The chord of A Major



Chords have characteristics. Personalities, almost. Master composer Schubert even wrote a directory to explain this, in which he characterized A Major; “This key includes declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one’s state of affairs; hope of seeing one’s beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God.”

All in all, a pretty cheery chord!

This description may be several hundred years old, but it can still be useful today as it gives a sense of the general vibe that A Major exudes.

Possibly due to its joyful, happy sound, A Major is a very common choice for songwriters. It’s used in 44% of tracks analyzed in Hook Theory, and while mostly used as a complementary chord, there are many examples of hit songs rooted in A Major.

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A Major can be super effective in a broadly Minor composition as it offers a satisfying juxtaposition to many more sombre chords. As a root note, it can proclaim love, happiness, and similar emotions in pop songs such as Adele – Someone Like You, You Are In Love by TayLor Swift and Free – All Right Now. Interestingly, it can also work well in Rock music, which often leads with Major chords to provide a sense of immediacy. Tracks such as Linkin Park – Numb and Arctic Monkeys – RU Mine? show it’s possible to use A Major in less than bright and breezy context.


Let’s analyze A Major. Like all tonal chords, it’s generic form is a triad – or three notes played simultaneously – and it starts with it’s own root note, which is, of course, A.

The magic number

Every triad starts with the root note and ends with a perfect fifth – five whole notes up from the root. The middle note is really important as it decides whether the chord is Minor or Major. Check out this simple chart below:

A Chord Root (AKA ‘Tonic’) Interval 1 Interval 2
Major A C# E
Minor A C E

The chart shows us the simple difference between A Major and A Minor. It also tells us that A Major consists of three notes: A, C# and E.

Relatively speaking

Every Major chord has a relative Minor chord that complements it. If you’ve ever seen the Mixed in Key Harmonic Mixing Wheel (AKA the ‘Camelot’ Wheel) you’ll be familiar with the way chords ‘connect’ based on their position on the wheel.


The outer ring has the Major chords, the inner ring has Minors. Look at the top left of the wheel. 11B = A Major, and is positioned next to 11A = F# Minor. These are ‘relative’ chords – very useful when writing chord progressions as you know they’ll sound ‘correct’ even when played on top of one another.

Minimize the Leap

When playing A Major, you can change the way it’s played and play either of the triad notes at the bottom. Check out the video example below, where you can see and hear the difference between the three ways of playing the same chord. The sound is almost the same and the pitch is identical. These are sometimes referred to as inversions.

These inversions are scored in different ways:

First Inversion

Bottom Middle Fifth
C# E A

Second Inversion

Bottom Middle Fifth
E A C#

Why invert?

Inverting chords gives musicians different ways of playing the same chord in different positions on the keyboard – minimizing the distance between chords. That’s where the term ‘Minimize the leap’ originates – something you can easily replicate in Captain Chords.


Flavors and Suspended Chords

We can make A Major more complex and interesting by adding additional notes. It’s like adding spice to your chord – so be careful not to overdo it.

These additional notes come from the overall diatonic scale of the note, which takes a bit of time to learn.

Each one adds its own flavor, which is why they are sometimes referred to as flavors. It’s super simple to add these flavors in our Captain Chords software – you just select the flavor you want and audition it live within your composition.

The diatonic scale of A Major


Root Third Fifth 6th 7th 9th 11th 13th
A C# E F# G# B D F#


Root Third Suspended 2nd Suspended 4th Fifth
A C# B D E

There are fewer potential suspended notes, since they fit in between the root and fifth. There are two options, in fact, which makes sense if you think about it: 1 is taken by the root note, A. 3 is taken by the first interval, and 5 is taken by the perfect fifth. This leaves just 2 and 4 as possible destinations for our suspended notes.

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