I've mainly been practicing triads (major/minor) and sevenths (major/minor/dominant) as I think those are the most important chords. If this is wrong, please let me know. I mainly play pop songs on piano and guitar by ear, usually using chords from the scale, or whatever I find it sounds like. Sometimes I improvise, these are mainly either major or minor chords, although I've been experimenting with sevenths lately. I just want to grow my "vocabulary" as far as harmony goes so I can improvise more elaborate music. Pop but with more harmonic complexity, like classical. Here's an example and another example of the style I like.

But I'm wondering what's the list of important chords to know. Or said in a different way, in what order should I learn/practice the different chord types? As an example:

  1. Major (C)
  2. Minor (Cm)
  3. Dominant Seventh (C7)
  4. Major, Minor Sevenths (CM7, Cm7)

(what next?)

  1. Extended chords (C9, C11)
  2. Suspended chords (Csus4)
  3. Added tone (Cadd9)
  4. Six Chords (C6)
  5. Diminished (Cdim)
  6. Augmented (Caug)

This isn't a complete list, nor is the order "correct". Just something to get the ball rolling. I've been working on the first 4 items in this list and I'd like to know what I should focus on next..

closed as primarily opinion-based by Richard, David Bowling, Dom Sep 28 at 15:00

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Just as important, but from a different angle, is chord voicings, and the facility to move from one chord to another. I understand this question most likely comes from a piano point of view, but on guitar, that's pretty important. It will also depend on the sort of music one is considering. – Tim Sep 28 at 6:41
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    Also missing: augmented 6th chords, pantonal chords, cluster chords, and various ethnic / rarified chords (e.g. “petrushka” / “mystic”). That said I find this notion of chord importance silly and arbitrary. Also, the OP never mentioned on what they were practicing these chords - presumably piano? – jjmusicnotes Sep 28 at 12:22
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    The chords you need to learn are the ones that occur in the music you want to play. – Laurence Payne Sep 28 at 12:47
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    @jjmusicnotes - I guess that the OP is playing pop type music, where chords are written in, with dots, but also with chord symbols. I've never seen an aug6th written in situations like this - usually, the similar sounding dom7th is there , as it should be. – Tim Sep 28 at 16:36
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    This really is not an opinion question, it's a topic of study. Not all chords are used equally. This may help as a start: pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f740/… – Michael Curtis Sep 28 at 16:40

From a 'commonest used' to 'rarer', which may be the same as 'important', the list could go -

*major (triad)

*minor (triad)

*dominant 7th

*major and minor 7th

*diminished

*sus2 and sus4

*augmented

*major 6th

*minor 6th

*half diminished (m7b5)

*dominant 9th

then those used less frequently:

minor 9th

major 9th

11th

13th

'add' chords

slash chords (which should come further up the list as inversions if the slash is a chord tone)

slash chords with non-chord tone bass note.

But - with rarer chords, it's just as well to 'learn' them as individuals as found in the particular song - something like the make up of F#13b5b9 is only really going to re-appear in other keys in a jazz idiom.

Having said all that, there's no 'correct' order for this once we're past the first few on the list, and some guitarists may well put 'power chord' right at the top...

  • I'm leaning on this answer, but will give it another day or so. I'll see maybe they'll reopen the question. – foreyez Sep 29 at 5:16

To expand on what Laurence Payne said in his comment:

Chords don't have any use if you are not using them. This question would be like a writer asking what words from the dictionary they should learn next, and the answer is the ones that she needs to use to get your meaning across.

What type of music do you like? What songs do you want to play? Pick a song you like and learn those chords.

I have been taking songs recently and playing triads with the melody note on top. This is a good way to focus on knowing lots of chord voicings and knowing them all over the neck so you can play the chord that is needed in a position that allows you to play the melody note on top. I was doing this with a Beatles song recently and it has an augmented chord in it, so I focused on that chord and the various voicing that would work for the way I was playing the song, because I hadn't played a song yet with an Aug chord it in.

Bottom line is, play music. Play music that you like. This will tell you what chords and all sorts of other techniques that are important to learn next. This isn't math. This is music. It is art. You can learn systematically but it will go much better and you will have a much clearer road map if you let the music drive you.

  • A guess is the OP plays piano. – Tim Sep 28 at 14:20
  • +1 for mentioning the hazards of an overly systematic approach when learning. Worthy of note: there are some very systematic treatises out there; George Van Eps' Harmonic Mechanisms for Guitar comes to mind. Extremely interesting and compendious (three volumes!), but definitely not for beginners. @Tim -- OP plays both piano and guitar, if memory serves. – David Bowling Sep 28 at 14:43
  • @DavidBowling i actually tend to like learning systematically, but at the end of the day you need to play music and let it take you were it will. find the stuff you like and learn it. that can be combined with a systematic approach. it doesn't need to be all or nothing, and i would say it actual should never be all of one approach. – b3ko Sep 28 at 14:51
  • @tim yeah, i guess my example was specific to the guitar, not thinking that may not be what the OP plays, but that was just an example of how i recently decided to start working out some augmented voicings based on a song i was learning and not some road map that was defined by something else. – b3ko Sep 28 at 14:52
  • Nice thing with guitar is that once you've established a chord shape for whatever, it just needs moving up or down for other keys. Sadly, piano is rather different. It also depends what you're doing. If it's sight reading different stuff each week with a band, knowing all chords don't 'alf help. Learning the chords for just a few songs, well, that's just what you do - learn those specific chords. – Tim Sep 28 at 15:00

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