User Guide - Chord Families

The Chord Families web app shows the diatonic chords in a selected key.


Select a Key.

The seven common 'diatonic' chords for this key are displayed, along with their 'Roman Numeral'.

Family Options

Family Layout

Choose from four different views of the family:  Ascending, Chord Function,  Turnaround, or Circle of Fifths.

Chord Family Views

Roman Numerals

In Roman Numeral Analysis, each of the diatonic chords in a key is assigned a number, I thru VII.  There are no standardized rules for Roman Numeral notation, so many different forms have evolved.  We divide them into three main categories:  Classic (which may be most familiar), Nashville Numbers (which may have the greatest name-recognition), and Modern 'Berklee' Roman Numerals.

See our Roman Numeral page, in this Guide.

Harmony Options

Minor Key Harmony

There are two systems to describe the two main ways that composers create harmonies in a piece of music:  Tonal Harmony and Modal Harmony.  Some genres and songs tend more toward one than the other, but there is often overlap, too. 

See Minor Keys in our Theory section, below.

Use Sevenths

Popular music often uses a Dominant Seventh chord for the V of the key, to provide more tension, and thus a more satisfying resoltion back the the Tonic (I) chord.  In Jazz, almost all chords are played as Dominant Sevenths, or Extended Chords.  There are, of course, several 'degrees of jazziness' used in different genres and different songs, and we provide six different levels.

Instrument Options


Chart Style

Fret Markers

Fret markers can be shown on the chord diagrams, if you like them.

A note about Helmholtz Pitch Notation as used to describe ukulele tunings:

Notenames options


Diatonic chords are chords made up of notes within the key's scale.  Since there are seven notes in the scale; each note can be the root of a diatonic chord.  So, there are generally seven diatonic chords in each key.  Each of the seven chords can be a major, minor, or diminished triad; or, if desired, each can have an added 'seventh' chord-factor.  

Note that non-diatonic chords are also used in many songs - most often by 'borrowing' chords from related keys.

Major Keys:

Minor Keys:

Chord progressions in minor keys can be handled in several different ways.  The simplest is the 'natural minor' (also known as Aeolian Mode.)  More commonly, a combination of the 'natural minor' and 'harmonic minor' scales is used; this is known as 'Tonal' music.

Aeolian :

Tonal :

For 'tonal' minors, additional notes are added to the notes of the natural minor scale.  The main added note is the raised seventh.  (The natural minor scale contains only a 'minor seventh' interval from the root.)