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Music Theory for Guitar - Secondary Chords

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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - The dominant 7th chord and the power of the tritone Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - The Harmonized Scale

When there are primary chords, it should come as no surprise that we also have secondary chords. These are the chords built on the 2nd note (supertonic), the 3rd note (mediant) and the 6th note (submediant). You will notice that the 7th note is still left out.

In C-major, these notes are D, E and A. If we build diatonic triads - triads constructed with notes from the scale - we go a third up from D, which is F, and another third up from F which will take us to A. This means that the chord on the 2nd note is D-F-A. The chord on the E will be E-G-B and the chord on A will be A-C-E. You should notice that the intervals from D to F, E to G and A to C are all minor thirds, which mean that these chords are all minor chords. For the major scale, we have now expanded our harmonic vocabulary from three to six chords, three primary chords which are all major, and three secondary chords which are all minor. Now every note of the scale can be harmonized with at least two chords:

 

C-major
F-major
A-minor
F A
A
C
C
C
E
E
G
D-minor
G-major

G

B
D
D
F A
E-minor
C-major
A-minor
A C
C
E
E
E
G
G
B
F-major
D-minor

D
F
F
A
A
C
G-major
C-major
E-minor
C
E
E
G
G
G
B

B
D
A-minor
F-major
D-minor
D F
F
A
A
A
C
C
E
G-major
E-minor
E G
G
B
B
D

When we introduce more chords, it is time to remind ourself that there is no point in using as many chords as possible. Sometimes new chords adds color and character, but sometimes "less is more", and extra chords will only sound clever and pretentious. Taste is also about not overdoing, a principle that applies to harmony as to most other aspects of life.

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Complete Book of Harmony, Theory & Voicing
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One of most important books in Western music. Detailed explanation of principles of diatonic harmonic theory. New 1971 translation by Philip Gossett of 1722 edition. Many musical examples.
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In this 2-DVD set master guitarist and instructor John Miller walks you through the fundamentals of chord theory, providing you with the conceptual tools needed to understand chord structure, and then shows you how to apply that knowledge to the neck of guitar, making practical sense of the information so that you will be equipped to voice chords up and down the neck in any key.
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Previous page: Music Theory for Guitar - The dominant 7th chord and the power of the tritone Next page: Music Theory for Guitar - The Harmonized Scale