is the last mode or Locrian.

With this knowledge, you could make six more tables comparable to the Ionian we made in the first example. In this manner, you would have all the chord families for every chord in the chromatic scale in every seven modes.

Fascinatingly, the result of applying this is also called the circle of fifths, which dates back to the seventeenth century and describes how each note in the chromatic scale relates to the others.


It is important to note that the major scale and Ionian mode are the main building blocks of traditional chord progressions. Since repeating the same chords might get monotonous, you should always experiment to create something fresh and intriguing. In addition, norms are designed to be broken, and many musicians have broken them to produce stunning and inspirational work.

Since the chords we’ve discussed here only include minor, major, and diminished chords, there are a few more rules that could clarify how to employ other chord types. As you are aware, many songs use augmented sevenths, ninths, thirteenths, suspended chords, and much more. However, things would then become even more intricate than they already are.

If you found this post helpful, save the guitar board pin below.


What are Guitar Chord Families?

Chord families on a guitar are groups of chords derived from the main chords of the harmony. Any chord can be followed by any other, but certain chords sound better and are more pleasing to the ear. The sheer number of chords and options available to you probably overwhelmed you when attempting to learn a new song.

Do you Know the Chord Family?

The progression also includes a Cm chord, which deviates from the family, further illustrating my point. To make a long story short, knowing the chord family is very useful in music, but don’t take it for some mandatory musical boundary that can not be deviated from.

What Guitar Chord Should I Learn?

Of all the chords you will learn to play on the guitar, the A7 chord is arguably the most important. Discover the top ten methods for playing the Am7 guitar chord using charts. Numerous songs utilise the versatile guitar chord in A Minor, which is always helpful. Use chord charts to learn the four most effective and simple ways to play the B guitar chord.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Open chat
Can we help you?