Chord Theory

Basic Chord Theory

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So maybe you think "Chord Theory" is a waste of time? Well let me tell you, chord theory is worth your time! Have you ever noticed when you're trying to figure out a certain chord in a particular song that all of a sudden you arrive at the right chord, but for some reason it just doesn't sound exactly like the one being played? Something about it just seems to sound different. Well it's a good chance that the reason for this is because a different "voicing" is being used. The term voicing is just anoter way to describe all the different fingerings and places that chord can be played on the fretboard. So as you become familiar with the different chord voicings that are used by today's rock guitarists it will become a lot easier to figure out songs and also your composition skills will greatly improve when you have some chord theory skills under your belt. Before we get to those "rock chords", let's get into some basic chord theory. For starters, those of you who are not sure of the difference between sharps and flats, let's clear that up right now. A sharp (#) raises a note's pitch one half step. A half step is equal to one fret on the guitar. The note A# is one fret higher than an A note on the guitar. A flat lowers (b) lowers a note by a half step. The note Ab is one fret lower than the A note on the guitar. A note is natural when it is neither sharp or flat. All natural notes are separated by a sharp note and a flat note, execpt for B and C, and E and F. A# and Bb are actually the same note with two different names. The same is true for C# and Db, D# and Eb. The key is what determines whether a note is considered sharp or flat. Since most rock and metal progressions mostly center around major and minor chords, most of this lesson is based on those chord types. So what is a major chord? The first thing you need to know about any chord is that it is constructed from the major scale of the same letter name. Any type of C chord, whether it is C major, C minor, C7 etc., will be constructed from the C major scale. The next thing to realize is that every chord has it's own formula. The formula for a major chord is 1, 3, 5. This means that the major chord consists of the first degree (or root), third degree, and fifth degree of it's major scale. Below is a C major scale. All the scale degrees have been numbered. By using the major chord formula with the C major scale, we get the notes C, E, G. This type of three note chord is called a triad, a major triad. There are four types of triads: Major, Minor, Augmented, Diminished. The notes in this triad can be arranged in any order: C, E, G - E, G, C - G, C, E - etc. Remember that term voicing? Well it refers to the actual order of the notes. When writing or refering to chord voicings, the notes are named in order from lowest to highest in pitch. If a chord is "voiced" with it's root note as the bass note (lowest pitch note), this would be what is considered root position. If the chord's third degree is the bass note, then it would be what is called a first inversion. If the fifth degree is in the bass, then we call it a second inversion. Any of the notes in a given triad may be repeated. If there are more than three notes present (ex: C, E, G, C), then we call it a chord instead of a triad. In this case however, the example I just gave you would still be considered a triad because it contains the first, third, and fifth degrees only. So you are probably starting to see that there are a lot of options you have when it comes to variations, or voicings for the same chord. The formula for a minor chord is 1, b3, 5. The only difference between a major chord and a minor chord is the third. The major chord contains a natural (unaltered) third of it's major scale, and a minor chord contains a flatted (lowered) third. By using the minor chord formula with the C major scale, we get the notes C, Eb, G. This is a C minor triad. Although major and minor chords contain the root, third (or flatted third), and fifth degrees, it is very common in Rock and Metal for these chords to be played using the root and fifth only. This is what is known as a "Power Chord". This chord gives you a very strong and powerful sound, hence the name power chord. The power chord is neither major or minor because it contains no third. So when put into a progression it can function as either a major or minor chord. This is why the power chord is so popular. Check out my site for great stuff. Getting bigger and better everyday.

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    Invokke_Havokk
    PoopChute wrote: invokke- ya thats what i mean i cant remmber the name of that maj min min thing but ya.
    The Maj and Min scales. Maj min min Maj Maj Min Dim = Major Scale Min dim Maj min min Maj Maj = Minor Scale
    Cleonvalentine
    thanks easy to understand ive been playin for two years i self tought so kno i understand clearly
    PoopChute
    invokke- ya thats what i mean i cant remmber the name of that maj min min thing but ya.
    Invokke_Havokk
    PoopChute wrote: ok how about lil more advanced lessons now, dont get me wrong, this is a good basic chord theory but could someone let me know how chord progressions work, especially when minor and major chords can work together and the why some minor chords work well with major but not others?
    Maj min min - blah blah blah - dim You mean that? When I get some more sleep (haven't slept all weekend) and am able to think, I could write a guide on how chord progressions work - in key. It would still be pretty basic chord theory though - and I think theres already a guide on it.
    PoopChute
    ok how about lil more advanced lessons now, dont get me wrong, this is a good basic chord theory but could someone let me know how chord progressions work, especially when minor and major chords can work together and the why some minor chords work well with major but not others?
    madcowman19
    Great foundation for getting into more advanced chord theory!
    Cleonvalentine wrote: thanks easy to understand ive been playin for two years i self tought so kno i understand clearly
    *shudders*
    Ore4444
    Great lesson but very basic. VERY basic. I think you should add that to the lesson name. There is much more to chord theory than what you wrote
    exanimateguitar
    DevDeathRay : This question might be silly, but here it goes anyway: We talk about the major chord being root, 3rd, 5th. But all the chord finger position guides I see show, for the G major chord, that every string is rung. That means that more notes than just 1, 3, 5 sound. To rephrase: To play the G major chord I play a G on the 3rd fret of the E string, a B on the 2nd fret of the A string, and another G on the 3rd fret of the bottom E string. But when I strum, I strum every string from top to bottom. Could someone clarify this for me? I'm sure it's something simple that I'm missing.
    if i understand your question, it's because all of those notes that you're playing are the same three notes. so first you got your 3rd fret on the e strings, those are both g's as you said, then there's the b on the a string, then there's the open d string, then the open g string, then the open b string, and back to the e. so you're playing g b d the entire chord. hope that helped
    DevDeathRay
    This question might be silly, but here it goes anyway: We talk about the major chord being root, 3rd, 5th. But all the chord finger position guides I see show, for the G major chord, that every string is rung. That means that more notes than just 1, 3, 5 sound. To rephrase: To play the G major chord I play a G on the 3rd fret of the E string, a B on the 2nd fret of the A string, and another G on the 3rd fret of the bottom E string. But when I strum, I strum every string from top to bottom. Could someone clarify this for me? I'm sure it's something simple that I'm missing.
    Xusutu
    I thought it should be E G B as well, please correct me if I'm wrong
    niccolitro
    hi, was just reading and learning as everybody and i didnt get smth....shouldnt E be E G B?? instead of E G C as lord thorn said... thanks! and of course...nice lesson!!
    Lord_Hondros
    the one is the first (base) note. For example, E. The 3rd is the, well third note. Count two more from E, and you reach G, two more, and you get the Fifth, C. So, you get this: E G C 1 3 5 As simple as it can get, really. Here's A: A C E
    pwrmax
    Corymartin wrote: Gah I dont get the 1 3 5 stuff:/
    A major/minor chord is based on 3 notes, there's 6 strings on a guitar but if you write out the notes you will see that there's only 3 different ones. Those 3 notes are the 1st, 3rd and 5th note of a major scale for major chords, for minor chords you can use the 1st, 3rd and 5th of a minor scale or take a major chord and lower the middle note of the triad by a semitone.
    rebel624
    I thought it was a good lesson as well. When I read on triads months ago I was so confused and now I completely understand. Nicely done!
    Invokke_Havokk
    Nice lesson, made the bit on voicings a ton easier. I read a different guide on voicings, but it didn't quite explain what a voicing was or how you made it. Havokk