Saturday, June 25, 2011


In this lesson we will be learning about chords. Chords are notes that are played simultaneously. They consist of 3 or more notes as shown in the image below. Chords can also be called triads.

Every piano and keyboard player should know are the basic chords, which are the Major, minor, Augmented, diminished, and seventh chords. These 5 chords are the most common chords and are relatively easy to play.

Major chords consists of the notes on the first, third, and fifth note/step of the major scale while the minor chords consists of the notes on the first, third, and fifth step of the minor scale (seen in the image below). The image below shows the Major, minor, Augmented and diminished chords. 

Can you see the differences between the chords in the above image? Well, you can see that the difference between a major and minor chord is found in the third note, with a minor chord having a flat third (b3). The augmented chord has a major third and a fifth note that is eight half steps above the root while a diminished chord is one that has a minor third, but the fifth is diminished.

Some examples of Major and minor chords are listed below.
  • C major chord consists of C, E, and G.
  • D major chord consists of D, F#, and A.
  • F major chord consists of F, A, and C.
  • G major chord consists of G, B, and D.
  • A minor chord consists of A, C, and E.
A good way to remember how a chord is constructed is that each chord has the following characteristics:
  1. A Root note. The Root of any chord will be the note which corresponds to the letter name of the chord. For example, the Root of a D M7 chord is D.
  2. A note a Major third (M3) or minor third (m3) above the Root
  3. A note a Perfect fifth (P5), Augmented fifth (A5), or diminished fifth (d5) above the Root
The seventh chord (shown in the image below) consists of a triad plus one note forming an interval of a seventh above the chord's root, which can be a Major seventh (M7), minor seventh (m7), or diminished seventh (d7) above the Root.   .

If the root of a chord is not in the bass (ie is not the lowest note) then that chord is said to be an Inverted Chord. For instance, a C major chord consists of the tones C, E and G; its inversion is determined by which of these tones is used as the bottom note in the chord.

The first chord in the image below shows the root position of the C major chord. 

In the first inversion of the C major chord (as seen in the image below, the middle chord), the bass is E, the 3rd of the triad, with the 5th and the root stacked above it ie the root is now shifted an octave higher to form intervals of a 3rd and a 6th above the inverted bass of E, respectively.

In the second inversion (as seen in the image below, the last chord), the bass is G—the 5th of the triad—with the root and the 3rd above it. Both are again shifted an octave higher to form a 4th and a 6th above the (inverted) bass of G, respectively.

Third inversions (as seen in the image below) only exist for chords of four or more tones like in seventh chords. In third inversions, the 7th of the chord is in the bass position. For the C major 7th chord, B is in the bass position, with C, E and G above it. There are intervals of a 2nd, 4th and 6th above the (inverted) bass of B, respectively.

Below are several examples of inverted chords.


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