• The Secret To Primary And Secondary Chords

    in Chords & Progressions

    >NOTE: To learn ALL the techniques and strategies to
    playing chords and patterns in songs, go here:


    After last week’s e-mail, I received the most replies ever.
    Here’s another one I think will really help you (VERY IMPORTANT
    STRATEGIES BELOW).It’s from a gentleman named Mark.

    ***Comment From Mark H.***

    Hi Jermaine,

    Last week’s e-mail was totally awesome! This number system
    stuff is quite new to me but you’ve totally made it plain. You
    certainly have a knack for breaking stuff down and I want to
    thank you for taking the time to do this.

    On one of your blog posts, you talked about primary and
    secondary chords. You also talked about how each tone of the
    scale has its own chord that is usually played.

    I’m having a hard time remember all these chords and where they
    go. Let’s not even talk about all 12 keys because I can’t
    remember even one key. Please help!

    Mark H Dallas, TX

    >>> My Comments and explanations back to Mark (read closely as
    you can get a lot out of what I had to say to him):

    Hey Mark,

    Appreciate your positive feedback!

    I have a really easy way for you to remember all the primary
    and secondary chords and it won’t take that long to master it.

    All it takes is for you to know your major chords. Like I
    teach musicians all the time, you can play both minor scales and
    minor chords by understanding major chords and their
    relationships to minor chords.

    Don’t worry, I’ll explain…

    Since you mentioned primary and secondary chords, let me
    touch on those for a minute.

    Every major key has what we call primary and secondary
    chords. The primary chords of any given key are the 1st, 4th,
    and 5th chords. These numbers come from the scale. In the key of
    C, C is the 1st tone of the scale, D is the 2nd tone of the
    scale, E is the 3rd tone, and so forth.

    So the 1st, 4th, and 5th chords of the key of C major are C,
    F, and G (in that order). They are always major chords. These
    chords will occur in music the most. The 1st chord of the scale
    is the key that you’re in so it’s always going to feel like
    “home.” This chord will begin and end your songs. When a
    non-musical audience hears the 1-chord, they know to clap
    because the song feels at rest… at home… at peace. It’s the
    end and they don’t have to be musically-inclined to know that.

    The 4th chord of the scale, the next primary chord, is like
    being away from home but at a close relative’s house. It’s ‘home
    away from home.’ There is a very strong connection between the
    1st tone (real home) and the 4th tone (home away from home).
    That’s why countless songs go from “the 1 to the 4.” It’s one of
    the MOST POPULAR movements in music, hands down.

    So, if the 1 is ‘being at home’ and the 4 is being ‘away from
    home,’ then the 5 is ‘coming back home.’ The 5 has a strong
    connection and tendency to lead back home to the 1st chord. When
    you tell your kids to get in the car because we have to go home,
    that’s the 5 coming home to the 1 in music.

    So now that you have a good understanding of the primary
    chords (1, 4, 5), the secondary chords are EVERYTHING ELSE…

    That literally leaves the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th tones of
    the scale. And the good news is three of those are simple minor
    chords that can be played by understanding the three primary
    major chords we just covered.

    Let’s go to the key of C major:

    C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    You already know that C major, F major, and G major are
    primary chords.

    But what you probably don’t know is that the three minor
    secondary chords are relatives to the primary chords. They are
    like sisters and brothers, if you will.

    (Now this is like 5 chapters of a music theory book covered
    in one e-mail but let’s go for it.)

    Every major key has what you call a relative minor. In other
    words, every major key has a minor key that “pairs” with it.
    This minor key has the same notes in its scale as the major
    key… it has the same sharps and flats as well.

    You can pretty much call them brother-sister scales. One
    being major and one being minor. They share EVERYTHING.

    For C major, that relative minor is ‘A minor.’

    Now before we delve a little deeper into this, let’s look at
    the C major and A minor scales:

    C major

    C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    A minor

    A B C D E F G A
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Do they use different notes or the same notes?

    Answer: same notes

    Do they both have the same number of flats and sharps?

    Answer: Yes, because C has no flats/sharps and A minor has
    no flats/sharps.

    They are relatives, that’s why! They are closely related. They
    share the same house, sort of!

    Every major scale has one of these. In fact, you can create the
    “A minor” scale just by understanding the C major scale.

    Here’s what you do:

    (I started to make bullet points but this is too simple so I’ll
    just say it)…

    Just go to the 6th tone of your major scale. That’s it. Just
    play your major scale starting on the 6th tone until you get
    back to that same 6th tone.

    C major

    C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Ok, this is the C major scale. I’m just going up an extra
    octave with this example (that’s why you see double the notes).

    What tone is the 6th tone?

    Answer: A

    So what do you do?

    Answer: Play this same scale without changing ANY notes from A
    to A. Like this: A B C D E F G A

    What does that give you?

    Answer: The “A minor scale”

    Bam! You’re done! Now you know how to play the “A minor” scale.
    And the best part is that you don’t have to remember any new
    scales. You can “piggy back” off what you already know.

    That’s why it’s important to know the number system because
    shorctus like this are EVERYWHERE. This is what I cover in my
    Starter 702 course. If I were you, I’d pick it up. It’s only $17


    So now let’s go back to this whole ‘primary and secondary chord’

    Basically, just how you learned the “A minor” scale from
    knowing your C major scale, you can do the same with CHORDS.

    You just take a C major chord (C+E+G) and put “A” on your bass
    and you’ve got yourself an “A minor 7” chord. How cool is that?

    Just how you piggy-backed on the C scale to play the “A” minor
    scale, you do the same to play the A minor 7 chord. Crazy huh?

    You can do this with any major chord.

    F major chord = F+A+C
    6th tone of F major = D

    Playing D on your left hand as the bass and F+A+C on your right
    hand creates a D minor 7 chord.

    G major chord = G+B+D
    6th tone of G major = E (if you were in the key of G, this
    would be the 6th tone — gotta know your scales and numbers
    like we talked about in my last e-mail).

    Playing E on your left hand as the bass and G+B+D on your right
    hand creates an E minor 7 chord.

    It’s simple. So if you know all 12 major chords, now you should
    easily know all 12 minor chords by doing this easy exercise.

    The magic number in this case is “6.”

    Note: There are magic numbers for other stuff too. But for minor
    relationships, it’s 6. See my course below for details.

    So if C major, F major, and G major are the primary chords of
    the key of C, then you can apply this same idea to learn your
    minor secondary chords.

    1st, 4th, and 5th = primary chords

    2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th = secondary chords

    And as you now know, the primary chords help you to play the
    secondary chords.

    2nd tone = D… but all you gotta do is play an F major chord
    over D to play a D minor 7 chord. Easy!

    3rd tone = E… but all you gotta do is play a G major chord
    over E to play an E minor 7 chord. Even easier!

    6th tone = A… but all you gotta do is play a C major chord
    over A to play an A minor 7 chord. Bam!

    So in other words…

    The 1st and 6th tones pair up.
    The 2nd and 4th tones pair up.
    The 3rd and 5th tones pair up.

    That takes care of EVERY tone of the scale pretty much. The
    only one left is the 7th tone of the scale. That won’t be a
    major or minor chord… it’s a diminished or half-diminished
    chord depending on whether you’re going to use 3 or 4 notes to
    play it. But unfortunately, I’ve spent way too much time on this
    and won’t have enough time to cover it.

    However, check out this very affordable course to get the low
    down on all this…

    To learn other unique techniques and strategies you can use
    to master chords and take your playing to the next level, go to
    the link below. I recommend either my 300-pg course or my
    Starter 702 audio course (or BOTH). The Starter 702 course is
    cheap… a steal… $17 bucks and covers much of what I’ve
    talked about here… but with my VOICE and piano explaining
    everything. If you’re serious, check it out:


    If you were a bit helped by the words I’ve written here,
    then this audio course will REALLY be helpful because you’ll
    hear me talking about all this stuff for 2 whole hours,
    reinforcing every little concept over and over. You’ll like it.

    Talk soon,


    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 34 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 John

    I’m new to the blog so excuse me if this question has been answered before.
    what DVD or learning materials would you recommend to someone who knows his scales, basic chords but doesnt know how to play through a lead sheet/sheet music without using the root of every chord.How can I sound like (understand) and use voicings
    that an experienced player would use?



    2 James Eiku


    I want to start these lessons.

    How do I send you the money. I am in Uganda and I don’t have a visa card.




    3 Craig

    Good info on! This really helped me out a lot!

    Only one “minor” observation though – not really a “major” deal (lol) but:

    when you wrote about the relative minor notes for the C major scale you wrote it as follows:

    “For C major, that relative minor is ‘A minor.’

    Now before we delve a little deeper into this, let’s look at
    the C major and A minor scales:

    C major

    C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    A minor

    A B C D E F G A
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Do they use different notes or the same notes?

    Answer: notes”

    The “minor” observation I “noted” was that your answer above should read “same notes” rather than just simply “notes”

    Your informative break down is awesome and therefore easy to grasp and comprehend, so the answer should be obvious to any reader even with “minor” typing error. Like I said, NOT a “Major” deal (smile)

    Thanks for your unselfish willingness to share and help aspiring musicians, such as myself, achieve excellence in order that we might play skillfully unto the Lord.

    You are a blessing, an encouragement and mentor to many I am sure.

    Keep it going Dude!




    4 Jermaine

    ahhh, looks like when I was correcting this, I messed it up! I specifically remember putting “same” but then I added same notes but I must have deleted “same.” urhhhghh.

    But hopefully people get it :-)

    @james – visit http://www.hearandplay.com/orderbymail


    5 Oma

    You are just GREAT at explaning. I think I have finally got what you’re talking about. Boy this is very interesting. Thank God that you’re so willing to share. I am going to order some of your material. THANKS@@@@


    6 judy bailey

    i appreciate the free course offered last week. i just did not know what i was doing and lost it before i could complete it. thanks for all you do!


    7 Miriam Tierno

    Greetings Rev. Jermaine,

    Thank you for being so faithful to your students. The more I read your blogs, the more I realize either what I forgot or missed in my years of classical training. I believe I can say that I was more of a robotic student. I did what I was told and what I read on the paper. I did all this with very little understanding.

    Your explanation of primary chords and secondary chords where explained in a different, most refreshing light! I remember memorizing this quite a few years ago. I knew what it was but no idea how to use it. Like the beautiful hymn says, “I once was blind, but now I see.” Amazing! Using the left hand as a base with an “A,” to form an A minor chord from a C major chord, was never explained to me lke this before! How simple is that!

    Question: Do most people that play by ear do it this way, or do they play the A minor or A minor 7th with only the hand? I believe I have seen Jonathan play that way. His fingers seem so flexible.

    Miriam Tierno



    8 Miriam Tierno

    Hi again Rev. Jermaine,

    Ha! In my last sentence I meant to say, do most people that play by ear, play the base note of the minor chord when they are turning the major to their relative minor chord?

    Another question that leads from this…..Can you consider this a poly chord? I know that you are not playing & distributing two separate and different chords on each hand, but both hands are playing two chords. In other words: by including the A note, you have a C major 7th Chord and an A minor Chord.

    Miriam Tierno


    9 Nyan Lin Oo

    Dear Jermaine….

    First of all,
    Your lessons really enlightened me and I am really glad to joined this site. I’m just a beginner in playing piano but I’d like to know how those R&B pianists arrange arpeggios like in lonely by Akon and can’t find the words by Karina.
    And if i could, i would like to know the exact notes they played in those two songs. Do you have any tricks to play arpeggios nicely?
    I’m waiting for your reply ,enthusiastically..

    Thz a lot.


    10 Evelyn R. Okeke

    Dear Rev.Jermaine Greggs
    I have bought all of the DVDs that you offer I really enjoyed Gospel Keys202 with your wife, Sarah sings, she has a beautiful voice. I love me some Jason White, Jamal Hartwell is really wild with those tritones. Most helpful was going back and starting from the beginning with your Play by Ear course,it answered all my questions and gave me a better understanding of major,minor, dim. cords and the circle of fourths and fifths.When I became a Gold member and the Valt opened I was like a child loose in the candy store.
    Thank You and Staff especially instructor, JP.


    11 Jeanetta

    I have to say that this lesson on primary and secondary chords as well as the refreshing way of explaining how to create a major 7th chord from a major chord is the presentation I’ve seen. You take the “mystery” out of learning chords. Thank you for the detailed explanations and examples. You make learning music a joy and not a chore.


    12 Betty Haynes

    Dear Jermaine,

    I have been playing piano for several years with printed music, but without the notes in front of me I’m lost. My question is, how does knowing chord structure help in knowing which corresponding chords to use with the melody when playing by ear?? If there is a simple explanation would love hearing the answer!!! Betty


    13 MS

    Jermaine, you are just the best! That is why I cannot give you up. I love the new explanation (the association of the scale degrees) on how to form the minor 7th chord. May God continue to bless abundantly, you and your family, and the staff at Hear and Play Music. MS


    14 oswald hall


    I do not remember my password and have been trying to access a new one through my account but I keep getting a message saying “no correspondence user information” i am a gold member what must I do?


    15 MS

    Call Jermaine!!!


    16 hector f silva

    thank you very much for a good basic lesson


    17 Femi onipinla

    I’ve bêen leaning keyboard 4 de pass two yrs now, but their is no improvment. Pls i need ur help thanks.


    18 angela

    i have been struggling with piano for 2years now and still dont understand what note comes next or chord i understand passing chords but are there just some chords that sound good together or what i have your book and a few dvds but i dont understand what is the next chord in a progression with out the passing notes the progressions sounds not to good please help me i have spent 1000’s of dollars on piano books dvd lessons and you name it i understand 7 9 11 13 major minor inversions a little rhythem grace notes if i can only no what chord comes next after each other in a song im in a hurry for god an refuse to give up


    19 joseph

    pls i need more technical exercises to get my fingers more flexible and fast, are there any?


    20 Joseph

    Dear Jermaine,

    Your explanation on the primary and secondary chords is awesome hidden formula to many musicians, thank for revealing it to us.

    The 1st and 6th tones pair up.
    The 2nd and 4th tones pair up.
    The 3rd and 5th tones pair up.

    From your own explanation above which I quote, for easy remembrance on my own I say :

    The 6th and 1st tones pair up.
    The 2nd and 4th tones pair up.
    The 3rd and 5th tones pair up.

    This way I don’t forget to quickly catch an A minor 7th.

    God bless you.

    Joseph Shonga.


    21 Jebide jonathan

    Hi, u guys are prety good d cords make alot of sence. Keep d good woork


    22 opakowania tekturowe

    Real informative and fantastic body structure of articles , now that’s user pleasant (:.


    23 Benedict Dutschmann

    I think this is one of the most significant information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The site style is great, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers


    24 Frank Koroma

    Thanks so much for your effort to teach play and hear music. God will continue to bless you becouse i have benefited alot


    25 Al Ridgeway

    You are a sterling character and have positively affected the lives of many people. Basic fact is that God made you that way. I am 87 years old and have played the organ and piano for many years and many things I get from you are refreshers but sometimes a new light hits and you give me an instruction I have never had before. You are very genrous with your knowledge and I am sure you will enjoy success as long as you live.
    Wish I were as good a musician as you. Thank you for helping me and others.



    26 storage albany ny

    Oh my goodness! an amazing article. Thank you!


    27 ghioawekekeke

    This is the proper The Secret To Primary And Secondary Chords | Hear and Play Music Learning Center journal for anyone who wants to attempt out out about this topic. You respond so more its nearly exhausting to converse with you (not that I truly would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new protract on a subject thats been handwritten nearly for life. Respectable meaninglessness, simply large!


    28 Coolest Android Apps

    This is the penalise The Secret To Primary And Secondary Chords | Hear and Play Music Learning Center journal for anyone who wants to act out out around this topic. You request so untold its virtually effortful to converse with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new reel on a subject thats been codified active for life. City shove, but large!


    29 GuitarGuy

    Jermaine, thank you for this posting. I am a guitarist who can play all the Major and minor chords, scales, modes, etc. As accomplished as that may be, the 7th chords and their usage is something that has always eluded me. While I do understand how to build 7th chords by stacking a 7th (the theory side of it), anytime I play 7th chords they sound ‘blurry’ or like they don’t fit into the normal Major/minor chord progressions I’m used to playing.

    Anyways, by reading this posting I have gained a very interesting and new perspective on I guess ‘looking at’ the minor chords in a key. While I have long understood the relative relationship (i.e. relative minor), I never put it together about putting the Major note in the bass. I feel like this brings one step closer to actually using 7th chords, or understanding when or how to use them, but I’m not quite there yet I think.

    I was considering picking up some of your material to study, although I am a guitarist the information and the way you explain it so well seems like a good idea for me because I already understand basic theory. Do you have any suggestions on what material may be best for me? Thanks again, such a great read.


    30 Emmanuel Essien

    God bless you sir for this wonderful information


    31 Emmanuel Essien

    God bless you sir for this wonderful information. Am blessed


    32 furnitureland south

    you are truly a excellent webmaster. The website loading
    speed is incredible. It sort of feels that you’re doing any
    unique trick. Moreover, The contents are masterwork.
    you’ve done a wonderful job in this topic!


    33 Cherie Frantum

    Thanks, I’ve recently been searching for info about this subject for a while and yours is the greatest I’ve found out till now. But, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you positive in regards to the source?


    34 http://www.ellenkent.com/

    Hi there I am so delighted I found your blog, I really found you by
    mistake, while I was looking on Aol for something else, Anyways I am here
    now and would just like to say thank you for a marvelous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the moment but I have
    book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds,
    so when I have time I will be back to read a great
    deal more, Please do keep up the great jo.


    Leave a Comment

    { 1 trackback }

    Previous post:

    Next post: