Five qualities

THURSDAY, October 17, 2019

Colors are important…

We remember chords by feel and look. “Colors” are about black and white. How they look and feel is terribly important to a pianist.

All white is diatonic…

Any diatonic chord can be played in the key of C with all white notes. For instance, C major, F major and G major are all white. D minor, E minor and A minor are all white. B dim is all white. If a quality exists in the key of C, it is diatonic in all other keys.

Four or five qualities..

There are four qualities of three note chords in traditional teaching: major, minor, diminished and augmented. Three of them are diatonic. Augmented is not, and that is why there is no augmented chord that is all white. To that list I add suspensions because they are so important. Suspensions are diatonic.

The traditional qualities are taught as triads…

Major, minor, diminished and augmented are considered triads because because they MAY be written with stacked 3rds. This does not mean they must be, just that it is possible.

Sus chords are not triads…

Sus chords always include whole steps or half steps. No chord with a half step or whole step in root position can ever be a triad.

Quality one and two: Major and Minor, Root position…

Major is home base for three note chords. Major chords have three notes: root 3 and 5. There are 12 of them, one for each key. Major chords are normally 100% standard in spelling. You do not  have to worry about seeing a major chord on the page and not recognizing it.

Major and Minor, Inversions…

Minor is the serious relative of major. Major and minor chords probably make up around 90% of music.

Quality three: Diminished Chord…

A diminished chord is actually a fully diminished chord (a four note chord) with one note missing.

The diminished chord is a morphing chord. It wants to go to someplace.

Quality four: Augmented chord…

An augmented chords start with a minor 6th and then adds a third note in the middle. It can be spelled in almost any way.When you look at your hand, you recognize it.

Quality five: suspension chord…

A suspension chord adds flavor to major and minor. I simply uses 2 or 4 in place of 3 or b3. Or it uses both 2 and 4.


2 thoughts on “Five qualities

  1. Looking at inversions, X/3rd, X/5th …. When I studied theory the first time, I was forever mixing up “1st inversion” and “2nd inversion” because they were unreal. Nothing feels particularly first or second about them. The X/3rd says exactly what it is.

    1. I always had a problem with inversions of bigger chords. To this moment I can’t remember what to call a G7/D. I see it as X7/5. It takes a couple seconds to come up with “2nd inversion”. That’s not logical to me. I just want to call root position chords “first position”. But I don’t get to make up the rules. 🙂


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