49 votes
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Why do notes have multiple names?

The reason there are multiple names for notes is that the same note may function differently in different contexts. If you just play a single note with no context, then it could have a multitude of ...
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  • 46.4k
42 votes

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

This is a common misconception about what inversions are. Inversions only consider what the bass (lowest) note is. If the bass note of a chord is the root of the chord, then it is in root position, ...
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33 votes
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A chord is three notes? What do you call just two notes?

From my experience, there is no one 'best' term for two notes played together that is universally (or near-universally) agreed-on. dyad is the most specific term for a pair of pitches sounding ...
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29 votes
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What are the four chords that so many pop songs are based on?

This chord progression is common enough to have a Wikipedia page: I–V–vi–IV progression The 'axis of awesome' video you refer to is talking specifically about those chords in that particular order - ...
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29 votes

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

No, and for at least three reasons: Assuming "chord" to be a tonal entity, we can explain anything as having alterations, omissions, and extensions. With add11, ♭13, no5, etc., we can make sense ...
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27 votes
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What's an "add" chord?

The 'add' modifier is used if a note above the 7th is added to a triad, and if the lower tensions are not part of the chord. That's why there's a difference between a C9 and a C(add9) chord. The first ...
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26 votes
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Is the IV chord a perfect fifth in disguise?

F is a perfect fifth from the root, but obviously in the other direction, so it's a bit like "moving the goalposts." If you're measuring G as up a perfect fifth from C, you have to measure F up from C ...
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25 votes
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Proper symbol for this chord (1 5 b7 9 11)?

It would be a G9sus4. It could technically also be F6/9/G but that would look very confusing on a lead sheet. When naming a chord you have to look at what you have and what you are missing. You have ...
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25 votes
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Why do we only build 7th chords on the supertonic and dominant of a major scale?

We do! It's just that that book doesn't...yet. We build seventh chords on all scale degrees; the seventh chord on scale-degree 3 in major, for instance, is a minor seventh. But beginning musicians, ...
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  • 79.4k
25 votes

How can you tell if a note is major or minor?

You have probably mixed up several different meanings and contexts for the words. When someone says "major sixth", they're not necessarily talking about chords at all, so there might not be any "root" ...
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24 votes
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Playing complex chords on a 6-string guitar

It depends on the setting (what other instruments?), but generally speaking, you'd consider, in order, Sacrificing the pure fifth. As soon as any instrument plays the root, the fifth will be very ...
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23 votes

Randomly and Programmatically generate a "good" next chord?

There are several "chord maps" on the net which indicate chord successions; these may be a good starting point. The chord maps do not give any relative weights or probabilities to chords. A ...
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  • 23.3k
22 votes

If a Major Third is ~ 5:4 and a Perfect Fourth ~ 4:3, then what is an Augmented Fourth?

It depends on the tuning system. For example a major third is 5/4 or 1.25 only if you're using 5-limit just intonation. In pythagorian tuning it's 81/64, in twelve-tone equal temperament (i.e. normal ...
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21 votes
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Do power chords have some kind of function/meaning?

Like you and others said, the main reason of using power chords is to avoid the intermodulation distortion: Thirds sound muddy with distortion. I think that they generally have two functions in rock ...
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  • 5,079
21 votes

For the chord C7 (specifically!), why do you write Bb and not A#?

The "C" part of the chord's name tells you that the chord's root (or 1st degree) is C. This means that the letter part of the name of its 7th degree is B. (Counting from the 1st to the 7th ...
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  • 4,959
20 votes

Are some chord voicings only good in the middle or higher octaves?

Yes, right from our Harmony 101 class in 4-voice vocal writing we're taught that close intervals between the bass and tenor voices low in their ranges are to be avoided (as are over-wide intervals ...
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19 votes
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Is there a name for a chord which combines the major and minor thirds of the root?

I'd call it a Cadd#9 and there's a few reasons why. First of all if you think about the chord in terms of extensions a #9 is rather common and if you added a Bb to the chord you described people ...
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19 votes

Is Cmaj7 in the C major scale different than the Cmaj7 in the C Dorian scale?

CMaj7 always has the notes C E G B regardless of the context around it. In general terms, any major 7th chord contains a root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5th, and Major 7th. It is naturally built in the C ...
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  • 46.4k
19 votes

How was the D chord constructed?

I think the confusion here is that it doesn't matter what order the notes are in. Think of a piano for second...you can pick any D, any F# and any A anywhere on the piano regardless of what order or ...
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  • 7,060
19 votes
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What does the chord notation X/Y ("slash chord") mean?

TL;DR For pianists, play the X chord with the right hand and the Y bass note with the left hand. For guitar/bass bands: guitarist plays the X chord and bassist plays the Y bass note. (With thanks to @...
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  • 59.2k
19 votes

Am I going to be handicapped for attempting to study theory with a monophonic instrument?

You've expressed an accurate sense of why there is a theory advantage with the piano, but since you also very clearly are drawn to the bass, a couple of comments: Particularly if you play jazz or ...
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19 votes
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A major on all 6 strings of the guitar

It is a different voicing, but since the lowest note i.e. the bass note is different, it's also a different inversion, and it changes the chord's function a little bit. With the lowest E sounding your ...
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18 votes

Why does the dominant chord contain a flattened 7th?

Another way of looking at the question is this: we have a number of seventh chords, dominant, major, minor, diminished, and so on. So why does the dominant seventh get the "default" symbol of C7 ...
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18 votes
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Diminished and augmented power chords

Here's the basic theory behind power chords according to Wikipedia: When two or more notes are played through a distortion process that non-linearly transforms the audio signal, additional partials ...
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18 votes
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Double inverted chord?

Only the lowest note determines the inversion. If F# is the lowest note, it's first inversion and D/F# no matter what else is in the chord. The way the other notes of the chord are arranged is ...
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  • 51.6k
18 votes
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What does IV/IV signify in a chord progression?

These chords are called secondary chords, and they're read (in this case) as "IV of IV." The concept is that the chord is best understood in relation to another chord which isn't tonic. In this case, ...
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  • 79.4k
18 votes
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What chord does C, E, G♭ , and B♭ make?

As is so often the case in music, a label depends on how something is functioning in context. There are several possibilities for this chord, and they can resolve variously to (at least) chords on B, ...
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  • 79.4k
18 votes

Using chord iii in a chord progression (major key)

iii is used, I'm not sure where you heard that it wasn't really used much. Sure, you could argue that it's used less than other diatonic chords, (Em in the chart for chords, according to this site), ...
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