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Help: Chord Theory/Questions

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GUEST,Neil Lowe 31 Jan 00 - 12:51 PM
Grey Wolf 31 Jan 00 - 04:55 PM
GUEST,Cris 31 Jan 00 - 05:06 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 00 - 06:32 PM
Mark Clark 31 Jan 00 - 07:39 PM
Mark Clark 31 Jan 00 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Neil Lowe 31 Jan 00 - 10:53 PM
Grey Wolf 01 Feb 00 - 03:50 AM
Grey Wolf 01 Feb 00 - 06:38 AM
GUEST,Neil Lowe 01 Feb 00 - 07:40 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 01 Feb 00 - 11:22 AM
Pene Azul 01 Feb 00 - 12:14 PM
Tony Burns 01 Feb 00 - 12:34 PM
Mark Clark 01 Feb 00 - 01:46 PM
paddymac 01 Feb 00 - 05:25 PM
GUEST,Neil Lowe 01 Feb 00 - 11:06 PM
Mark Clark 02 Feb 00 - 01:10 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 03 Feb 00 - 03:05 PM
Joe Offer 26 May 10 - 11:28 PM
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Subject: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: GUEST,Neil Lowe
Date: 31 Jan 00 - 12:51 PM

I started a thread some time ago on weird chords (in case the link doesn't work: http://www.mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=10988) that prompted the esteemed Tony Burns to suggest a site that helps inquiring minds to identify the name of a chord (again, just in case: http://www.angelfire.com/nc/nutchords/), for which I am eternally grateful. This freeware program helped me attach names to chords that I had been playing for years, but had never been able to find in any of the chord books. As with most things, however, an answer usually leads to more questions. Hence, this thread.

I am wondering, now that they have names, how you say the names of these chords? For example, if I saw someone playing EA#B, which, according to the above program, is an E-3add#11 (the notation comes from the program, not me), how do you pronounce the name of this chord? Does the minus sign mean "diminished?" How do you say "Dm9-5?" or its inversion "E-3#5addb9/D?" What the devil is an "inversion," anyway? What does the little "degree" mark (like you see when "O degrees Celsius" is written) after a chord name mean? Doesn't that mean "diminished?"

Anyone know of an easy to understand reference that would explain all this to me? The future of the world as we know it is at stake.

Thanks in advance, Neil Lowe


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Grey Wolf
Date: 31 Jan 00 - 04:55 PM

Neil,

You don't mention what instrument you play.

As far as I can tell, most of these really obscure sounding chords are the invention of 'Jazz' pianists.

Don't get me wrong, their descriptions are technically correct, and may make the originator feel 'clever' or 'superior.'

In practise, they are a waste of time.

I mostly play guitar, and only have 6 notes. On a guitar Em7 is the same as G6 in a different inversion.

Try not to get too involved in theory - play what sounds right to your ears...

Wolf


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: GUEST,Cris
Date: 31 Jan 00 - 05:06 PM

Neil, An inversion is a chord which uses one of the notes other than the root as the bass. For example, a C major chord is C-E-G, and a C chord in first inversion would be E-G-C, in second inversion this same chord would be G-C-E. The little "degree" after a chord symbol does mean diminished, this same circle with a slash through it signifies half diminished.

Hope this helps, it at least shows I've learned something in my Theory classes.


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 00 - 06:32 PM

At any time there's the right chord, and the wrong chord. I've never got past that.


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Mark Clark
Date: 31 Jan 00 - 07:39 PM

Neil,

I remember the thread but didn't try the software. Does the program give all the possible names for a single chord spelling? What does it do with different spellings for the same notes? For example, if you *saw* someone playing playing EA#B, how would you know they weren't playing EBbB? Would the program provide the same chord name for both spellings?

It often takes more than just note names to properly identify a chord when it is found in a progression. This is partly because of inversions and substitutions---as GW points out, G6 and E-7 (Em7) contain the same notes---and partly because, in practice, people often play partial chords that act as a particular chord even though the notes being played don't truly spell the chord being represented. The key in which the progression is written makes a difference as well.

Often, strange and complex chord names are never intended by either the composer or the performer. They are the result of a copyist or computer program that doesn't actually know the music, only the theory. A common situation is a descending base line moving by half steps through a chord or progression. It's really just a chord or two with a descending base but when you write it down and tell a computer about it, the odd names start to pop up.

I agree with GW, it's good to know why such names are possible but don't spend time memorizing fingerings for chords with names like those, they'll become more limiting than enabling.

Good luck,

- Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Mark Clark
Date: 31 Jan 00 - 07:40 PM

Neil,

I remember the thread but didn't try the software. Does the program give all the possible names for a single chord spelling? What does it do with different spellings for the same notes? For example, if you *saw* someone playing playing EA#B, how would you know they weren't playing EBbB? Would the program provide the same chord name for both spellings?

It often takes more than just note names to properly identify a chord when it is found in a progression. This is partly because of inversions and substitutions---as GW points out, G6 and E-7 (Em7) contain the same notes---and partly because, in practice, people often play partial chords that act as a particular chord even though the notes being played don't truly spell the chord being represented. The key in which the progression is written makes a difference as well.

Often, strange and complex chord names are never intended by either the composer or the performer. They are the result of a copyist or computer program that doesn't actually know the music, only the theory. A common situation is a descending base line moving by half steps through a chord or progression. It's really just a chord or two with a descending base but when you write it down and tell a computer about it, the odd names start to pop up.

I agree with GW, it's good to know why such names are possible but don't spend time memorizing fingerings for chords with names like those, they'll become more limiting than enabling.

Good luck,

- Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: GUEST,Neil Lowe
Date: 31 Jan 00 - 10:53 PM

Thanks for the response.

Hi Grey Wolf - I play guitar. The two chords I mentioned are ones I use occasionally. Needless to say, they're a little discordant. EA#B I play like a regular E major chord in first position, except I raise the major third (G#) to A# by playing the third string at the third fret. The Dm9-5 is a Dsus2 moved three frets up the neck and playing the first four strings (open E; F; C; open D). If I were to show them to someone I'd like to be able to say, "Here's a E-3add11," or "here's a Dm9-5" instead of "here's an E chord with an A# thrown in" or "Here's a Dsus2 moved up three frets." I thought there would be a way of pronouncing the name the chord program came up with.

Chris - yes....your theory classes helped me immensely. Thank you.

Mark - the way the program is set up, there is a graphic of a fretboard and a keyboard. You click with your mouse on the frets or keys you want to make the particular chord. Where you click a bubble with the name of the note pops up. If you click the notes for an Fsus4 (FBbC) what shows up in the bubbles are: FA#C - no flats. Either way the program calls this Fsus4.

Neil Lowe


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Grey Wolf
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 03:50 AM

I would pronounce E-3add11 as "E no third add 11" and Dm9-5 as "D minor ninth, no fifth"

However to the vast majority of guitarists, telling them that it was a Dsus2 moved up 3 frets would make a good deal more sense and they might even understand what you mean!

Unless of course the object is just to show how clever you are...

Wolf


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Grey Wolf
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 06:38 AM

Neil,

Re-reading this thread, we haven't answered one of your queries and perhaps made things more confusing.

'Nutchords' appears to use a minus (-) sign to indicate a note that isn't there, see my last message.

More generally, as Mark does in his message, a minus sign is used to indicate a minor chord. Personally, I always use an 'm' but lots of people write Am as A-.

Hence, when Mark wrote E-7, he meant Em7, not E without a seventh (which wouldn't make any sense, anyway!)

I remember trying 'nutchords' a while back, but I didn't like it. I can't remember quite why.

A similar, in some ways more simplistic, but in my view better shareware software is 'Chord Magic' It's DOS based so it doesn't look as pretty and it won't play your chord back to you. It does however give a variety of different possible names for any chord and lets you superimpose any scale over the fretboard so you can see how the particular chord relates to any scale.

I haven't got a link for it but any decent search engine should find you a copy.

Wolf I


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: GUEST,Neil Lowe
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 07:40 AM

Thanks Grey Wolf, for your answers. Clarifying the minus sign mystery helped a lot. And your method for naming chords makes sense. For me it's nice to be able to attach a name to a fingering I've been making for years. They always sounded like chords to me...I just never knew what to call them.

Unpretentiously but somewhat pedantically, Neil


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 11:22 AM

This is how I approach it. A "weird" chord often substitues for a simpler one. Basically, chords have a postion in a "progression" that is like family members. The chords relate in specific ways to each other. Find out what the basic chord progression is. The weird chord often relates to the basic progression and is a substitute.

Ya' gotta' find out what the composer, arranger or player means by the chord. Maybe it's just a weird uncle with gold sunglasses and a rakish hat. Or a grandfather in gym shorts.

I don't believe there are any weird chords. Just embellished ones. How to use them? Study basic harmony. Junior colleges offer basic musicianship courses. If you are into jazz, there are some basic books that help. I recommend the Dick Grove mail order series. When you study jazz guitar a world of chords open up.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Pene Azul
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 12:14 PM

I hope I have this right (I'm no expert).

The "degree" symbol stands for fully diminished seventh, which is a stack of minor thirds. It is like taking a (dominant) seventh chord and flatting the third, fifth, and seventh.

Cº (C with degree symbol) is C Eb Gb Bbb same as C Eb Gb A

If you stack on another minor third you get back to the C. Not counting inversions there are only three of these chords, since for example,.Cº = Ebº = Gbº = Aº.

On the other hand
Cdim7 is C Eb Gb Bb
I believe these are sometimes called half-diminished seventh chords.


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Tony Burns
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 12:34 PM

I think the weird naming results from the way the guitar is often played which is really a combination of chords and notes. For example: if I am playing an A chord and happen to be moving to a D chord I might get there by playing the notes B and C# on the fifth string as a run to the D chord while I still play the A chord underneath. (If I were playing with a bass player I might leave the run out.) The combination of notes thus created can have a chord name but are they really a chord in this case? I think it's a matter of point of view. To indicate what is intended the music may have a 'chord' diagram (really a fingering diagram?). This graphic is calling out for a name and thus we get the situation that prompted this thread.


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Mark Clark
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 01:46 PM

Neil,

As so often happens, Frank said in a much simpler and more eloquent manner what I had been trying to say in my post. The "strange relative" metaphor is a really good one. And, sorry about the confusion created by the use of "-" for minor; that's the way I was taught.

I'd been playing upwards of twenty-five years when I decided that was too long a time not to sight read and understand some theory. I placed myself at the mercy of a mostly retired jazz guitarist and tried to absorb as much as I could. (Not nearly enough I can tell you for sure.) He used no printed materials but hand wrote each lesson expressly for me; didn't even use a ruler to draw the staff. If, by mistake, he gave me the same tune on two occasions, he hand wrote it again each time. His approach to theory was very logical and natural and, although he used the chords you mention, he never wrote them down or even diagramed them. He once gave me a single piece of paper that he said contained all the theory one would ever need and, while that may not be entirely true, he certainly came very close. It's not supposed to be as hard as computers seem to think.

- Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: paddymac
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 05:25 PM

My grasp of music theory is limited and rudimentary, to say the least, but I'm intrigued by Tony's comment above in re playing notes enroute to another chord. Back when I was singing barber shop harmony, such notes were called "passing notes" and were usually, but not always, found in the melody line. "Chords" were presented as a series of notes (tones) sounded simultaneously. Some chords would produce audible over-tones or under-tones (notes not sung but produced as an artifact of harmonics) which could make the hair on your neck and arms or legs, respectively, stand up. When that happened, it was a rush. Nowadays, I play hammered dulcimer and have a different view of chords, because I can not play more than two notes simultaneously. When I play a triad or tetrad, there is a brief period when all the notes and resultant harmonics are heard, but variable decay rates (or sustain) result in an everchanging mix or harmonics. I can't explain it beyond that, so I'm content to just enjoy it. I think that's what its really all about anyway.


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: GUEST,Neil Lowe
Date: 01 Feb 00 - 11:06 PM

Hmmmm....Pene Azul....Interesting name...I won't even begin to speculate why it's blue...I don't think I want to know (*BG*)....thank you for your explanation on the "degree" symbol. I will add that explanation to the other bits of theory I have randomly picked up along the way....

Tony- normally I don't get hung up on pure theory or discovering the "secret of the lost chord." Computer programs are only as intelligent as the code underlying them....and I think I understand how quickly bizarre chord names can be generated when the program is responding with a predetermined name to intervals between notes. The bizarre name does serve, for me at least, as an indication of what the constitutes the chord. If I see a similarly named chord without a diagram of its fingering, and no access to 'nutchords,' perhaps after a little experience in determining what constitutes a 9th, or a 11th, or a 13th, or a mmaj7, I may be able to figure out the fingering on my own.

Mark- no apology is necessary....it was a learning experience for me. I now know that "A-" is the same as "Am" in some instances. Thanks.

Neil Lowe


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Mark Clark
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 01:10 PM

Neil,

You should have little trouble figuring out what notes are in most major and minor chords. If you write out a diatonic scale for the root key and continue for a couple of ocatves, a chord is simply every second note. 1-3-5 is the major (or minor) triad and you keep adding the seventh, ninth, eleventh, etc. notes in the sequence. To put it on the guitar just arrange the notes so it's possible to make the chord and drop the ones you can't reach. Occasionally, even the tonic note is dropped. And don't change what you call the chord just because you aren't sounding all the notes it theoretically contains.

Good luck,

- Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 03:05 PM

Frank Hamilton--you did a wonderful job both explaining, and of putting a human face on this sticky chord naming issue--I have a couple comments, and I hope I don't muddy things up again--

First, when you name chords, it is important to understand that before you can find the chords name, you must know what key you are playing in so you know what the fundamental is and what the relation of all the other notes are to it(this point has been alluded to, but I wanted to spell it out--

Secondly,(another point that has been alluded to before) you have to be clear on what you mean by a chord-- you have to remember that when you play the guitar,you may be playing any one of three parts, melody, bass, and chord accompaniment, or a combination of those things--Techincally, you can consider all the notes that sound simultanously as a chord, but you may avoid a lot of confusion if you think about a descending bass line as a second part that you are playing, rather than as part of the chord--the same is true of melody lines--

Thirdly, know whether the chord you are dealing with is part of the tonic or the dominant harmony--

Fourth--don't get confused trying to give names to note configurations that aren't exactly chords, think of them in terms of the notes and the intervals that are actually played--guitarists tend think of musical pieces as basically chord progressions--This is a habit that relates to the fact that guitar parts are often just shown as a set of chords that are played behind the melody or solo-

Fifth--You must understand that sometimes passing and chromatic tones have been harmonized in the key and sometimes by changing to another key--Sometimes what sounds like a really twisted C-sharp chord in the Key of C is really just an A7 in the key of D.

Grey Wolf said something that seems simple--that you should just play what sounds good--The problem is that you (assuming that you are the typical, contemporary self taught, with a little help from friends,folk/rock/blues/pop musician) have assimilated information on all kinds of harmony and melody that you can re-create"intuitively", without being able to explain--lots of technically complex stuff sounds natural and good to you--The problem comes when you have most of something but don't know how to complete it, because, although you can hear it and recreate it, you don't really understand the theory well enough to do a nuts and bolts kind of finish to it--

(Sorry not to be as brief and to the point as Frank)

Aloha,

Ted


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Subject: RE: Help: Chord Theory/Questions
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 May 10 - 11:28 PM

I found this video on chords to be pretty good.

-Joe-


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