I'm self-studying music. I'm trying to learn about chord but I'm currently stuck on its definition. I've read that a "chord" is like a triad, which is 3 notes comprised of a root, a third, and a fifth. But in other definitions, a chord can be any combination of notes, as long as it is 3 OR MORE notes. So what is a chord, then, how many notes is it comprised of


Basically, a chord is comprised of 3 or more notes. Some disagree and say a chord can be made up using only 2, although that's usually called a dyad. Anyone marking this answer down due to that statement has a perfect right to explain why.

Those 3 notes together get called a triad, and can be any 3 notes at all. Obviously, some combinatios won't sound so good, and the most common combinations are 1, 3 and 5 of a major or minor scale.

Chords of more than 4 notes are often termed extensions, as they can contain extra notes, usually in what we call stacked thirds. As in C E G B D - each a third apart from the next note - 1 3 5 7 9. That will be called Cmaj9. Often, in chords that have several extensions, specific notes are omitted, partly due to clashes in sound, partly due to the fact that on some instruments - guitar, for example - all the relevant notes can't physically be played simultaneously.

So, a chord has anything from 3 to many notes in its make-up. There is no maximum number.

  • 2
    "There is no maximum number." Someone might argue that C1 - C2 - C3 - C4 - C5 - C6 - C7 - C8 is not a chord in all meanings of the word, despite having eight notes. Or how about overtones ... lots of different frequencies. :) White noise? Chord with all possible notes at the same time. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Nov 8 '20 at 13:53
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica - I should have probably stated 3 different note names. I guess theoretically, one note could constitute a chord, as overtones/harmonics are often audible, thus making 'several notes'. Food for thought? – Tim Nov 8 '20 at 15:08
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica Let me introduce yo to the sUpEr UlTrA hYpEr MeGa MeTa LyDiAn – SunnyMoon Nov 8 '20 at 15:56
  • IMHO the best answer would clarify that there is not one single widely agreed upon definition of chord among musicians, but that it most often is 3+ notes, sometimes 2+ notes, sometimes must be 3+ different note names (i.e., octaves don't count), might include clusters or might not, etc. – Todd Wilcox Nov 8 '20 at 17:23
  • 1
    CFG could be Fsus2/C, Caus4, G7sus4(no5)/C. And that’s just three notes. Every fully diminished 7th chord has three names. And something like CDGBE has lots of possible names. – Todd Wilcox Nov 8 '20 at 19:48

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