Part III - Chapter 1
"Chords - Chord Construction"Hey all! The Ultimate Guide to Guitar is back, finally! First of all, I want to make my sincerest apologies again for keeping you all waiting... my private life has been extremely busy over the last few weeks, but things should now be returning to normal, so I'll be delivering fresh UGG chapters to you again from now on! The UGG has entered Part III - Intermediate! That means we've gone up another level, things are going to get progressively more difficult from here on... But as long as you have all the previous theory and techniques covered, you shouldn't encounter any problems with the Intermediate lessons. In the Novice lesson on chord progressions (Chapter II-3), we studied the construction of Major and Minor chords already, using our knowledge of scales and how they are based on intervals between the notes. Well, this is the Intermediate chords chapter now, so we're going to go further than that: in this lesson, we will discuss all basic chord formations using the intervals they are based on! Which types of chords are we going to learn to construct? 1. Major and Minor chords: a quick review of what we know already! 2. 7th chords: a very common type of chords, which comes in many flavours! 3. Added chords: building even more spectacular sounds from existing chords! 4. Suspended chords: neither Major nor Minor! 5. Alternative bass note: add a strange flavour to regular chords! 6. Augmented and diminished chords: more major than Major and more minor than Minor! Keep in mind that, to understand this lesson properly, you must understand intervals and how to construct scales and chords using intervals. You can find the table of intervals, and their use in constructing scales, in Chapter I-1... The basics of chord construction using intervals were covered in Chapter II-3. If you're not sure you perfectly understand this essential theory, go back and review these 2 chapters again... If you think you master this theory properly and are ready to put it to use, let's go!
Major And Minor ChordsWe're going to start off with something simple... Remember what a Major and a Minor chord were constructed of? Let's go back to the definitions I provided in Chapter II-3:
1 3 5 C E G \Maj3rd/ \min3rd/
1 b3 5 A C E \min3rd/ \Maj3rd/
7th Chords7th chords are very common chords in jazz, but also in many other genres. They have a very distinctive, unresolved sound that makes them sound more "interesting" than regular Major/Minor chords... learning how to play and construct them is very important! If you want to construct more advanced chord progressions, having 7th chords in your arsenal is a necessity! There are many types of 7th chords, but they're all based on the same principle: you take a triad (Major or Minor) and you add a 7th interval to it (major or minor). Easy as pie, it seems! Unfortunately, constructing 7th chords isn't always easy, and the names may be confusing the first time. There are 4 different possibilities for constructing 7th chords, depending on 2 factors:
You take a root note, go up a Major 3rd to find the 3rd note, go up another minor 3rd to find the perfect 5th, and finally go up another minor 3rd to find the minor 7th note! Dominant 7th chords are indicated with a simple "7" behind the chord symbol. For example, a C Major chord is indicated with a "C"... Well, a C Dominant 7th chord is indicated with "C7"! It's that easy... To show you exactly how a (Dominant) 7th chord is constructed, I will show you a C7 chord as an example: This chord is constructed of the notes C - E - G - Bb. How can you find these notes? Well, simply use the interval scheme I provided in the definition:
1 3 5 b7 \Maj3rd/ \min3rd/ \min3rd/
Using this interval scheme, you can derive any 7th chord from any Major chord. Try it! If you understand how to construct Dominant 7th chords, we can move on to the next type of 7th chord... Minor 7th chords! B. Minor 7th chords I will explain Minor 7th chords the same way as I explained Dominant 7th chords: first the definition, then the chord symbol, and finally an example. Here is the definition for a Minor 7th chord: "Minor 7th chords are constructed of:
C E G Bb \Maj3rd/ \min3rd/ \min3rd/
To construct a Minor 7th chord, you take a root note, you go up a minor 3rd to find the 3rd note, then another major 3rd to find the perfect 5th, and finally another minor 3rd for the minor 7th! Et voila, we know how to construct the second type of 7th chords! The chord symbol for Minor 7th chords is just as logical as the symbol for Dominant 7th chords: you take the Minor chord symbol, and add a "7" behind it. So, for example, a A Minor 7th chord would be symbolised by "Am7"... It couldn't be easier! As an example, I will now show you an Am7 chord, and how it is constructed! Here is the Am7 diagram: The A Minor 7th chord is constructed of the notes A - C - E - G. To find these notes, I used the same interval scheme I described in the definition:
1 b3 5 b7 \min3rd/ \Maj3rd/ \min3rd/
Any other Minor 7th chord can be derived using this interval scheme! So, if you understand how to construct these, let's move on! C. Major 7th chords This is where the names of the different types of 7th chords gets confusing! The Major 7th chord has an added major 7th as opposed to the minor 7th of the Dominant 7th chord. However, both are Major triads, and this might get confusing as only one of them carries the name "Major"! The definition of Major 7th chords: "Major 7th chords are constructed of:
A C E G \min3rd/ \Maj3rd/ \min3rd/
As usual, we start from the root note, go up a major 3rd to find the 3rd note, then another minor 3rd for the perfect 5th, and this time we go up another major 3rd, to find the major 7th that completes the Major 7th chord! The chord symbol for Major 7th chords is a little different, because you need to be able to distinguish Dominant and Major 7th chords! This time, you add "Maj7" after the chord symbol... So, a C Major 7th chord would be symbolised by "CMaj7" (as opposed to "C7" symbolising a C Dominant 7th chord)! As an example, here is the CMaj7 chord diagram, and its construction: The C Major 7th chord is constructed of the notes C - E - G - B. If you use the above interval scheme, you can easily find these notes yourself:
1 3 5 7 \Maj3rd/ \min3rd/ \Maj3rd/
Finding the notes of any Major 7th chord is easy if you just use this interval scheme! If you can do this, we can move on to the last type of 7th chords... and the strangest one! Note: the confusing nomenclature of 7th chord can be explained by the fact that the Dominant 7th chord is more frequently used in music. This is why it's often just called "7th chord", and symbolised with a simple "7" behind the chord symbol. The less frequently used Major 7th chord kept the name of "Major", and the more "complex" symbol. D. Minor/Major 7th chords After 3 combinations of Major or Minor triads combined with major or minor 7th intervals, only one is left: the chord constructed with a Minor triad and an added Major 7th. This is a rather unusual chord (therefore, it's not commonly used), with a rather unusual name too: the "Minor/Major 7th chord". Its definition: "Minor/Major 7th chords are constructed of:
C E G B \Maj3rd/ \min3rd/ \Maj3rd/
Once again, we start on a root note, we find the 3rd note by going up a minor 3rd, then we go up another major 3rd to find the perfect 5th, and finally another major 3rd for the major 7th. The Minor/Major 7th chord doesn't only have the strangest name, but also the strangest symbol to accompany it... You take the Minor chord symbol, and add "Maj7", with a slash in between! So, for example, an A Minor/Major 7th chord would be symbolised by "Am/Maj7". How bizarre... Once again, I will provide you with an example of a Minor/Major 7th chord, with diagram and interval scheme! Here is the Am/Maj7 chord: This chord consists of the notes A - C - E - G#. By now, you should be able to find these notes by using the interval scheme I provided, by yourself! I'll do it one more time for you:
1 b3 5 7 \min3rd/ \Maj3rd/ \Maj3rd/
And done! You now know how to construct all 4 types of 7th chords... We can finally move on to the next type of chords!
A C E G# \min3rd/ \Maj3rd/ \Maj3rd/
Added ChordsAdded chords are actually just like 7th chords: they are based on a Major or Minor triad, and completed by adding one or more "extra" notes! There are numerous possibilities, so I will discuss the most important ones here:
Suspended ChordsOn to the next type of chords! These chords are even easier than Added chords... Suspended chords are also based on Major and Minor triads, but instead of adding extra notes, you are replacing the 3rd note with another one! Think about it - there won't be any major or minor 3rd in the chord anymore... so, the chord will be neither Major nor Minor, it will work as both! I will describe two types of suspended chords:
Alternative Bass NotesAgain, this is a type of chords that is based on chords you know already. We're only going to change one thing to them: the lowest note, or the "bass note". In regular chords, this is usually the root note, but you can use different notes as bass notes to give a chord a different flavour! Normally, this would be the part where I give a "definition" of this type of chords, like I did in all the other paragraphs... only, you can't really "define" a chord with an alternative bass note! Why not? Well, because there's lots of possible notes you could use as bass note, it's not confined to just one interval! As long as the note is in the scale of the key you're playing in, it can sound good... for example, you could use G as the bass note in a C chord, by playing a regular C chord but fretting down on the 6th string at the 3rd fret too! G is in the scale of C Major, so it will sound good... but this is not the only option, there's other possibilities too! The chord symbol for chords with an alternative bass note uses a slash to distinguish between the chord name, and the bass note used for that chord. For example, if you're playing a C Major chord with G as bass note, you would symbolise it with "C/G". An A Minor chord with an open E as bass note would be written down as "Am/E"... not that hard, is it? Due to this particular method of defining these chords, they are sometimes called "slash chords".
Augmented And Diminished ChordsAnd last, but not least, we have Augmented and Diminished chords. They are rather unusual chords, in the sense that they too are nor Major nor Minor... as Major and Minor triads both possess a perfect 5th which is essential to their quality, but neither Augmented nor Diminished chords have a perfect 5th! Therefore, both are very different, and have their own distinctive sound quality... A. Augmented chords Augmented chords are different from Major chords, like I said, because they don't possess a perfect 5th... but - you guessed it - an augmented 5th, which is one semitone higher! The definition: "Augmented chords are constructed of:
An Augmented triad is a sequence of 2 Major 3rd intervals: each note is 4 semitones away from the next! This leads to a very special property of Augmented chords: if you construct a C Augmented chord, for example, it will consist of the same notes as an E Augmented and a G# Augmented chord, because they are all part of the same "cycle" of Major 3rds... they all consist of the same notes: C, E, and G#! Augmented chords are symbolised by adding the suffix "aug" to a chord name. For example, an augmented C chord would be symbolised with "Caug"... Again, a very easy symbol which you should now be able to recognise in tabs and other music notations! As an example for an augmented chord, I will show the diagram and construction of the C Augmented chord, Caug: Like I said, this chord is constructed of the notes C - E - G#, and so are the E Augmented and G# Augmented chords! Three different chords, three different names, three identical notes...
1 3 #5 \Maj3rd/ \Maj3rd/
B. Diminished chords Like Augmented chords are similar to Major chords, Diminished chords are similar to Minor chords... but even "more Minor", because they have a diminished 5th instead of the perfect 5th that "regular" Minor chords have! The definition: "Diminished chords are constructed of:
C E G# \Maj3rd/ \Maj3rd/
As you can see, a Diminished chord is a sequence of Minor 3rds! This gives Diminished chords the same cyclic property that Augmented chords possess... For example, if you would construct an A Diminished chord, it would consist of the notes A, C, Eb and Gb. This means that the chords C Diminished, Eb Diminished and Gb Diminished would consist of the same notes, because they're part of the same cycle of minor 3rd steps! The Diminished chord symbol is analogue to the Augmented symbol: just add the suffix "dim" to the chord name to denote the Diminished chord. For example, a Diminished B chord would be symbolised with "Bdim". Below is the Bdim chord as an example for the construction of Diminished chords: The fun thing about this shape is that you can move it up or down 3 frets, and you'll still be playing the same chord, as the notes will remain the same! You can see that clearly in the interval scheme:
1 b3 b5 7 \min3rd/ \min3rd/ \min3rd/
And there you go! With Diminished chords, we have covered the last type of chords in this chord construction chapter!
B D F Ab \min3rd/ \min3rd/ \min3rd/
ConclusionUsing the knowledge of how all the different chords are constructed, you should now be able to recognise most chord types and how they are logically formed... If you ever see chords with complicated names from now on, you can interpret them, to see how they are formed and what notes are in it! Playing chords and especially understanding how they work will be a lot easier now... In the next lesson, we will learn how to harmonize scales using some of the more complex chords we have learned in this chapter! You will be able to write your own chord progressions using 7th chords and other interesting sounding chords... Stay tuned! Cheers! ZeG PS: My usual outro: