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#1956249 - 09/09/12 06:49 AM How to read chords on sheet music?  
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Tech 5 Offline
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How can one tell if a chord is blocked or broken when it is written as a single letter above the ledger lines? Also, how can you tell when to play it? Is it to be played on the left hand when the right hand plays the entire line or just that one measure where it first appears, or just the note where it first appears?

Thanks in advance for your help,
Virginia


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
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#1956272 - 09/09/12 07:53 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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It's entirely up to the performer, Virginia. You can pound out the bass on a single note, bounce out four note chords at foot tapping syncopations or you wander lovingly up and down four octaves of arpeggiation.

Enjoy!




Richard
#1956370 - 09/09/12 11:13 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: zrtf90]  
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
It's entirely up to the performer, Virginia. You can pound out the bass on a single note, bounce out four note chords at foot tapping syncopations or you wander lovingly up and down four octaves of arpeggiation.

Enjoy!




I guess that's what is meant by improvising. I think I may be a little too new at this for that to work for me. I still need clear precise instruction. Maybe I'll just play the right hand until I get a handle on chords.

Thanks


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
#1956384 - 09/09/12 11:37 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Originally Posted by Tech 5
Originally Posted by zrtf90
It's entirely up to the performer, Virginia. You can pound out the bass on a single note, bounce out four note chords at foot tapping syncopations or you wander lovingly up and down four octaves of arpeggiation.

Enjoy!




I guess that's what is meant by improvising. I think I may be a little too new at this for that to work for me. I still need clear precise instruction. Maybe I'll just play the right hand until I get a handle on chords.

Thanks


Can you link to (or upload a scan of) the sheet music you're
attempting?

So much depends on the composition, the way it might adapt to different styles and your objectives.

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#1956409 - 09/09/12 12:21 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Check out this thread:

Autumn Leaves Jazz Study Group

Even if you aren't ultimately interested in playing jazz, this thread shares some great techniques that can be used to voice any chord underneath a melody. You definitely want to get away from block chords as soon as you can.


Schimmel 130T
#1956453 - 09/09/12 01:22 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]  
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Can you link to (or upload a scan of) the sheet music you're
attempting?

So much depends on the composition, the way it might adapt to different styles and your objectives. [/quote]

This is not the exact sheet music of "Somewhere My Love", http://www.wikifonia.org/node/4999 I'm working from but its very similar so if I knew how to interpret the chords on this one I could possibly figure out the arrangement of the same song in my music book.

Thanks,


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
#1956457 - 09/09/12 01:28 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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There is some pretty clear description of what to do in one of the For Dummies books.


Having power is not nearly as important as what you choose to do with it.
– Roald Dahl

#1956470 - 09/09/12 01:58 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Originally Posted by Tech 5


This is not the exact sheet music of "Somewhere My Love", http://www.wikifonia.org/node/4999 I'm working from but its very similar so if I knew how to interpret the chords on this one I could possibly figure out the arrangement of the same song in my music book.

Thanks,


For something like that, as a piano solo piece, I would do all the bass and chord work with my left hand and play the simple melody with the RH. So, using the 4/4 time sig of the music you’ve linked to, that would be:-

beat 1: G bass note
beat 2: G chord; reading from lowest note D,G,B just below middle C.
beat 3: D bass note.
beat 4; G chord (as above).

Do exactly the same for the first 3 bars. Then do similar for bar 4 (D7), alternating the root and 5th bass line (notes D and A) with the D7 chord (from lowest: D, F#, middle C). You can keep playing the D7 pattern for 4 bars (the A in bar 5 of your score is wrong) before returning to the tonic (G).
Does that make any sense to you? Is it what you’re trying to do or are you aiming at something more elaborate?

(FWIW, I prefer the Dr Zhivago version which is in 6/8 or waltz time depending on how you write/read it. Similar idea, except you play 2 chords for every bass note... hope that’s clear!)

#1956499 - 09/09/12 03:00 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]  
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Originally Posted by dire tonic
Originally Posted by Tech 5


This is not the exact sheet music of "Somewhere My Love", http://www.wikifonia.org/node/4999 I'm working from but its very similar so if I knew how to interpret the chords on this one I could possibly figure out the arrangement of the same song in my music book.

Thanks,


For something like that, as a piano solo piece, I would do all the bass and chord work with my left hand and play the simple melody with the RH. So, using the 4/4 time sig of the music you’ve linked to, that would be:-

beat 1: G bass note
beat 2: G chord; reading from lowest note D,G,B just below middle C.
beat 3: D bass note.
beat 4; G chord (as above).

Do exactly the same for the first 3 bars. Then do similar for bar 4 (D7), alternating the root and 5th bass line (notes D and A) with the D7 chord (from lowest: D, F#, middle C). You can keep playing the D7 pattern for 4 bars (the A in bar 5 of your score is wrong) before returning to the tonic (G).
Does that make any sense to you? Is it what you you’re trying to do or are you aiming at something more elaborate?

(FWIW, I prefer the Dr Zhivago version which is in 6/8 or waltz time depending on how you write/read it. Similar idea, except you play 2 chords for every bass note... hope that’s clear!)


Wow! Thanks for the info. but I've got to study on this for awhile before I'll get a handle it. It seems very complicated to me. I have the right hand notes memorized so I can play the right hand without too much difficulty but that left hand chord stuff is not penetrating my thick skull. I'll keep at it though. I have ordered another book with Dr.Z sheet music, maybe it will be the one to which you referred and have clear instructions for the left hand. In the meantime, I'll work on the current sheet using your suggested procedure.

Thanks again!


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
#1956533 - 09/09/12 04:22 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Maybe this chord chart will be of help. These are deep waters for a newbie, and understanding chords will require some study of music theory. But certainly you can learn from associating the chord name with the sound. It is the way we learn our mother tongue, after all: we hear the words and learn to associate them with the sense they carry.

Chords are the mother's milk of music.

[Linked Image]

This chart is from book of score paper, published by Amsco Publications. I hope they won't mind my reproducing it; the knowledge of chord names is hardly proprietary. I can recommend their manuscript paper for its good quality, and the convenience of its binding; it's the one I always buy.


Clef

#1956546 - 09/09/12 04:46 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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A great chord chart, very helpful. I might even make it better if I can find the time, by listing those same chords an octave higher and/or lower, even in first and second inversions as well. Does so much to speed up one's sight reading, to be able to recognize quickly how the different chord patterns render themselves out on the piano itself.

Last edited by Pianotehead; 09/09/12 04:46 PM.

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#1956554 - 09/09/12 05:08 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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I've played piano a number of years. Being primarily classical I would not be able to just play a melody while improvising something that sounds nice by looking at chord names like that. I could play them as chords - clunk, clunk, clunk - but I don't yet have the instinct of by ear players who do things with chords. I think there are common patterns that gets into their ear and bodies, and they move on from there.

I picked up a bunch of cheap old "popular music" magazine type publications. They show chord names as well as a written out left hand. I thought of using these for picking the brains of the arrangers to get a feel for it. Originally I bought them simply because I saw them and wanted to get familiar with letter name chords.

#1956556 - 09/09/12 05:19 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Jeff Clef]  
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Wow, Jeff...thanks! I was glad to see your reference to "deep waters for a newbie"..I'd say this is deep muddy water for this newbie. Its more like Greek than the mother tongue, but I'm not going to give up on learning it. I've printed the chart you provided and will discuss it with my piano instructor on Tuesday.

I wish the sheet music I'm working on had the bass clef portion on a ledger instead of showing the chords with their respective letter names above the treble clef ledger. I think it'd be easier for me to figure them out if that were the case.

Thanks again. I'm sure this chart will be helpful!


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
#1956558 - 09/09/12 05:27 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring]  
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"I could play them as chords - clunk, clunk, clunk -"

Now that's a very good descriptive statement of how I play them.:)

Thanks, for saying that.


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
#1956563 - 09/09/12 05:41 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Virginia, I'm taking ideas from some by ear players in order to expand. One idea is to learn to play all your major chords in root position by ear, then inversions. You can get minor keys not just by memorizing charts, but simply by lowering the middle note by a half step. I see a light switch with a middle toggle. CEG - toggle is up: CEbG - toggle is down = C (major) and Cm. You play inversions. You see what happens if you moves notes in and out -- being playful. You bring the familiarity that you build into this other thing we're exploring. I suspect that "clunk clunk clunk" is as good a beginning as any.

#1956580 - 09/09/12 06:31 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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That's cool information! I just tried it on the piano. It also coincided with the chart. Also, I discovered in this little practice you suggested, that the A chord has a sharp in the middle, so to toggle to the Am, you drop the sharp and go to regular C. Now I'm thinking the reason for learning the scales is not just for finger dexterity and note names but also teaches the chords, sorta.

Thanks!


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
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#1956666 - 09/09/12 09:29 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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"...I wish the sheet music I'm working on had the bass clef portion on a ledger instead of showing the chords with their respective letter names above the treble clef ledger...."

If you get a book or pack of score paper, you can write them out any way you like. The chords, the inversions, the scales, the arps. It will do you nothing but good; it is even fun.

I use the book of score paper to make notes from my piano lessons--- just pencil and words.


Clef

#1956700 - 09/09/12 11:09 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Originally Posted by Tech 5
That's cool information! I just tried it on the piano. It also coincided with the chart. Also, I discovered in this little practice you suggested, that the A chord has a sharp in the middle, so to toggle to the Am, you drop the sharp and go to regular C. Now I'm thinking the reason for learning the scales is not just for finger dexterity and note names but also teaches the chords, sorta.

Thanks!



Hi Virginia,

You're definitely on to something! Scales and chords are very closely related. They are like two sides of the same coin.

Also, chords and scales are both very standard, important "tools" in an improviser's "toolbox." That is, when you see someone playing very well from a lead sheet, playing all sorts of chord shapes in the left hand and perhaps improvising some nice runs and things in the right hand, it's usually not quite as mysterious as some people would make it out to be. It's very likely that he or she has spent a LOT of time first learning lots of chords and scales separately. There is a "system," of course, of which ones to learn and how to use them- but my point is that learning chords and scales is a very important part of the process. I'm not implying anything about your current playing, of course, but if you don't happen to currently know lots of chords, especially, in all 12 keys, then doing something like playing from a lead sheet could seem particularly daunting and tedious (the "deep water"!). The good news is that the more you learn and the more pieces that you play, the more you start to recognize things you've already seen/played before. At first, learning a piece is like, "oh, look at all these shapes I have to learn!" but after several pieces, you find yourself going "oh, there's that chord I played in that other piece."

Also, I was going to say that you're correct, that there are many patterns that "by-ear" pianists use. They are kind of like a guitarist's picking patterns, in that a guitarist could keep picking the same pattern in the right hand, while changing chord shapes in the left. There are different patterns for different styles, different meters, and so on. When they are learned/practiced well, they can be very empowering, giving a pianist the ability to create an "instant arrangement," as it were, of a piece.

James



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#1956928 - 09/10/12 12:07 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Playing chords in the LH and melody (sometimes an octave higher) in the RH is one way, and great for solo piano. If you are accompanying a singer or singing yourself, the most common pop style is to play the root in your LH and a chord in your RH. You can also play the melody plus some chord notes in the RH and a LH pattern as you get more comfortable. Lots of options in this style of playing.

I'm going to encourage you and anyone else wanting to get into chord theory to not memorize a bunch of chords. It will slow you down later on, when you are trying to invert and alter chords. Instead, try to understand how you build a chord. Give yourself a root and see if you can visualize the chord growing up from that root. Chords are Root-Third-Fifth. For a major chord, it's 4 half steps from the root to the third and 3 half steps from the third to the fifth.

You've already figured out a good trick that will save you hours of memorizing, that to get a minor chord, you simply lower the third one half step. That kind of understanding will help you learn this concept faster.


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#1957000 - 09/10/12 02:35 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Brian Lucas]  
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Originally Posted by Brian Lucas
Playing chords in the LH and melody (sometimes an octave higher) in the RH is one way, and great for solo piano. If you are accompanying a singer or singing yourself, the most common pop style is to play the root in your LH and a chord in your RH. You can also play the melody plus some chord notes in the RH and a LH pattern as you get more comfortable. Lots of options in this style of playing.

I'm going to encourage you and anyone else wanting to get into chord theory to not memorize a bunch of chords. It will slow you down later on, when you are trying to invert and alter chords. Instead, try to understand how you build a chord. Give yourself a root and see if you can visualize the chord growing up from that root. Chords are Root-Third-Fifth. For a major chord, it's 4 half steps from the root to the third and 3 half steps from the third to the fifth.

You've already figured out a good trick that will save you hours of memorizing, that to get a minor chord, you simply lower the third one half step. That kind of understanding will help you learn this concept faster.



Thanks, Brian. I have written notes from your paragraph two on the chord chart sheet I printed, so that I'll remember the concept. I'm sure this info. will be very
helpful! So, is the concept the same for the minor cords, also, what about the 7-key chord structure. Is there an equally logical pattern to those? I love logic.

Thanks again!


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
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#1957356 - 09/11/12 08:50 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Virginia, you can find out the half-steps between each pair of notes in a type of chord by counting them for the C chords at the top of the chart. Then check with some other keys to see that the half-step count is the same for other chords of the same type (i.e. in the same column).

Another way to understand chords is by interval. For example:
  • major chord has root, note a major third from the root, and note a perfect fifth from the root.
    .
  • minor chord has root, note a minor third from the root, and note a perfect fifth from the root. Move middle note in major chord down a half-step.
    .
  • augmented chord has root, note a major third from the root, and note an augmented fifth from the root. Move top note in major chord up a half-step.

There are lots of patterns and relations between the types of chords; let me know if this information here makes sense and I'll go on about the 6 and 7 chords.


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#1957357 - 09/11/12 08:57 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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(And if it doesn't make sense, please ask questions!)

Also, try this out at the keyboard: pick a root, construct the major triad (three-note chord, stacked like a snowman) with that root. Toggle the middle and top fingers to form the minor and augmented triads. Listen to the sound of these. Check the notes you've found against the chart. Check the half-step counts. Repeat with another root. Etc.


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#1957408 - 09/11/12 10:38 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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I left out one more little bit: on the chart of chords,

The first column is the root: the note the chord is built on

The second column, labeled "Major", is the major triad.

The third column, labeled "m", is the minor triad.

The fourth column, labeled "+", is the augmented triad.


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#1957449 - 09/11/12 12:07 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Virginia,

I’m sure there are a million or more basic introductions to chords and using them in “popular” music – but one I have found to be clear, concise, and fun is a pdf book available at the Music With Ease site –

The link is:

http://www.musicwithease.com/play-popular-music.html

It is a good beginning for me and gives a basic set of musical knowledge on which to build, including a short section s embellishing – using the chords in a different way.


#1957457 - 09/11/12 12:39 PM How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Jeff Clef]  
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Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
Maybe this chord chart will be of help. . . [Linked Image]


Jeff, and everyone who might be printing it,

It is a small detail, but since we are learning here, we may as well be correct. The chords in the tenth column are not diminished triads, as the º symbol indicates, but are in fact diminished seventh chords, and most (all?) are spelled incorrectly.
While, as diminished SEVENTH chords, these enharmonic spellings will sound right, if one attempts to use PianoStudent88's perfectly correct start to building these, the chart will not make sense.

Virginia,

Now that you are armed with some information, and some terminology, I would encourage you to visit a good music store, and let them know the sort of reference book you are looking for. There you will be able to browse a wide variety of stuff, and select intelligently.

Ed


In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.
#1957459 - 09/11/12 12:44 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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Originally Posted by Tech 5
So, is the concept the same for the minor cords, also, what about the 7-key chord structure. Is there an equally logical pattern to those? I love logic.!
Yes, theoretically you could build minor chords with a formula too, but I think it wastes time. Like PS88 suggested, if you get used to altering a major chord to the other 3 chord types, you really only need to be able to build the 12 major chords from scratch. Major and minor account for 95% of what you'll see in pop music (except for jazz). So once you can get to the major chords quickly, just make the minor by dropping the third down a half step.

For some more logic, once you know your major and minor chords, you can figure out how they fit into the 12 keys. Each chord will naturally exist in 3 keys. If you can play a major scale, the chords built on the first, fourth and fifth note of the scale are major, and the chords built on the second, third and sixth note are minor. So for a C scale:

C Dm Em F G Am

Don't worry about the seventh note, it's technically a diminished chord, but rarely seen. So if you know what an F chord is, it would be the 4 chord in the key of C. But it can also be the 1 chord in the key of F and the 5 chord in the key of Bb. Same F chord in all 3 keys.

If you want to take chord recognition a little further, I teach chord categories, which are chord shapes. Most people know that C, F and G are all the same shape (all white keys). D, E and A are also the same shape (I call it tent shape). When you get to the point where you are inverting your chords, it helps to group these chords together, since physically they will feel similar. You'll be able to apply 1 concept to all the chords in that category quickly.

Enough logic for you? wink


-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
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#1957468 - 09/11/12 01:06 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]  
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Originally Posted by LoPresti
It is a small detail, but since we are learning here, we may as well be correct. The chords in the tenth column are not diminished triads, as the º symbol indicates, but are in fact diminished seventh chords, and many are spelled incorrectly. While, as diminished SEVENTH chords, these will sound right, if one attempts to use PianoStudent88's perfectly correct start to building these, the chart will not make sense.

As far as spelling, I was going to identify dim7 chords as keys on the keyboard first, and think about spelling later. And then indicate why different spellings might be chosen for the same say Cdim7 that one might see on a lead sheet.

As I understand it, lead sheet convention often uses plain Cdim to mean the diminished seventh chord, or perhaps to mean that the player should choose which sounds better, the triad or the seventh chord. If that's the case, I can imagine that a similar convention has arisen around the diminished notation that uses ° instead of "dim": C° and C°7.

I am not a lead sheet player, but what I have been told about lead sheets is that the conventions for letter-naming chords are not identical to the roman numeral conventions that I learned in strict academic music theory. Different arenas, different purposes, different scopes, different conventions. Doesn't bother me.

Quote
Now that you are armed with some information, and some terminology, I would encourage you to visit a good music store, and let them know the sort of reference book you are looking for. There you will be able to browse a wide variety of stuff, and select intelligently.

This, I agree with. I'll put in a plug for Edly's Music Theory For Practical People, by Ed Roseman. I don't think it covers how to realize a lead sheet (or if it does, I was so not ready for that that I totally don't even remember it), but it does cover all the music theory basics for chords, and I enjoyed reading it.


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#1957473 - 09/11/12 01:16 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: PianoStudent88]  
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
As I understand it, lead sheet convention often uses plain Cdim to mean the diminished seventh chord, or perhaps to mean that the player should choose which sounds better, the triad or the seventh chord. If that's the case, I can imagine that a similar convention has arisen around the diminished notation that uses ° instead of "dim": C° and C°7.

PS88,

Since I am no longer allowed to post on this Forum, and happened to "sneak one in" here, I will simply say this: Following that liberal logic about extemporaneous chord construction, I see not a single augmented seventh chord in the Chart's column marked "+", yet every single diminished triad ( º ) in the column sports a diminished seventh (or major sixth) also. Could be wrong - looks like a MISTAKE.



In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.
#1957506 - 09/11/12 02:57 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]  
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keystring Offline
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I will start by being in agreement with BrianLucas. Chords should begin with an understanding of how chords work, not with chord charts. These charts may have their uses, but they can become a crutch like constantly using a dictionary to look up every word because the principals of spelling aren't known. If you understand how chords work and can construct your own, then the charts become unnecessary.

I suggest that when understanding how chords work, even with a good reference book, that you spend a lot of time on the keyboard understanding them as sound and how sound and spelling go hand in hand. The spelling part is tricky because music has its "grammar". For major, minor, ordinary seventh chords (the kind commonly known as "dominant 7"), the spelling is standard. When you get to things like augmented and diminished sevenths the "grammar" kicks in for real music. But the SOUND will always be there. It's too much to explain here. You'll get it through proper study.

Ed, I understand that in some places they use the "dim" symbol to mean "dim7" and that it will be found in music, but I disagree with it when that happens because it leads to confusion. There is a difference between a diminished triad and a diminished seven.

Btw, if you were not allowed to post in the forum, we wouldn't be seeing your post because then admin. would have blocked your access.

#1957507 - 09/11/12 03:05 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: PianoStudent88]  
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
(And if it doesn't make sense, please ask questions!)

Also, try this out at the keyboard: pick a root, construct the major triad (three-note chord, stacked like a snowman) with that root. Toggle the middle and top fingers to form the minor and augmented triads. Listen to the sound of these. Check the notes you've found against the chart. Check the half-step counts. Repeat with another root. Etc.


This procedure of counting half steps doesn't seem to work with B Major or I'm I just confused? Isn't B Major (B,D#, and F#)? If so, this gives 5 half steps if B is counted as the 1st...so you don't count the root, right? What are augmented triads? Also, are the chords the same when played with either hand?

Thanks so much for your help!


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
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