So I have done this great exercise where you alter one note at a time to create a new chord:

    Cmaj7   C   E   G   B
    C7      C   E   G   B♭
    Cm7     C   E♭  G   B♭
    Cm7♭5   C   E♭  G♭  B♭
    Cdim7   C   E♭  G♭  B♭♭

This really helps you visualize how chords are made, so I wonder what other chords can you start with to do the exact same exercise?

  • 1
    interesting...have you played around with taking a chord, changing the root and getting a really different chord? F (major triad, F A C) put D in the bass...D F A C (d minor 7).
    – b3ko
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 17:26
  • That could also be a great exercise. I find the exercise to be really good to help visualize how chords relate to each other. It's like feeding the brain with a spoon. THIS is how a Fm7b5 is made, now REMEMBER it.
    – miniHessel
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 17:27
  • You could start with any chord. Should you be more specific in the question?
    – coconochao
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 18:13
  • >Yes, that is what I am thinking coco. I just need help creating an overview. One example could be the 9 chord. Starting with a maj9, altering one and one note.
    – miniHessel
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 18:19
  • Look at Pat Martino's work from the 80's. I have the books somewhere but not in front of me, Creative Force (I think). He has a way of looking at the diminished 7th chord as a seed for everything else (my interpretation). I'd butcher it if I tried to explain it.
    – user50691
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 18:28

4 Answers 4


Don't forget about the basic triads! But in order for your particular system to work, you'll have to start with either the augmented or diminished triad:

    +    C    E    G♯
    M    C    E    G
    m    C    E♭   G
    °    C    E♭   G♭

Also, note that, with one small adjustment, you can string some of these together to just keep going through all chordal roots. As one example:

    Cmaj7   C   E   G   B
    C7      C   E   G   B♭
    Cm7     C   E♭  G   B♭
    Cm7♭5   C   E♭  G♭  B♭
    Cdim7   C   E♭  G♭  B♭♭
    Cm7♭5   C   E♭  G♭  B♭ (return here to keep the one-half-step rule)
    C♭maj7  C♭  E♭  G♭  B♭ (enharmonic to Bmaj7)
    B7      B   D♯  F♯  A
    Bm7     B   D   F♯  A
    Bm7♭5   B   D   F   A
    Bdim7   B   D   F   A♭
    Bm7♭5   B   D   F   A (return here)
    B♭maj7  B♭  D   F   A

And so on.

Otherwise, it seems you could do this half-step exercise with pretty much every extended tertian chord (9ths and above), since you can always explain something as, e.g., ♯11 or ♭13 or add9.

I've also taken the liberty of editing your Cdim7 to use B♭♭ instead of A. In short, since that pitch is the seventh of the chord, we want to spell it as the note a seventh above C. Since a seventh above C is B, we want to spell that pitch as some type of B—in this case, B♭♭—even though it's enharmonic to A. When we spell it as A, we actually create an Adim7, since the thirds of A C E♭ G♭ stack with A as the root.


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Here's an example with 9 chords.


What about something like this?

C E G (C major, of course) B E G (E minor, inverted) B D G (G major, inverted) B D F# (B minor)

... and so on.

This sort of thing might help you compose, because you will know which chords are really close together, if the passage requires something like that.


One common contrapuntal technique is to take a chord like C-E-G and change to a C-E-A; it's called the 5-6 technique by some authors. (Bach liked this technique apparently.) Obvious other examples are just taking C-E-G and making C-Eb-G (thence to C-Eb-Ab creating movement down four flats by only making two chromatic tone changes.)

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