A chord is a collection of notes that are played together. People like the sound of some combinations and some combinations they don't. A bit of trial and error will give you the general idea, but to save an awful lot of time experimenting I intend to show you the types that everybody who plays from chords knows - and will endeavour to help you understand how they get their names. Chords without any fancy bits are called either major (the most common type) or minor. And sometimes people refer to them as 'triads'
2. Knowledge necessary to work out basic chords. (skip this if you already know the names of notes.)
Your have now reached a point where you should find a keyboard to look at. It will have a collection of keys along it, and in nearly all cases it will have big white keys and smaller black ones in a regular pattern all along:
The black keys are in sets of two and three, each set repeating exactly further up until you reach the top, where the keyboard may stop short of the end of a set (and the same applies at the bottom).
An important thing to note about this is that the musical 'distance' between any note and it's nearest neighbour is always the same - called a half-tone.Thus the black note immediately higher than C is half a tone above it, whilst the E and the F (both white) are also half a tone apart.
The musical alphabet.
The musical alphabet is a little annoying at first because whilst it only goes from A to G, the first note people are taught to name is C! C is immediately before the pair of blacks, and if you try the next note up immediately before a pair of blacks that too is called C and sounds an 'octave' above the previous one. The next white note above a C is D, then E, then F, then G, then A then B then C again and so on....
Working back down from C you will come to B then A, and upwards from C you will find D, E, F and G, at which point you are at A again - an octave above the A you reached on the way down. All the white notes are named like this, and which particular one of any given note you choose does not matter for the purpose of making chords - but with practice you will find that mostly you want to keep them all fairly close together and near the middle of the keyboard.
The black notes are called sharps and flats (#'s and b's).
Sharp and flats.
'Sharp' in music means 'higher'. 'Flat' means 'lower'. So the note immediately higher than C is called C sharp (written C#), and the next above that is of course D. It can sometimes be confusing when people talk about D flat, which is less common than C# - but it refers to the same note.
(Flat is normally denoted by a small 'b' type of sign, but I am going to use an actual b.)
So C# =Db!
The other black notes are named in the same way - the first of the set of three being F# or Gb, the next being G# or Ab, and so on.
Which is Bb? Make sure you can work that out before trying for greater things.
These are chords which only have three notes, and the categories below are the main ones.
Made of three notes. Made like this:
Example: chord of C.
C is called the root note (because it is a chord of C):
Count up four steps (ie C#, D, Eb then E) to get second note, giving:
Count up three steps in the same way, to get a third note, which is G:
- the actual triad or chord of C.
Play them all together to see what they sound like - and also try playing them in different positions and arrangements, like GEC, ECG and so on. They are all C chords. And now try playing G below the middle C and an E right up near the top. See what you think of them.
Minor. Minor chords are the same as major ones but the note in the middle is one step down, so that instead of Root plus 4 plus three you get Root plus 3 plus 4.
Example: C minor
Root note: C
Three steps up (these steps are actually called 'half tones') giving:
Four steps up (four half tones) giving:
That's a C minor chord, and if you play it and then play the major one you will hear the difference.
Majors are normally referred to just by their root note, whilst minors are referred to as Root min or Rminor or Rm, thus: C min, Cminor, Cm, etc.
I would suggest you make several major and minor chords and listen to them so that you can not only tell the difference between the two types but also how one chord can sound after another one. Experiment will show that some 'progressions' satisfy you and some don't.
I am hoping that by now you are beginning to find this game fun.
The scale. Although the scale does come into this matter, people seem to find it immensely confusing when others talk about it, so I have deliberately left it out of this article - but perhaps I need to describe what is meant by 'scale':
The scale is a run of notes upwards or downwards, the simplest being the run from C upwards through all the white notes until you come once again to C. It has irregularities, which will become apparent if you try running up all the white notes starting from, say, G.
The anomilies come about because the scale is not evenly spaced. The scale of C goes C - tone - tone - halftone - tone - tone - tone - halftone (CDEFGABC). If you count out the scale of G you will find it goes GABCDEF#G - an of course the F# is a black note. Try playing it.
The next article, on more compicated chords, will contain more on this subject.
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