I am seeking teachers interested in using The Creative Keyboardist Adult Piano Method with their students in order to obtain additional feedback as I ready it for publication. The method is a perfect choice for adult and teen students whose primary musical interests are blues, jazz and rock and/or contemporary popular styles such as modern pop, R&B, alternative rock, contemporary jazz or electronic music, which are largely built on the shoulders of these styles. If you are interested in using the method with your students or have questions about it, please contact me.
A chord (from a French word meaning “to agree”) is a group of notes sounded together. Most chords are built by stacking notes a third apart onto a starting note or root.
The 10 most frequently-used chords include five three-note triads (“tri” meaning three) and five four-note tetrads (“tetra” meaning four).
The Five Fundamental Triads
The five fundamental triads and their chord symbols, shown here in the Key of C, are:
The Major Chord
The root, third and fifth of the major scale form the Major chord.
The Minor Chord
The root, lowered third and fifth of the major scale form the Minor chord. Depending on the key, the lowered third may be flat or natural.
The Diminished Chord
The root, lowered third and lowered fifth of the major scale form the Diminished chord.
The Augmented Chord
The root, third and raised fifth of the major scale form the Augmented chord.
The Sus4 Chord
The root, fourth and fifth of the major scale form the Sus4 chord. “Sus” is short for “suspended.” A suspension (the fourth in a sus4 chord, i.e. F in a Csus4 chord) sounds like it’s hanging above the third and wants to resolve down to it. To hear this, play a Csus4 chord followed by a C major chord.
The sus4 chord is a rare exception to the rule that chords are built in thirds. In fact, in common practice (i.e. classical) music, the sus4 chord is not considered to be a chord at all. However, in jazz and popular music it is treated as one, and has its own chord symbol for use in lead sheets. In these styles the suspension does not necessarily resolve as it almost always does in classical music.
The Five Fundamental Tetrads
The five fundamental tetrads and their chord symbols, shown here in the Key of C, are:
Tetrads are also called “seven chords” because their highest note is a seventh above the root.
The Major 7 Chord
The root, third, fifth and seventh of the major scale form the Major 7 chord.
The Dominant 7 Chord
The root, third, fifth and lowered seventh of the major scale form the Dominant 7 chord (also simply called the “seven chord”). This chord gets its name because it is the chord naturally formed on the dominant (fifth degree) of the major scale.
The Minor 7 Chord
The root, lowered third, fifth and lowered seventh of the major scale form the Minor 7 chord.
The Minor 7 Flat 5 Chord
The root, lowered third, lowered fifth and lowered seventh of the major scale form the Minor 7 Flat 5 chord.
The Diminished 7 Chord
The root, lowered third, lowered fifth and diminished seventh (seventh lowered by two half steps) of the major scale form the Diminished 7 chord.
Mastering these 10 chords in all 12 keys (and their inversions!) will cover about 95%+ of the chord voicings you will see on most lead sheets in just about any style. (Jazz lead sheets will also have chords with “tensions,” i.e. 9’s, 11’s and 13’s, though that’s a topic for another day.)