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Concise Guide to Chord Symbols

Concise Guide to Chord Symbols

by Steve Eulberg

These questions get asked frequently so here is a guide to help you decode the chord symbols that you may often see above the musical notation:

A Chord (by definition a triad) is made up of 3 specific pitches (1-3-5 steps of the scale.)

A Chord Symbol is short hand for which steps are intended.

1. When a Single Capital letter is used, it indicates a Major chord (no alterations in the 1-3-5 plan)

e.g. C = C-E-G

2. If there is a lower case “m” next to the Capital letter, that indicates a minor chord (1-b3-5) with the 3rdstep of the scale lowered a half step.

e.g. Cm = C-Eb-G

Any combination of these notes, grouped as close together as possible (close voicing) or as far apart as possible (dispersed voicing) still produce these chords.

3. If there is a number added to the chord symbol it indicates an additional note added to the triad:

The most common is the dominant 7(b7 step of the scale) which is so dominant we don’t even call it dominant. The next most common is 6.

e.g. C7 = C-E-G-Bb (1-3-5-b7)

e.g. C6 = C-E-G-A (1-3-5-6)

Amajor 7 chord has the regular 7thstep of the scale (also called a “leading tone”) added to the triad:

e.g. CMaj7 or CM7 or C∆7 = C-E-G-B (1-3-5-7)

4. These numbers can also be added to the minor chords as well to indicate minor 7chords:

e.g. Cm7= C-Eb-G-Bb (1-b3-5-b7)

e.g. Cm6= C-Eb-G-A (1-b3-5-6)

e.g. Cm∆7 or CmMaj7= C-Eb-G-B (1-b3-5-7)

5. Sometimes a 2 is added:

e.g. C2 = C-D-E-G (1-2-3-5)

6. Sometimes a 9 is added:

e.g. Cadd9 = C-E-G-D (1-3-5-9)

7. A ninth chord builds on the Dominant 7thChord:

e.g. C9 = C-E-G-Bb-D (1-3-5-b7-9)

8. Suspended Chords means that the 3rd step has been replaced either by a 4 or a 2:

e.g. Csus4 = C-F-G (1-4-5)

e.g. Csus2 = C-D-G (1-2-5)

9. Diminished Chords means that the 5th step of a minor chord has been lowered a half step:

e.g. C° or Cdim= C-Eb-Gb (1-b3-b5)

10. Augmented Chords mean that the 5th step has been raised a half step:

e.g. C+ or Caug= C-E-G# (1-3-#5)

11. Slash Chords indicate a different bass note than expected. This is particularly important for Bass Players (instrument) or players of Bass parts in an ensemble:

e.g. C/D = C Chord with a D in the Bass (non-chord tone)

e.g. C/E = C Chord with an E in the Bass (chord tone, but not the tonic)

e.g. C/G= C Chord with a G in the Bass (chord tone, but not the tonic)

(This is also available on the Free Page at dulcimercrossing.com if you misplace this one.)

Questions? Write me at steve@dulcimercrossing.com

 

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Rich Chords Part 1 & 2

Rich Chords Part 1 & 2

by Linda Ratcliff & Steve Eulberg

Your life will be richer when you use rich chords. – Steve Eulberg

Recently, we uploaded a new series of lessons about how to play Rich Chords on the hammered dulcimer.

Rich chords are chords that have other notes added to them, in addition to the 3 notes that go with either the major or the minor chords. To set the stage for building rich chords, in this video Steve begins the series by explaining the basis or construction of major and minor chords.

HD Video streaming too slowly? Try the standard definition.As you work your way through Rich Chords Part 1 and Rich Chords Part 2, you will learn to identify and play major 7th chords, dominant 7th chords, 6th chords, minor 7th chords and more.

Toward the end the series, Steve applies everything we’ve learned to the old familiar tune, “You Are My Sunshine.” The arrangement in his final video of the series was my favorite – where he used dominant 7th chords to create a “bluesified” rendition of this well-known song.

As always Members of DulcimerCrossing.com have access to all of the episode in this lesson series.  Join here

 
 

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