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More Chord Construction Using the Major Scale

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Previous page: The Pentatonic Scale Next page: Right and Left Hand Technique

Lessons of The Week was a series of guitar lessons circulated in "News", in the pre-web days of the Internet. 29 lessons were written before it died out, and I happende to write the first three. They represent a little bit of internet history, as they may have been the first guitar lessons written for the internet.

The lessons were all written in txt format - they were written around the same time as Tim Berners Lee were sitting in Switzerland specifing the first version of html. I have converted them to html, and may have added a few links from the lessons.

Lesson: 6
Title: More Chord Construction Using the Major Scale
Level: Intermediate
Style: Music Theory Application
Instructor: Dave Good

In my last lesson, we looked at harmonizing the major scale and the chords that occur. This time, I want to talk about other types of chords that are found in the major scale and give chord spellings for some of the more unusual chords that are not found in everyday rock.

Let's work with the key of C Major again, for simplicity. Remember the naturally occurring triads in the major scale:

	Major : 1st, 4th, 5th scale degrees 
	Minor : 2nd, 3rd, 6th degrees 
	Diminished : 7th degree

These are what we will begin with in this lesson.

The most common Extended chord is the Dominant Seventh (7). These chords are referred to as Extended because they are an "extension" of the basic triads (logical, eh?). Now, to create a dominant seventh chord, take each triad and add a minor seventh to it, counting up from the root as always. So, for a C Dominant Seventh (C7), the chord spelling would look like this:


Please note that the Dominant Seventh is NOT found naturally in the major scale-as you can see, the C7 chord contains a Bb, whereas the scale contains a B natural. This leads me to the next version of the Seventh chord, the Major Seventh. As the name implies, to form this chord, you take the basic triad and add a Major Seventh to it. For a C Major Seventh, you will end up with:


Notice that this chord does indeed fit the C Major scale, therefore this is the chord that will occur when you harmonize the scale in diatonic sevenths. However, this is only true for the first and fourth scale degree triads! For the Minor triads, you will end up with the last type of seventh chord, called (of course) the Minor Seventh. This one is formed by adding (what else?) a Minor Seventh to the basic triad. For an A Minor Seventh, which is the 6th degree of the C Major Scale, you will have:


Again, notice that the seventh of the chord fits nicely into the C Major scale. Also note that a chord with this chord spelling will only be called a Minor Seventh IF AND ONLY IF the basic triad is a MINOR triad. If the basic triad is major, then you will have a Dominant Seventh. So, if you keep in mind that the notes of the chord must fit into the scale you are working with, then you have an easy method of checking your work as you build these chords.

So to recap the Seventh chords:

Dominant 7th (Major triad)/
Minor 7th (Minor triad): root, major third, perfect fifth, minor seventh.
Major 7th : root, major third, perfect fifth, major 7th.

O.K., so now that you are all experts at creating chords from the chord spelling, I will give you a list of some common and uncommon chords found throughout all types of music. Some you may never use, some you may love to death, but if you are truly interested in mastering chord theory, then have no hesitation about building these chords in all different positions on the guitar neck. As in the last lesson, take the chord spelling, and (this is very important) while working with the MAJOR scale built on the root note, modify the notes as indicated on the chart.

For example:

Chord                          Chord
Name                          Spelling
 ^                               ^
D Sus4 (D suspended fourth) : 1, 4, 5

So, take the D Major Scale : D E F# G A B C# D
The chord spelling for this chord type is root, perfect fourth, perfect fifth.
This gives you : D (root) G (perfect fourth) A (perfect fifth)

Now take these notes, find all their occurrences on the fretboard, and play whatever groupings of them that you find comfortable and/or like the quality of sound.

Also note that the type of chord that the following are named after will depend on the basic triad, e.g. D Maj 11, D Min 11, etc. And, (yes, another warning!) keep the following in mind:

The Ninth (9) is the same as the 2nd scale degree an octave up. The Eleventh (11) is the same as the 4th degree an octave up. The Thirteenth (13) is the same as the 6th degree an octave up.

As always:
b=flattened note bb=double flat #=sharpened note X=double sharp
maj=Major m=minor +=augmented *=diminished

So, here we go with the chord spellings:

Sus 4th (Suspended Fourth)= 1, 4, 5.
Sus 2nd (Suspended Second)= 1, 2, 5.
7 Sus 4th (Seventh suspended Fourth)= 1, 4, 5, b7.
6 (Sixth)= 1, 3, 5, 6.
m6 (minor Sixth)= 1, b3, 5, 6.
9 (Ninth)=1, 3, 5, b7, 9.
m9 (minor Ninth)=1, b3, 5, b7, 9.
maj 9 (major Ninth)=1, 3, 5, 7, 9.
6/9 (Sixth added Ninth)=1, 3, 5, 6, 9.
7+9 (Seventh augmented Ninth)=1, 3, 5, b7, #9.
7-9 (Seventh flat Ninth / also called Seventh minor Ninth)=1, 3, 5, b7, b9.
aug (Augmented)=1, 3, #5.
7+5 (Seventh augmented Fifth)=1, 3, #5, b7.
dim (Diminished)=1, b3, b5, bb7.
-5 (diminished Fifth)=1, 3, b5.
7-5 (Seventh diminished Fifth)=1, 3, b5, b7.
9-5 (Ninth diminished Fifth)=1, 3, b5, b7, 9.
11 (Eleventh)=1, 3, 5, b7, 9, 11.
m 11 (minor Eleventh)=1, b3, 5, b7, 9, 11.
maj 11 (major Eleventh)=1, 3, 5, 7, 9, #11.
13 (Thirteenth)=1, 3, 5, b7, 9, 11 (optional), 13.
m13 (minor Thirteenth)=1, b3, 5, b7, 9, 11 (optional), 13.
maj13 (major Thirteenth)=1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 (optional), 13.

Notice that in the 13th chord, the 11th is an optional interval. Also notice that in some of the chords there may be more than six notes, the limit of the guitar. In these cases, it is permissible to remove notes, with the 9th and the 5th being the notes most often removed from the 11th chord, and the 11th and the 9th being removed from the 13th chord.

Well, that should do it for this lesson. I hope you come away from this with an improved knowledge of chords and their relationship to notes, scales, and each other. As always, if there are any questions, please feel free to contact me through E-Mail.

Dave Good

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