What’s going on everyone!? Welcome to another installment of Axe of Creation here at the wonderful Gear Snobs. This month we will transverse the primordial ether of music theory and demystify the Chord Scale! What is it and how can I use it? Let’s take a look, shall we?
It’s All in the Name
A Chord Scale is exactly what it sounds like, a scale of chords. See, in (Western) Music we stack thirds to create our chords (which contain three notes; Root, 3rd, and 5th). The “name” of these types of chords are called Triads. Now, all a chord scale does is show you every available chord in a given key as a result of this stacking. Please realize that you don’t actually have to do the stacking. We won’t be going into detail on how to do all that, and you don’t need to know how to pick up what I’m putting down here. That being said, let’s meet Mr. White; the good old C major scale.
As you can see above, the C Major scale contains the following 7 notes; C D E F G A B. It’s alphabetical, simple right?! Now if we start on C and then layer “every other note” or a Third, we find a C Major Triad. Or simply put, a bright and happy chord containing three notes, specifically C E G. Now, the intervals contained within Triads and how they’re constructed will not be discussed in this lesson. Sorry, if you’re now saddened just look below to see this wonderful music stuff in action!
When in Rome…
So without specifically knowing exactly why these chords are Major or Minor, when we build up our chord scale a pattern arises. And do you want to know the best part? IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME FOR EVERY KEY! Only the notes change (as Keys change.) Our pattern or “formula” is as follows: Major, Minor, Minor, Major, Major, Minor, and Diminished. I’m hoping that the above two example are enough to extrapolate the rest of the chords; see below.
So music uses Roman Numerals to identify each chord throughout the scale. The lower case roman numerals represent Minor chords. Some of you might be familiar with this language. Have you ever heard someone say it’s a I-IV-V (one-four-five) or a ii-V-I. This is what they’re talking about. This allows us to quickly analyze a chord progression and easily play it in a new Key, based on As we delve further into this we will talk more about chord progressions and the push and pull between them. For now, below are two Chord Scales in the Key of C and G. I know, I know, before you say anything these chords clearly aren’t Triads, there’s only two notes! I did that for those who might not be as advanced when it comes to playing chords. So, enjoy your simple two note chords. PRO TIP: You can imply chord quality (major or minor) with only two notes!
Till Next Week
Well, that wraps up our first step in boosting our chordal playing. I’m hoping you can internalize this formula and start hearing how these chords move through each other. Moving forward, we will look more into chord qualities, how to put together progressions, and chord inversions.
Gregory Arthur is Axe of Creation, a Gear Snob, and a Father of Two. He challenges you to become uncomfortable with yourself in attempts to gain a new perspective. Never give your energy away to what you’re not. Focus on what resonates within you and bring forth in creation.
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