navbar - HMRW - homepage
  


How Music
REALLY Works

is a division of
Roedy Black Logo

 

 

 

2 things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


   Reviews
 
 

  

   About the Author,
   Wayne Chase

  
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Reviews
 
 

  

   About the Author,
   Wayne Chase

  
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Reviews
 
 

  

   About the Author,
   Wayne Chase

  
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Reviews
 
 

  

   About the Author,
   Wayne Chase

  
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Reviews
 
 

  

   About the Author,
   Wayne Chase

  
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Reviews
 
 

  

   About the Author,
   Wayne Chase

  
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Reviews
 
 

  

   About the Author,
   Wayne Chase

  
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Reviews
 
 

  

   About the Author,
   Wayne Chase

  
  

 


  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  
CHAPTER 6:
How Chords and Chord Progressions
REALLY Work
  
6.1 Where Chords Come From

  

I’ve heard there was a secret chord

that David played to please the Lord

but you don’t really care for music, do ya?

It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth,

the minor fall, the major lift;

the baffled king composing Hallelujah!

          —LEONARD COHEN (“Hallelujah”)

PAGE INDEX
  

6.1.1 What’s a Chord?

6.1.2 The Jimi Hendrix Experience without Jimi: Why Melody-free Harmony Does Not Stand on its Own

6.1.3 Harmony’s Own Organizing Principle

6.1.4 Properties of a Major Triad (This Looks Familiar)

6.1.5 Exploring the Innards of the Major Triad

6.1.6 Stacking Intervals, Then Turning Them Upside down and Disturbing Them

 

~ • ~ • ~ • ~

 

6.1.1

WHAT’S A CHORD?


For practical purposes, think of a chord as three or more different-pitched notes played or sung simultaneously. Not two. Consider two notes, whether sounded simultaneously or in succession, an interval.


     Successions of chords—chord progressions—are the units of harmony. Just as successions of intervals are the units of melody.


     Psychologically, as discussed in Chapter 3, harmony provides aural “depth” to melody’s height and rhythm’s length. Harmony has nothing to do with pitch-like “height.” You’ll find out why later in this chapter.



6.1.2

THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE WITHOUT JIMI: WHY MELODY-FREE HARMONY DOES NOT STAND ON ITS OWN


When you play a melody comprised of the notes that make up a chord, such as C – E – G – E – C, your brain recognizes the underlying chord because the sequence goes by quickly. But when you play all the notes of a chord simultaneously, your brain hears a single unified sound—not the individual notes that comprise the chord.


     You can recognize a tune—a succession of notes—as a piece of music all by itself. No harmony whatsoever. A national anthem, or “Happy Birthday,” or a bugle call, for instance.


     And yet, paradoxically, a harmonic progression—a succession of chords without a tune—does not sound like “complete” music at all. It sounds like the Jimi Hendrix Experience without Jimi.


     Unlike harmony-free melody, melody-free harmony does not stand on its own.


     If you were to play the chords to “The Star Spangled Banner” without playing or singing the succession of pitches that forms the tune, no one would recognize it as one of the world’s most widely-known songs.


     On the other hand, a lone, completely unaccompanied tune is like a movie storyboard—a sequence of sketches, much like the sequence of panels forming a comic strip. The storyboard outlines the shot-by-shot sequence of a scene—the essentials of the “story” for that scene. You can discern what the story is from the storyboard, but it lacks color, depth, and liveliness.



6.1.3

HARMONY’S OWN ORGANIZING PRINCIPLE


Chapter 4 discussed the “organizing principle” that underlies the construction of brain-friendly, “musical”-sounding scales: use the simple ratios of frequencies of the harmonic series, such as 2:1, 3:2, and 4:3, to define the notes. When you do that, you get Pythagorean scales, including the scales of the diatonic order.


     Is there a similar organizing principle that applies the construction of brain-friendly, musical-sounding chords?

 

     Yes there is.


     But with chords, it’s a matter of “organizing,” so to speak, the scale degrees associated with the overtones of the harmonic series, instead of the overtones themselves.


     Recall that the term “scale degree” refers to the designation of the notes of a major or minor diatonic scale using numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 1 (8), where 1 is the tonic note of the scale, 7 is the leading tone, and so on. It turns out that most of the strong overtones—1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th—of a given fundamental tone (scale degree 1) correspond to the pitches associated with scale degrees 1, 3, and 5 of the major diatonic scale (Table 33 below). And when you play these three scale degrees—1, 3, and 5— simultaneously, you get a chord.




TABLE 33  Fundamental and First 9 Overtones of the Tone “C”

 




     When you play the notes C, E, and G (scale degrees 1, 3, and 5) simultaneously on your guitar or piano, you hear a beautiful harmonic sound. It’s the major triad, so-called because it consists of three notes (scale degrees 1, 3, and 5) of the major scale. Specifically, it’s the C major triad or C major chord.


     This simple triad forms the basis of all harmony in the Western tonal system.



6.1.4

PROPERTIES OF A MAJOR TRIAD (THIS LOOKS FAMILIAR)


When you hear a major triad, your brain interprets it as a single, unified sound, even though the chord consists of three different pitches played or sung simultaneously. The phenomenon of a unified “chord” sound is analogous to the unified “tone” sound you hear when someone plucks or plays a single note (Table 34).




TABLE 34  Comparing the Properties of a Single Tone with the Properties of a Chord (Major or Minor Triad)

 


A Single Tone ...

A Chord (Major or Minor

Triad) ...

Consists of a fundamental tone plus a series of overtones at higher pitches.

Consists of a root note (so-called because it’s the chord’s lowest note, scale degree 1) plus additional notes (scale degrees 3 and 5) at higher pitches (in the chord’s “root” position).

Most of the overtones are different notes from the fundamental (i.e., not in an octave relationship).

The other notes of the chord are different notes from the root (i.e., not in an octave relationship).

The fundamental and all the overtones occur simultaneously.

The root and the other notes are played or sung simultaneously (usually).

Although you don’t hear the separate overtones, your brain nevertheless recognizes and processes them.

 Although you don’t hear the notes as separate pitches, your brain nevertheless recognizes and processes them.

The overtones create “tone color,” which enables you to distinguish the difference between the sound of, say, a guitar, from the sound of a piano.

Sounded together, the notes of the triad create “harmony,” which imparts a feeling of color and depth to music.

Without the context of a key, the sound of a tone is “at rest"—no tension.

Without the context of a key, the sound of a triad is balanced and stable—no tension.

 




 

     When you think about it, then, a single vibrating string or membrane contains within it all of the acoustical components of both melody and harmony:

 

        It incorporates the same ratios of frequencies that yield all the major and minor scales of the diatonic order.

 

        It includes the same scale degree notes, sounded simultaneously, that correspond to the root and the other notes of the major triad and other chords.


     Once your brain had evolved the circuitry to distinguish simple ratios of frequencies from each other, it also had the necessary built-in capability to automatically process intervals, tunes, keys, and chords.


     It was probably inevitable that at some point in human history musicians would eventually discover and develop Pythagorean-type scales and associated harmony that made possible Handel’s “Messiah,” Gershwin’s “Someone To Watch Over Me,” and John Lennon’s “In My Life.”



6.1.5

EXPLORING THE INNARDS OF THE MAJOR TRIAD


Have a look at Table 35 below. When you play a C major triad, here’s what the music modules in your brain actually pick up and process (fundamental and strongest overtones):

 

     1.  The “C” fundamental, together with a series of overtones, including C itself (repeated several times as an overtone), plus the notes E and G.

 

     2.  The “E” fundamental, together with a series of overtones, including E itself (repeated several times as an overtone), plus the notes G♯, and B.

 

     3.  The “G” fundamental, together with a series of overtones, including G itself (repeated several times as an overtone), plus the notes B, D, and other overtones.





TABLE 35  Fundamental and First Five Overtones of C Major Triad

 

   Tone /

  Overtone

Multiple of

Funda-mental

Freq.

Ratio

Associated

Scale

Degree

C Major Triad

C

E

G

Fundamental

1st Overtone

2nd Overtone

3rd Overtone

4th Overtone

5th Overtone

1 (f)

f x 2

f x 3

f x 4

f x 5

f x 6

1 : 1

1 : 2

2 : 3

1 : 2

4 : 5

2 : 3

1

1

5

1

3

5

C

C

G

C

E

G

E

E

B

E

 G

B

G

G

D

G

B

D



 

        In the “C” column, you can see that all three notes of the C major triad (C, E, and G) appear as overtones of the single C tone.

 

        In the “C” and “G” columns, both the E tone and the G tone of the C major chord add the overtone corresponding to scale degree 7 (the note B). This is the scale degree associated with the semitone interval that “points” strongly at C (scale degree 1): the leading tone.

 

        Other overtones include D, which also points strongly at C, and G♯, which seeks to resolve to G (scale degree 5).


     So, when you play the notes C, E, and G simultaneously on your guitar or piano (forming a chord, a major triad), all of the overtones common to the three tones reinforce each other. This is the acoustical phenomenon called resonance, discussed in the section of Chapter 3 on musical instruments and how they work.


     The major triad is a completely balanced, satisfied-sounding chord that doesn’t want to go anywhere.


 

More Potential Mixed up Confusion

 

Chords have roots, whereas scales and keys are centred on tonic notes. Do not refer to the first note of a scale as a “scale root”—there’s no such thing. Scales do not have roots. Chords have roots.


As you’ll see shortly, a chord is named for its root note. When the root note of a chord happens to be the same note as the tonic note of a scale, that chord is called the tonic chord.


 


6.1.6

STACKING INTERVALS, THEN TURNING THEM UPSIDE DOWN AND DISTURBING THEM


The three notes of the major triad are called the root, the third, and the fifth. As long as you play these three notes simultaneously (more or less)...

 

     1.  It doesn’t matter which octave you play them in;

 

     2.  It doesn’t matter which order you play them in.


Your brain will still recognize the same chord.


     Although recognizably the same chord, the order of the component notes does affect the overall sound of the chord.

  

     1.  If the root of the chord is “at the bottom”—in the lowest pitch position—the chord will sound completely balanced. This is called root position.

 

     2.  If the third is at the bottom, the chord will sound, paradoxically, balanced and yet somehow distinctly disturbed. (You’ll see why in a minute.) This is called the first inversion.

 

     3.  If the fifth is at the bottom, the chord will sound balanced, but still slightly disturbed, compared with root position. This is called the second inversion.


     All chords are just stacks of intervals—major and minor thirds. Any time you pile thirds on top of each other, in any combination, you get chords. The intervals have to be thirds.


~ • ~ • ~ • ~

 

_previous.gif (1788 bytes)

_next.gif (1691 bytes)

 

~ • ~ • ~ • ~

 

You are reading the FREE SAMPLE Chapters 1 through 6 of the acclaimed 12-Chapter book, How Music REALLY Works!, 2nd Edition. Here's what's in Chapters 7 through 12. 

 

To order the book, click here:

       
 

 

 

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

About  |  Contact  |  Site Map  |  Privacy Policy  |  Customer Service  |
© and ™ 1987 - 2015 Roedy Black Publishing Inc.  All rights reserved.