Spellings And Formulas

The foundation and organizational basis of all music theory is the major scale and the numbers assigned to the degrees of the scale. Musicians think of the note "D" as the second and the note "E" as the third and so on. In modern music and more specifically in guitar playing, the name of the game is chords and pleasing combinations of chords. That being said let's study the theory, almost a musical science, behind chords.

Table Representing Your Basic C Scale Thinking

Degree
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
Solfege
DO
RE
MI
FA
SOL
LA
TI
DO
Letter Name
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C

Speaking in strict theoretical terms any chord is comprised of two things:

  1. A Spelling, the actual names of the notes in the chord,
  2. A Formula, The numbers associated with each mote that is in the chord.

Major, Major 7 and Minor

C Major

If we are using a C major scale to study and write, this is called being in the key of C major. In the key of C major the most important chord is a C Major chord. The table below details the C Major chord in terms of its spelling and formula.

FORMULA (Degree)
1
3
5
SPELLING (Letter Name)
C
E
G

The notes C, E, & G produce the C major chord, a harmony. In the key of C the strongest possible sound is a C major chord. When playing and writing in the key of C think of it as home base and a place of rest and comfort. Play the animation below to review the sound of a major chord. A major chord has a sound that is strong, bright, consonant and powerful.

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The quality of a chord is its character and personality and the major chord fits a variety of descriptions. In addition to strong, bright, consonant and powerful, the major chord sound is often thought of as happy, cheerful and "just right" or even rockin'.

 

 

 

C Minor

As we indeed are are using a C major scale to study to study music theory all chords and scales, with a 1st note, or ROOT NOTE of "C', are discussed in terms of their relation to the C major scale. This is exemplified in the case of C minor which calls its middle note, "Eb", a FLAT 3rd simply because the C Major scale has "E" natural as its 3rd note. So if a chord (or scale) has a 1st note, or ROOT NOTE of "C', the C Major scale is the law of the land.

FORMULA (Degree)
1
b3
5
SPELLING (Letter Name)
C
Eb
G

The notes C, Eb, & G produce the C minor chord quality. Even though they difer by only one note, C minor is worlds away from C major, having completely different qualities. The minor chord is thought of as the sad sound. it can also sound dark, gloomy, mysterious, mornful. From Metallica's Enter Sandman to Van Morrison's Moondance, It can morph from a bad ass heavy metal sound to a swinging jazz groove. Whatever you call it, it wont be major.

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C MAJOR 7

The 3 note triads, and their many alterations, serve as the basis for all chords in music. Notes can be added to triad or notes inj the triad can be flatted or sharped. In the example below the "B" note, or 7th note of the major scale was added to a Major chord. This new chord is called C MAJOR 7th. The new note, "B" is called a tension, extention or extended harmony amoong other other things.

FORMULA (Degree)
1
3
5
7
SPELLING (Letter Name)
C
E
G
B

The notes C, E, G & B produce the major 7th sound, a very sweet and beautiful one, often described as a rich harmony. It is still considered a major chord.

 

C DOMINANT 7 aka C7

In the example below the B FLAT note, not the "B" natural note was added to a Major chord. This new chord is called C7th. The new note, "Bb" is called a flat 7th tension. The new chord is again quite different from C major seven, although students are notorious for mixing the two of them up.

FORMULA (Degree)
1
3
5
b7
SPELLING (Letter Name)
C
E
G
Bb

The notes C, E, G & Bb produce the dominant 7th sound, a funky and unique sound. It is not considered a major chord.

C MAJOR 7 vs. C7

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C Diminished & C Augmented

Finally, there are a pair of unusual 3 note triads, the diminished triad and the augment triad which are seen as alterations of a C major triad. The diminished triad has a flatted 3rd and 5th degree while the augmented triad is made by raising the 5th degree by one half step, called a sharped 5.

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Conclusion

The major scale is the king of all musical theory discussions and operations. AS you complete this course in music theory your general level of musicianship will naturaully rise with the reading and writing you do as well as the practicing. To complete the lesson copyout the exercise below in your music writing book a exactly as it appears.