#1
Hey UG.
So.. I know how the four basic triads are build, and can easily play them on a piano. But i need to get better at identifying the chords, when written as sheet music.
I know musictheory.net has a exercise tool for chord identification, and that's very good, but i kinda need some guidelines before starting my practicing.
How is the easiest way to recognize/identify a chord? I can do it if i have a piano nearby, by checking all the individual notes, but it takes a few minutes.
How should i start, is there some kind of system that makes it easy to spot if its a Major, Minor, Diminished or Augmented?

Any help/tips/tricks/links are welcome!
Thanks in advance!
#2
I just practice it, gets easier to remember it after a while. No idea if there's any tricks to memorize it easier.
#3
This is what I do, but you need to know how the key of C major and it's chords are formed (as well as on the staff) and know the key signatures by memory. You also need to know how inversions look on the staff.

So moving on, you see for example this:

upload images

This is what happens in my head:

- I see it's a triad on the G#
- Derivative of G
- I compare it to a G chord by ignoring the # root which would naturally make it G Major chord
- ** (#R, 3, 5) = (R, b3, b5) = diminished triad
** - (math) Sharp x = Flat y (x = root, y is all the other notes)
- Chord = G#diminished

Now this might seem like a lot of steps, but it's easier then it looks. This is especially useful for out of key chords, where the root is sharpened.

The key signature makes it visually as if it was C major/A minor, thus learning to identify chords fast in C makes the rest come naturally.

Another example:


image hosting png

The chord is built on a G#, but we are in E Major.

G# is the 3rd degree of E Major, and the 3rd degree in a major key is always minor.

It's stacked in 3rds on the 3rd degree which makes it a minor 7th chord (you have to know once again how C major and it's chord are built on the staff)

So we know it's: 1, b3, 5, b7

The 3rd is # so it becomes: 1, 3, 5, b7

Dominant chord formula!

So the chord is G#7.

Please tell me if you don't understand/seems to much, or just something in particular, and I will explain more.

There's an exception where things might are different and those are inversions. If after analysis like this, a chord is a 6th or is strange, then look if the root and the other notes occur naturally in the key. If so check for inversions.

This also works best if knowing theory, cause there are concepts like chord substitutions and conventions like neapolitan chords and Harmonic minor based candences, which makes recognising things easier if you know these.


Finally a quick reference to spot inversions. Check for these if nothing is altered with sharps or flats, or if everything is altered with sharp or flats.


jpg image hosting

Bar 1 is:
- F (major)
- F 1st inversion
- F 2nd inversion

Bar 2 is:

- F Major 7th
- it's 1st inv.
- it's 2nd inv.
- it's 3rd inv.

Learn to recognise how these visually look. Once again if you have come to a chord which is a 6th chord, but nothing is altered, then it's most likely an inversion. Especially true in Piano music. However if it's piano music, there might seem an inversion on the Treble clef. If you see this look closely to the bass clef which might have the original root on the bass clef.

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Jan 10, 2012,
#5
Tbh, this is the best tip.
Quote by Miiiiks
I just practice it, gets easier to remember it after a while.

Writing them out by hand was a good way for me to drill it into my head.

I use to set myself tasks on blank manuscript.

Draw the treble and bass clef. Pick a key signature, write in the sharps or ♯'s or ♭'s, pick a triad, write it in root position, then first and second inversions.

You play piano, so I'm assuming you're working with the bass clef also? And have you learnt inversions yet, or is it just root?
#6
Quote by griffRG7321
^ G#7



You're right, my apologies

fixed.

B section of my post modulated to E, but returns back to C later.

Should have used a more closely related key

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Jan 10, 2012,
#7
Quote by xxdarrenxx
So moving on, you see for example this:

upload images

This is what happens in my head:

- I see it's a triad on the G#
- Derivative of G
- I compare it to a G chord by ignoring the # root which would naturally make it G Major chord
- ** (#R, 3, 5) = (R, b3, b5) = diminished triad
** - (math) Sharp x = Flat y (x = root, y is all the other notes)
- Chord = G#diminished

I cant really seem to make any sense of the equation youre doing here. (#R, 3, 5) does not equal (R, b3, b5)??
Could you explain it in some other way?

MDC.
Yes i just recently started playing piano, but i am familiar with both the treble and bass clefs. When im playing chords on the piano, i mostly use inversions to the the hand movements more economical, so i am familiar with these.
I forgot to mention that being able to identify chords is something i gotta to at a test. There will be like 5 examples, and i think they include both Major, Minor, Diminished, Augmented and Seventh chords all in root position.
http://fc.hum.au.dk/~muspr/teoriproeve.pdf
This is just an example of how it could look. The language is danish, but theres not a lot of text anyway.
I am btw. not able to know the key signatures only by looking at them, but it doesnt take me more than 5-10 seconds to find it (not the relative minor, will take a little longer). And i do know how to create both the major and minor scales. Just some information if it has any relevance.
And as you can proably see from the link, i will also have to do it the other way around. Writing down the chords on sheet music by looking at the notations.
I know i gotta practice, and that totally find with me, dont find it very boring and i know it will help me, but i just gotta know how and what to practice.
#8
^^

When you sharpen the root of a triad, the on the new root the other intervals act as flattened intervals. Whether enharmonically correct or not is a different story, and this is purely for fast recognising.

Example:

C = C, E, G

# root = C#

C#, E, G = R, b3, b5

^^
These notes are respective to the key, if t his was to be in C# Major, but to the chord formula.

correctly written to the key would be:

C#, Fb, G

I got all the chord formula's memorised, so it's easy for me to figure out the chord.

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Jan 10, 2012,
#9
Oh okay. But why would you ever sharpen the root instead of flattening the others?
And is there no way to see if its Minor or Major, other than to know what notes are used in every major and minor triad?
Which would be 12 different triads you'd have to remember, and i guess that would take a while.
#10
The link that you posted shows the chords in root position, as you know. Whenever chords are voiced in this manner, notice how the notes are on either adjacent lines or spaces.

The distance between two adjacent lines or spaces is always a 3rd. You just need to practice identifying what type of the 3rd it is.

From root to 3rd is a kind of 3rd, obviously.

The 3rd to the 5th is also a type of 3rd.

The 5th to the 7th is another type of 3rd.

Look at the second to last chord on the 3rd line (Bb D F Ab). What type of 3rd is between every pair of notes?
Last edited by mdc at Jan 10, 2012,
#11
Quote by KrisHQ
Oh okay. But why would you ever sharpen the root instead of flattening the others?
And is there no way to see if its Minor or Major, other than to know what notes are used in every major and minor triad?
Which would be 12 different triads you'd have to remember, and i guess that would take a while.


EDIT: NINJA'D^^ fuuuuu MDC I usually ninja you

Sometimes it's best to sharpen depending on context.

Also for the relative minor check the key, move 6 steps up on the ledger lines on the staff
and that note is the root of the relative minor key. Very fast, although memorising is better

You don't have to remember every triad.

Alternatively, you could count the steps according to which 3rds are used. I prefer the method I stated earlier, cause then you also see the functional relation within the composition, but this will work as well.

Major = major 3rd, minor 3rd
Minor = minor 3rd, major 3rd
Diminished = minor 3rd, minor 3rd
Augmented = major 3rd, major 3rd

Major 3rd is 4 steps away
minor 3rd is 3 steps away

Example:

The chromatic scale (every note in western music) 12 notes:
C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B 


Major chord = M3 then a m3 as stated above. So that's first 4 steps and then 3 steps.

   1      2     3      4
[B]C[/B] --- C# --- D --- D# --- [B]E[/B] --- F --- F# --- [B]G[/B]
                             1     2      3

From C take 4 steps = E
Now from E take 3 steps = G

You got a major triad.

Now for identifying chords take the Root note, and count the steps till you hit then 2nd note, and then again for the 3rd note.

The "Re-incarnation of Plato" Award 2009
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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Jan 10, 2012,
#12
^

TS, Darren has very kindly posted a detailed explanation of what I mentioned in the previous post about breaking the chord up into 3rds. Nice!

You have some options now, on how you want to go about this.

The truth is, there's no shortcut, really. The best shortcut is to put the work in.
Last edited by mdc at Jan 10, 2012,
#13
I see. That definitely sounds like a way to approach it.
After a while you'd probably also start to remember some of the chords, just by looking at them on the sheet.
I still have one question though.

Take a look at this chord. An example from the link before.
The notes are the following: Gb, B, D, Eb. (Dno if harmonically correct)
Which means that the first step, from the root to the 3rd (Gb - B) there is a distance on 5 steps. Which doesn't make it either a Major, Minor, Dim or Aug.
So i don't really get that one. Am i just being completely stupid or what kind of chord is this?
Thanks for your help btw.
#14
Look at the 3rd line of your link. To be fair they haven't labelled it that clearly, but that chord is in the bass clef.

They do that to test your observation skills in general. :
Last edited by mdc at Jan 10, 2012,
#15
Ah. Of course.
Now it makes sense. They could have made it more clear though
Next time, hopefully wont make the same mistake
#18
Oh because when writing it that way, my "Maj" is affecting the seventh?
Without the seventh its a Major Triad, so i thought you were supposed to notate it like that.
#19
well, the way I write it, if you add Maj7 to the name of a chord, you are indicating that the 7th is a major one
#20
Quote by KrisHQ
Oh because when writing it that way, my "Maj" is affecting the seventh?
Without the seventh its a Major Triad, so i thought you were supposed to notate it like that.

No, it's the other way around. Your 7th will affect the major triad. In all cases, the 7th will affect what the original triad will become.
Last edited by mdc at Jan 10, 2012,
#21
That's one way, the other is how we teach it. Basically if you name any chord (and I mean any chord), we teach someone to instantly name the notes in that chord. I cant tell you how we do that, but I demonstrate it in real time, and it takes us 5 lessons to teach the skill.

It's a one of a kind system. I'm not trying to troll you, and in fair disclosure, it's the 3rd class that our students have to take, so if you are looking for a piecemeal method for the system, we wouldn't be appropriate for that, and there are a couple of course prerequisites.

While this may not be something that works for you, there may be others who read this response that also want to learn how to define chords quickly, and although our entire course doesn't utilize one note of traditional sheet music, the results are the same.

*****

That said:

In looking at any chord or note cluster, when a chord is in root position on a staff, the notes will be symmetrical, because you are dealing with intervals of thirds. Once you start with inversions, you change that, where the lower voice might become the higher (or even middle) voice. This is something that's easily visual because it breaks up the visual symmetry of the notes on the staff.

Once you determine this to be the case, (and by the way, 7th intervals are in 3rds also in relation to 5ths, in root position and would also be symmetrical) then you can change that profile to find which "sorting" of intervals brings you back to root position and match the profile of 3rds.

For example, say I know the notes of a Bb minor triad in root position. I have Bb Db and F.

On the staff I see the notes in this order, however:

F Db and Bb

Knowing theory (and its something we teach), when I'm looking at F to Db on the staff, there's a gap there; its a dead giveaway that this isn't a root position triad, see? F to Db is in no way a 3rd is it? No. It's a minor 6th, and the staff will confirm this. Db to Bb isn't a third either, is it? No, its a Major 6th. In fact, F to that Bb (that happens after the first instance of Db on the staff) is an interval of an 11th, a compound interval. This cannot fit the profile signature of a root position triad so, it's not some kind of F, but another chord with an F as it's bass note. But which chord?

So, what I'd want to do is rearrange the order of that triad to where I have them in intervals of 3rds from one to the next, once I do that, I have my chord identified (I'm not suggesting this would be super easy for you, but that's your only recourse) In our case, it takes less than a second or two to instantly know how to arrange those notes into a root position "Identification" mentally.

Like I said, whether or not you do it with sheet music or not, it's very easy to do, and spot when somethings not in a root position. Add extensions, to your intervalic knowledge and those quickly stand out as well.

By the way I did post a couple of lessons on quick identification of notes in sheet music (although I dont have that as a course online at the Academy I do know how to read and teach it, and I share one of my approaches that have apparently helped out a lot of people here, and you might get some benefit as well) It's a 2 part series.

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/throw_the_boy_down_the_well.html

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/throw_the_boy_down_the_well_part_2.html

I hope this helps!

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Jan 10, 2012,