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Chords made Easy

A chord, in music, is a kind of harmonic set of two or more pitches or notes sounding simultaneously (together). If notes were colours a chord can be a mixture of “Any Color You Like” … however in a musical context, some might suit better than others, it all depends on the artists’ visualization or interpretation.

How to create chords

We know that notes are distinct pitches having some frequency content in them depending upon instrument and its range. Chords hence can be made by combining any two, three, four, five, … notes together and playing them at once. However, some of the most famous chords are made by combining 3 notes together and hence they are called as Triads. We will start with understanding these basic types of chords.

There are 4 fundamental Triad types: Major, Minor, Diminished & Augmented

Pick any note and choose it as the reference called root then go on to find the intervals as per the rule below:

major triad: M3 and P5 from the root

minor triad: m3 and P5 from the root

diminished triad: m3 and d5 from the root

augmented triad: M3 and A5 from the root

Typically the Root (Reference) is the lowest (bass) note in the chord and the other intervals are higher. Any change from this arrangement by bring the root or any other note either lower or higher leads to the same chord but called an INVERSION.

Practical Approach

Its often difficult to remember the interval names especially the symbols, following table will tell you how to choose notes to create chords by translating the chord formula in a practical manner. This can be implemented on any instrument.

Chord Type Root – First Note Second Note Third Note
Major 0 4 Semitones 7 Semitones
Minor 0 3 Semitones 7 Semitones
Diminished 0 3 Semitones 6 Semitones
Augmented 0 4 Semitones 8 Semitones
Example Root – First Note Second Note Third Note
C Major C E G
C Minor C D# G
C Diminished C D# F#
C Augmented C E G#

Further

Now that we know the chord mechanism and formula, it will intuitively appear how other complicated chords are made and of course how adding more and more notes to basic chords can bring in more harmonic flavor. It should be noted at this stage that triads are so commonly used and are so fundamental because of their inherent tonal qualities which makes them expressive of a mood.

Suspended Chords

A 2 note chord typically doesn’t sound FULL and this is the precise reason they are known as Suspended chords as they suspend the emotion and do not give the resolving feel. Remove any note other than root from a triad and you get a suspended chord. Because of their open sound they usually fit in easily in diverse musical contexts.

Exotic Chords

If we term suspended and triad chords as vanilla chords then any more addition of notes in them may be called as exotic chords as they’ll become richer, sophisticated & more complex sounding.

Going back to the NOTE CIRCLE, if we add the last note (the 7th from the root) they become the seventh, similarly for the 9th its just one note from root because the 8th note is the root itself but one octave higher, so on for 11th etc.