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#1078284 - 11/29/07 03:17 PM Name that Chord
Granny6 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/09/07
Posts: 85
Loc: England
I've been getting on OK and practising hard and now I'm on to pieces involving lots of chords, chord inversions and broken chords. I love it all and find it quite easy as my "Ear" is such an advantage
BUT I cannot name the Chords! It's like a foreign language to me. The more my teacher explains the more confused I become. We are both frustrated.
Eg. She can start me on any note and I can play a chord or chords to go with any other note. But I can Not tell her the name of the chord I am playing.
I've tried naming one of the notes in the chord.
She tries to help by telling me eg. that I'm playing the 2nd inversion
Ok now I've got the "bottom" note, say, A flat
But she wants a number after it...........
I can't even explain what I'm talking about can I !
So I'm trusting that someone will know and can explain in VERY SIMPLE terms what it all means

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#1078285 - 11/29/07 03:56 PM Re: Name that Chord
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 872
Loc: Scotland
The basic form of any chord is the triad.

The notes C E G (when played so that the C is the lowest note - the E is the note two above - and the G is two notes above the E) form a C major chord in its root position (or triad).


D F# A makes a D major chord in root position (or triad)
E G# B - E major
F A C - F major
G B D - G major
A C# E - A major
B D# F# - B major

If the middle note of the basic triad is flattened (lowered by a semitone) then the chord becomes minor instead of major.


C Eb G makes a c minor chord in root position (or triad)
D F A - d minor
E G B - e minor
F Ab C - f minor
G Bb D - g minor
A C E - a minor
B D F# - b minor

All the chords above are said to be in root position. The "root" of each chord is the lowest note in the triad. So C is the root of both the C major chord and the c minor chord.

The middle note of the triad is the "third" and is either major or minor.

The upper note of the triad is the "fifth" and is a "perfect fifth".

That's probably enough to be going on with for the minute.

Vasa inania multum strepunt.

#1078286 - 11/29/07 04:17 PM Re: Name that Chord
gdguarino Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/20/07
Posts: 333
Loc: New York City
I'm sure there's a primer on the web somewhere that will be better than what I have the time to write, but here goes. (For now we'll be leaving out the diminished and augmented chords)

First you should know the basic triads, Major and minor. Do you? A Major triad consists of the root note (the note the chord is named after) plus the third and fifth, which are the third and fifth notes of a Major scale based on the root note.

In C, that would be C - E - G. That chord would be written as simply "C" on a chord chart.

A minor triad consists of the Root, plus a minor third and fifth. C minor consists of C - Eb and G and is written Cm.

Here come the "numbers" you asked about.

The most common number will be a 7, but you'll also see 9, 11, 13, 6 and even 4. In most cases, these correspond with the number of the note in the scale i.e. the 9th is the ninth note in a C scale, which is a D (in the second octave of the scale).

I said in most cases even though the most common "number", 7, is something of an exception. [There will be people who would explain, correctly, that the 7th can actually be thought of as the seventh note of a different kind of scale, but you asked for simple, so...] When you see a chord labeled with a "7", such as C7, the 7 refers not to the 7th note of the Major scale, which would be a B, but the Dominant 7th, which is a half step lower, a Bb in this case.

So a C7 chord consists of the notes C - E - G - Bb. The notes do not have to be in that order. Other inversions still use the same name. A Cm7 consists, logically enough, of C - Eb - G - Bb. If you wanted to name a chord that actually used the 7th note of the Major scale, C - E - G - B, for example, you have to call that a Maj7, i.e. CMaj7.

9ths: As mentioned before, this number refers to the ninth note of the scale. Why don't we just call it a 2, for the second note of the scale? It's the same note, after all. I think this is because of the way the chord is played in it's simplest (and most boring) arrangement: C - E - G - Bb - D. The "D" is in the second octave, thus it is the ninth note of the scale.

The chord is written C9. Did you notice the sneaky Bb in there? That's the usual rule. A 9th chord also contains the (dom) 7th, even though it's not written. Cm9? That would be C - Eb - G - Bb - D. (Bb - D - Eb - G over a C bass sounds a lot cooler though, still Cm9)

How about CMaj9? Yes, that's a popular chord too, but what does the "Maj" refer to? It refers to the Maj7th note in the chord, the B, if the root is still C. That's a bit of a brainbuster, I guess. Just remember that the presence of the Maj in the name refers to the kind of seventh you use. So CMaj9 is C - E - G - B - D, although I'd be much more likely to play B - D - E - G with a C bass note. Yes, that's still a CMaj9.

I'll stop there for now. Experiment with that much for a while and then you can ask about the rest. '
Greg Guarino

#1078287 - 11/29/07 04:54 PM Re: Name that Chord
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
Hi Mary. I think I know what you are asking, but maybe not.

If you are playing a chord, with no other clues, just a stand-alone chord, what is it's name? Here's how I do it FOR 3 NOTE CHORDS. There is probably a much better way, but this is a start, at least. and, sorry, it's not really "easy".

Remember, a major chord is Root - 4 half steps - 3 half steps.

If you were playing E G C, what chord and what inversion is it?

Well, a major chord is Root, 4 half steps, then three half steps. This chord is E, then 3 half steps, then 5 half steps to C. 5 half steps tell me it's an inversion, and because the five comes before the last note, I know it's a C chord 1st inversion.

If we play G C E, then it's G, 5 half steps, then 4 half steps. OK, the five says an inversion again, so it's a C chord 2nd inversion because the 5 is before the middle note.

Works with all major chords.

Minor chords follow Root 3 - 4, and again the 5 half steps will tip you off that it's an inversion. The note following the 5 is the root.

A dim chord is R 3 3 (so the gap trigger is 6).
A Aug chord is R 4 4.

If there is no 5-6 half-step gap, then you are playing the root to begin with, and the first note names the chord. The remaining gaps tell you the rest. So, after I figure out the root note, I play it in root, count the half steps, and voila, I know the chord.

I sure hope it gets easier as I learn. If someone knows a better way, I'm all ears. It drives me crazy sometimes, even when I know the key.

"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#1078288 - 11/29/07 05:01 PM Re: Name that Chord
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
Granny6, I like the following site very well illustrated.

Under Lessons, if you pull down and go to "Intro to Chord", it goes into inversion and the theory very succinctly.

Under Trainers, if you pull down to "chord ear trainer", you can get the kind of practice your teacher is doing with you. You can configure that trainer to include "inversions".

Check it out. I think it should be very useful.

#1078289 - 11/30/07 07:55 AM Re: Name that Chord
Granny6 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/09/07
Posts: 85
Loc: England
Thankyou all
I am experimenting


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