Logo Computer scientist,
engineer, and educator

Kevin's on-line chord wheel

Key of C major

Major keys Minor keys
←Flatter Sharper→
C
G
D
A
E
B
vii
Bdim
F#
C#
G#
D#
Bb
F
C#
G#
D#
Bb
F
IV
Fmaj
C
I
Cmaj
G
V
Gmaj
D
A
E
B
F#
Bb
F
C
G
D
ii
Dmin
A
vi
Amin
E
iii
Emin
B
F#
C#
G#
D#
Major: Cb Gb Db Ab Eb Bb F C G D A E B F# C#
Minor: Ab Eb Bb F C G D A E B F# C# G# D# A#

Notes

This is a simulation of a chord wheel — a simple tool that musicians sometimes use to figure out the relationships between chords in a specific key. Chord wheels are particularly useful for improvising in unfamiliar keys, or assisting when playing by ear something that you only know in a different key. Of course, it's better if you can remember without hesitation that, for example, D major is the submediant triad of of F# minor, but many people can't, especially in rarely-used keys. Unlike the cardboard versions, however, which usually deal only with major keys, mine lists minor keys as well, which tend to be rather more complex. The reason for this is that there are two forms of minor scale in common use (three if you count the ascending and descending arms of the melodic minor as separate scales). So a larger numbers of notes is considered diatonic (i.e., within the key) in a minor scale than a major.

Cardboard chord wheels are usually, well, wheel-shaped, but that's a bit tricky on a Web page, so mine is rather more like a chord strip. In fact, there's no real reason to display the chords at all except for the diatonic ones — cardboard chord wheels only do this because that's how they work. But presenting all 12 columns does make it easier to see when you 'spin' the wheel.

Other points to note:

1. There is no particularly significance to the colours of the notes. They are just different so that it gives more immediate feedback when you spin the wheel.
2. Similarly, there is no particular significance to the layout of the rows. Each is in circle-of-fifths order, but that's only to put the connected chords near each other. I've picked the starting points for each row purely to group the related chords in the middle.
3. Only diatomic triads are shown. In minor keys, the same root note may support more than one triad and still be diatonic — this is a consequence of the multiple minor scales with the same root note. In practice, larger chords than triads will often be used.
4. 'dim' means diminished fifth, not diminished 7th (which is not a triad).
5. 'aug' means augmented fifth.
6. '#VI' and '#VII' denote the fact that, in minor keys, there may be more than one version of the sixth and seventh scale degrees. #VI denotes the sharper of the two possible sixth degrees, while VI alone represents the flatter. This is a purely arbitrary sharp/flat distinction, and in pratice you won't usually see the two chords together in the same musical passage. Unlike the roman numerals, the actual chord names are not ambiguous.

Copyright © 1994-2013 Kevin Boone. Updated Jul 15 2010