Author Topic: No__61___Chords - Their formation  (Read 276 times)

Peter Anderson

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No__61___Chords - Their formation
« on: October 31, 2015, 09:04:49 PM »
For those who play with chords, in the following posts, I explain how a chord is built and the common ways that chords are written.    I realise that this is extensively covered elsewhere on our web-site, but this set of postings builds more slowly from basics.

Basic Chords: The Triad
The first chord to learn when you start playing chords, is the root position three-note chord.         It is also called a triad since it has only three notes; a Root, a Third and a Fifth.
Basic chords are built with thirds stacked on top of each other.  Learning to play triads (which are the basic three note chords) is the first step to know when learning chords.       It is also very easy.

Here is a C major chord (triad) in root position:
Root position means that the chord is in its basic position with all the notes a third apart (skipping one white key between them). The bottom, or lowest note then gives its name to the chord.
Since C is the bottom note in the example above it is called a C chord. Here is what the numbers mean:

1   =   The Root is number 1, the base-note of the chord.  (Note the spelling - you may choose to play a different bass note with your chord).   The root gives the name to the chord.

3   =    The Third is two steps up (to the right).    It is very important, since it gives the sound of either major or minor to the chord.

5   =    The Fifth is… count from one, two, three, four, and five!   The fifth gives a more complete sound to the chord.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61__Chords - Their formation
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2015, 09:06:19 PM »
Major and Minor Chords

A Triad can be either Major or Minor depending on if the Third is a major or minor third.

The Root can be any note (or key) at all.

The Third has to be either two whole steps up, a major third which gives the colour of major to the chord.   Or 1 and ½ steps up, this is minor.

The Fifth has to be 3 and 1/2 steps up from the root- because a basic major or minor chord must have the interval of a perfect fifth between the lowest and the highest note.

A half step or semitone, is the smallest step on the piano from one note to the very next.   Usually from a black key to a white, or a white to black.    A whole step is two half steps.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61__Chords - Their formation
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2015, 08:44:36 PM »
You can add any other notes, as spices, to change the sound of the basic chords.

In the following Replies, you will find some of the most common basic Chords:
Let’s start with the Seventh Chord

First sing to yourself, “Happy Birthday to...”  yes pause there. 
How do you feel?   Don’t you think that at this point you are left hanging, desperately wanting to go to a resolution point on the word “You”.

Equally try “Baa, baa black sheep, have you any ......” 
Again you are left hanging before the word “Wool”.

Even non musical people can sense this need to be resolved.

That is the power of the Seventh Chord.    It always wants to resolve to the base or Key chord.

You can immediately see how powerful this 7th chord is.

To create this 7th chord, you add a 7th to a triad.      Just continue counting from the root (as number 1) and play 1  3  5  and  7  !
Simple, isn’t it?

An added 7th gives the chord a strong pull - it wants to go somewhere!

The strongest “pull” is in the small (regular) 7th chord (e.g.  C7) also called the “Dominant 7”.

Whereas a Major 7th chord is more open and “jazzy” (e.g.  Cmaj7).

So now we know two additional 4 note chords, a “regular” Seventh Chord, and a Major 7th chord.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61__Chords - Their formation
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2015, 09:23:37 AM »
We saw in the previous posting that, without even hearing the 1-chord that is sure to follow the  5 (V) 7th chord, most people, musicians or otherwise, would be able to sing or predict it beforehand.     i.e. the chord for

the You,  In Happy Birthday to YOU.
and the Wool,  in Have you any WOOL?

This is not by accident.  The V-dominant chord has some very powerful properties that explain why this is the case.

It is customary to use Roman Numerals to distinguish these chords.
So   I       IV       &      V      define the Major chords in any Key.
Roman numerals in lower case,  i.e.      ii         iii          vi          vii       define other chords that are usually Minor and occasionally diminished.

So using the Key of C as an example

I                 would be           C major         written as C
IV               would be           F major         written as F
V                would be           G major         written as G
ii                would be           D minor          written as Dm
iii               would be           E minor          written as Em
vi               would be           A minor          written as Am
vii               would be           B diminished   written as Bo
         

Consider the V dominant 7 chord ( for which as an example, in the key of C major is G7):

The first thing to note is what notes of the C major scale this chord uses.
G is the 5.
B is the 7.
D is the 2.
F is the 4.

Note: Here I am simply numbering the C major scale in the following way, using the everyday numbers that we are familiar with:

C    D   E    F    G    A    B
1    2    3    4    5    6    7

and pointing out which notes, these particular notes fall on and stating the relative number..

It just so happens that the 2, 4, and 7th degrees are the most highly unbalanced of them all.    They all want to resolve somewhere.   
Compare the (Roman Numeral V7)

G7         moving to        C major

You would expect adjacent notes on the keyboard to be closely related, but that is not so.     However, the 5, G is very closely related to the 1, C.

To learn more about this take a look at the Circle of Fifths, where C and G are found next door to each other.   You will also find out more about the Roman Numeral references above, and about how they fit in.    To read about this now, click this link:

http://www.ar-group.org/smforum/index.php?topic=954.0

But back to our V7 chord, which is G7 in our example:-
 
The “B” in the G dominant 7 chord eagerly wants to resolve up to “C.”
The “D” in the G dominant 7 chord wants to resolve down to the same “C.”
And the “F” in the G dominant 7 chord longs to resolve down to the “E.”

It is hardly surprising that this chord has so much tension in it and no wonder when you resolve all 3 at the same time, you get one of the most popular chord progressions in music — and this is technically called the perfect cadence.

And on a broader note, when you’re thinking about what inversions and voicings of chords to play next, look at how the notes of the previous chord are moving to the notes of the next chord.        Are they smooth, strong resolutions?           Could you pick another inversion of the next chord to create such a sound?

Music consists of tensions and resolutions, so as we play we are not just hitting the notes that we think are correct for that particular chord, but creating these wonderful tensions that need resolving.      This produces that satisfying result, which is not only enjoyable, but as you explore the detail, is very fascinating.

In subsequent posts we explore how we build several other chord types.

Peter

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Re: No__61__Chords - Their formation
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2015, 10:43:35 AM »
The first of these is a Diminished Chord which is another triad, and is made from only small minor thirds stacked on top of each other.

Play the root position chord   1-3-5   with a minor third.  Then lower the 5 note a ½ step down.   

This is a Diminished Chord!  Continue stacking as many small thirds as you like, it is still a diminished chord.    Normally we use 3 or 4 notes for a diminished chord, unless you have really huge hands!

It is notated as,  for example using the base of C:     Cdim     or Co

Clearly there are 12 basic Major Chords, but there are only 4 Diminished Chords.

If you think about it, you can see why.   (Clue:  If you play any diminished chord and keep stacking minor thirds, how does the 5th note in the series relate to the 1st?      I make it clear in the next posting.)

Peter

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Re: No__61__Chords - Their formation
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2015, 09:25:51 AM »
An Augmented chord, also a triad, but it works the other way round.
Look
It is composed of only major thirds. Try it like this:

Play a root position chord    1-3-5   with a major third.
 
Now raise the 5th a ½ step up.   This is called an Augmented Chord.
   
The most common are augmented 3 or 4 note chords called

Major (+5)       and          Major 7 (+5).

They are notated as,  for example using the base of C:     

Caug                or              C+

Peter

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Re: No__61___Chords - Their formation
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2015, 10:26:16 AM »
Before we explore Sus chords let us briefly consider -

Understanding basic chords Symbols

When you play by chords, you usually read chord symbols.   You will see the name of the root (any of the note names) an m (if the third is minor) and a number for any notes that have been added to the basic three notes of the triad.
So 1-3-5 is never written since it is the basic chord formula.

Let us take an example. 
This is a 4-note chord; called a C minor seventh chord and notated like this       Cm7:

1    C     is the root, (number 1).

2    m     means that the 3rd is a minor 3rd. (The Major 3rd is never written, so when you see the chord notation  C  you know it is C Major).

3    7      is the added note the seventh step up from 1.  (In this case it is a small or minor 7.   

If it would be the “big” or major 7, this example would be written CMaj7).

You may see other numbers in basic chords like 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, and 13.   All those are additions to the 1-3-5 formula.   
The 5 note could actually be left out, because it is not so important, but the 1 (the root),  the 3 and any “spice notes”, like for example the 7th should be played, since they give the distinct character to the chord!

As we saw earlier on this board, another way of writing chords is with Roman Numerals, I    IV     V    for example.

This is a clever and helpful way of writing chord progressions, since once memorised, you can use them in any key.

However, the use of Alphabet letters and numerals is the most common way to present them.  They are a main feature of Fake Books.

So, as promised, in the following postings we explore Suspended Chords.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61___Chords - Their formation
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2015, 05:46:33 PM »
Now let us explore the whole area of  Sus Chords.                 Here the sus stands for suspension.   
 
There are basically two types of Sus chords, sus 4 or sus 2 (also sometimes called sus 9 more about this to come).

Allthough the Sus chords have only 3 notes, they are not called triads.

Try exchanging the 3 (third) in the C major triad for a 4 (fourth) instead:

i.e.    Play    1, 3 and 5    then play    1, 4 and 5.

This is a beautiful sound - especially if you go back again from the 4 to the 3.

This chord, with the 4th in place of the 3rd, if we choose the scale of C, for example,  is known as a C sus 4

Now change the 3 for a 2, and then go back to 3.
Sounds similar?        We call this C sus 2.

If you number all the notes in the scale starting at 1, and continue past 8, you obviously come to 9.    But notice that the 9th note of any scale is identical to the 2nd note of that scale, but an octave higher.   

So a C sus 9, is identical to  a C sus 2, but depending on your preference and your finger stretch capabilities, you can play either the high 9 or the lower 2.

If you see the simple direction Csus, then always regard it as Csus4.

You can read much more about sus chords in the next 5 replies.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61___Chords - Their formation
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2016, 12:28:27 PM »
Here is a little extra about Suspended Chords
We know from previous postings that Suspended chords result when the third of any chord is replaced by the perfect fourth, or less commonly, by the major second.
The lack of a minor or a major third in the chord creates an open sound, while the dissonance between the 4th and 5th or the 2nd and the Root creates tension that needs to be resolved
You don’t have to be a musician for your ears to know “another” chord needs to follow a Sus chord.     That is an indication of  how effective suspended chords are in creating tension.    And just like other aspects in nature, when tension is applied, it must be followed by release at some point.
So a tense chord seeks resolution. Our ears long for it.
Now, how do we play them?
Consider the C major chord:

C   E   G

Here are the degrees of this chord
C = 1st degree
E = 3rd degree
G = 5th degree
(These degrees come from the major scale, numbering the notes consecutively starting at C).
So for the C major scale:                C D E F G A B C
C is 1
D is 2
E is 3
F is 4
G is 5
A is 6
B is 7
Suspended chords are created by simply removing the 3rd degree, thus leaving the

C    and     G
…and replacing with the 4th degree of the scale, with the notes

C   F   and   G
This gives us what we call a  C suspended 4,  commonly written as    C sus4.

The number 4 refers to the degree that replaced the 3rd.

Can you guess, then, what a C sus2 might look like?
One thing is for sure: There will be no third degree.    It will be replaced by something else.
So a Csus2    uses the notes

C        D       and      G

Can you work out the notes to play for these?
F sus4
Bb sus4
F sus2
G sus4
The answers appear in the next posting.
Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61___Chords - Their formation
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2016, 12:28:58 PM »
Did you work out the notes to play for these chords?
F sus4
Bb sus4
F sus2
G sus4


Answers:
F sus4
                    Play the notes        F       Bb      and       C

The F major chord is F A C.     We removed the 'A' and replaced it with 'Bb', the 4th.

Bb sus4                    Play the notes        Bb     Eb       and     F
The Bb major chord is Bb D F.   We removed the 'D' and replaced it with 'Eb', the 4th.

F sus2                       Play the notes        F        G      and      C
The F major chord is F A C.     We removed the 'A' and replaced it with 'G', the 2nd.

Interestingly, this F sus2 chord has the same notes as C sus4.   
In other words, if you invert a sus4 chord, you get the sus2 of another key.    This is worth remembering.

G sus4                       Play the notes       G        C       and       D

The G major chord is G B D.    We removed the 'B' and replaced it with 'C', the 4th.
Peter.


Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61___Chords - Their formation
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2016, 02:37:20 PM »
Here we look at some other types of Suspended Chords.

If you have read the previous postings, you will be familiar with the basic way to form suspended chords.

Here is a reminder of the suspended chords we saw earlier:
C sus4                      Play the notes        C     F     and     G
C sus2                      Play the notes        C     D     and     G

Now, let’s see how we can extend these chords.

One thing we can immediately do is add the Dominant 7th degree to this chord.
Using the example of the C major scale:

What is the 7th degree of the scale of C?
So the answer is      B
If we were looking to create a major7 chord, adding B to any regular C major triad (C E G) would do the job.
But we’re looking for the dominant 7th or flat 7th or minor 7th.     These are all different ways to say the same thing.   The note we are seeking in this case, is Bb.

This gives us one of the most popular chords in music. The Dominant 7th chord.

You can write it as C dominant 7, C dom 7, or most commonly as just C7 for short.    All these expressions mean the same thing.
Please note:     Whenever you see C7 or F7 or G7 or any note immediately followed by a 7, it automatically means to play the dominant 7th chord.

So for    C7                   Play the notes        C     E     G     and     Bb

This is the C dominant 7th chord without any suspended notes.

By simply making the same changes we made to form our Csus4 and Csus2, we get C7sus4 and C7sus2 chords, respectively.

C7 sus4                       
Play the notes                    C     F     G    and    Bb
This chord absolutely loves to resolve to the regular C7 chord you are familiar with.

Try this out.       You hear this simple combination a lot in funk, blues and gospel.
Try playing the C7sus4 chord for 4 beats, then resolving to the C7 chord for another 4 beats. Then repeat it.

C7 sus2                     Play the notes      C     D      G    and     Bb
This one isn’t as common as the C7sus4 but still good to know.

In the following postings we look at a few more sus chords.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61___Chords - Their formation
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2016, 09:55:40 AM »
Here are some other types of Suspended Chords –

What if we combined the ideas from the sus4 and sus2 chords to form other types of suspended chords?    Suppose we included both the 4 and 2 tones.

This is what is called a C9sus4 chord. 
You may have seen this printed somewhere, or something akin to it, and wondered what it actually means.    So let us investigate.

C9 sus4
Play the notes        C    F    G    Bb   and    D
Instead of the “D” operating as the 2nd tone of the scale, it is now operating as the 9th tone of the scale.

Think about the C major scale over 2 octaves

C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C
If you number this scale, you get:
C is 1
D is 2
E is 3
F is 4
G is 5
A is 6
B is 7
C is 8
D is 9
E is 10
F is 11
G is 12
A is 13
B is 14

D is the 9th degree of the scale, when you extend into the next octave.

The dominant 9 sus4 chord is also known as the jazz sus chord.

So here are some other suspended chords.

C7 b9 sus      which asks for the 9th to be flattened               
Play the notes        C      F      G      Bb    and   Db

Very often we can leave the '4' off (in C7 b9 sus4) as it will already be implied.     Just saying sus means we replace the 3 with the 4th degree.

In this chord, we took the 9 and flatted (lowered) it a half step. This gave us “Db” instead of D.

More sus chords in the next Reply.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61___Chords - Their formation
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2016, 02:26:55 PM »
C sus 11   
                 
Play the notes        C     G     Bb     D    and     F

This chord essentially takes the F and puts it on top.

While some can argue this is still a C9 sus4, it is the order of notes that is differentiated in this voicing.

When the F is in the lower octave, it is the '4'.      When the F is played in the upper octave, which in this case, as the highest note, it is the 11th.

Only in music does  4 = 11 and 11 = 4.     Therefore, let your ear be the final judge in terms of whether you place it in the lower or upper octave.

This inversion also brings to light an obvious shortcut to playing extended sus chords.

Can you see that the Csus11 contains the Bb major chord?

Essentially, if you want a nice extended sus chord, play the major chord a whole step lower than your bass note, and there it is.

C sus 11                         

Play the notes        C     Bb      D    and    F

Here the Bbmajor chord is the notes             Bb      D     and     F,  with a C bass

The only thing different here is taking out the G, which is optional anyway.

The 5th degree (in this case G) doesn’t make or break our chord.   Add it back in if you want the chord to have more power on the lower end.

What happens if you extend the Bb major chord (Bb D F) to a Bb major 7 chord?

Now you get a C13 sus         

Play the notes            C     Bb     D     F    and    A

This particular chord is popular in gospel music.

The next Reply is the final one for exploring this subject.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__61___Chords - Their formation
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2016, 04:06:53 PM »
Yet Even More Types of Suspended Chords.

What if you changed the Bb major chord to a minor chord?

Now, we are back to our b9 (flat 9) sus chord.     The only difference is the F is now on top. (But what this does is gives us another way to look at how “smaller” chords can be added together to form these “bigger” chords.   

See posting on Giant Chords.

Click this link to go directly there:
http://www.ar-group.org/smforum/index.php?topic=2449.0

C7 b9 sus                       
Play the notes        C     Bb     Db    and     F

If you want to throw some major dissonance in to this, try changing the Bb major chord to a Bb minor-major 7.

What is a      minor-major 7 chord?
It is essentially the Bb minor and Bb major 7 concepts from above, combined into one.

Bb minor-major7     
Play the notes          Bb     Db     F     and     A

It starts like a minor chord (Bb Db F) but ends like a major7th chord (with an 'A'… as a Bb minor 7 would normally have an 'Ab').

C13 b9 sus             
 Play the notes               C      Bb     Db     F    and     A

This could work if you started with this chord:
C13 sus                   
Play the notes               C      Bb      D      F    and     A

Then, lower the D to Db (the “b9”):

C13 b9 sus               
Play the notes        C      Bb      Db     F     and     A


Now for a bonus, let us resolve this to an F major 7 chord.
F major 7                 
Play the notes            F     A    C    E    and    A

This is called a 5-1 progression.        We just held the 5 chord by suspending it, which gave us even more tension and resolution to the 1 (in this case, F major 7).

You just learned the C13 b9 sus chord
Well done!

Perhaps this is an appropriate place to suspend our review of suspended chords.

If nothing else I hope it has helped to de-mystify those chord designations that have odd additional numbers in them, that we would have tended to ignore in the past, because they seem to be too complicated, but now you know that they really are quite simple to appreciate and even play - when you know how.

Peter