|Category: Harmony | Tags: Chords, Triads, Seventh chords|
In this chapter you will learn what chords are. In the videos and examples, I show how chords are made.
1. What are chords?
To understand what chords are, I’ll start by giving a definition. Then, I’ll explain the definition.
A chord is a group of three or more notes, stacked in thirds.
What does this definition include? Firstly, a chord indicates that the group of tones it is made up of sound together, and are related to each other. But, those tones can also played separately, one after another. There is a big difference between the tones of a chord and those making up a melody. The tones of a melody are always played in a row and (often) don’t sound good played together.
Secondly, a chord is made up of three or more tones. To be sure, the three or more tones are different ones!
For example, if you have three C’s played in different octaves, you are actually playing only one tone. And, if you play two different tones, then that’s called an interval. Can you play three random tones and call this a chord? For example, if you play C,D, and E together? The answer is no, and that has to do with the following chord theory.
2. How are chords constructed?
A chord is built up of thirds. That means that the distance between the tones of a chord is always a third.
For example - I’m going to make a chord and will start by playing an A. De next tone that belongs to that A is a third higher, the C. I now have an A and a C, but this is not yet a chord. One tone still needs to be added. That is the tone a third higher than the C - the E. Now, I have A - C - E. This is a chord. Do you see that the chord is made up of the thirds A - C and C - E? That's how each chord is made.
You can expand the size of chords, as a chord is made up of three or more tones. You can add a fourth tone. In our example, you will need to add a note a third higher than the E - the G. Then you get the chord A - C - E - G. This chord is built up of four tones and three thirds.
When a chord is built up of three tones, we call it a triad.. A chord that is built up of four tones is called a seventh chord. A chord that is built up of five tones, is called a ninth chord, and so on.
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How are chords made?
Chords are comprised of two or more thirds
- A chord comprised of 2 thirds is called a triad
- A chord comprised of 3 thirds is called a seventh chord
- A chord comprised of 4 thirds is called a ninth chord
- A chord comprised of 5 thirds is called a eleventh chord
- A chord comprised of 6 thirds is called a thirteenth chord