Chords & Progressions, Music Theory

The Guitar Chords of D Major (Simply Explained)

Written By :Andrew Siemon

Before you start jamming in D major, we need to establish which chords you’ll be working with.

Generally speaking, you’ll use the chords D major, E minor, F# minor, G major, A major, B minor, and C# diminished in the key of D major. You may also want to use extended chords such as Dmaj7, Em7, F#m7, Gmaj7, A7, Bm7, and C#m7b5.

The 7 Notes of D Major

The first thing you need to know are the notes of D Major.

Notes of D Major
The notes of D Major are D, E, F#, G, A, B, and C#.

The Scale Degrees of D Major

What makes a chord? You need a root, third, and a fifth to make a standard chord in Western harmony.

A major chord, such as D major, consists of a root (D), a major third (D to F#), and a perfect fifth (D to A).

A Major 3rd Interval is a distance of 4 semi-tones (or 4 frets).

A Minor Chord, such as E Minor, consists of a root (E), a Minor 3rd (E to G), and a Perfect 5th (E to B).

A Minor 3rd Interval is a distance of 3 semi-tones.

A Diminished Chord, such as C# Diminished, consists of a Root (C#), a Minor 3rd (C# to E) and a Diminished 5th (C# to G).

A Diminished 5th interval is a distance of 6 semi-tones.

We’ll reference this information throughout the rest of the article.

All 7 Chords of D Major 

Chords of D Major
These are the chords of D Major: D Major, E Minor, F# Minor, G Major, A Major, B Minor, and C# Diminished

If you add the minor 7th to the A Major chord (the G), this will make the A Major chord a Dominant 7th – an A7.

A Dominant 7th chord, for example, an A7, is made up of a Major 3rd (A to C#), Perfect 5th (A to E), and Minor 7th (A to G).

1) D Major (Dmaj7)

D Major Triads and Voicings
Here are the triads of D Major in root position, 1st, and 2nd inversions. It also includes chord voicings on the right.
(It’s important to note that the first triad has an open string D)

When we add the seventh degree of D (C#), we get a Dmaj7 chord. An example of its use is in the song ‘Everlong’ by the Foo Fighters.

2) E Minor (Em7)

E Minor Triads
These are the triads of E Minor in root position, 1st and 2nd inversions.

If we add the 7th, counting from E (which is the D note), this will give us the E minor 7th.

E Minor Voicings
Here are some of the most common voicings of the E minor chord. My personal favourite is the 2nd last one.

3) F# Minor (F#m7)

F# Minor Triads
These are the triads of F# minor in root, 1st, and 2nd inversions.
F# Minor Voicings
In my view, these are the most common voicings of the F# Minor chord that you’ll find.

To make the F# Minor an F# Minor 7th chord, add the 7th (counting up from F#), which will give you the E.

4) G Major (Gmaj7)

These are the triads of G Major in root position, 1st and 2nd inversions.
These are the most common voicings, in my view, of the G Major chord.

To make a G Major chord a major 7th chord, add the 7th (counting from G – which is F#).

5) A Major (A7)

A Major Triads
These are the triads of A Major in root position, 1st, and 2nd inversions.
A Major Voicings
These are some of the most common voicings of A Major. Although, the last one has a C# in the bass so it’s kind of zesty.

To make the A Major chord an A Major 7th instead, add the 7th (counting from the A – which is G#). To make it an A7 chord, you would make the G a G-natural instead.

A7 - The Chords of E Major
Here are some basic voicings of the A7 chord. I’ve included a couple of cooler ones as well.

6) B Minor (Bm7)

B Minor Triads
These are the triads of B Minor in root position, 1st, and 2nd inversions.
B Minor Voicings
Here are common voicings of the B Minor chord, with the second from the left being a B minor 7th

To make your B minor chord a minor 7th chord, add the 7th (counting up from B – which is “A”). B, D, F#, and A are the notes of the B Minor 7th chord.

7) C# Diminished (C#m7(b5))

C# Diminished Triads
These are the triads of C# Diminished in root position, 1st and 2nd inversions.

When we extend the chord, it becomes a half-diminished or minor seven flat five chord due to the use of a minor seventh and not a double-flat seventh.

What Are the Primary and Secondary Chords of D Major? 

Every key, be it major or minor, has a set of primary and secondary chords.

Understanding which chords are primary and secondary can help you understand the relationships and dynamics one chord can have with the other chords in the key.

Primary Chords

In the key of D major, our primary chords are D major, G major, and A major. Notice that the key and the primary chords are all major and the primary chords are also the first, fourth, and fifth chords in the key.

Especially for major keys, these core facets will always be the case. Additionally, it’s true that these three primary chords flow into each other, building tension until we resolve again to the first chord.

What this means is that we could base the chord progression of our song around solely primary chords by starting with the first chord, transitioning to the fourth chord, climaxing with the fifth chord, then settling back down to the first.

Secondary Chords

Put simply, secondary chords are all those which are not primary. Here, those will be our E minor, F# minor, B minor, and C# diminished chords. In most keys, secondary chords will be the second, third, sixth, and seventh chords in the key.

Generally, you’ll use these chords to add your own personal flair to a chord progression and accentuate certain tones or emotional beats you want to come through in the song.

For example, in “Everlong,” from the Foo Fighters, the verse starts with the first chord, Dmaj7. It then shifts to a variation of the sixth chord, Bsus2, and moves on to the fourth chord, Gsus2. Finally, it tracks back to the sixth, then resolves back to the first chord.

What makes this progression work is the similarities between each chord. Each sounds a bit different but has some artifacts of the previous chord in the progression. This structure gives the song a firm chordal foundation.

What Are The 3 “Major” Modes of D Major?

Most scales have seven degrees, but did you know that you can technically start the scale from any one of those degrees?

Depending on the chord we use as the underlying melody, we can manipulate the scale and the key to sound significantly different. Here, we’ll be looking at the major modes of D major, which correspond to the primary chords we discussed earlier.

1) D Ionian

Generally, you don’t have to consciously try to make a progression sound Ionian because that’s just what naturally happens.

2) G Lydian 

That defining note in Lydian is the fourth. For context, we are talking about the fourth of G, which is C#. However, we do not want to use a C# diminished chord, as this leads the ear to D major.

3) A Mixolydian

To play in the Mixolydian mode, we’ll adhere to the same core rules. However, the defining note in the Mixolydian scale is the seventh degree. If A is our modal root, then the seventh is G.

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Andrew Siemon is the principal creator for, a website entirely devoted to all things guitar. From repairs, music theory, chords, and improvisation, to recording at home. I've been doing this for 20 years and I've got another 50 in me.

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