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I only know how to play 2 different types of chords which is a Triad (3 notes) and a 7th (4 notes). But, I often see chords with 5 or 6 notes being used. What are these types of chords called?

An example is in the images on this page (towards the bottom)

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Can you post the chords you're referring to? The ones at the bottom I see are major 7th chords – Shevliaskovic Dec 10 '13 at 12:17
@Shevliaskovic these ones ...… – James Jeffery Dec 10 '13 at 12:19
Dunno - but I know 12-key chords are called "armbars" :-) – Carl Witthoft Dec 10 '13 at 12:38
it does not matter, it's still a chord. You need at least a triad to make a chord, any additional notes stacked up doesn't change how they are called. You have different names not for how many more notes a triad can have, but for the TYPE of chord, e.g. a seventh chord, a dominant chord, a diminished seventh chord, etc – user8740 Dec 11 '13 at 13:12
On a guitar, they are called barré chords. – Wheat Williams Jul 29 '14 at 5:06
up vote 14 down vote accepted

They are called "5 note chords" and "6 note chords" because they are not so fundamental a component of music that they need a shorter name.

A "triad" applies to many different three-note chords - always based around the root, a third, and a fifth -- but the third may be major (4 semitones from the root) or minor (3 semitones from the root), and the fifth may be perfect (7 semitones from the root) augmented (8) diminished (6).

You've encountered a four-note dominant 7th chord, which is a major or minor triad plus a flattened 7th. But there are lots more 4-note chords - any combination of four notes, some more pleasant sounding than others.

The article you've linked has helpfully colour-coded the notes in the chords. Let's look at one of the chords - the second chord in this piano roll:

Piano roll

The author has already told you the colour coding: root (purple), 3rd (blue), 5th (yellow) and 7th (green).

This 6 note chord contains:

  • Ab (root)
  • C (3rd)
  • Eb (5th)
  • G (major 7th)
  • C (3rd)
  • Eb (5th)

Note that there are two 3rds and two 5ths. This is a 4-note chord, an Ab major 7th, with two of the notes doubled up by playing their octaves.

The author also tells you:

Notes highlighted in red aren’t in the basic chords, but are added on top to form a simple melody

The following "8 note" chord is really a four-note chord -- C minor 7th -- with two notes doubled up, to make it 6 notes, and two melody notes, which are not part of the chord as such.

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what an excellent response. Many thanks for taking the time to explain that, I understand it much better now. – James Jeffery Dec 10 '13 at 13:37
@slim - this is NOT a criticism of your superb answer, but the chord is Ab maj7, with the maj.7 note being G. These sort of voicings are commonplace for guitarists. And don't forget 'sus' triads ! – Tim Dec 10 '13 at 14:19
@Tim Well caught. Of course it is. – slim Dec 10 '13 at 14:22
@Tim ... but I'm going to gloss over sus chords for now. I think we've blown James' mind enough already. – slim Dec 10 '13 at 14:31
Perhaps a mention of extended chords would help here? – Bradd Szonye Jul 29 '14 at 2:27

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