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Help: What is a Chord?

30 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM (#386024)
Subject: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee

This is a really pedantic question, but I know we have some pedants here :-)

At work today (the context would take too long to explain) I came across a musical diagram consisting of E, B, and the next octave E

It was explained as a 'chord'

To me a chord means 3 different notes. As such I said it wasn't a chord.

Various web pages I've seen give different answers.

So, Is E,B,E a chord?

Ed


30 Jan 01 - 06:26 PM (#386036)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

Any 2 or more notes sounding at the same time are a chord. You have 2 different notes so it's a chord.


30 Jan 01 - 06:26 PM (#386037)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Sorcha

I would consider it so.....there is a difference in pitch between e and E. Piano chords can have more than 3 notes, too. I don't believe the number 3 is what defines a chord.


30 Jan 01 - 06:29 PM (#386038)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: ddw

I'm sure there are people here with more knowledge of music theory than I have and maybe they'll jump in a correct us, Ed, but I too thought it took a minimum of three notes to make a chord. Just E and be is the first and fifth tones, so you'd have to add a G# to complete the chord of E major. Just a G would be Em (or G6), etc. So let's sit back and watch the heavyweights jump on this.

david


30 Jan 01 - 06:36 PM (#386044)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

Here's what the OED has:
a. A combination of two 'according' or harmonious notes sounded together, a CONCORD. Obs.

a. A combination, concordant or discordant, of three or more simultaneous notes according to the rules of harmony; rarely of two notes only.
common chord (also perfect chord): the combination of any note with its third (major or minor), perfect fifth, and octave. Chord is often used alone for common chord, e.g. 'the chord of C'.

So what would 2 notes sounding at the same time be?


30 Jan 01 - 06:37 PM (#386045)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee

I'd understood two notes as being an 'interval' and a 'chord' as being three.

If any combination of 2/3+ notes are considered to be 'chords' there would be no need for such terms as 'tone clusters'

Ed

at the edge of his musical theory knowledge...


30 Jan 01 - 06:39 PM (#386047)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: mousethief

2 notes is an interval. 3+ is a chord. That's what I was taught.


30 Jan 01 - 07:14 PM (#386074)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

An interval is the distance between two notes. Like a 2nd or a third. It's not the sounding of the notes.

Getting it from the horses mouth & hot off the presses, here's the definition from The New Grove Dictionary..., 2nd ed., 2001. Where I should have looked in the first place.
The simultaneous sounding for two or more notes. Chords are usually described or named by the intervals they comprise, reckoned either between adjacent notes or from the lowest... [and so forth]

The derivation seems to be from accord-> sounds in agreement. The opposite was once dischord, but we know chords can be discords nowadays, right?


30 Jan 01 - 07:14 PM (#386075)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

Exactly so! What you have in this case (E, B, and e) is not a chord, it is an interval of a perfect 5th with the root doubled. It's neither major nor minor. You need a G or a G# to pin it down as either one or the other.

If you have an E, a G#, and another e, you also have an interval -- a major 3rd with the root doubled. But you are stongly implying an E major chord.

I was taught that if you had to leave a note out for some reason (maintaining correct voice-leading in class harmony exercises, for example), leave out the 5th. Root and 5th interval is ambiguous. Root and 3rd interval implies a chord. But it's still not a chord.

Don Firth


30 Jan 01 - 07:21 PM (#386083)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

I see I should have added the naming convention information. You have an open 5th chord. The confusion is that chords draw their names from the intervals so a minor 3rd is an interval, but when sounded at the same time is also a chord. The example is an open 5th. If you did have a 3rd it would be a major or minor triad.


30 Jan 01 - 07:25 PM (#386095)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee

Don,

Thanks for that. I may quote you!

Ed


30 Jan 01 - 08:10 PM (#386142)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict

An interval is the difference in sound between 2 notes.A diad is a 2 note chord and a triad is a 3 note note chord.Triads are the basic building blocks of western harmony if you have an E note as the lowest sounding note with a B note as the next highest sounding note followed by another E note an octave higher you have an E5 chord also known in rock as the power chord much used by Pete Townshend,Van Halen etc it can also be called E5 no 3rd.

If you play the notes E and B together with E being the lower note they will sound an interval of a 5th.Two notes of the same pitch played together are called a unison if you raise 1 note by a semitone and played them together you have an interval of a minor 2nd.

If you keep raising one note by a semitone you will get consecutively a major 2nd,a minor 3rd,a major third,a perfect 4th,an augmented 4th/diminished 5th,a perfect 5th,minor 6th,major 6th,minor 7th,major 7th and an octave.When you tune your guitar by the 5th fret method you are using intervals of a unison(2 of the same note sounding simultaneously)to tune it.


30 Jan 01 - 08:30 PM (#386162)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

As I understand it, you call it a chord when it's three notes. Two notes technically isn't a chord, the term is "a diad".

If you just play diads (eg instead of playing DGF# to give you a D major, or DGF to give you a D minor, you just use the DG, and double up one or both notes, you are playing a D diad, and it isn't either major or minor -and it sounds bloody good too.

If you play a bouzouki tuned Irish style (ADAD or GDAD) you tend to play diads quite a lot.

This is another situation where less is more.


30 Jan 01 - 08:53 PM (#386172)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians can't possibly be considered authoritative on a music theory question?


30 Jan 01 - 08:57 PM (#386173)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict

?


30 Jan 01 - 09:00 PM (#386176)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

Read my 3rd message.


30 Jan 01 - 09:44 PM (#386201)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict

According to Webster's unabridged def.7"the difference in pitch between two tones,as in two tones sounded simultaneously(harmonic interval)or between two tones sounded successively(melodic interval)".


30 Jan 01 - 09:58 PM (#386212)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

Pict, I don't have any diffences with you. As you said an interval is the difference. A chord is the sounding at the same time, diad, triad or (is there a word for 4 or 5 note chords). My problem was with those who ignored both of us & insisted on 3 notes for a chord. But maybe they missed mine because 2 were done at the same time.


30 Jan 01 - 10:10 PM (#386216)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict

Nor I with you Burke I just wasn't paying close enough attention to what had already been posted:)


30 Jan 01 - 10:58 PM (#386228)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Murray MacLeod

Of course a chord can have only two notes. The G chord played at the third fret with the F shape, except leaving the G string open, has the notes GDGGDG. There are only two notes although it spans two octaves. It is ambiguous admittedly, having the potential to be major or minor, but it is still a chord. I mean , what else would you call it? Maybe a G power chord?

A diminished chord is the only chord I know which requires four notes to define it. Like B,D,F played together could conceivably be part of a G7 chord, but if you add a G# yjen it is defined as diminished.

Murray


31 Jan 01 - 05:46 AM (#386345)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: English Jon

I used to work for New Grove... Don't believe everything you read...;)

Jon

in practical terms e3b3e4 or whatever octave you chose gives you a neutral voicing, I.E. neither major nor minor. Try singing G and then G# against it, see the difference? This is very useful, and whether it's technicaly a chord or not isn't really that important.


31 Jan 01 - 05:51 AM (#386347)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Banjer

For those of us who don't read music well and play primarily by ear, a chord is a stack of firewood found very useful in cool weather. It keeps us from having to burn our banjos.


31 Jan 01 - 07:53 AM (#386395)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

Different dictionaries seem to use different criteria. But I'd imagine the New Grove Dictionary is more authoratative than the Concise Oxford Dictionary on this issue. (I see there's a new edition of the Grove due out this week - maybe someone could post what that says on tye subject.)

Anyway, the point is, whether you call two notes played together a diad or a diadic chord, you shouldn't feel that the sound is incomplete unless you add that third note which defines it as major or minor or whatever. In fact in doing so you are likely to be distorting the music, when it comes from traditions that don't really work that way. Even more to the point, you can be failing to make use of some beautiful sounds.


31 Jan 01 - 10:44 AM (#386478)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Mooh

The forgoing, for all its authority, is wisdom enough, but most folks don't (IMHO) care about the minute distinctions between the various definitions, though I do.

I gave up long ago, everywhere from choir practice to lessons to bands, trying to be very particular on this issue. I end up just calling any two or more notes sounding at the same time a chord, whether it's a "power chord" (love that rock guitar parlance otherwise known as a 5 chord) or an Em9 (which might be an Em2 if you want to confuse folks who only know chords by guitar shape rather than theory). More advanced students who have studied theory get this stuff quickly, and using particular definitions, but I think the casualness of music instruction in the rock/folk/pop disciplines encourages looser terminology usage. Fine, so long as everyone is "on the same page" and understands that theory gets pretty refined after some study.

A quick look through the (non-classical) beginner lesson books on my shelf, designed to get people playing rather than studying, confirms that a loose definition of musical terms is the order of the day. I wish these books came with a glossary or at least a disclaimer of some sort, but that might be asking too much.

Cool discussion, thanks friends. Mooh.


31 Jan 01 - 11:20 AM (#386505)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Jon W.

You guys should know better than to use the New Grove dictionary for folk music. For folk music, you either have to use the Shady Grove dictionary, or the New River dictionary. -)


31 Jan 01 - 11:59 AM (#386539)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: mousethief

I always thought a power cord was a multi-strand wire with a plug on the end, used to hook an electric device to house current.

Shows what I know.


31 Jan 01 - 12:02 PM (#386547)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: GUEST,Matt_R

Power chords are pretty strange...they're not easy to play, at least on an acoustic.


31 Jan 01 - 12:12 PM (#386557)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

"Power chord" what's that actually mean? I thought it was just a full chord played loud. But obviously it's no harder to do that on an acoustic guitar (just not so loud), so it must have some other meaning. Enlighten me someone.


31 Jan 01 - 12:34 PM (#386575)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Mooh

MofH

"Power Chord" usually means the root and the fifth interval played together and sometimes the octave of one or both added. Eg, the lowest two notes of the "E" shaped barre chord, or the lowest two notes of the A shaped barre chord are the most common. It's a standby of a zillion rock bands and lots of classic rock songs. Most often, but not always, the root is the lowest pitch of the chord. It's an easy movable chord without the third so it's neither major or minor. I prefer the term "5 chord", but to each his own.

Peace, Mooh.


31 Jan 01 - 12:44 PM (#386584)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Steve in Idaho

WOW! I don't have a clue really but here is my nickel's worth. On a guitar there are always 6 notes being played in a strum. If my fingers change the sound at any of the frets there are still 6 notes being played. I can't read music and play by ear - my friends tell me it hasn't hampered my ability - so this is intrigueing! I DO know that there are really only 3 "chords" - G, C, and D. As someone once said anything else is simply showing off :')


31 Jan 01 - 01:25 PM (#386636)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

Citing my authority, I studied music at the University of Washington School of Music for three years and at the Cornish School of the Arts for two years, then put in a year of private music theory lessons with Mildred Hunt Harris. This does not make me another Johann Sebastian Whatsizname, but I am familiar with the terminology used by some pretty heavy-duty musicians and teachers of music. The Grove dictionary's definitions were generally regarded by most of these folks as pretty loose and sloppy. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

To say that two notes sounding together in accord means it's a chord is like Big Bill Broonsy's definition of a folk song -- cute, but not very precise, or helpful in really understanding what's going on.

In Introduction to the Theory of Music by Howard Boatwright, Professor of Music Theory at Yale University, a very comprehensive textbook that covers everything from basic theory to the physics of music to melody writing modeled on troubadour and trouvere harmonies (Middle Ages, back when minstrels roamed the earth), Professor Boatwright says "Two or more notes may receive the general designation 'harmony"; an interval is a harmony. But a 'chord' is at least three notes." He then goes on to say that they must be three different notes.

That's only one book out of my eighteen-inch stack of music theory texts and workbooks, and they all say the same thing. Except the Grove dictionary.

With only a pair of E's and a B, what chord symbol are you going to put to it? It's sort of an E chord, but what kind? Dunno. It takes a G to identify it as an Em or a G# to identify it as an E (major).

And Murray, all it takes to make a diminished chord is three notes: B, D, and F are sufficient. A G7 (and all Dominant 7th chords) contain a diminished triad.

Take a sheet of manuscript paper and write a C major scale: C D E F G A B C. Then write another scale, E F G A B C D E, directly above the first one. Then another scale, G A B C D E F G directly above what you already have. The triads (chords) you now have in sequence are C Dm Em F G Am Bdim and a repeat of the first C an octave up, all the triads available in the key of C major. Add an F above the G chord or slide a G under the Bdim and you have a G7, the Dominant Seventh chord in the key of C. When you have four, five, or six notes in a chord (unless you are going for ninths or eleventh chords, which is more complicated than I care to get into here), you are merely doubling notes that are already in the triad.

Whew! Hope this helps.

Don Firth


31 Jan 01 - 01:28 PM (#386638)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: GUEST

Em2...didn't know there was such an animal.


31 Jan 01 - 05:06 PM (#386825)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee

Thanks Don,

It helps a lot. As I said when starting the thread, it's fairly pedantic, so thanks for being a pedant.

Ed


31 Jan 01 - 06:04 PM (#386882)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Jim the Bart

Zebedee - will any of this convince the person with whom you originally disagreed (I'm making some assumptions here)that E - B - E is not a chord? Just wondering.

Bart,
who knows a perfect fifth when he breaks the seal. . .


31 Jan 01 - 06:10 PM (#386895)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee

Bartholomew,

I didn't disagree with anyone.

I told a collegue that I thought a chord needed 3 different notes, but wasn't 100% sure.

Don's posts have confirmed my conviction.

Ed


31 Jan 01 - 06:16 PM (#386903)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

With only a pair of E's and a B, what chord symbol are you going to put to it? It's sort of an E chord, but what kind? Dunno. It takes a G to identify it as an Em or a G# to identify it as an E (major).

I'd probably write it down as "E", and stick a note explaining that that means an E diad, or something like that. There's bound to be a symbol somewhere that means that, but I suppose most people wouldn't recognise what it means.

Just so long as we don't have to feel obliged to stick that 5th in just in order to have a name for it.

It sounds as if I've been using "power chords" all along and didn't know. Can't say I like the name. Why "power"?

But here's another query - if you play a chord up the neck, and then work out which strings you would leave open if you were playing it down at the nut end, and then you play them open anyway - what do you call that? It gives you some good sounds to play around with.


31 Jan 01 - 06:29 PM (#386929)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Sorcha

Don't we have this settled yet? Good Grief, Charlie Brown. I never knew the definition of a chord was so complicated.


31 Jan 01 - 06:39 PM (#386936)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee

Sorcha,

I think the answer is that 'technically' speaking a chord must have three different notes.

However, language changes, and to many people a 'chord' may only consist of two 'doubled' notes - the 'power chord'

Given that language only means what people understand it to mean, two notes probably are a chord in that sense.

I'm sticking with three...

Ed


31 Jan 01 - 07:24 PM (#386974)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Mooh

Clarification to my previous posts, a "5" or power chord means that all there is in the chord are the root and fifth, unlike other chords which will add or substitute a note but generally contain the root and fifth too. Just to add to the confusion...Mooh.


31 Jan 01 - 07:25 PM (#386975)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

Close, but no cigar, McGrath. It's the 3rd, not the 5th, that gives a chord it's identity as either major or minor.

Actually, if it sounds good and it creates the effect you want, then whatthehell! It's only when you are communicating with others that you need to be fairly precise. Suppose you're playing all six strings and, whether through fingering or using a special tuning, sounding only Es and Bs at a particular point in a song. Somebody asks you "What chord are you playing there, E or Em?" Since you are not playing either, in order to not mislead him or her, you would have to go into a bit of detail. I don't know of any symbol (other than written music) that describes the situation briefly.

Zebedee's original question called for a precise definition. I think we've covered it.

Don Firth


31 Jan 01 - 07:26 PM (#386976)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Lucius

I used to back up a fiddle player that loved playing modally. He would jump back and forth betweem major and parrallel minor chords so often that I thought it safest to avoid thirds altogether. Now I'm being told that I'm wasn't playing chords.

So it has to be three different notes. Perhaps I could lower the top note by a whole step--E B D--no third. Is it a chord. For what it's worth, I'll hang with the Groves Definition, and not cite my qualifications.


31 Jan 01 - 07:52 PM (#386999)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

We got our 2nd edition of The New Grove last week, shipped end of the week before IIRC. That is what I was quoting.

The problem with a dictionary vs. some music theory text is the underlying rules. Most dictionaries are descriptive. If a word is used a particular way enough, well then that's what it means. The thing is that meanings change. The word chord has been around for "sounds in agreement" since at least 1475 (OED)

OED gives 1752 as the date for it meaning either concordant or discordant & three notes & that's in a music theory treatise. It also give an example of: 1875 Theory of Sound vi. (1883) The above chord is the most consonant that exists in music, and it is therefore called the perfect chord. Can a 3 note chord ever be defined as perfect? I thought all the perfect sounds were 2 note combinations.

I'm inclined to believe music theorists co-opted a generally known & understood term and redefined it for their own purposes. They also needed easy shorthand for designating complex sounds so you get major, minor, diminished, augmented, inverted & so forth. Maybe 2 note chords are easy enough to indicate that they didn't need to develop a shorthand way to talk about them.

I see no reason why the inability to label it in some kind of shorthand means it can't be a chord. That's just backward thinking.


31 Jan 01 - 07:59 PM (#387010)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

Honest, Don, I meant 3rd, not 5th. I get mixed up with all thse big numbers.

Now I'm being told that I'm wasn't playing chords.

You were playing guitar (or whatever), Lucius. No law says when you play a guitar you've got to be playing chords. Youi just have to play what you think sounds most fitting.


31 Jan 01 - 08:21 PM (#387039)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

Sorry, McGrath, I didn't really answer your last question. E, B, and G are still Em, no matter where you play them on the fingerboard. For a fairly simple example (and a nice sounding chord, first finger on the first string, seventh fret, second finger on the second string, eighth fret, and third finger on the third string, ninth fret -- and the sixth string open (don't play the fourth and fifth strings). Voila! Em. What you have is E, G, and B up the fingerboard, with a nice low E bass. A first position Dm slid up two frets with an open sixth string bass is also Em.

Classic guitarists notate this by putting little-bitty numbers by the notes. If a number is circled, that's the string you play, the number without the circle is the left hand finger you use. Partial bars are indicated by something like MC-III. The "MC" stands for something like "mezzo-capotasto" or something like that, and it can mean holding down anything from two to five strings with the first finger, but there's some indication of how many in notes you play. The "III" is the Roman numeral "3" and means the half-bar is on the third fret. A full bar at the third fret would be indicated by "C-III".

There I go again. You may already know all this.

And Burke, "perfect" is not a qualitative term in this context. Two notes or three notes depends on whether you want a precise definition or not. Some study of the physics of music and why certain intervals are called "perfect" or "minor" or "augmented" or whatever should clarify what's going on. I've studied this a lot, but I'm not prepared to write a textbook on the subject. There are a lot of good texts already out there.

Don Firth


31 Jan 01 - 08:44 PM (#387060)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

I know the chord stays Em or E major or whatever, wherever the notes are. I was wondering if there was any simple convention for identifying these up-the-neck chords with open strings - and it sounds like there isn't.

Not having names for them makes it harder to pass them around. For example, you can't really say "try playing that E major chord where you play an A shape as if you had a capo on the seventh fret, but you only finger the third fourth and fifth strings"


31 Jan 01 - 08:44 PM (#387061)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

I know the chord stays Em or E major or whatever, wherever the notes are. I was wondering if there was any simple convention for identifying these up-the-neck chords with open strings - and it sounds like there isn't.

Not having names for them makes it harder to pass them around. For example, you can't really say "try playing that E major chord where you play an A shape as if you had a capo on the seventh fret, but you only finger the third fourth and fifth strings"


31 Jan 01 - 08:45 PM (#387064)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke

I know perfect is not qualitative. I've heard of perfect 5ths (you augment or diminish these don't you?) vs major or minor 3rds. What I've never heard of is a 'perfect' musical combination as including 3 notes. Unfortunately the OED did not quote what the chord being referred to was. Care to speculate on what 3 notes would have been referred to?

I would suggest that the real problem is some theorists insisting on a weird precision in language where is does not exist. For example in 1870 George Grove called a chord, "the simultaneous occurrence of several musical sounds, producing harmony, such as the 'common chord,' the chord of the sixth, of the dominant, ... etc., etc." That's it, 5 lines. Even by 1954 The lead sentence of 7 lines was pretty much the same, "the simultaneous occurrence of several musical notes, producing concordant or dissonant harmony." But it adds: "Certain of the more frequently employed chords have names of their own such as the triad or 'common chord'" and so forth. Emphasis mine. Doesn't say it can't be a chord just because theorists haven't named it.

Shall we argue about what several is? If you're referring to an indeterminate number of say 2-5 things for example what do you call it? I call it several. That's why a term like that exists. It makes no sense to tell Lucius that when he's holding these strings down it's a chord, but when it's those strings it's just playing the guitar. It would appear however that the new edition had to say be explicit about 2 because so many people need that precision.


31 Jan 01 - 09:18 PM (#387090)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict

As Charlie Parker said you only learn theory so you can go beyond it(paraphrasing).It all comes down to your ears "Theory informs but practice convinces" or as Ellington said"If it sounds good it is good!".


31 Jan 01 - 09:33 PM (#387103)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Sorcha

Very intersting discussion on what appears to be a "simple" question. I still stick with "more than one note"........Makes me in Good Company, as I am with the Grove.......Thanks, Zeb, for starting this one, it is Very interesting.


31 Jan 01 - 11:24 PM (#387213)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

Let me ask this: If you play one of the bass courses (double string) of a 12-string guitar, say, the open A, which simultaneously sounds A and the A an octave above that (two notes, and furthermore, an octave, which is a perfect interval -- are you playing a chord?

Careful how you answer, 'cause this is leading somewhere. . . .

Don Firth


01 Feb 01 - 03:25 AM (#387282)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: GUEST,Bruce O.

Lets look at a diatonic scale, [C-->B = 264, 297, 330, 352, 396, 440, 495] so major (triad) chords have notes with frequencies in the classic ratios of 4:5:6 and minors in the ratios 10:12:15. Lets look at the scale of C major/ionian | A minor/aeolian. All the chords from letter notes (no sharps or flats is in the sequence:

F A C E G B D

Note that 3 successive notes is a chord, major if you start on an odd numbered letter and minor if you start on an even numbered letter. We can reverse this ordering by using:

F Ab C Eb G Bb D or F# A C# E G# B D#

From that we can easily go back to the original ordering with:

F# A# C# E# G# B# D# and Fb Ab Cb Eb Gb Bb Db

One discovers with these that to keep the major and minor chord ratios all flats must be 24/25 times the note frequency, and all sharps are 25/24 times the note frequency. A just intonation scale is these 21 notes (based on A=440). This scale includes E#, Fb, Cb, and B#, all rather rarely found. A 12 tone equal temperament scale (commonly abreviated 12TET) only approximates the classical ratios.

Note that the number of chords possible is quite large and depends on the scale used. An experimental consonance distribution is given in Juan G. Roderer's 'The Physics and Psychophysics of Sound', 3rd edition, p. 167, 1995, and note pairs judged consonant by 60% or more untrained ears ranged from a minor 3rd (6/5 ratio) to a major 5th (3/2) ratio, and peaking at just over 80% of ear-pairs for a ratio just barely over a major 3rd (5/4 ratio). Throw in another note or two (using the same ratio range again) and, depending on how many notes are in your scale, you can make a big pile of chords. [Untrained ears were used since a professional singer or musician would listen for what they were trained to listen for.]


01 Feb 01 - 04:17 AM (#387297)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: English Jon

Without going back to Pythagoras, it's probably sufficient to say that Don's implication that A+A octave is a perfect interval is subjective to the context of the system of intonation, as Bruce has described.

There is a piece by Michael Harrison called "from different worlds" or something, that uses a piano cleverly engineered to play just intonation in all keys (by means of a very complex pedal board). It includes a Chorale section (Bach pastiche) that is quite astonishing, simply because of the intonation systems employed at each recapitulation. Listen to that, and it should tell you everything you need to know about pitch systems.

I'm currently working on a Scherzo for harpsichord in Kirnberger tuning. (starts getting wild about E),and I know people who play in Scholar's Lute etc etc. Most people seem to like Equal Temperament though. Blame Bach, blame the Accordion, I don't care. Sure it wiped out a lot of local pitch systems, but it did mean that more people were playing within the same pitch systems.

God, I'm boring. I still maintain that it doesn't matter whether E,B,E is a chord or not. Nobody says you have to play chords.

Best wishes, Jon


01 Feb 01 - 11:00 AM (#387472)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: late 'n short

What is a chord?

...it's one of the first 7 letters of the alphabet in upper case form sometimes joined by lower case letters such as "m" "sus" etc. and an occasional number or symbol that, when associated with a diagram shows me what strings to hold down at which fret of the fingerboard (I love using all of these technical musical terms)of my guitar with which fingers so that when I strum the strings it sounds like it should sound according to the melody of the song I'm attempting to sing (which I do better than most) and play (which I'm getting better at) because I'm already familiar with it.

...it's the thing I desparately search for so that I can expand my limited repertoire and therefore provide some variety as I entertain myself and the limited audiences for which I perform.

...it's something that the Forum in general as I browse through it, and some of you in response to my specific requests, have been great in helping me locate and I thank all of you for that. And I really do wish I understood what you've been talking about!

Dan


01 Feb 01 - 04:19 PM (#387730)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

I wrote a lot of four-part harmony exercises in freshman music theory classes at the U. of W. School of Music. If I got myself into a voice-leading bind and tried to get out of it by cobbling together a chord with the 3rd missing, the paper invariably came back with a big red circle around the chord and a note, also in red, saying "Missing 3rd!" or "Incomplete chord!" or some other indication that I wasn't going to get an "A" on that paper. Double the root, leave out the 5th if it's absolutely necessary, never double the 3rd, but never leave the 3rd out. It was drilled into my head that a chord requires a root, a 3rd, and a 5th. If the 5th was missing but the tripled root and 3rd sufficiently maintain the identity of the implied chord within the context of what went before and came after, that -- on occasion -- was permissible.

This was freshman theory, and as Prof. John Verrall said, "Here, we are learning the strict rules of harmony and voice leading. Later, when you know the rules thoroughly, we'll learn some ways of breaking them to good effect."

Hand goes up in the back row: "If these rules can be broken, what's the point of spending all this time learning them in the first place?"

Prof. Verrall responds: "If you start breaking the rules now, without knowing them thoroughly, the results will be haphazard and unpredictable. Following the rules helps guarantee that what you write is correct and will sound harmonious. But -- if you always follow the rules strictly, what you write may not be very interesting and certainly not innovative. Once you know the rules, when you break them, you will know exactly what you are doing and why you are doing it!"

There are three songs I sing, Bonnie Dundee, The Earl of Moray, and MacPherson's Lament, in which the accompaniments I play "break the rules" in exactly the manner that started this discussion. To try to evoke the drone sound of a bagpipe, I play open 5ths in the bass -- with no 3rd in sight (but I don't call them "chords," I call them "open 5ths"). I don't do it all the way through; I move into standard chords in the verses and I play a chunk of the melody as a intro and between verses, but the "vamp 'til ready" is open 5ths, to keep the effect going. I'm a bass, not a tenor, and I can't sing the songs in the same keys that he does, so the arrangements are my own, but I snitched the idea from Richard Dyer-Bennet.

It may sound kind of hokey the way I described it here, but it creates the effect I am after and I works for me. I met an old Scotsman once who hadn't been to the old country in years. He liked the Pacific Northwest, but he was, as he told me, "homesick for the heather." He asked me if I knew any Scottish songs, so I played and sang The Earl of Moray for him. At the end of the song, he brushed away a tear and asked me to sing it again.

As I say, it works for me.

Don Firth

P. S. Try going to google.com and type in chord. It's cuh-RAZY out there! Here are a couple of good ones:
here (you can back-track on this into a wealth of information that I sure a lot of Mudcatters have already found. I've spent a lot of time milling around this website.) and here for a lifetime supply of chords.


01 Feb 01 - 04:43 PM (#387743)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

Sounds like an arsey-versy way of structuring teaching to me, but I know there are lots of people who really do work on the theory-is-the-basis-of-practice approach, rather than theory-grows-out-of-practice.

I think it's like being left-handed or right-handed, largely down to the way our brains are wired. Buty I think people often seem to assume that the way their own brain is wired is the way everyone else's brains are wired, and it's just sheer cussedness when people don't seem to match up to that. (And that can happen just as much the other way round, with theory-grows-out-of-practice types.)


01 Feb 01 - 06:56 PM (#387867)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

Actually, the bus runs both ways. Music theory is not a rigid set of rules that everybody (except folk musicians) has to follow. It's fluid and ever changing. It is derived from studying what real live musicians do, looking for patterns and principles, and trying to work it into some comprehensive system. For example, the first time a Dominant 7th chord was ever used (that anyone knows about), it was by Monteverdi an a choral arrangement of Summer is a-Comin' In, right at the end. The Dominant 7th chord contains a diminished 5th (in a G7, it's the combination of B and F. In medieval times, a diminished 5th was regarded as "The Devil in Music" and it was considered on the verge of blasphemy to write it or play it. But Monteverdi wanted a "drop the other shoe" effect at the end of the piece, so he went ahead and used it anyway. Critics at the time were outraged. One of them said "The human ear will never grow to tolerate such dissonance!" But . . . there are not very many pieces of music written within the last couple centuries that don't make extensive use of Dominant 7th chords. It's one of the Big Three basic chords in any key. "The Devil in Music" is the famous "flatted fifth" in jazz. Nowadays, it's pretty tame. Music theory adapts to what is actually being done.

I started singing and playing the guitar when I was 22, and I was a real musical ignoramus. I had to rely on other people or on chord diagrams in songbooks to show me what chords to play. Since my interest in folk music was really serious, I decided to study music so I would know what the hell I was doing. A few of my folksinging compatriots had a hissy-fit. "They'll ruin your creativity." "You'll be bound by all kinds of rules." "They'll stifle you." And all kinds of other dire warnings. But far from being stifled, studying music theory showed me what is possible. Within a couple of months I was working out my own accompaniments. Within a few more months, people were asking me what chords to use!

Sure, I could take a folk song and arrange it like a Beethoven string quartet. But that didn't mean I had to. My guitar accompaniment for The Three Ravens is a dead-ringer for a Renaissance lute accompaniment. But I accompany Down in the Valley with two first position chords and a thumb-strum-strum, thumb-strum-strum right hand.

I've always been curious. . . a very good folksinger-guitarist friend of mine was one of the most vociferous in trying to persuade me not to study music formally. He told me that he couldn't even read music, he didn't know how chords were constructed or what notes made them up, and he didn't know how the chord families related to each other. He had learned everything he needed to know from a copy of Guckert's Chords for Guitar without Notes or Teacher, and he was getting along just fine. I learned much later that before he took up the guitar, he had studied classical violin for nine years. What was he playing at, I wonder. . . ?

Don Firth


01 Feb 01 - 07:21 PM (#387891)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

I'm not knocking the musical theory, I'd love to understand more about it. It's just that I get into theory by trying to make sense out of stuff that has interested me in practice (in all kinds of fields), and I've observed that some people seem to work the other way round.

And I've also seen how the two sorts of people often do in fact tend to take it for granted that the people they are teaching, or dealing with in other ways, think the same way as they do.

I think that this misunderstanding lies at the root of a lot of problems that arise, both in teaching and in other settings.


01 Feb 01 - 08:01 PM (#387920)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Lucius

In my younger days I loved to play jazz guitar. Tunes like "So What!" and "Maiden Voyage" were my delight. I loved to stack fourths (E-A-D-G) in what I thought was quartal harmony, but apparently I wasn't playing chords?? No wonder my mates were always wondering who had the solo.

These days I spend my time teaching fourth graders how to play "Smoke on the Water" I don't tell them that the open fifths that they are playing are diads. They probably hear enough of diads in Greek mythology.

I really don't remember much about the grades that I got in freshman theory, but I remember more about what I learned in my 16th century counterpoint class. Funny how Joseph Fuch's made no mention of chords in "Gradus an Parnassus". Then again words like polyphony and homophony are no longer bandied about in polite company.

So I'm obviously being too generic, but I'll continue to solo on my fiddle (even if I toss in an occasional double stop) and bang out chords on my guitar. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck.......


01 Feb 01 - 08:15 PM (#387932)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck....... it might well be a decoy.

There was a sad story a couple of moths ago about some guy who used to go out hunting, and he could make a wonderful imitation of the mating call of a female duck, and when the hopeful drakes turned up, he'd shoot them.

One day he was doing this and another hunter turned up, thought he was a duck, and shot him dead.Well it was sort of sad, but...

That was unconscionable thread drift, I'm afraid.


01 Feb 01 - 10:53 PM (#388006)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict

I think if you want to be the kind of musician who wants to maximise their creative potential and be able to fluently play on their instrument what they hear in their head it is wise to make use of the accumulated musical knowledge of centuries after all many great masters have contributed to that store of knowledge.Having a good knowledge of theory is invaluable when it comes to any serious attempt at composition and orchestration/arranging there comes a point when you know what you need to know and that knowledge opens doors to musical dimensions you might otherwise never have had access to.

I think the best way to come to theory is after playing a few years having learned by ear.I'm amazed at how incapable some classically trained musicians are of improvisation.I don't think becoming a notation slave is very good for a players musicianship but then again complete ignorance of what is actually happening on your fingerboard,keyboard etc isn't the best thing either.


02 Feb 01 - 05:38 PM (#388693)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: finnmacool

I had a chord once but I lost it.


02 Feb 01 - 05:45 PM (#388700)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: mousethief

Finn, I think the Moody Blues did an album about looking for that runaway.


02 Feb 01 - 06:09 PM (#388729)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: GUEST,Bruce O.

I believe that 'music theory' is a generalization of that which has been found to work in practice. It's usefull for analysis, but no predictor of what a composer should do (except to avoid those concepts that didn't prove to be very good). As far as I'm concerned the 7 'greek' modes are just tags that have been accepted through long usage, so it doesn't matter if any Greeks ever heard them. They're still moderately useful as a starting point for a classification scheme (as they would be by any name, except maybe for locrian, as there are several 7 note scales that would be far more useful).


02 Feb 01 - 06:47 PM (#388767)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Lucius

I'm not trying to keep this thread alive, honestly!!! But Bruce O, theory is no predictor of what a composer should do?? Where does this leave Schoenberg?? Where he belongs; )


02 Feb 01 - 11:36 PM (#388967)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: GUEST,Burke

Instead of reading mudcat yesterday I was at choir practice & in the process looking at the music trying to evaluate the idea of chords in that context. Then tonight there was a musical & I got a chance to briefly quiz the college's resident composer.

My personal conclusion is that context is everything & even the lofty Dr. said as much in 2 different ways. So to the initial question, without fully knowing your context, Ed, we can't answer for you. I seems to be called a power chord by some, I've heard it called an open 5th.

Some of the contexts I was thinking apply are that for a guitar the process of holding down strings in some pattern & strumming would be thought of as playing a chord. If one could pretzel the fingers up (or is it spread them out) and have all 6 strings playing the same note, I think there's a stong sense for the guitarist that they are playing a chord. A unison chord would otherwise certainly an oxymoron, but in the context probably the best that fits. Similarly holding down the strings that in strumming would constitute a chord, but instead of the strumming that plays them all essentially simultaneously, the stings are individually plucked. Does a guitarist still think of it as playing a chord? Or is it something else?

I thought of the finger picking as I looked at an accompaniment that involved a lot of arpeggios in a piano accompaniment. An arpeggio being the production of the tones of a chord in succession and not simultaneously, theorists & composers look at them pretty much the same way as a chord & define them with the same neat numbers. So they are sortof, but not quite chords. We also had a couple of sections where we were singing in 2 parts. Unaccompanied 2 parts are?

In reading Don's composition class & listening to the professor (a cool guy) I can't help focusing in on how immediatly they move from defining a chord into rules of composition. Don's professor allowed that 1-3 was ok but 1-5 was not (some root doubling as well) in a compostion. Don almost, but not quite says that first, because permitted is a chord, while the second is not. My prof. basically said you could get away with 2 notes where the 3rd was implied by the context. I also then was told of pieces he delights to assign for analysis because they don't fit the expected conventions.

When I told him our debate was in regard to folk or popular music his immediate reaction was that, the rules don't necessarily apply. Almost without prompting the 'power chord' came up. It would seem the chord is played in the very low range, which, especially with amplification, ends up creating a whole lot of cool overtones & is exactly the desired effect. It's also flexible because neither major nor minor it can fit into either context.

I am self taught when it comes to theory because what I've cared most about is understanding the Sacred Harp music I sing; & perhaps more, understanding the way other people talk about it. Almost everyone I know who's got the technical musical backgroud gets into relishing how it breaks so many of the rules they learned. This is particularly in the area of open 5ths, parallel 5th, and dissonances that do not properly resolve. (You hear that enough & you have to go learn some theory)

Historically the music of the New England singing masters that is included in the Sacred Harp was utterly disdained by the growing European art music informed music establishment. The music of people like William Billings, Daniel Read, Lewis Edson, etc. did many of the things forbidden by the rules of composition. This music was tremendously popular with the everyday, ordinary singer. I personally am immensely grateful that at least some folks refused to bend to the dictums of taste & kept it alive. If you want more information on that particular period I recommend Music of the highest class : elitism and populism in antebellum Boston / Michael Broyles. New Haven : Yale University Press, c1992. It applies to far more than just Boston. Another interesting book is Lowens, Irving, 1916- Music and musicians in early America. New York, W. W. Norton [1964]

A lot of the later music in the Sacred Harp is of folk origin & was frequently written in just 3 parts. I can't say I pay a lot of attention to what the chords are, but I can assure you that even with added alto parts, there are frequently tunes that begin with no 3rd on the opening note. When the keyer sounds the opening notes we all sure think of it as being the opening "chord" regardless of the 3rd. Yes, if someone doesn't at least sound the 3rd before we start I can get confused on the tonality of the piece, but then I've been known to blow singing straight up a minor scale. The Sacred Harp is not online, but the closely related Southern Harmony is. A couple of tunes (melody on middle line) clearly of folk origin to look at are Indian Convert (Nashville in Sacred Harp with much better words), Sweet Rivers, Green Fields, and New Britain. David's Lamentation, Easter Anthem, Schenectady, & Ocean are all 4 part songs by 18th century northeasterners

I know people who are pretty successful in writing music in this style. Some of these are professional musicians who heard the music, loved it, & used the analysis tools they learned in music theory to understand how the effect they heard is accomplished. Figuring out the 'rules' of Sacred Harp harmonies enabled them the write in the style. There are others who have no formal training, but singing it all their lives have put their hand to it & can write perfectly in the style. I can think of 2 or 3 tunes that were added in the 1991 edition, that I can't belive were not among the first I learned, they are that wonderful & on target.

The library is about to close & I must go. On Wednesday I was mostly bent out of shape because I took the trouble to go 'look it up' & got basically no acknowledgement.


03 Feb 01 - 05:52 PM (#389327)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth


03 Feb 01 - 05:56 PM (#389331)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

(Whoops! Clicked on "Submit" before I was ready.)

A lot of good points, Burke. This spirited discussion was good for me in that it got me digging into my old textbooks, which I should have spent more time with the first time around.

Up until the early 1700s composers and musicians thought almost exclusively in "horizontal" terms -- melodic line -- with the interweaving of two or more melodic lines (counterpoint) being subject to all kinds of rules. One of the things that makes J. S. Bach such a biggy is that just about everything he wrote (and some very complex stuff) was super-"correct" in terms of the rules, but in the process he somehow rewrote the rule book for counterpoint. Strange that harmony, i.e., thinking "vertically" didn't really get started much before the early or middle eighteenth century.

Another tidbit I just ran across was that the first extensive use of the modern major scale as we know it (actually the same as the Ionian mode) was by the early troubadours. When, exactly, nobody can say, but the troubadours started their wanderings as early as the eighth or ninth century. Many of the younger monks and scholars had been set to the task of translating early Roman poets from the Latin in an effort to improve the church's rather abysmal knowledge of Latin grammar. In doing so, they encountered Catullus, their eyebrows (among other things) went up, and they began suspecting that the "sins of the flesh" might be worth some further investigation. At the same time, monasteries near the coastlines were increasingly subject to Viking raiding parties (the Vikings, being pagans at the time, were not averse to stomping in, laying about them with sword and ax, and running off with golden crosses, chalices, and other pretty trinkets) so sometimes churches and monasteries were not real safe places to be. Many young monks and scholars defrocked themselves, picked up a portable musical instrument of some kind, and took to the roads to see some of the world. They supported themselves through their knowledge of poetry (Catullus and others) and their musical skills. Helen Waddell's The Wandering Scholars details the fascinating story of the early troubadours and wandering minstrels who, she says, were responsible for writing and spreading many of the older folk ballads!. Taking the news of the day or some interesting story, writing it into a poem, and setting it to music. Anyway, the major scale (Ionian mode) wasn't used that often by the church, because it wasn't mournful-sounding enough for chants. It sounded too bright, happy, and full of lust! Church musicians of the time called it modus lascivus! But the troubadours were undeterred (not unlike modern folksingers) and used it freely. They also made extensive use of the other modes, which may account for so many of the older ballads being modal.

On chords, I just recalled a demonstration in a theory class I took in 1963 at Cornish School of the Arts. Professor John Cowell, stepped up to the piano and carefully arranged his feet and fingers (I don't play piano, so I'm not sure how he did it). He held the appropriate pedals down so that the sound would sustain, then he came down heavy on a combination of notes -- a stack of perfect fifths, as many doublings as his fingers would allow. We could hear a major 3rd, even though he wasn't playing one! He told us that the combination of notes he played, further combined with the piano's sustain, reinforced the overtones so strongly that you could hear notes that -- well -- were they really there, or weren't they? On paper, no. But in the reverberating air, yes!

I think you are right about context. Whether a particular combination of notes should or should not be called a "chord" -- especially as it relates to folk music -- is literally academic.

Whatever works.

Don Firth


04 Feb 01 - 02:17 AM (#389528)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Murray MacLeod

Don, you are obviously much better versed in the theory of harmony than I am, but I have to take issue with your contention that it only takes three notes to make a diminished chord, no matter what the theory might say.

When B,D, and F are sounded together whether simultaneously or as an arpeggio, the western ear will automatically hear a G7 chord,( subconsciously interpolating a G) and want to hear a resolution to C major. The fact that the three notes together are called a dimiminished triad by theorists is neither here nor there. However , if you add a G# then the listener's expectation is totally changed, and you do in fact have a diminished chord.

Murray


04 Feb 01 - 03:49 PM (#389866)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

Well, it's still a diminished chord. By definition. Believe me, I'm not making any of this up. But that's not the whole story. Again, it's a matter of context. There's no way of explaining this stuff briefly (would that there were), but if you follow me all the way here, I think you'll find the ultimate answer satisfactory.

Any group of three or more notes, composed of a root, 3rd, and 5th is a chord. A chord frequently has more notes than just three (I'm not talking about added-note chords like 6ths, 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths here, that would just add needless complication, but suffice it to say that added note chords usually start with the basic triad [root, 3rd, and 5th] then go from there). For example, A first position C chord on the guitar. The notes, beginning with the fifth string and going up, are C E G (the basic triad) C (doubling the root) and E (doubling the 3rd). A full symphony orchestra may be playing hundreds of notes at any given moment, but it you eliminate all of the doublings, you usually wind up with three basic notes -- a triad. With some modern music, e.g. twelve-tone, all bets are off!

Both the major and minor chords contain an interval of a perfect 5th. It's the note between the root and the 5th that make the difference. A major chord has an interval of a major 3rd on the bottom and an minor 3rd on top. A minor chord has a minor 3rd on the bottom and a major 3rd on the top. Now -- a diminished chord has a minor 3rd on the bottom with another minor 3rd on the top. The result of this is that it does not contain a perfect 5th. It contains a diminished 5th. That's where it gets it's name. All it requires to identify it as a diminished chord is the basic triad -- three notes. You can say with certainty that in the key of C, the root of the diminished triad is , the 3rd is D, and the 5th (in this instance, diminished rather than perfect) is F. You form the Dominant 7th chord either by adding an F to the G major triad, or adding a G to the B diminished triad. If you add a G# to the B diminished triad, you are adding a note that does not belong in the key of C.

But -- if you do add a G# to a B diminished triad, no one will smite you hip and thigh and cast you hence. In fact, you have a very useful chord. This is the configuration that is commonly called a "diminished chord."

In a way, a diminished chord (G# B D F) is neither fish nor fowl. It has a very vague identity. Follow me here, because this gets cute:

If you start with a Dominant 7th chord (say a G7), you instantly know what key you are in -- or, least what key you are heading for: C. The 3rd of a Dominant 7th (in this case, a B) is the "leading tone" of the key it's in, so you know it's pointing directly at the C chord. At the same time, the F wants to drop a half-step to an E. The ear wants to hear a C chord. It may not actually go there, but that's the kind of tease that keeps a piece of music going. I'm sure you're familiar with songs, e.g., in the key of C, where you go to a D7 then to a G, then to a G7, and back to a C again. That's a mini-modulation. For a second there, you were in the key of G before you changed it to a G7 and returned to the original key.

With our four note diminished chord, all of the intervals are dead even. It is a pile of minor thirds. If you invert any of the notes (take the bottom note and put it on top) you still have a pile of minor thirds. In addition, all of the 5ths are diminished 5ths. If it suddenly appears out of nowhere, there is no way of identifying which is the root, which is the 3rd, which is the 5th and which is the added note. The result is any one of the four notes can be regarded as the leading tone. Some of the notes want to go up a half-step and some of them want to go down a half step but there is no way of telling which is which. The ear is waiting for some other shoe to drop, and it will accept any resolution of the harmonic tension, just to get it over with.

So -- if you go to a G7, then suddenly slide the root (G) up a half-step to G# to form a four note diminished chord (which you can call by any one of four names -- G#dim, Bdim, Ddim, or Fdim -- your choice), you can then resolve it to A, C, Gb, or Eb. But going back to the C would make the exercise kind of fruitless, because you just came from there.

This is why jazz musicians in particular like diminished chords (the four-note kind). You can toss in a diminished chord, modulate to another key, toss in another one and go to yet another key, and on through the night. . . .

The fact that a B, D, and F are all you need to constitute a diminished chord (as I say, by definition) doesn't change the standard practice of adding a G# to the triad. It just (I hope) clarifies the use of terminology.

Don Firth


04 Feb 01 - 03:58 PM (#389873)
Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth

Blast! Once again, I miss a closing HTML code! Or something! Sorry.

It should read "root of the diminished triad is B, the 3rd is D," etc. . . .

Don Firth