• 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!

    Comments on this entry are closed.

    Previous post:

    Next post: