Making Music with Marshall Part Three

Chords

Posted: 30 December 2019

A solid chord structure is the basis for most popular tracks out today.

So, you should have the basics of rhythms, notes and scales and now we’re going to move onto how we can use that to construct chords.

First of all, what are chords?

Chords are simple at their core. They are a musical element in which multiple notes are played at the same time. It’s common for chords to be the element that set the emotional tone of the song and help create the story in the music. Because chords are made up of notes in a key, chords used in a song are usually in the same key.

Triads

Triads are the most common types of chords that you’ll hear in music today. They’re built by taking the root note and adding the third and fifths of that note.

Let’s use the C Major scale and build a triad.

The C Major triad uses C, E, and G:

  • C: Root note
  • E: This is the third note up from C in the C Major scale, most often called ‘the third.’
  • G: This is the fifth note up from C in the C Major scale, most often called ‘the fifth.’

Move the root note to any other note in the C Major scale, add the third and fifth and you’ve created another chord in the C Major scale. It’s good to be careful of your wording here. Say we moved the root to G. We’d have a G major chord in the key of C.

For example, let’s chose another note from the C Major scale, F. To make a chord from this we will need to add the third, which is A, and the fifth, which is C.

Each scale should be able to make 6 triads. There are also diminished chords at the end of each scale however we won’t bore you with the details of these just yet.

Major/ Minor

We touched on what makes a major and minor scale in the last piece however what is it that makes a major and minor chord? It’s not too hard to get your head around. It’s simply the placement of the third and fifth.

Let’s use C Major and Minor as our example:

A C Major chord is C, E, and G. The number of notes in between each note is 4 and 3.

A C Minor chord is C, E?, and G. The number of notes in between each note is now 3 and 4.

The Numbers

We can also look at repeating patterns to see how chords can relate to each other.. Every major scale’s chords will follow this structure:

Major (I)

Minor (ii)

Minor (iii)

Major (IV)

Major (V)

Minor (vi)

What are the roman numerals, you ask? Each chord is given a number which references its degree within the scale. We’ve used numerals so that we can see which chord is a major chord and which is a minor, with capitals for Major and lower case for Minor.

If we keep thinking of these chord progressions as numbers then it is easier to translate the same chord progression todifferent keys. Say you have a chord progression that goes: G, C, D. If you’ve only got that then it might be quite difficult to translate that progression into another key, but if you look at it as: I, IV, V then you’ll easily be able to recreate that progression in whatever key you chose.

1-5-6-4

Let’s take a look at one of the most common chord progressions ever. You’ve heard it a thousand times before and for good reason, it works. Check out this video below to understand what we mean:

If we wanted to work out a 1-5-6-4 chord progression in C Major, how would we do it? We’d use:

I      C
V     G
vi    Am
IV   F

Play around with different chord progressions. Over time, you’ll start to understand the relationships between the movements and you’ll be able to predict the type of sound you’ll get from a 2 going into a 5 or a 3 dropping down to a 1. You’ll find yourself writing your own music before you know it.

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