Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Four Types of Chords - Major, Minor, Dominant and Minor-Flat-5

I have heard people say that there are only three – or maybe four – different types of chords (major, minor, dominant...) but I never really understood this until I started reading the book Improvise for Real by David Reed.  What I’ve written below is in my own words from my own perspective, but it’s based on what I am learning in David’s fascinating book. (anything said incorrectly is my doing!).

A Major Chord is like the notes 1 – 3 – 5 – 7 of the major scale.  (notes 4 – 6 – 1 – 3 also follow this same pattern).

A Minor Chord is like notes 2 – 4 – 6 – 1 of the major scale.  (notes 3 – 5 – 7 – 2 and notes 6 – 1 – 3 – 5 also follow this same pattern).

A Dominant Chord is like notes 5 – 7 – 2 – 4 of the major scale.

A Minor-Flat-5 Chord is like notes 7 – 2 – 4 – 6 of the major scale
this image has nothing to do with this article!
I like to think of these patterns as miniature scales to be plucked as single-notes, rather than as a stacked grouping of notes to be strummed simultaneously.  Within these chords are the intervals of a half step, a whole step, a minor third (a whole + half step) and a major third (a whole + whole step).

To get a better sense of the differences between these chords, play a G note on your instrument and assume that it is note 1 or note 4 of the major scale.  Now play notes G – B – D – F#.  That is the sound of a major chord.

Now play a G note on your instrument and assume that it is note 2, note 3 or note 6 of the major scale.  Then play notes G – Bb – D – F.  That is the sound of a minor chord.

Now play a G note on your instrument and assume that it is note 5 of the major scale.  Then play notes G – B – D – F.  That is the sound a dominant chord.

Now play a G note on your instrument and assume that it is note 7 of the major scale.  Then play notes G – Bb – Db – F.  That is the sound of a minor-flat-5 chord.

Does that make sense?

For the dominant chord you played G-B-D-F.  You can also play that arpeggio starting on different notes of the chord, such as B-D-F-G or D-F-G-B or F-G-B-D.  You can also in reverse/descending order: F-D-B-G.  Each of these inversions conveys the sound of the dominant chord.

Try applying this same inversion formula to the major, minor and minor-flat-5 chords.

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