A Little Theory – Root And 5th

In case you’re not familiar with the terms “root and fifth” I thought I’d explain a little here.

The terms “root and fifth” refer to the position of the note within the chord.

The root of the chord is the note that the chord is built on. If the chord is a C chord the root of the chord would be the note C.

The “C” can refer to both the chord and a note. In other words you can have a C major chord, and you can have a C note. The C note is what we’re calling the root note of the C chord. The root note of a chord is a very common note to use as a bass note.



I’ve said this in several different ways because I’ve had people confused about this in the past.

To make sure it’s clear here’s a few more examples:

  • the root note of the Fm7 chord is the F note
  • the root note of the G7 chord is the G note
  • the root note of the D chord is the D note
  • the root note of the E6 chord is the E note

Do you see the pattern? The chord is always named after the root note.

Now don’t get confused between root note and bass note. Even though the root note often makes a good bass note it is not always the bass note.

Now For The 5th

The of the chord is another common note used in the base. You can find which note is the fifth by counting up from the root note. You would count up five notes.

I give you an example. The fifth of the C chord is the note G. I counted up from C. That’s C, D, E, F and then G. One, two, three, four, and five.

Here’s another. The fifth of the D chord is the note A. I counted up from D. That’s D, E, F#, G and then A. One, two, three, four, and five. Remember the musical alphabet only goes from A to G and then starts over.

Did you notice I said F sharp (#) and not just F? That’s because in the key of D the note F is naturally sharp.

Now to be able to count up accurately for any chord you will have to know your key signatures. Key signatures tell you which notes are flat and sharp in any key.

I’ll show you what I mean.

The fifth of the B chord is the note… F#. I counted up from B. That’s B, C# D#, E,and then F#. One, two, three, four, and five. In the key of B the note F is naturally sharp.

A complete study of key signatures is beyond the scope of this short theory lesson, but I encourage you to look for opportunities to learn more about this.

Just One More Thing…

Another way to arrive at the fifth is to count intervals. I consider understanding intervals to be one of the first and most important things to learn about in music theory. If you’re new to understanding intervals check out another short introductory lesson I’ve created that you can find below.



Guitar Theory Lesson 1 – Basic Intervals