I suck with chords. I can play them without fail, but i don't understand the theory, as usual.

I need help with

I did a little search, didn't find anything much.

Help would be apreciated!

The will be heartache,
there will be rain,
and joy I can't explain.
Do you know your Major Scale?
Si
Last edited by 20Tigers at Jul 6, 2008,
Quote by 20Tigers
It helps so much if you know your major scale. Do you know the major scale?

Yes, sir.
The will be heartache,
there will be rain,
and joy I can't explain.
add means you add the relevent tone(4th,9th etc...)sus means replace the third with the tone.
I'm glad you know the major scale since the chords all relate back to the major scale.
When you see a chord spelled with numbers it relates to the notes of the root's major scale.
In the key of C for example you get
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
C D E F G A B C
So a chord spelled 1 3 5 is steps 1, 3, and 5 of the major scale. If it is spelled 1 b3 5 then it is the 1, the 3rd lowered one half step, and the 5th notes of the major scale.

So since you got the major scale here is what I got for you. All the examples are written using C as the root note.

I'm not sure how much you know so I started at the beginning. Good luck to get through it all. There's a lot here but you asked a pretty broad question so here goes...

Triads
The term triad is restricted to a three note chord made by stacking two intervals of a third on top of each other. Here's how to construct triads.

In the key of C we start at C (which will be the chords root note) then move up a third to the E and add it to the C. Then move up another third from the E to the G and adding that to the C and E we get a C major triad.

If you look at the distance from the C to the E you will know it is two whole steps. This is a major third. However the distance between the E and the G is one and a half steps, a minor third. And the distance between the C and the G is a perfect fifth (three and a half steps = seven half steps = perfect fifth).

A Major third plus a minor third = Major triad. In the key of C it would be written simply as C. It is spelled 1 3 5 (relate to major scale of root note.)

If we flatten the third but keep the fifth at a perfect interval from the root we get a minor third interval followed by a major third. This gives us a minor chord.

A minor third plus a Major third = minor triad = written as Cm = 1 b3 5

There are two more kinds of triad:
A minor third plus a minor third = diminished triad = 1 b3 b5 = spelled Cdim or C˚

A major third plus a major third = augmented triad = 1 3 #5 = spelled C+

You can use the a scale to build "diatonic" chords. When doing this you wouldn't worry about flatting or raising anything since to be diatonic it only includes notes from that particular scale. Whether a particular interval will be minor or major will depend on where the root note falls within the scale. Hence if we built a diatonic triad using the second step of the Major scale as the root we would start at 2 move up a step to 4 then up to 6. Because the interval between the 2 and 4 is a whole step plus a half step (a minor third interval) and the interval beween the 4th and 6th is two whole steps (a major third interval) the "diatonic" triad built on the second step of the major scale will always be minor. If you understand what I just said you should be able to work out the rest of the diatonic triads.

Inversions

Triads don't always appear in a straight forward order with the root the lowest note the 3rd the middle note and the 5th the highest note. Sometimes the lowest note will be the third or the fifth and the others appear on top of that.

When the root in a chord is raised an octave so that it is higher than the 3rd and 5th the lowest note is the 3rd and this is called a 1st inversion. 3 5 1

When the root and the 3rd are both raised an octave so that they are higher in pitch than the 5th this is called a second inversion. 5 1 3

Sometimes if you're playing the right chord but it doesn't quite sound right it can be because you are playing the wrong inversion.

Sevenths
Since triads are built by stacking notes at intervals of a third from the major scale what happens if we stack another third up from the fifth to give us a four note chord?

Well the third above the fifth is the 7th. So we get a 7th chord. The interval between the fifth and seventh is naturally a Major third (two whole steps)

Here are the types of third intervals stacked to make some of the different 7th chords:

Major third minor third plus Major third = Major 7th = Cmaj7 = 1 3 5 7
Major third minor third plus minor third = Dominant 7th = C7 = 1 3 5 b7

minor third Major third plus Major third = minor major 7th = Cm(maj7) = 1 b3 5 7
minor third Major third plus minor third = minor 7th = Cm7 = 1 b3 5 b7

minor third minor third plus minor third = diminshed 7th = C˚7 = 1 b3 b5 bb7
This is an ambiguous chord and any one of the four notes present can act as the root because wherever you start from in the chord when you stack a minor third on a minor third on a minor third you get the same notes.

minor third minor third plus Major third = minor 7th flat 5 = Cm7b5 = 1 b3 b5 b7
(also known as half diminished = Cø7 except the little circle is higher.

If we flatten a minor third interval it becomes a diminished third interval.
Altered 7ths:
Major third diminished third plus Major third = Major 7th flat five = Cmaj7b5 = 1 3 b5 7
Major third Major third diminished third = augmented 7th = C+7 = 1 3 #5 b7

Major third Major third minor third = Major seventh augmented fifth = Cmaj7+5 = 1 3 #5 7

A Major third plus a Major third plus a Major third ends up back on the root so is just an Augmented triad with the root doubled = 1 3 #5 8 (#7).

Suspended Chords, added 9ths

A suspended chord suspends the 3rd and replaces it for either a 2nd or 4th.

Suspended 2nd = Csus2 = 1 2 5
Suspended 4th = Csus4 = 1 4 5

When the 2nd is added to a triad and the third is present it is referred to as a 9th regardless of whether it is within the octave or above it. This is also true of the 4th which when the 3rd is present is referred to as an 11th.

"Add" Chords, Sixth and Six/Nine chords
The term Add means simply to add a certain note that would not otherwise be present in the chord
Added Ninth = Cadd9 = 1 3 5 9

When a sixth is added to a chord it does not require the "add"
Sixth = C6 = 1 3 5 6
minor sixth =Cm6 = 1 b3 5 6 (note the minor refers to the flattened third in the base triad and does not mean to flatten the 6th)

Six/Nine chords are Major or minor chords with an added sixth and ninth.
Six/Nine = C6/9 = 1 3 5 6 9
minor Six/Nine = Cm6/9 = 1 b3 5 6 9

Extended Chords
Extended Chords are seventh chords that are extended by stacking more notes on to it - usually but not necessarily in steps of thirds. 9th 11th and 13ths are common extended chords.

Major 9th = Cmaj9 = 1 3 5 7 9
minor 9th = Cm9 = 1 b3 5 b7 9
dominant 9th = C9 = 1 3 5 b7 9

Maj 11th = Cmaj11 = 1 3 5 7 9 11
minor 11th = Cm11 = 1 b3 5 b7 9 11
dominant 11th = C11 = 1 3 5 b7 9 11

Maj 13th = Cmaj13 = 1 3 5 7 9 11 13
minor 13th = Cm13 = 1 b3 5 b7 9 11 13
dominant 13th = C13 = 1 3 5 b7 9 11 13

In an 11th chord the 1 3 5 and 11 are essential elements the seventh is usually present and the 9th is implied but optional. The same is true of the 13th. The 1 3 5 13 are the most important elements in the chord then the 7th and the 9th and 11th are optional and obviously something is going to be left out since there are 7 notes in the 13th chord.

Altered Chords
When the 5th or 9th is raised or lowered by a half step the result is an "altered chord". We have seen some of these already presented in the paragraph on 7ths.

Some other altered chords include
seventh sharp nine = C7#9 = 1 3 5 b7 #9
augmented seventh flat nine = 1 3 #5 b7 b9

Slash Chords
A slash chord is used to notate a bass note underneath a chord usually written C/G or D7/F# for example. These would indicate a C chord played with a G bass note or a D7 with an F# bass note.

Polychords
Polychords are two chords played together at the same time to create a more complex sound. They are more common for Piano or Keyboard players than guitarists but you may come across them they are usually written with one chord over another chord .

And that's pretty much it. Once you get all that you should be able to figure out pretty much any chord name. You can call almost any chord by a different name but look for the simplest way to explain the chord and go with that.

Good Luck.
Si