I was studying music, and in my book it says that two notes played simultaneously are considered an Interval while three notes are considered a Chord. Following up this question Why are two pitches considered a chord?.

Are dyads considered to be chords?

If yes, then can we actually define a chord with just two notes, for example if we have G and B, which are suitable for both Em and GM.

If not, why are power chords considered chords when they only have two notes?

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    The answer to the linked question answers this question pretty much – Shevliaskovic May 29 '17 at 8:03
  • That G and B also could, at a big push, be CM7, Eb+... – Tim May 29 '17 at 8:13
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    power chords often have the octave added, they are often three note chords. – Neil Meyer May 29 '17 at 9:51
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    Because theorists like to spend their time pointlessly splitting hairs - as some of the answers below demonstrate ;) – user19146 May 29 '17 at 11:44
  • There has to be some sensitivity to context here. In a solo you might play a line of dyads composed of 6ths within a scale; Wes Montgomery was famous for playing octaves. It makes little sense to call these dyads chords in this context. – ex nihilo May 29 '17 at 13:28

It's somewhat subjective, but my problem is how does one name a dyad, apart from calling it an interval. Thus power chord becomes D5 - an interval.

Most chords, to me, need the blend of minimum three notes. Majors and minors will have that interval between root and three. Some will argue, corectly to an extent, that actually the root will usually sound a 5th as its second harmonic, thus it's going to sound anyway - a good reason why some jazz chords leave out the P5. However - if that's the case, is that actually a two note 'chord', as we hear and perceive three notes...

So, what do we call other two note 'chords'? All the 'proper' chord names won't work, as they're specific to the notes in that chord. Taking a note out of even a three note chord stops it being an xyz.

The power chord works sonically because the 3 is missing. Favoured by guitarists using distortion/overdrive. With those effects, the harmonics of each note are accentuated, and those belonging to the 3 clash with the others. Root and 5 harmonics generally sound o.k. together, so it works. But, to me at least, it still isn't a chord, but an interval - a dyad.

  • Without any surrounding harmonic context (e.g., a key signature or a progression), naming triads poses similar challenges. What is F-G-D? An inverted G7 or an inverted DmSus4? Then again, If it's surrounded by C and F chords, who would suggest it's anything but the former? – Todd Wilcox May 29 '17 at 20:08
  • @ToddWilcox - we're down to two choices, can't think of any others. Not too much of a challenge. What name is given to C-E, or D-Ab, for example? – Tim May 29 '17 at 21:46
  • @ToddWilcox - I don't think F G D can be a sus, as the sus bit does away with the third, which is still there. Dmadd4 works, I think. But, yes, there's ambiguity in some chords, even in context. C6 or Am7? – Tim Jun 3 '17 at 7:09

A chord is in no way always played at the same time. Arpeggios and broken-chords are chords in the broader sense of the word and neither are played at the same time. A proper melody also has a harmonic structure built on chords and again none of the notes are played at the same time.

Also a chord can have three notes as maybe the stadard but it could also have four notes or even five, there is nothing forcing a chord to only have three notes, it can be any number of thirds.

As for the specifics about two note chords with guitar, that is much more a peculairity of the guitar as instrument. The guitar has a wealth of harmonics on each string that make playing two note chords still work, but you are right if you take the concepts away from the guitar then G - B would be the space between two notes ie an interval.

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    Chords need not be built in thirds, as in quartal harmony, for example. – ex nihilo May 29 '17 at 10:27
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    Don't forget 6th chords, sus chords... And - notes only constitute a chord when they are sounding simultaneously, as in all played together, or ring into each other. Broken chords and argeggios are vague sorts of chords, but not true ones. If a melody goes C, E, G, it does not play a chord. – Tim May 29 '17 at 11:23

Terminology is fickle. If you want to be exact, don't try to find the "exact" line between what is considered a "chord" or not, because the line will always be arbitrary, as the other answers show. Rather, specify the tones and don't worry about whether they constitute a "chord" or not.


A chord is, simply put, a group of notes (usually three or more although 2 can still be considered a chord) played as a basis of harmony. They do not necessarily have to be played simultaneously.

So yes 2 notes CAN be considered a chord but it depends on their intervals and their relationship with a melody.

Although it is a hard question to answer because 'what a chord is' can almost be subject to personal opinion.

  • Notes need to sound simultaneously to be a chord. – Tim May 29 '17 at 17:05
  • @Tim No, not always. An arpeggiated chord does not have the notes together however it is still considered a chord. Chords are defined by whether the notes previously (or currently played) are still fresh. If I played an ascending C triad in quavers, that's a chord. Similarly if I play C as a minim and E + G as crotchets over the top. – Ben Hughes May 30 '17 at 18:46
  • like I stated, simultaneous sounding, as you alluded. An arpeggiated chord is not called 'a chord', but an 'arpeggiated chord' because the notes are nebulously joined, but don't have to be simultaneously sounded. So, as long as they sound together at some point in their sounding, they constitute a chord, as I said. – Tim May 30 '17 at 19:29

A chord is two or more notes played together. An interval is the distance between 2 notes. For example a 2 note chord might be the A5 power chord.

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    How can one have 'one note played together' ? – Tim May 29 '17 at 17:04
  • @DavidBowling - a thought - can two notes an octave apart (same name) ever be considered a chord? – Tim May 30 '17 at 7:14
  • @Tim-- I would say no, yet they do form a dyad, which others confuse (in my opinion) with chords. The Wikipedia entry says that a dyad: "is a set of two notes or pitches that, in particular contexts, may imply a chord," listing the octave among them. That two notes "may imply a chord" suggests to me that they are not a chord. – ex nihilo May 30 '17 at 8:33

The most basic chord to which we give a name is a triad, a three-note chord. C major, D minor, Eb diminished etc. Two notes, or even one note can suggest or imply a triad, but they cannot fully define it. And that is what people mean when they argue that you need three notes for it to be a 'chord'.

In more general terminology, we often call two or more different notes a 'chord'.

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