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Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957601
09/11/12 06:35 PM
09/11/12 06:35 PM
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(continuation)
Now let's explore the relationship between scales and chords. We'll start with our major scale, and again we'll use C major as a model.

If we take notes 1,3,5 (1st, 3rd, 5th degree) then we get CEG which is a major chord. The minor chord would be CEbG (our light switch toggle). Now, is the I chord (chord built on the first degree of that scale) major because those are the notes of the major scale? Or is the C major scale what it is because its I-chord is CEG? The fact is that they interrelate.

Play the first 5 notes of C major: C,D,E,F,G. Then alter it: C,D,Eb,F,G. Did the second version sound as if it was about to become a minor scale, and did it have a sadder mood? Did you notice that notes 1,3,5 of the second would give you Cm as chord?

For the rest I'll leave you to explore theory on your own. Start by exploring chords: major and minor as I described. Try inverting them, meaning that you put one of the other chords on the bottom. Listen. Notice where you find what in music?

-- In regards to your other question: In popular music and by ear music people learn to understand these chords since they need to be able to put in the right chord. In classical music the composers have chosen chords that work in music, following similar principals. When you start to understand music theory, then classical music becomes more predictable and understanding. It makes reading and interpreting easier.

I'm done. (phew)

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Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957607
09/11/12 06:51 PM
09/11/12 06:51 PM
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It would be beneficial if lead sheets indicated which inversion of a chord should be used
(1st 2nd or 3rd) in the chord symbol..unfortunately they don't..leaving it to the player to figure it out.

Last edited by Bob Newbie; 09/11/12 06:52 PM.
Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring] #1957609
09/11/12 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Ed, there is only one thing I'd like to explore - namely augmented chords. In music itself I see varying spelling choices.

The composer is primarily interested in the SOUND. Also, s/he typically strives for clarity and smoothness within each "voice" unto itself, or between inversions of chords; and will therefore choose the note (accidental) that READS easiest. Usually this will mean using flats in descending lines, and sharps in ascending lines - GENERALLY. So here, a C - E - Ab - Bb, that were brought together by various voice lines, are perfectly legitimate.

When we move into the realm of theory, where we are constructing chords, we do that by a pretty strict set of rules. In fact, there is one, and only one way, to spell virtually any common chord. In this realm, C - E - G# - Bb in THE only correct spelling of a C augmented seventh chord.

And in the arena of analysis, wide knowledge and flexibility are key. So, the analyst sees the composer's C - E - Ab - Bb, recognizes it as sounding (functioning) as a C augmented seventh chord, names it C aug. 7 (C+7). The analyst would never SPELL a C augmented seventh chord with an Ab, however.

Diminished chords are no different: The composer writes the voices expediciously; the theorist constructs each and every one in a precise way; and the analyst attempts to resolve these by stacking the notes in thirds and seeing what it looks like.

(Poor Virginia . . .)
Ed


In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.
Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957615
09/11/12 07:10 PM
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Wow! Amazing! Thank you so much, Keystring. I have saved and printed your extensive post. I'm certain it will help alleviate much of my confusion.

I really appreciate the time you put into responding to my post. How long did it take you to learn all this stuff?


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957626
09/11/12 07:46 PM
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Virginia, my path is an odd one. It influences some of my thoughts on learning to understand theory.

The only thing I learned in music as a child was singing Do Re Mi around grade 3. The teacher pointed to solfege names and we went up and down in patterns. So I had an ear version of the white keys of the piano representing the major scale, and natural minor scale (going from A to A will give you natural minor. The key of A minor shares the same key signature with the key of C major). I got a little electric keyboard the blew air over reeds and a 10 page booklet that introduced the C, F and G chords which I sounded out as "do mi so", "fa la do" and "so ti re" and then listened the sound. Then later I was given a piano and inherited some piano books which were all sonatinas, and I sounded these out too. I found the piano note, listened to where "Do" was, and played.

I didn't have lessons until I was almost 50 - not piano - and we didn't know that I didn't know notes until a few years after that. I started to study theory a few years ago.

When I was young I experimented and listened. I would play GA and listen to what that sounded like. I'd play CE and CEb and the Cm and C major chords. None of it had names for me, but these became toys to play with.

So decades later when I learned theory, starting with note names and key signatures, I was studying things that I had explored. They held meaning. Later on I ran into teachers who stressed the need to explore theory, having it in the ears and hands before paper. Given my experience, this seems the right way to go.

I've been studying theory intensely for about 5 years now. I think I have a head start because of my background.

Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957629
09/11/12 07:51 PM
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Hi again, Virginia,

First: you don't count B because what you're counting are the half-steps, which are in-between the notes- not the notes themselves. You're counting "how many times you stepped forward," as it were. If you start on B, and then "step forward" four times, you'll land on D#. In doing this, you'd say "one" on the note C, (because it's the first step), "two" on C#, and so on.

This will always work, in all keys. I wonder if you might have just gotten confused on this one, as you said.

Second: you asked about augmented triads. They are like a major triad with the top note (assuming you're in root position) raised by one. For example, a C major triad = C E G. The C augmented triad = C E G#.

Next: yes, the chords are the same when played with either hand. That is, the chords are still made up of the same notes. However, the fingering will be different, since the hands are symmetrical.

Finally: I think it's really great that you're asking so many good questions! However, if you're feeling overwhelmed at all, it may be helpful to start at the beginning with major triads, and systematically work through the different chord types, each in all 12 keys. This is no small task, of course! However, it would give you a solid foundation, and a thorough understanding of the simpler chords makes it easier to understand the more complex ones.

If it's any help, here is a lesson I wrote on major triads, using a combination of different illustrations and methods. There's a chart you can download at the bottom of the page:

http://www.betterpiano.com/archives/major-triads

Good luck with all your studies!

James






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Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: JamesPlaysPiano] #1957631
09/11/12 07:56 PM
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Ha! I first started typing that post like an hour ago, in response to Virginia's question about the augmented triads. I typed away a little at a time in-between feeding the kids dinner. I hit "Post" and a whole "page" worth of responses have been posted! You all are on the ball today. smile

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Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957632
09/11/12 07:57 PM
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James, you might want to add to your definition that in root position, a triad must skip letter names. We get the same sound with CEbG and CD#G but only the first is a triad even though they are both "three letter chords". Here we get into spelling and grammar of written notation.

Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti] #1957645
09/11/12 08:22 PM
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Ed, I'll respond once since these are more in the area of teaching than ABF matters. I understand your explanation, and it makes sense to me. You also mentioned composers, theorists, and analysts.

Here is how I see it:

First we have music which contains things like chords. The composer has composed it so that the performer will play it and the audience will be moved by it. The composer must bring his intention across to the performer as clearly as possible. Our humble chord sits in the middle of all this. And the student is the future composer or performer who must now, at this stage, play music that has been composed, as part of his learning.

Our chord (played together - not broken) is a group of pitches heard at the same time, giving it a unique quality that we might name major, minor, augmented, etc. That is what it is. The pianist presses piano keys that will produce those sounds. Whether we want to call one of those F# or Gb, the sound and piano key stays the same.

Meanwhile our chord sits in the context of music. It is in a key, coming from a preceding chord and moving to a subsequent chord and it may be part of some pattern or idiom. Some chords such as fully diminished and augmented chords will have choice of spelling influenced by these patterns. The reason these exist goes back to the first purpose: that what the composer writes will be understandable to the performer. Also these grammar rules help make the whole system work smoothly.

So now we come to our student who is learning about these chords for the first time: and I was such a student recently, and am still learning. We can give a one-and-only spelling to an augmented or diminished chord: stacked thirds, skipped letters, etc. The danger is that the student will then think that this is how such a chord will always present itself.

The question becomes: what do you teach when and for what reason? There is no single answer. Personally I would want to start with "what it is": the sound and the pure intervals. Then I would want the student to see that different spellings are possible for this "sound" - choosing Ab or G# enharmonically. And then for the student to know as a general idea that he will encounter different spellings which are due to grammar and practical considerations. This sets the student up for a general idea as a starting point. The rest then comes as the student encounters these chords in music, and either discovers their spellings, or they are pointed out.

Here my interest is in the practical world of performer and composer. I don't see much point in analysis for the sake of analysis, and so as a specialization it's not something I'm into. The same goes for theorizing.

Your overview of the various ways these chords can be seen and spelled seem spot on.


Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring] #1957646
09/11/12 08:25 PM
09/11/12 08:25 PM
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Hey, keystring.

Actually, this distinction varies according to the source. However, I'd be the first to admit that your definition is more commonly found and accepted. Thanks for reminding me, as I don't want the article to create any undue controversy. I just amended it.

James






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Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957657
09/11/12 09:15 PM
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I found at last week and thought if it was a common definition you might want to put it into your article. You certainly put a lot of time in, and given an extensive overview. smile

How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: JamesPlaysPiano] #1957700
09/11/12 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
James, you might want to add to your definition that in root position, a triad must skip letter names. We get the same sound with CEbG and CD#G but only the first is a triad even though they are both "three letter chords". Here we get into spelling and grammar of written notation.


Originally Posted by JamesPlaysPiano
Actually, this distinction varies according to the source. However, I'd be the first to admit that your definition is more commonly found and accepted.


Most theoreticians would state this a little differently. β€œAll triads are composed of a root, a third, and a fifth. The nature of the third and the fifth define the type of triad.”


In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.
Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti] #1957719
09/12/12 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by LoPresti


Most theoreticians would state this a little differently. β€œAll triads are composed of a root, a third, and a fifth. The nature of the third and the fifth define the type of triad.”

I would want to make very sure that the concept of root, third and fifth are understood. Books teaching concepts - at least well written ones - will give examples and have exercises. Understanding the second sentence involves working with the material which I think comes first. The definition itself is a good summary.

Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: PianoStudent88] #1957727
09/12/12 02:39 AM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
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.


Thanks! You've provided very helpful information. Some of this stuff is beginning to make sense. I really appreciate all your help.


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti] #1957732
09/12/12 03:02 AM
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(Poor Virginia . . .)
Ed
[/quote]

Why I'm I referred to as "poor Virginia?" Does this mean I have too far to go before I can really play the piano as it was intended to be played?


Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden
Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957739
09/12/12 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Tech 5

Why I'm I referred to as "poor Virginia?"


Information overload IMHO.

Originally Posted by Tech 5

Does this mean I have too far to go before I can really play the piano as it was intended to be played?


Don’t give that a moment's consideration. There are so many different ways of playing the piano and enjoying the music you can make with it.

Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Bob Newbie] #1957741
09/12/12 04:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Newbie
It would be beneficial if lead sheets indicated which inversion of a chord should be used
(1st 2nd or 3rd) in the chord symbol..unfortunately they don't..leaving it to the player to figure it out.


Slash chords, where the writer has included them, can help.
e.g G/B (first inversion)

-that said, the denominator usually refers to the bass.

Beyond that, there are two frequently employed conventions regarding inversion where accompaniment is concerned.

i) it occupies a register on the instrument which doesn't dominate, or interfere with, the lead voice.

ii) inversions are chosen which minimise movement. A simple example:-

C to G triads; play C root position, G first inversion.
(there are 2 other options).

- this was referred to as 'slithering' on the Chopin prelude thread (seemingly a dark art) but it's quite common in modern pop accompaniment (RH) and very common in jazz (LH during improvisation). IOW, the 'best' inversion is determined by the context of the chord in relation to its neighbours.

It's not a universal and sometimes an accompaniment will need to break out in order to draw attention to itself.

Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957783
09/12/12 09:08 AM
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Or a small font 1,2 or 3 above the chord symbol would be sufficent.. smile

Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957804
09/12/12 10:04 AM
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Go Virginia! You're doing/will do great smile

I think you're picking up lots of good stuff from this thread, from what I can tell.

dire tonic's post describes the way I started playing chords in the left hand - what's the easiest thing to do next?!? It's been a good guide for years now, and now I have some variations, too.

Cathy


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Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5] #1957828
09/12/12 10:50 AM
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"Poor" Virginia? Oh, I don't know about that.

One good thing about PW is that, every so often, people who really know something will turn on the lights for the rest of us. It does not happen every day, but it can be worth slogging through a lot of dross to get there.

I was looking through the offerings on Amazon, to see if there was something I could suggest for you (or myself). It's such a problem with these 'virtual books,' not being able to see or glance through them. Still, it was not long before my head was spinning and my purse was screaming for mercy. It is a familiar sensation with such a big subject. I say, absorb what you can as it makes sense to you. We always find ourselves returning to the important subjects; I don't think we ever harvest the whole field in the first pass.


Clef

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