I'm just getting started learning chords i.e. Harmony. I know chords are used as simultaneous notes but can you use the notes of a chord separately as well?


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    Any reasonable answers to this question would be extremely long and not appropriate for this site. This question is very broad. Triads are employed constantly for many, many, many reasons in almost all kinds of music.You can spend a whole year at the university level just studying the use of triads in western music. I suggest continuing in your learning as you are doing it and coming back here when you have more specific questions (perhaps about a particular use of a triad). – Todd Wilcox Mar 5 '17 at 17:39
  • I've shortened it to just one question relating to chord notes. – scudeira Mar 5 '17 at 18:02
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    Shorter isn't necessarily better, but at least this question has a short answer: "Yes". – Todd Wilcox Mar 5 '17 at 18:04
  • You've killed the question. But, to this version - Yes. – Laurence Payne Mar 5 '17 at 18:47

The answer to 'can you do X' in music is almost always yes - and it's certainly true that you can use the notes of a chord separately. As Alphonso says, this is often called 'arpeggiating' the chords; it might also just be thought of as using the chord tones (e.g. in a melody, bassline, etc.)

The notes of a chord are (in very simple terms) chosen because 1) they don't clash when sounded together, 2) have a strong harmonic relationship with each other, and 3) there is a certain 'feel' to that group of notes.

When you sound the notes separately, you aren't taking advantage of property 1), but you are taking advantage of 2) and 3). So a musical line that sticks to the notes of a particular chord will often have a very stable feeling, and will also share some of the emotional feel of the chord that the notes are from.

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    Just to add something to the don't clash when sounded together part: there are chords that use certain notes just for that reason – Shevliaskovic Mar 5 '17 at 23:19
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    @Shevliaskovic yes, definitely; I guess most chords apart from major and minor triads have one or more pairs of notes that are quite dissonant. And yet I think avoiding too much dissonance can probably be reasonably said to be one of the main ideas of triadic harmony (which I assume is what the OP would be mainly concerned with.) – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 5 '17 at 23:24
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    @Shevliaskovic I don't know why I read your name, in this context, as Shostakovich... :D – yo' Mar 6 '17 at 11:21

The term that you want to look up is Arpeggio, also called broken chords. Arpeggiated chords may be used in melody lines as well as harmonically.



As a really simple analogy you might have 'rhythm' guitarist playing strummed chords while the 'lead' guitarist plays melody lines single note lines which are at least related to the chords being played.

In practice there is a lot more to it than that but you certainly have the right idea.

In some (simple) cases the 'defualt' bass line is just the root note and 5th of the current chord and in blues (and related forms like rock) and jazz especially the guitar melody part will closely follow the chord structure of the song.

Also the really simple answer is that if you have an idea like this is just to try it. You will learn so much more form actually playing through these sorts of concepts than getting tangled up in concepts of right and wrong musical theory .

The fundamental reason for this is that the human brain is quiet good at remembering the previous few notes of a melody so you get a similar effect to a simultaneous chord even if the notes are spaced out over time.

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