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C, a simple
triad. 3rd interval
By altering this C triad in any of the following ways, you build new chords:
J' Raising or lowering notes of the triad by a half step or whole step.
J1 Adding notes to the triad.
S’ Both of the above.
)’ None of the above (some triads are perfectly good chords just as they are).
For example, you could use other intervals from the C major scale to change the C triad and make new chords all day long. Figure 12-2 shows you four different ways to change the C triad and make four new chords. Play each of these chords to hear how they sound. I’ve marked the note intervals in each chord. (Again, Chapter 10 explains these intervals and abbreviations.)
Part IV: Living in Perfect Harmony
Figure 12-2: ^lnad____________Raise 5th interval________________Use 4th instead of 3rd
Making fL ~ i „ 11— \ „ ==
chords from ^ ^ the C triad Lower 3rd interval Lower 3rd and 5th
And, of course, the C triad by itself is a perfectly good chord as ts. In fact, it is a C major chord, explained in the next section.
Major chords are perhaps the most frequently used, most familiar, and easiest chords to play. Many triads are also major chords.
You make major chords with the notes and intervals of a major scale. (Chapter 8 provides a field guide to major scales.) You build a major chord by starting out with a root note and then adding other notes from the desired chord’s scale. For example, suppose you want to build a G major chord. Play the root note G and add the third and fifth notes from the G major scale on top of the root note — or the 3rd and 5th intervals.
Major chords are so common that musicians treat them as almost the norm; major chords are named with just the name of the root. (Figure 12-3 shows you four such major chords.) Similarly, musicians rarely say “major,” except for those musicians in the army. Instead, they just say the name of the chord.
Use fingers 1, 3, and 5 to play major chords. If you’re playing left-hand chords, start with LH5 on the root note. For right-hand chords, play the root note with RH1.
Chapter 12: Filling Out Your Sound with Chords /55
Play a few of these major monsters with your left hand in the song “Down by the Station” (Track 53). You can play the melody with your right hand or just play the chords with your left hand while the piano player on the CD (that’s me!) plays the melody.
?oWn by the Station
F C F
S \, 4 =*?-44- —-a J m M- m
2 J J. • Down by the sta- tion 4 e * »' J J* * ~a ar- ly in the m ^=4 om- ing. see the lit - tie puf- fer- bil - lies §
C F C F
7L . ». P n n J J4 ri H
§ r ZJ' all in a ro fc>:l P IW See the en - gine dnv - er ^ —~ pull the lit - tie h an - die
s \> p _
C F C F
44 m~~ m ' 4—r—
f ^^ Puff' Puff! Toot' Toot' l*>:L 8 =a -J—J—J Off they go' ?« ? Off they g 4 o!
Part IV: Living in Perfect Harmony
The second most popular chord is the minor chord. Like the major chord, a minor chord is composed of three notes: a root note, a 3rd interval, and a 5th interval. Minor chords get the suffix m, or sometimes min. Get it? An abbreviation for “minor.”
Don’t be fooled by the name “minor.” These chords are no smaller or any less important than major chords. They simply sound different. Many purists would banish me from their kingdom for saying this, but I like to think of major chords as sounding “happy” and minor chords as sounding “sad.” (I also use this analogy when discussing scales in Chapter 8.)
You can make a minor chord two different ways:
J' Play a major chord and lower the second note, or 3rd interval, by one half step. For example, a C major chord has the notes C-E-G. To play a C minor chord, lower the E to E-flat.
J1 Play the root note and add the third and fifth notes of the minor scale on top. For example, play A as the root note and add the third note (C) and fifth note (E) of the A minor scale on top.
Figure 12-4 shows you several minor chords with the root notes and intervals marked. Please feel free to play them and hear how they sound. Compare these chords to their major counterparts in Figure 12-3 of the previous section.
Minor, but not insignificant, chords.
Just like playing major chords, use fingers 1, 3, and 5 for minor chords. For left-hand minor chords, play the root note with LH5; for right-hand chords, play the root note with RH1.
Try playing a song that has both major and minor chords mixed together. Composer Edward MacDowell’s little gem “To a Wild Rose,” heard on Track 54, is one such example. This mixture of major and minor chords isn't weird by any means. Many songs use a combination of these chord types. The subtle difference in the two chords’ sounds gives the music an interesting harmony.
Chapter 12: Filling Out Your Sound with Chords 157
To a Wild Rose
1 Bm D G D
yIK i m f f —P~1*—