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Exploring Other Types of Chords
Major and minor chords are great, and by far the most popular chords, but other types of chords get equal opportunity to shine in music. These “other” chords are formed by altering the notes of a major by minor chord or by adding notes to a major or minor chord.
Part IV: Living in Perfect Harmony___________________
Augmented and diminished chords
Major and minor chords differ from each other only in the 3rd interval. But the top note, the 5th interval, is the same for both types of chords. By altering the 5th interval of a major or minor chord, you can create two new chord types.
An augmented chord contains a root note, a major third (M3) interval, and an augmented fifth interval, which is a perfect fifth (P5) raised one half step. Think of this as simply a major chord with the top note raised one half-step. Figure 12-5 shows several augmented chords.
The suffixes used for augmented chords include +, aug, and #5 I like the last suffix because it actually tells you what to do to change the chord — to sharp the fifth.
A diminished chord contains a root note, a minor third (m3) interval, and a diminished fifth (dim5) interval, which is a perfect fifth interval lowered one half-step. Figure 12-6 gives you a selection of diminished chords.
Diminished, but not defeated, chords.
C° C dim
A° A dim
Notice the two suffixes used to signal a diminished chord: dim and in here, or does one of those symbols look like a degree sign?
Is it hot
For some reason, I find it easiest to use fingers 1, 2, and 4 for augmented and diminished chords played with the right hand. For the left hand, I find it comfortable to use 5, 3, and 1 just like with major and minor chords.
Chapter 12: Filling Out Your Sound with Chords
Fire up the keyboard (please, not literally) and take these new chords out for a spin. The song “Rags and Riches” (Track 55) is a good example of how augmented and diminished chords subtly affect a song’s harmony. In some ways, your ears expect major or minor chords, but what a treat they get instead.
Rays and Riches
160 Part IV: Living in Perfect Harmony____________________
Adding suspense to your chords
Another popular type of three-note chord, although it’s technically not a triad, is the suspended chord. Talk about leaving you hanging! The very name means “hanging,” and the sound of a suspended chord always leaves you waiting for the next notes or chords.
The two types of suspended chords are the suspended second and suspended fourth. Because of their hip abbreviated suffixes, these chords are often referred to as the sus2 and sus4 chords. Furthermore, the sus4 is so popular that musicians often just call it the sus chord. So, when the bandleader says to play “a sus chord on beat 1,” that probably means to play a suspended fourth. But I recommend asking for clarification.
A sus2 chord is made up of a root note, a major second (M2) interval, and a perfect fifth (P5) interval. A sus4 chord has a root note, a perfect fourth (P4), and a P5 interval. Figure 12-7 shows you some of these suspenseful chords.
Csus2 Fsus2 Asus2 Bl?sus2
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Csus4 Fsus4 Asus4 B[>sus4
What’s being suspended, exactly? Nothing, really; you’re still playing three notes in the chord. But notice in Figure 12-7 that these two types of chords differ from major and minor chords by only one note. That is, the middle note of a major chord is a major third interval; the middle note of a minor chord is a minor third interval. When you play a suspended chord, it sounds so close to a major or minor chord that your ear misses hearing the more common 3rd interval in the middle, so it sounds like you’re suspending the 3rd interval. Actually, you’re just playing a cool new chord.
Fingering suspended chords is pretty easy. For the right hand, use fingers 1, 2, and 5 for sus2 chords; use fingers 1, 4, and 5 for sus4 chords. For left-hand sus2 chords, use fingers 5, 4, and 1; use fingers 5, 2, and 1 for left-hand sus4 chords.
Chapter 12: Filling Out Your Sound with Chords
Not always, but most of the time, the resolution chord that follows a suspended chord is the major or minor chord that your ear was longing to hear. It's called a resolution chord because it resolves the conflict your ear is having with you for not playing its favorite major or minor chords. Play along with Figure 12-8, Track 56, and listen to how the chord that follows each sus chord sounds resolved.
Csus4 C Csus4 C Fsus4 F Gsus2 G
More Four the Money
Adding a fourth note to a triad fills out the sound of a chord even more. Composers often use chords of four notes or more to create musical tension. Hearing this tension, or unresolved sound, the ear begs for resolution, usually found in a major or minor chord that follows. (The previous section also discusses resolved chords.) At the very least, these chords make you want to keep listening. To a composer, that’s always a good thing.