Chords

This section is a chord resource, where you can see the different chords, how they are constructed, and hear what they sound like. But first, a little explanation.

If we number the notes of the scale, we can refer to them by number instead of by the note. This is how we refer to the notes in a chord. A chord consists of at least three notes of the scale, played at the same time, which harmonize with each other. The first note of the scale, in this case C, is called the tonic or the root.

The most important types of chords are major and minor, and all other chords are created by adding and subtracting from these chords.



Scale tonic 2 3 4 5 6 7
C Major C D E F G A B
C Minor C D Eb F G A B


The most basic chord consists of the first of the scale (the tonic), the fifth of the scale, and the third of the scale. In the C major chord, we use those notes from the C major scale, above. Thus you can see that the notes in the C major chord are C, G, and E. The same is true of the C minor chord, only the C minor scale is used, so the notes are C, G, and Eb.

Additional notes can then be added to the basic major or minor chord, giving additional harmonies. For example, if we add the sixth note of the scale to the plain C minor chord, we have a Cm6th chord, and the notes are C, G, Eb, and A.

This is a table with most of the chord types, with the corresponding notes in C (we are still using the C scale, and C chords, for our example).

Major Tonic, 3rd, and 5th C, E, and G
Minor Tonic, minor 3rd, 5th C, Eb, and G
7th Tonic, 3rd, 5th, flat 7th C, E, G, Bb
Minor 7th Tonic, minor 3rd, 5th, flat 7th C, Eb, G, Bb
6th Tonic, 3rd, 5th ,6th C, E, G, A
Minor 6th Tonic, minor 3rd, 5th, 6th C, Eb, G, A
Major 7th Tonic, 3rd, 5th, 7th C, E, G, B
9th Tonic, 3rd, 5th, flat 7th, 9th C, E, G, Bb, D
Minor 9th Tonic, minor 3rd, 5th, flat 7th, 9th C, Eb, G, Bb, D
Augmented Tonic, 3rd, sharp 5th C, E, G#
Sustained 4th Tonic, 4th, 5th C, F, G
Flat 5th Tonic, 3rd, flat 5th C, E, F#
7th with Flat 5th Tonic, 3rd, flat 5th, flat 7th C, E, F#, Bb
Minor 7th with flat 5th Tonic, minor 3rd, flat 5th, flat 7th C, Eb, F#, Bb
11th Tonic, 3rd, 5th, 11th (4th, one octave higher) C, E, G, F
Minor 11th Tonic, minor 3rd, 5th, flat 7th, 11th C, Eb, G, Bb, F
13th Tonic, 3rd, 5th, 13th (6th, one octave higher) C, E, G, A
Minor 13th Tonic, minor 3rd, 5th, 13th C, Eb, G, A
Diminished Tonic, minor 3rd, flat 5th, flat 7th C, Eb, F#, Bb
7th with Flat 9th Tonic, 3rd, 5th, flat 7th, flat 9th C, E, G, Bb, Db
Minor 7th with Flat 9th Tonic, minor 3rd, 5th, flat 7th, flat 9th C, Eb, G, Bb, Db


Some of these notes, the 9th, 11th, and 13ths, seem to go off the end of the scale! This is because these harmonies create their special sound when played an octave above the tonic. The 9th is really the 2nd of the scale, but an octave higher. In C, this note is D. The 11th is the same as the fourth, but higher, and the 13th is the same as the sixth, but higher. So you can see how the chord name is really an instruction on which notes to use to create the chord.

As we move on, now we'll take a look at some chord symbols, which are shorthand versions of chord names that let the musician recognize them quickly.
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