HOW TO LEARN CHORDS

tip 4 picture

Harmony In Music Is A Natural Progression From Intervals.
Sounding 2 or More Notes Simultaneously Creates Either
Simple Or More Complicated Chords.

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The mastery and understanding of major scale chords does not have to be a nail biting affair if you followed my tips 1, 2 and 3.
The 2 scale types we talked about in step 2 (The Major and Melodic Minor scales) contain 14 basic chord sounds in each key.
7 inside each Major scale and 7 more involed ones from the Melodic Minor.

My most important Number 1 Tip here is this:

FOCUS ON THE SOUND EACH CHORD GROUP MAKES

Knowing each chord and giving it the right name can be second.

If we point the magnifying glass at the C major scale chords, we discover:

  • C Major 7th: C - E - G - B
  • D Minor 7th: D - F - A - C
  • E Minor 7th: E - G - B - D
  • F Major 7th: F - A - C - E
  • G Dominant 7th: G - B - D - F
  • A Minor 7th: A - C - E - G
  • B Minor 7th b5: B - D - F - A (also called half-diminished)

On the musical stave this looks as natural as a green leaf in the Amazon.


Tip 4 - C Major Chords
                 

All the main basic chord groups except the diminished & augmented are built into each major scale:

Major, Minor, Dominant and Half Diminished.

(I'm choosing to place Dimished & Half Diminished into separate groups,
as they have quite individual uses harmonically)

Everything else you will find out on your chordal journey is cream on top.

I'm calling on your imagination again to find ways to utilize this knowledge for ear training purposes. Here are a few starting ideas to help you nail down the diatonic chord progression:

  1. Begin with 3 notes (triads) only. Pick a low note in your range and sing 1 - 3 - 5 - 3 - 1, find & play the 3 notes as a chord on a keyboard if possible. Repeat this till you can pitch it clearly.
  2. Play the chord - sing the tonic / play the chord - sing the third / play the chord - sing the fifth.
  3. Move to the chord starting on the second note of the scale and sing:
    2 - 4 - 6 (D - F - A in the image above)
  4. Play the chord - sing the tonic / play the chord - sing the minor third / play the chord - sing the fifth
  5. Repeat, moving up the scale till you get to the 7th step. You should not run out of range if you started low enough.
  6. Now do it all again but include the fourth note in every chord. I can do this without getting into the screech register and I don't have a trained voice. That means you can do this too.
  7. Open your eyes and senses and realize how inter connected all this is:
    The top 3 notes of the first chord are the same as the bottom 3 notes of the third chord, meaning they are linked in sound quality. Try this:
    Play the C Major 7th chord (see above) and then play the E Minor 7th chord. Now play the E Minor 7th chord again but add a C in the bass below the E. Presto, you now have a five note chord called C Major 9.

    Tip 4 - No 7
           

    Can you find more chords that have the same close relationship?


  8. Now go crazy and weave in and out of these seven related harmonies like a slalom skier, for instance:

Scale Practise




To get to know and practice the diminished & augmented chord groups, the only ones not included inside the major scale, we have to, for the first time, add some out of key notes.

For the diminished chord, the easiest way is to slightly alter either the Dominant 7th or Minor 7th b5 chords:

Dominant 7th (in the key of C) = G - B - D - F
G# or Ab diminished = Ab - B - D - F so:
sing G7 then sharpen the G to G#/Ab


Minor 7th b5 (in the key of C) = B - D - F - A
B diminished = B - D - F - Ab so:
sing Bm7b5 and flatten the A to Ab.

Here are some important points to realize about the diminished chord:

  • The distance (interval) between each note is a minor 3rd: B - min 3rd - D - min 3rd - F - min 3rd - Ab. So it follows that:
  • B dim, D dim, F dim & Ab dim are the same chord, each time with a different root note, therefore:
  • They are completely interchangeable and have been used as smooth passing chords or a sound in it's own right in all styles of music. It also becomes clear that:
  • There are only 3 groups of diminished chords because after B dim and C dim and C# dim we have D dim which is the same as B dim. Truly a smooth operator. This means that after you've learnt to sing B, C & C# dim you've got the whole 12 possible diminished chords covered. Remember to learn the ones that are comfortably pitched in your vocal range.

The augmented chord can appear as a variation of the Major, Minor & Dominant Chords. You simply sharpen the fifth of each chord by a half step:

C(#5) or CMaj7(#5) = C - E - G# or C - E - G# - B (the triad is quite common, the other is mostly a jazz chord)


Dm(#5) or Dm7(#5) = D - F - A# or D - F - A# - C (not so common, it sounds like a Bb triad or Bb2 chord with a D-bass, but still very usable.


G7(#5) = G - B - D# - F (a very common version of the dominant 7th chord)

May I remind you again that the all important goal is to learn to recognize the SOUND each of the 6 groups makes. (Major / Minor / Dominant / Augmented / Diminished / Half-Diminished)

With a bit of regular practice this becomes very obvious and provides you with another tool to find your way inside the music.


Start making it a habit to listen to your favourite songs differently.
Learn to instantly recognize the tonic (1) chord of the piece
and then relate other harmonies, especially the 2 & 5 to that.
Use simple songs to begin with and gradually expand the range
and you will soon turn into an expert chord name finder.

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