Questions tagged [chord-theory]

For questions about the theory behind building and naming chords.

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54
votes
8answers
11k views

Which notes are optional in jazz chords?

I have a question on jazz chords, and what notes can be removed from the chord. My understanding is fairly superficial - mostly from what I've read in books. This is what I understand: In some chords,...
39
votes
5answers
11k views

Why do notes have multiple names?

I've seen the same note called different names for example the note F# can also be written as Gb. Why is this the case and are there times to use one name over another?
33
votes
2answers
100k views

What does a triangle mean in chord notation?

For example, what does the △ mean in C△7?
27
votes
3answers
79k views

Classical music theory notation for chord inversions (figured bass)

In classical music harmony analysis, we see the chord inversions notated like I6/4, I6, V4/3. Examples: What are those numbers? How do they define the inversion? What's the theory behind using ...
26
votes
4answers
2k views

Playing a Coltrane polychord and the limits of space

As I was the reading sheet music for John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, I noticed a chord I had never seen before. It looks like this: I'm familiar with slash chords, but never had to practically ...
25
votes
18answers
18k views

Why does the dominant chord contain a flattened 7th?

Why does the dominant chord contain a flattened 7th while this tone is not even in the scale? Let's take, for example, a C7 chord. It is a 1-3-5-b7 of a C scale (C-E-G-B♭). But the C-major scale ...
25
votes
9answers
16k views

What is the full list of possible chord names? Are there chords that don't have a name in chord theory?

My chord book covers 35 different chord types. When I look on the web or in other tools, all the same types of chords come up. But I don't think this is the "full" set of possible chords. I'm not ...
25
votes
5answers
29k views

Chord naming conventions: add2 versus add9

I'm confused about the chord naming convention for the chord C-D-E-G. Is it Cadd2 or Cadd9? Similarly, I'm confused about the chord C-E-F-G. Is it Cadd4 or Cadd11? EDIT: I understand what is the ...
24
votes
7answers
36k views

What determines a chord's name?

I have very little knowledge of music theory (enough to know what's the major scale and how to find the major chord of a note) but I know a good number of chords by name and could figure out the ones ...
24
votes
6answers
1k views

Why don't we measure the size of intervals starting from zero?

Note: italics such as "2nd" refer to my proposed notation; existing notation is written without italics: "2nd". Why is the interval between C and D called a 2nd, as they are 1 note apart? Surely this ...
23
votes
3answers
7k views

What are the four chords that so many pop songs are based on?

Apparently, a lot of pop music is based on the same four chords, the video does not say which those may be. Any idea what four chords they are talking about?
23
votes
5answers
5k views

Am I allowed to add a b9 to a maj7 chord in Jazz?

On Jazzology chapter 2, exercise 6, example 2, I have to identify this chord (if it exists): I thought that it was Cmaj7(b9). My train of thought was (from the lowest to the highest note): C -> 1st ...
21
votes
5answers
2k views

Is there any set of 2-6 notes that doesn't have a chord name?

Is there any combination of up to six notes in the chromatic scale that could not be classified and named as a chord? Can anyone give me an example and explanation if so?
21
votes
6answers
7k views

Why does a Cm13 chord use A instead of A♭?

Why is the 13th (or the 6th) of a Cm chord A, not Ab?
21
votes
4answers
7k views

Why are thirds used to construct chords?

I am (slowly) learning music theory on the guitar. I've begun learning about scales and chords, and it seems that all chords are built using some combination of thirds. For example, a minor triad is ...
20
votes
10answers
8k views

Why is the first inversion of a C Major Chord very rarely used on guitar even though it is easier to play?

The open C Major Chord is one of the first basic chords taught to beginning guitar students. It is also one of the most common chords I see in the music I listen to. The instruction books teaching ...
20
votes
12answers
2k views

Can a chord contain both the C and C♯ notes? (as opposed to containing C and D♭ notes)

Can a chord contain both the C and C♯ notes? Or do you always have to use D♭ rather than C♯ in a chord that already contains the note C? I'm guessing the answer is no, both C and C♯ should not be ...
20
votes
10answers
25k views

A chord is three notes? What do you call just two notes?

Until very recently I'd though a chord was any group of notes played together. However, I just heard a chord defined as "three or more notes played together." If this is the case, what should I ...
20
votes
7answers
2k views

“slash” chords, e.g. B/F♯ - are these only for inversions, or can any note be the bass note?

I'm trying to work out whether it is technically correct to have a "slash" chord where the bass note is not one of the notes in the chord. I thought the main reason for slash chords is to show which ...
18
votes
5answers
4k views

What's an “add” chord?

The name implies that you are adding a note, but we already notate that explicitly in the chord name and quality. We say Cm7, not Cm add 7. If we want a 9th, we can go Cm9, but is Cm add 9 correct ...
17
votes
4answers
25k views

What are the feelings & emotions behind chords?

I studied some different books on Music Theory and all were too much scientific and definitely very helpful to some point. Now that I have started writing some songs, I feel I need to know more ...
17
votes
2answers
3k views

If E-G-C is first inversion, what is E-C-G?

(in the piano this would be impossible to play but it's doable in a guitar) anyways, C4, E4, G4 -> E4, C5, G5
17
votes
7answers
3k views

Why is a ♭5 chord not a “triad”?

If you look at the kinds of thirds and fifths, you immediately see six obvious combinations: minor third/diminished fifth minor third/perfect fifth minor third/augmented fifth major third/diminished ...
17
votes
5answers
1k views

Naming convention for augmented 6th chords

There are three types of Augmented 6th chord the German, the Italian, and the French. Most chords are named for the intervals they contain or their function, but these seem like just arbitrary names ...
16
votes
11answers
29k views

Why does a minor sixth chord contain a major 6th interval?

This is something that has always puzzled me. Perhaps I am going about this the wrong way but when I build chords I always build them based on the scale that corresponds to the quality of the chord. ...
16
votes
2answers
3k views

Scale modification in sus2 and sus4 chords

I've recently been looking at what makes chords what, and hence my first target for this was looking at major, minor, sus2, and sus4 chords. I know major chords are made up of the first, the third, ...
15
votes
7answers
3k views

How do you voice extended chords?

If I have a Cmaj13 chord, it uses 7 notes. Basically all the notes of the scale. In a previous question, I was told that you rarely play all 7 notes for a 13th chord. So how do you know which ones to ...
15
votes
8answers
6k views

Is the IV chord a perfect fifth in disguise?

They say the root of the IV chord is a perfect fourth away from the key's tonic. But isn't it a perfect fifth from the tonic (if we go the other way)? let's for the sake of coolness, call it a perfect ...
15
votes
6answers
5k views

Are there any enharmonic chords?

Will I even encounter any enharmonic chords? For example would an inverted variation of one chord be equivalent to the root variation of another chord?
15
votes
3answers
3k views

Does a diminished first exist?

Are there any instances where the first note in a scale/chord is "diminished"? For instance, could a Db occur in a D chord, where the context explicitly requires that this is a Db (diminished first) ...
14
votes
7answers
7k views

How was the D chord constructed?

I'm a beginner trying to teach myself guitar, and I thought I understood how chords work but the D major chord just confuses the heck out of me. From what I know, chords are built out of triads, and ...
14
votes
9answers
16k views

Is Emajor the dominant chord in the key of A minor?

I read somewhere that Emajor is the dominant (V) chord in A minor. Is this correct? If so, why is it not Eminor, since the A minor scale has no sharps or flats in it?
14
votes
6answers
2k views

Proper symbol for this chord (1 5 7 9 11)?

I'm a songwriter in the jazz-pop idiom, and when playing through a chart with a guitarist, he told me that, in his opinion, I had labeled a chord inaccurately / incorrectly. Here's the chord as I ...
14
votes
5answers
19k views

Melody improvisation over chords

My question deals with what scale to play over a given chord progression. For example, consider a progression containing I,II,IV,V in C. I.e., the rhythm guitar is playing C, Dmin, F, and G... My ...
14
votes
4answers
10k views

The Chords in this progression sound great but don't belong together - so why do they work?

I am a songwriter and compose my own music to go with my lyrics. Most of my chord progressions follow common patterns like using a I V IV or I IV V with an occasional ii or iii or vi chord thrown in ...
13
votes
4answers
3k views

Why do we only build 7th chords on the supertonic and dominant of a major scale?

I am just cracking into a book on basic Harmony (Mark Sarnecki, 2nd edition), and the first section begins with a review of the triads built on each degree of a C major scale, as shown in this picture....
13
votes
11answers
19k views

Theory behind the change from a major chord to the same in minor

In many songs I hear the change from a major chord to the same, but minor. For example F A Bb Bbm. It sounds really nice to me and I'm wondering if there is a theory behind it. Is there a genre ...
13
votes
6answers
2k views

Why is this chord notated as an Emin7 when it has no Es in it?

So I was analyzing "Yesterday" by The Beatles when I got to the word "Why". How come it has Em7 over the note when the score doesn't feature the note E? It doesn't look like an Em7 ...
13
votes
7answers
4k views

Why are two pitches considered a chord?

According to Wikipedia, a chord is any harmonic set of two or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously. But I always thought that two notes aren't a chord, they are an interval. ...
13
votes
3answers
16k views

What is a chord in terms of frequencies?

I'm trying to understand what chords are in terms of frequency. So I get that each note represents a frequency range. For instance, an "A" note in the third octave (A2) is ~110hz. An A major chord (...
13
votes
2answers
4k views

Why play out of scale notes as part of a chord?

So, I'm learning 'Stray Cat Strut' right now and came across something I'm not sure I understood. I have to say, I've only just begun to learn theory, so maybe that's why. Anyway, as far as I can ...
13
votes
5answers
17k views

What is the '+' symbol mean in a chord?

When I played a music meet a D+9 and a A7/5+. I have tried search in google, but didn't find it. Does anybody know that?
13
votes
7answers
5k views

Chord analysis: b13 or #5

I've come across an exercise in the Jazzology "jazz theory" book, where the chord should be identified, given the notes below: I identified it as a B7#5#9, but the answer was B7#9b13. I'm guessing ...
13
votes
1answer
4k views

What is the origin of the triangle symbol for maj7 chords?

An article on the origin of the "delta" symbol has been doing the rounds recently. It quotes a book by Yusef Lateef, which claims that John Coltrane introduced the "triangle notation&...
12
votes
5answers
6k views

Is there a name for a chord which combines the major and minor thirds of the root?

I noticed while noodling on my acoustic guitar that playing Cm using the Am shape barred on 3rd fret, that opening the high E string gives a pleasingly discordant sound. I realised the E comes from ...
12
votes
6answers
6k views

Is there a term for chords like F/G and C/D?

Chords like F/G and C/D are really quite common in jazz, blues and soul music yet I have never heard or been able to find a concise name for them. To be clear, I am referring to any major (or indeed ...
12
votes
3answers
3k views

If I press C4, C5 and C6, is this a chord?

Are there any other special requirements for three sounds to be a chord by musical definition? Do overtones or the same note just sounding on different octaves (sounding together) still can be named a ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

Why do we call the Hendrix chord 7#9 instead of 7b10?

The Hendrix chord is usually mentioned when a harmony contains both the major and the minor third, together with the minor seventh. Were it a major seventh, I'd say we have an augmented 9th and thus ...
12
votes
4answers
22k views

Confused about diminished chords

I came across several guitar chords which seem to be 'diminished' chords: X° X°7 Xø Xø7 I read some articles which might provide useful informating, including the Dutch Wiki article Chord (music), ...
12
votes
7answers
527 views

When a major 6th (or an octave thereof) is in a chord, when is the chord symbol written as a 6th vs. a 13th?

I'm not asking about obvious cases like regular 6th chords or extended chords with 13ths. For example, I'm clear that C E G A is a C6 chord. I'm also clear that C E G B♭ D F A is a C13 chord. (And yes,...

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