#1
In a lot of my songs I use chords where you just play the root and the major 3rd (something I 'borrowed' from Dave Mustain)

If I were playing root and the 5th it is called a power chord, does the same hold for these chords or do they have a specific name? Or are they just partial chords/double stops?

Also I use these chords as they have dark sinister feel to them and yet they are essentially major chords which are usually associated with a bright happy sound.

Could anyone explain to me why this is?
#2
You'd need to give examples. I can't see how a major 3rd interval (R-3) on its own necessarily has a "dark sinister" sound. In general I find major 3rds sweet sounding.

Of course, if I was to play them in low register and turn up the gain and distortion....

There is one possible factor here. With distortion a major 3rd will sound "muddy", quite an intense, dense timbre. That's because the overtones of the two notes clash in a distinctive way. One overtone of the root is very close to another overtone of the 3rd, but noticeably out of tune. (It's down to the fact that our scale is not tuned to "natural" pitch relationships, but is "tempered". Google equal temperament.)
That's partly why power chords were employed by rock guitarists in the first place, because including the 3rd muddied the whole sound up. Chords sounded more pure, more "powerful" without them. (Some "dirt" is good, but too much is bad.)
#4
Power chords aren't chords at all.
To form a chord you must play at least three different notes.
When you're playing G and B notes you may think it's a G major "chord", but add E note somewhere and it turns into E minor.
It goes even deeper, add C note in bass under E minor chord and you'll end up with Cmaj7.

The context is important.
#5
^ +1.

A chord is by definition a collection of at least three notes (at least a triad). Dyads like power "chords" aren't chords in themselves.

Chords in any type of music are informed not just by the context of one instrument, but the sum of all instruments. Granted, some of the instruments might be playing non-chord tones, but that's where context kicks in. (basically, music has both vertical and horizontal aspects, they can't be divorced from each other. But I digress with this statement.)
#6
It's just a major third dyad, or harmonic interval. It sounds sinister because you're playing it with your left hand because of the distortion making that interval sound "worse" than if you were playing it clean.
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#7
Quote by GameSkate
Power chords aren't chords at all.
To form a chord you must play at least three different notes.
When you're playing G and B notes you may think it's a G major "chord", but add E note somewhere and it turns into E minor.
It goes even deeper, add C note in bass under E minor chord and you'll end up with Cmaj7.

The context is important.

Well, power chords played in context are definitely chords, even if no one was playing the third. They would still most likely have a function. A riff that goes like A5-F5-G5-A5 would most likely sound like Am-F-G-Am, even if nobody was playing any other chord tones. But yeah, it's all about the context. Even single notes can have chord functions.

In a similar way a major third could function as a chord. It has a lot to do with context. If you played C and E and the bass was playing a C, it would most likely sound like C major. It has to do with what the other instruments are playing and what comes before and after it.


TS, I know what you are talking about. If you only use major thirds, it can have that kind of an "evil" sound to it (especially if your riff is pretty chromatic). It has to do with how you use them. You can use any interval in this way and make it sound "dark and evil".

Remember that guitar is not the only instrument that affects the harmony. You need to listen to what the other instruments are doing. They may play some chord tones. It's all about the context.

But if you are using them in the way Megadeth uses them in their riffs, they are most likely just major chords, or they may not even have a function (especially if the riff has lots of open E chugging).

But I don't know why it would need a specific name to it. Just call it a major third.
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#8
^Yeah that's the thing.

Even if you only are playing the a major third, depending on context, you're still going to imply some 3+ note harmony with only those two notes most of the time. So you aren't playing full chords, but to imply music with only power chords and the like is chordless would just be silly haha.
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#10
Calling them dyads would technically be correct, but distortion isn't magic. When distortion (and overdrive) clips the acoustic signal it generates harmonic overtones, if the distortion is asymmetric (and it probably is) then the overtones generated are at predictable intervals compared to the fundamental notes being driven; for a dyad there's an implied third note in the upper harmonics which is halfway between the two fundamentals. Power chords imply an untuned major third (it's a little sharp, iirc); a major third is going to imply a 9th above it, minor 3rds would imply a blue 9th. The interaction of the seconds in the upper harmonics are what make it sound dark.
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#12
Quote by Corwinoid
Calling them dyads would technically be correct, but distortion isn't magic. When distortion (and overdrive) clips the acoustic signal it generates harmonic overtones, if the distortion is asymmetric (and it probably is) then the overtones generated are at predictable intervals compared to the fundamental notes being driven; for a dyad there's an implied third note in the upper harmonics which is halfway between the two fundamentals. Power chords imply an untuned major third (it's a little sharp, iirc); a major third is going to imply a 9th above it, minor 3rds would imply a blue 9th. The interaction of the seconds in the upper harmonics are what make it sound dark.
Right.
Except calling the 5th harmonic of a note "untuned" could be debatable . Some would say it's the harmonic that is purely in tune, while it's our tempered 3rd that is out of tune. (Equal temperament is out of tune, by design.)
The harmonic is flat of the tempered 3rd, btw, by 14 cents. That's not generally noticeable without distortion (hearing only the fundamental pitches) but when distortion lets you hear two overtones of the same pitch that are 14 cents apart (5th harmonic of the root, 4th harmonic of the tempered 3rd), that's an obvious clash, and unpleasant to most ears.
(Sensitive ears often have trouble tuning the G and B strings of guitar, because they detect the overtone discrepancy even without distortion. The tuner says it's right, but they feel it isn't.)

Not sure what you mean by the 9ths above. How do 3rds "imply" 9ths?
#13
I haven't done acoustic theory in a long time, so I don't remember all of the maths to prove it, but if I remember correctly (and I may not, so don't just take my word for it) you can shortcut most of it by finding the fundamental that's implied by the harmonics asymmetric distortion creates by halving the two fundamentals... or in other words the extra note created is approximately halfway between the two fundamentals an octave higher; so a distorted third would add an implied major second (appoximately, I don't think the seconds are harmonically tuned to the fundamental in any temper), and a minor third creates a blue second, both one register higher than the highest fundamental.

It's worth noting that I've literally forgotten most of what I knew about acoustic theory and amplifier design at the point in life, so again don't just take my word for it. But I'm -pretty- sure you can use that as quick and dirty method for approximating it.
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#14
it's a dyad

no point giving it more credence than that cause implied harmony starts once you can understand, yknow, actual harmony
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Last edited by Hail at Aug 16, 2015,
#15
Wow that got way too technical for my little brain! LOL

But my basic understanding from what's been said is that when you play with distortion it brings out harmonics that serve to 'fill out' other intervals within the chord even if you're only playing two notes.


The reason I asked what it's called is because it would be easier for me to just write the chords out rather than having to tab them
#16
Quote by Matriani
Wow that got way too technical for my little brain! LOL

But my basic understanding from what's been said is that when you play with distortion it brings out harmonics that serve to 'fill out' other intervals within the chord even if you're only playing two notes.


The reason I asked what it's called is because it would be easier for me to just write the chords out rather than having to tab them

The chords work with a clean tone too. It has little to do with overtones and everything to do with context.

If you only play one power chord, it is not going to sound like major or minor. But if you play two power chords one after another, you may hear the quality, depending on what the chords you play are. For example A5-F5 is Am-F. That's how it will sound like. A5-F#5 will sound like A-F#m. But if you play A5-D5, you can't say if they are major or minor chords, because all of the notes can be found in both A major and minor scales. Three different power chords, and you'll pretty likely be able to tell the quality of the chord. It has nothing to do with the overtones, it's all about the context. Because if you took the overtones into account, power chords would always be major chords. But that's not how it is. You don't hear the overtones as chord tones. They are just part of what makes guitar sound like guitar.

Oh, and it's also important to listen to the other instruments and the singer. They do also affect the harmony. Just because the guitar is playing power chords, it doesn't mean the overall harmony is power chords.

Also, not all power chords are functional. Many times metal riffs have lots of open E chugging and the power chords kind of add some "melody" to the riff. The overall harmony is Em all the time. A good example of this would be the verse riff of Master of Puppets. The overall harmony is Em all the time, even though there are G5 A5 and Bb5 power chords. Then the same riff is played a whole step higher and the overall harmony changes to F#m.


But yeah, it's the same thing with major thirds. It's all about context. Sometimes they have a function as full chords. It has a lot to do with what the other instruments are playing. Sometimes they are non-functional, and are just a way of playing the "melody" of the riff. They are used in the half tempo riff in Holy Wars (just before the first verse starts). But they don't really affect the overall harmony. The overall harmony of the riff is E, even though the riff also contains major thirds built on F# and G. I bet you can't hear the overall harmony changing. It's E all the time.

So you don't necessarily need a chord symbol for them, because they are not functioning as chords. If they are used similarly as in Holy Wars and you wanted to have a chord symbol for them, I would just say they are F# and G major chords. Because that's what they are if they are something. You could add a fifth to them and they would still sound the same.

But sometimes they are functioning as chords, and then I would just listen to it. If the guitar is playing C and E, listen whether it sounds like C major or A minor or something else. Listen to what note the bass is playing. If the bass is playing C, it's most likely a C major chord. If the bass is playing A, it's most likely an A minor chord. If the bass is playing something else, it is most likely something else. For example if it's playing an F, it's an Fmaj7. It has everything to do with the context.
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#17
Quote by Matriani

The reason I asked what it's called is because it would be easier for me to just write the chords out rather than having to tab them
If you want those specific intervals, you should tab them, IMO. After all, what you're writing is more like melody or riffs rather than a chord progression.

But it might be worth adding other notes to see if they actually sound better.
Adding a 5th above the root shouldn't really change the effect of the 3rd, but will confirm the major or minor chord suggested by the 3rd.
However, adding other notes will make different chords.
Eg, a C#-E 3rd might imply a C#m chord on its own - confirmed by adding a G#. But if you add an A to it, it becomes an A major chord. Add G, it's C#dim (or a rootless A7).
#18
^ Yeah. If you are after a specific voicing, you should tab it. Chord symbols tell nothing about the voicing.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#20
An example of where I use them is in the intro to a song which starts like this:
(the bass just plays root notes)

E|----------------------------|
B|----------------------------|
G|----------------------------|
D|--------2--1~----5-4-0--|
A|---2---3--2~----3-2-2---|
E-|--0------------------------|
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#21
you should probably be able to remember that without having to write it down

also for the bass you might wanna make that B at the end an F#
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#22
Quote by Matriani
An example of where I use them is in the intro to a song which starts like this:
(the bass just plays root notes)

E|----------------------------|
B|----------------------------|
G|----------------------------|
D|--------2--1~----5-4-0--|
A|---2---3--2~----3-2-2---|
E-|--0------------------------|
That's clearly implying the chords E-C-B~~-C-B-?.
The last chord suggests Bm (which would be confirmed by adding an F# somewhere), but my money would be on G. I mean, I like the sound of a G chord there! YMMV.*

Of course, those chord symbols alone wouldn't communicate it, because the first C and B are R-3, and the second are R-5, and that difference is obviously important to the sound.
Even so, that's a lead guitar intro to a song, which could well be expanded into a full chord sequence later. (It doesn't make a lot of sense to have an intro that is not somehow reflected in the rest of the song, or doesn't relate to its chords.)
So you'd tab out that intro (as is), but if the same line occurs later in the middle of the song somewhere, you might want to put chord symbols over it.

* by the same logic, the first C-B 3rds could work as 3-5 of Am and G#m. Sounds pretty cool....
Last edited by jongtr at Aug 18, 2015,
#23
Quote by Matriani
An example of where I use them is in the intro to a song which starts like this:
(the bass just plays root notes)

E|----------------------------|
B|----------------------------|
G|----------------------------|
D|--------2--1~----5-4-0--|
A|---2---3--2~----3-2-2---|
E-|--0------------------------|

Not even chords, not by themselves. Overtones or other instruments can imply and/or fill in the rest of the harmony (to "make" them chords, in conjunction with said overtones or other instruments). But those aren't chords when just played alone. You can definitely get a sense of the intended harmony from this riff, however.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Aug 18, 2015,