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Some Music / Chord Definitions

If you are not yet familiar with chord theory, you may wish to click on the above chord theory link to acquire at least a beginning background in it.  Some of the definitions below do assume some chord theory knowledge.

+ The + sign on a chord, if by itself, often really means +5, which in turn is the same as an augmented chord.  An augmented chord raises the fifth note of the scale in forming a chord.


-

The "-" sign means that the note is "flatted".  For example C-5 means that the fifth note of the scale that makes up the chord is flatted.  C-5 would therefore be C, E, Gb  or C, E, F# written another way, rather than C, E, G.


#

Used here to represent sharps - a note raised one half step


b

Used here to represent flats - a note lowered one half step


+5

A +5 again refers to the augmented chord.  See the above description for +.


5

While this is considered a chord, it really just is two notes - the first and fifth note of the scale.  For a C5 chord, for example, it would simply be C and a G.  This combination is also sometimes called C no 3rd, or C major no 3rd, or C no 3.  Note that for a C major chord that without the 3rd, it would simply be C and a G.


augmented

This is really the same as a + chord or a +5 chord as shown above under +.  It begins with a normal major chord of first, third and fifth notes of the scale, and then raises the fifth note one half step. For example, C major would be C, E, and G.  C augmented would be C, E, and G#  with the fifth note a sharp, raised one half step.


chromatic

The chromatic scale includes all possible notes in the scale.  Starting at C, the chromatic scale would be:
C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, 
. . .twelve possible notes.  Note that the scale could have also been written with flats. 
Db (D flat) is the same as C# (C sharp), for example.

 

diminished

The diminished chord really is made up of four notes of the chromatic scale - each spaced 3 half steps from each other.  For example, C diminished would be C, D#, F#, A.  Note that an oddity of the diminished scale is that these notes would be exactly the same if any of the four notes were the base note.  For example, C dim (abbreviated) has the same notes as D# dim, F# dim, and A dim.


dominant (7th)

The term dominant 7th means that the 7th note is added to the major chord - but while doing so, it is also "flatted".  So C 7th (which means the dominant 7th if just 7th is shown) is made up of C, E, G, A# (can be written C, E, G, Bb)


flat

A flat (b) lowers a note one half step


inversion

Inversion is a different way of playing a chord.  It mostly has been referred to for keyboard applications, but it really could also apply to other instruments as well.  Let us look at the so called normal way of playing a C major.  It would be C, E, G, with C being the lowest key played on the piano, E in the middle and G the highest.  This would be normal since it follows the definition of the major chord which is that it uses the first, third and fifth notes of the scale.  However, these same notes could also be played: E, G, C with E the lowest key, G in the middle, and C the highest.  This chord would be considered C major chord, first inversion.  Playing G, C, and E with G the lowest key would be considered C major chord 2nd inversion.  There is no third inversion for a three note chord of course, since the next change would bring the chord back to C, E, G, the expected chord fingering.


major (M, maj)

The name major for a chord, abbreviated capital M or "maj" means that the chord is made up of the first, third and fifth notes of the scale.  For a C major, that would be C, E, and G.


minor (m, min)

The name "minor", which is abbreviated small "m" or "min" means that the chord has a flatted third note.  So C minor, instead of being like C major with C, E, G, is made up of C, Eb, G (where the E is E flat, one half step lower)


no 3 (no 3rd)

This chord name, such as "C no 3" really ends up being the same as the C 5 chord above.  The notes are being approached from two different directions, but end up with the same result.  The C5 chord is really just two notes - the first and fifth note of the scale.  So, a C5 is really just C and G.  "C no 3" really starts with the C major chord and subtracts.  The C major chord is C, E, and G.  When one subtracts the 3rd note of the octave, 6ne arrives at the same two notes: C and G . . as indicated by  the C5 chord also.


scale

The term "scale" usually just refers to the 8 note scale that would contain most of the normal notes used in a song.  If the word "chromatic" is in front of the word scale, then it refers to all possible tones, 12 different notes, which would include all notes including all sharps and flats.  The simple C scale of 8 notes is:  C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.  Note that this sequence of 8 notes is simular to the singer scale of  "do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti do" which also has 8 notes with the first and 8th note the same name.


sharp

A sharp "#" raises a note one half step.


sus

"sus" stands for suspended.  If just the letters "sus" appear after a chord, then it is assumed to be "sus 4".  "sus 4" means that the fourth note of the scale is added to the chord.  Also the third note is often taken away.  For example, a C major chord again would be notes:  C, E, and G.  "C sus" would be C, F, and G.  In this second case, note that we eliminated "E' which was the third note of the scale, but added "F" which is the 4th note of the scale.


sus 2

Since "sus" here specifically refers to "2", it does not stand for a suspended 4th as above.  Instead of course it refers to the 2nd note of the scale.  A chord "C sus 2" would be C, D and G instead of the normal C major chord C, E, and G.  In the "sus 2" case, "E" the third note of the scale disappears and is replaced by "D" the second note of the scale.


transpose

To change notes or an entire song or melody from one key to another.


   


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