Four Note Major Diatonic Chords / Music Theory Lesson

Author: sleepfreaks

Four Note Major Diatonic Chords

Previously, we had taken a look at major diatonic triads.
Currently, we know that there are 7 chords that we can use in each major key.

This time, we will be learning about 4 note major diatonic chords to expand on our knowledge,
allowing us to use a wider variety of expression in our music.
(when writing songs, triads and 4 note chords can be used together)

By adding some touches to the triads from our last article, we can easily create 4 note major diatonic chords.

Because these chords can also “be used in most cases in a specific key”
this means that if in the key of C major, they will be made up using only notes found in the C major scale.

The 4 types of 7th chords we have learned up until this point

Major 7th

Minor 7th

Dominant 7th

Minor 7th Flat 5

will be found today.
To brush up on your knowledge, follow the link to read back our previous articles.

Similar to our last article, lets think about this in a song-writing scenario.

For example, lets say you want to make a song in the key of C major.


In this case, generally you would create a melody using notes from the C major scale.


We have made a sample melody in using notes from the C major scale below:


To understand the “basic 4 note chords” that can be played with this melody,
lets learn how to make these major diatonic chords.

Forming Diatonic Chords (4 notes)

Because we will be using the key of C for this article as well,
we have the C major scale prepared below.


In the case of a 4 note (7th) chord, with C as the root, we will skip over a note at a time to stack 3 more notes on top of it.
This gives us E, G, and B. This is easy to copy and paste in a DAW as well.


Like this, we have put together a C major 7th chord.
Apply this process to the notes D, E, and so on.

By doing so, when you reach E you will notice there is a missing note on top.
To make this simple you can start by sequencing 2 octaves of the C major scale.



When you finish this process up to B, lets take a look at how to group the completed 4 note chords.



These are the diatonic 7th chords found in C major.

To make it simple, lets move the root of all the chords to C.
※ All of the chords have been moved to make the root / lowest note C.


The top note will be different that when we looked at the triads, so please keep this in mind.
If you’ve kept up with the types of 7th chords we’ve looked at, you may have recognized the chords we have here.

Lets return them back to their correct places and see what each diatonic chord is classified as.



From the left we have

Major 7th / minor 7th / minor 7th / Major 7th / Dominant 7th / minor 7th / minor 7th flat 5

Like the diatonic triads, this order of chord types applies to every other major key.

Example:D Major – Diatonic Chords (4 note chords)

Using Diatonic Chords According to the Key (4 note chords)

Lets try placing C major’s diatonic 7th chords to our Key=C melody.


As seen, though we used only the diatonic chords from the key of C major,
the resulting sound is natural and fits without issues.
In addition, there is a sense of complication and emotion that may not have been felt with the triads.

Next time, we will take a step away from diatonic chords and take a look at chords
and ways that they can be used in actual song arrangements.

※ We will take a look at minor diatonic chords after learning about some basic major key song writing to develop a deeper understanding before we dive in.

Article Writer: Kazuma Itoh

講師 伊藤
After moving to the USA at 18 years of age with a scholarship from Berklee, he completed a 4 year study focused on song writing and arranging there.
Using this knowledge, he works across a variety of fields from pop music, film music, and more.