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Help: What is a Chord?

Zebedee 30 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM
Burke 30 Jan 01 - 06:26 PM
Sorcha 30 Jan 01 - 06:26 PM
ddw 30 Jan 01 - 06:29 PM
Burke 30 Jan 01 - 06:36 PM
Zebedee 30 Jan 01 - 06:37 PM
mousethief 30 Jan 01 - 06:39 PM
Burke 30 Jan 01 - 07:14 PM
Don Firth 30 Jan 01 - 07:14 PM
Burke 30 Jan 01 - 07:21 PM
Zebedee 30 Jan 01 - 07:25 PM
pict 30 Jan 01 - 08:10 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Jan 01 - 08:30 PM
Burke 30 Jan 01 - 08:53 PM
pict 30 Jan 01 - 08:57 PM
Burke 30 Jan 01 - 09:00 PM
pict 30 Jan 01 - 09:44 PM
Burke 30 Jan 01 - 09:58 PM
pict 30 Jan 01 - 10:10 PM
Murray MacLeod 30 Jan 01 - 10:58 PM
English Jon 31 Jan 01 - 05:46 AM
Banjer 31 Jan 01 - 05:51 AM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 01 - 07:53 AM
Mooh 31 Jan 01 - 10:44 AM
Jon W. 31 Jan 01 - 11:20 AM
mousethief 31 Jan 01 - 11:59 AM
GUEST,Matt_R 31 Jan 01 - 12:02 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 01 - 12:12 PM
Mooh 31 Jan 01 - 12:34 PM
Steve in Idaho 31 Jan 01 - 12:44 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 01 - 01:25 PM
GUEST 31 Jan 01 - 01:28 PM
Zebedee 31 Jan 01 - 05:06 PM
Jim the Bart 31 Jan 01 - 06:04 PM
Zebedee 31 Jan 01 - 06:10 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 01 - 06:16 PM
Sorcha 31 Jan 01 - 06:29 PM
Zebedee 31 Jan 01 - 06:39 PM
Mooh 31 Jan 01 - 07:24 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 01 - 07:25 PM
Lucius 31 Jan 01 - 07:26 PM
Burke 31 Jan 01 - 07:52 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 01 - 07:59 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 01 - 08:21 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 01 - 08:44 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 01 - 08:44 PM
Burke 31 Jan 01 - 08:45 PM
pict 31 Jan 01 - 09:18 PM
Sorcha 31 Jan 01 - 09:33 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 01 - 11:24 PM
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Subject: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 06:12 PM

This is a really pedantic question, but I know we have some pedants here :-)

At work today (the context would take too long to explain) I came across a musical diagram consisting of E, B, and the next octave E

It was explained as a 'chord'

To me a chord means 3 different notes. As such I said it wasn't a chord.

Various web pages I've seen give different answers.

So, Is E,B,E a chord?

Ed


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 06:26 PM

Any 2 or more notes sounding at the same time are a chord. You have 2 different notes so it's a chord.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Sorcha
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 06:26 PM

I would consider it so.....there is a difference in pitch between e and E. Piano chords can have more than 3 notes, too. I don't believe the number 3 is what defines a chord.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: ddw
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 06:29 PM

I'm sure there are people here with more knowledge of music theory than I have and maybe they'll jump in a correct us, Ed, but I too thought it took a minimum of three notes to make a chord. Just E and be is the first and fifth tones, so you'd have to add a G# to complete the chord of E major. Just a G would be Em (or G6), etc. So let's sit back and watch the heavyweights jump on this.

david


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 06:36 PM

Here's what the OED has:
a. A combination of two 'according' or harmonious notes sounded together, a CONCORD. Obs.

a. A combination, concordant or discordant, of three or more simultaneous notes according to the rules of harmony; rarely of two notes only.
common chord (also perfect chord): the combination of any note with its third (major or minor), perfect fifth, and octave. Chord is often used alone for common chord, e.g. 'the chord of C'.

So what would 2 notes sounding at the same time be?


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 06:37 PM

I'd understood two notes as being an 'interval' and a 'chord' as being three.

If any combination of 2/3+ notes are considered to be 'chords' there would be no need for such terms as 'tone clusters'

Ed

at the edge of his musical theory knowledge...


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: mousethief
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 06:39 PM

2 notes is an interval. 3+ is a chord. That's what I was taught.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:14 PM

An interval is the distance between two notes. Like a 2nd or a third. It's not the sounding of the notes.

Getting it from the horses mouth & hot off the presses, here's the definition from The New Grove Dictionary..., 2nd ed., 2001. Where I should have looked in the first place.
The simultaneous sounding for two or more notes. Chords are usually described or named by the intervals they comprise, reckoned either between adjacent notes or from the lowest... [and so forth]

The derivation seems to be from accord-> sounds in agreement. The opposite was once dischord, but we know chords can be discords nowadays, right?


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:14 PM

Exactly so! What you have in this case (E, B, and e) is not a chord, it is an interval of a perfect 5th with the root doubled. It's neither major nor minor. You need a G or a G# to pin it down as either one or the other.

If you have an E, a G#, and another e, you also have an interval -- a major 3rd with the root doubled. But you are stongly implying an E major chord.

I was taught that if you had to leave a note out for some reason (maintaining correct voice-leading in class harmony exercises, for example), leave out the 5th. Root and 5th interval is ambiguous. Root and 3rd interval implies a chord. But it's still not a chord.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:21 PM

I see I should have added the naming convention information. You have an open 5th chord. The confusion is that chords draw their names from the intervals so a minor 3rd is an interval, but when sounded at the same time is also a chord. The example is an open 5th. If you did have a 3rd it would be a major or minor triad.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:25 PM

Don,

Thanks for that. I may quote you!

Ed


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 08:10 PM

An interval is the difference in sound between 2 notes.A diad is a 2 note chord and a triad is a 3 note note chord.Triads are the basic building blocks of western harmony if you have an E note as the lowest sounding note with a B note as the next highest sounding note followed by another E note an octave higher you have an E5 chord also known in rock as the power chord much used by Pete Townshend,Van Halen etc it can also be called E5 no 3rd.

If you play the notes E and B together with E being the lower note they will sound an interval of a 5th.Two notes of the same pitch played together are called a unison if you raise 1 note by a semitone and played them together you have an interval of a minor 2nd.

If you keep raising one note by a semitone you will get consecutively a major 2nd,a minor 3rd,a major third,a perfect 4th,an augmented 4th/diminished 5th,a perfect 5th,minor 6th,major 6th,minor 7th,major 7th and an octave.When you tune your guitar by the 5th fret method you are using intervals of a unison(2 of the same note sounding simultaneously)to tune it.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 08:30 PM

As I understand it, you call it a chord when it's three notes. Two notes technically isn't a chord, the term is "a diad".

If you just play diads (eg instead of playing DGF# to give you a D major, or DGF to give you a D minor, you just use the DG, and double up one or both notes, you are playing a D diad, and it isn't either major or minor -and it sounds bloody good too.

If you play a bouzouki tuned Irish style (ADAD or GDAD) you tend to play diads quite a lot.

This is another situation where less is more.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 08:53 PM

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians can't possibly be considered authoritative on a music theory question?


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 08:57 PM

?


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 09:00 PM

Read my 3rd message.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 09:44 PM

According to Webster's unabridged def.7"the difference in pitch between two tones,as in two tones sounded simultaneously(harmonic interval)or between two tones sounded successively(melodic interval)".


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 09:58 PM

Pict, I don't have any diffences with you. As you said an interval is the difference. A chord is the sounding at the same time, diad, triad or (is there a word for 4 or 5 note chords). My problem was with those who ignored both of us & insisted on 3 notes for a chord. But maybe they missed mine because 2 were done at the same time.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:10 PM

Nor I with you Burke I just wasn't paying close enough attention to what had already been posted:)


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:58 PM

Of course a chord can have only two notes. The G chord played at the third fret with the F shape, except leaving the G string open, has the notes GDGGDG. There are only two notes although it spans two octaves. It is ambiguous admittedly, having the potential to be major or minor, but it is still a chord. I mean , what else would you call it? Maybe a G power chord?

A diminished chord is the only chord I know which requires four notes to define it. Like B,D,F played together could conceivably be part of a G7 chord, but if you add a G# yjen it is defined as diminished.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: English Jon
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 05:46 AM

I used to work for New Grove... Don't believe everything you read...;)

Jon

in practical terms e3b3e4 or whatever octave you chose gives you a neutral voicing, I.E. neither major nor minor. Try singing G and then G# against it, see the difference? This is very useful, and whether it's technicaly a chord or not isn't really that important.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Banjer
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 05:51 AM

For those of us who don't read music well and play primarily by ear, a chord is a stack of firewood found very useful in cool weather. It keeps us from having to burn our banjos.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 07:53 AM

Different dictionaries seem to use different criteria. But I'd imagine the New Grove Dictionary is more authoratative than the Concise Oxford Dictionary on this issue. (I see there's a new edition of the Grove due out this week - maybe someone could post what that says on tye subject.)

Anyway, the point is, whether you call two notes played together a diad or a diadic chord, you shouldn't feel that the sound is incomplete unless you add that third note which defines it as major or minor or whatever. In fact in doing so you are likely to be distorting the music, when it comes from traditions that don't really work that way. Even more to the point, you can be failing to make use of some beautiful sounds.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Mooh
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 10:44 AM

The forgoing, for all its authority, is wisdom enough, but most folks don't (IMHO) care about the minute distinctions between the various definitions, though I do.

I gave up long ago, everywhere from choir practice to lessons to bands, trying to be very particular on this issue. I end up just calling any two or more notes sounding at the same time a chord, whether it's a "power chord" (love that rock guitar parlance otherwise known as a 5 chord) or an Em9 (which might be an Em2 if you want to confuse folks who only know chords by guitar shape rather than theory). More advanced students who have studied theory get this stuff quickly, and using particular definitions, but I think the casualness of music instruction in the rock/folk/pop disciplines encourages looser terminology usage. Fine, so long as everyone is "on the same page" and understands that theory gets pretty refined after some study.

A quick look through the (non-classical) beginner lesson books on my shelf, designed to get people playing rather than studying, confirms that a loose definition of musical terms is the order of the day. I wish these books came with a glossary or at least a disclaimer of some sort, but that might be asking too much.

Cool discussion, thanks friends. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Jon W.
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 11:20 AM

You guys should know better than to use the New Grove dictionary for folk music. For folk music, you either have to use the Shady Grove dictionary, or the New River dictionary. -)


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: mousethief
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 11:59 AM

I always thought a power cord was a multi-strand wire with a plug on the end, used to hook an electric device to house current.

Shows what I know.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: GUEST,Matt_R
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 12:02 PM

Power chords are pretty strange...they're not easy to play, at least on an acoustic.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 12:12 PM

"Power chord" what's that actually mean? I thought it was just a full chord played loud. But obviously it's no harder to do that on an acoustic guitar (just not so loud), so it must have some other meaning. Enlighten me someone.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Mooh
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 12:34 PM

MofH

"Power Chord" usually means the root and the fifth interval played together and sometimes the octave of one or both added. Eg, the lowest two notes of the "E" shaped barre chord, or the lowest two notes of the A shaped barre chord are the most common. It's a standby of a zillion rock bands and lots of classic rock songs. Most often, but not always, the root is the lowest pitch of the chord. It's an easy movable chord without the third so it's neither major or minor. I prefer the term "5 chord", but to each his own.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Steve in Idaho
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 12:44 PM

WOW! I don't have a clue really but here is my nickel's worth. On a guitar there are always 6 notes being played in a strum. If my fingers change the sound at any of the frets there are still 6 notes being played. I can't read music and play by ear - my friends tell me it hasn't hampered my ability - so this is intrigueing! I DO know that there are really only 3 "chords" - G, C, and D. As someone once said anything else is simply showing off :')


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 01:25 PM

Citing my authority, I studied music at the University of Washington School of Music for three years and at the Cornish School of the Arts for two years, then put in a year of private music theory lessons with Mildred Hunt Harris. This does not make me another Johann Sebastian Whatsizname, but I am familiar with the terminology used by some pretty heavy-duty musicians and teachers of music. The Grove dictionary's definitions were generally regarded by most of these folks as pretty loose and sloppy. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

To say that two notes sounding together in accord means it's a chord is like Big Bill Broonsy's definition of a folk song -- cute, but not very precise, or helpful in really understanding what's going on.

In Introduction to the Theory of Music by Howard Boatwright, Professor of Music Theory at Yale University, a very comprehensive textbook that covers everything from basic theory to the physics of music to melody writing modeled on troubadour and trouvere harmonies (Middle Ages, back when minstrels roamed the earth), Professor Boatwright says "Two or more notes may receive the general designation 'harmony"; an interval is a harmony. But a 'chord' is at least three notes." He then goes on to say that they must be three different notes.

That's only one book out of my eighteen-inch stack of music theory texts and workbooks, and they all say the same thing. Except the Grove dictionary.

With only a pair of E's and a B, what chord symbol are you going to put to it? It's sort of an E chord, but what kind? Dunno. It takes a G to identify it as an Em or a G# to identify it as an E (major).

And Murray, all it takes to make a diminished chord is three notes: B, D, and F are sufficient. A G7 (and all Dominant 7th chords) contain a diminished triad.

Take a sheet of manuscript paper and write a C major scale: C D E F G A B C. Then write another scale, E F G A B C D E, directly above the first one. Then another scale, G A B C D E F G directly above what you already have. The triads (chords) you now have in sequence are C Dm Em F G Am Bdim and a repeat of the first C an octave up, all the triads available in the key of C major. Add an F above the G chord or slide a G under the Bdim and you have a G7, the Dominant Seventh chord in the key of C. When you have four, five, or six notes in a chord (unless you are going for ninths or eleventh chords, which is more complicated than I care to get into here), you are merely doubling notes that are already in the triad.

Whew! Hope this helps.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 01:28 PM

Em2...didn't know there was such an animal.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 05:06 PM

Thanks Don,

It helps a lot. As I said when starting the thread, it's fairly pedantic, so thanks for being a pedant.

Ed


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Jim the Bart
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 06:04 PM

Zebedee - will any of this convince the person with whom you originally disagreed (I'm making some assumptions here)that E - B - E is not a chord? Just wondering.

Bart,
who knows a perfect fifth when he breaks the seal. . .


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 06:10 PM

Bartholomew,

I didn't disagree with anyone.

I told a collegue that I thought a chord needed 3 different notes, but wasn't 100% sure.

Don's posts have confirmed my conviction.

Ed


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 06:16 PM

With only a pair of E's and a B, what chord symbol are you going to put to it? It's sort of an E chord, but what kind? Dunno. It takes a G to identify it as an Em or a G# to identify it as an E (major).

I'd probably write it down as "E", and stick a note explaining that that means an E diad, or something like that. There's bound to be a symbol somewhere that means that, but I suppose most people wouldn't recognise what it means.

Just so long as we don't have to feel obliged to stick that 5th in just in order to have a name for it.

It sounds as if I've been using "power chords" all along and didn't know. Can't say I like the name. Why "power"?

But here's another query - if you play a chord up the neck, and then work out which strings you would leave open if you were playing it down at the nut end, and then you play them open anyway - what do you call that? It gives you some good sounds to play around with.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Sorcha
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 06:29 PM

Don't we have this settled yet? Good Grief, Charlie Brown. I never knew the definition of a chord was so complicated.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Zebedee
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 06:39 PM

Sorcha,

I think the answer is that 'technically' speaking a chord must have three different notes.

However, language changes, and to many people a 'chord' may only consist of two 'doubled' notes - the 'power chord'

Given that language only means what people understand it to mean, two notes probably are a chord in that sense.

I'm sticking with three...

Ed


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Mooh
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 07:24 PM

Clarification to my previous posts, a "5" or power chord means that all there is in the chord are the root and fifth, unlike other chords which will add or substitute a note but generally contain the root and fifth too. Just to add to the confusion...Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 07:25 PM

Close, but no cigar, McGrath. It's the 3rd, not the 5th, that gives a chord it's identity as either major or minor.

Actually, if it sounds good and it creates the effect you want, then whatthehell! It's only when you are communicating with others that you need to be fairly precise. Suppose you're playing all six strings and, whether through fingering or using a special tuning, sounding only Es and Bs at a particular point in a song. Somebody asks you "What chord are you playing there, E or Em?" Since you are not playing either, in order to not mislead him or her, you would have to go into a bit of detail. I don't know of any symbol (other than written music) that describes the situation briefly.

Zebedee's original question called for a precise definition. I think we've covered it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Lucius
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 07:26 PM

I used to back up a fiddle player that loved playing modally. He would jump back and forth betweem major and parrallel minor chords so often that I thought it safest to avoid thirds altogether. Now I'm being told that I'm wasn't playing chords.

So it has to be three different notes. Perhaps I could lower the top note by a whole step--E B D--no third. Is it a chord. For what it's worth, I'll hang with the Groves Definition, and not cite my qualifications.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 07:52 PM

We got our 2nd edition of The New Grove last week, shipped end of the week before IIRC. That is what I was quoting.

The problem with a dictionary vs. some music theory text is the underlying rules. Most dictionaries are descriptive. If a word is used a particular way enough, well then that's what it means. The thing is that meanings change. The word chord has been around for "sounds in agreement" since at least 1475 (OED)

OED gives 1752 as the date for it meaning either concordant or discordant & three notes & that's in a music theory treatise. It also give an example of: 1875 Theory of Sound vi. (1883) The above chord is the most consonant that exists in music, and it is therefore called the perfect chord. Can a 3 note chord ever be defined as perfect? I thought all the perfect sounds were 2 note combinations.

I'm inclined to believe music theorists co-opted a generally known & understood term and redefined it for their own purposes. They also needed easy shorthand for designating complex sounds so you get major, minor, diminished, augmented, inverted & so forth. Maybe 2 note chords are easy enough to indicate that they didn't need to develop a shorthand way to talk about them.

I see no reason why the inability to label it in some kind of shorthand means it can't be a chord. That's just backward thinking.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 07:59 PM

Honest, Don, I meant 3rd, not 5th. I get mixed up with all thse big numbers.

Now I'm being told that I'm wasn't playing chords.

You were playing guitar (or whatever), Lucius. No law says when you play a guitar you've got to be playing chords. Youi just have to play what you think sounds most fitting.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 08:21 PM

Sorry, McGrath, I didn't really answer your last question. E, B, and G are still Em, no matter where you play them on the fingerboard. For a fairly simple example (and a nice sounding chord, first finger on the first string, seventh fret, second finger on the second string, eighth fret, and third finger on the third string, ninth fret -- and the sixth string open (don't play the fourth and fifth strings). Voila! Em. What you have is E, G, and B up the fingerboard, with a nice low E bass. A first position Dm slid up two frets with an open sixth string bass is also Em.

Classic guitarists notate this by putting little-bitty numbers by the notes. If a number is circled, that's the string you play, the number without the circle is the left hand finger you use. Partial bars are indicated by something like MC-III. The "MC" stands for something like "mezzo-capotasto" or something like that, and it can mean holding down anything from two to five strings with the first finger, but there's some indication of how many in notes you play. The "III" is the Roman numeral "3" and means the half-bar is on the third fret. A full bar at the third fret would be indicated by "C-III".

There I go again. You may already know all this.

And Burke, "perfect" is not a qualitative term in this context. Two notes or three notes depends on whether you want a precise definition or not. Some study of the physics of music and why certain intervals are called "perfect" or "minor" or "augmented" or whatever should clarify what's going on. I've studied this a lot, but I'm not prepared to write a textbook on the subject. There are a lot of good texts already out there.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 08:44 PM

I know the chord stays Em or E major or whatever, wherever the notes are. I was wondering if there was any simple convention for identifying these up-the-neck chords with open strings - and it sounds like there isn't.

Not having names for them makes it harder to pass them around. For example, you can't really say "try playing that E major chord where you play an A shape as if you had a capo on the seventh fret, but you only finger the third fourth and fifth strings"


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 08:44 PM

I know the chord stays Em or E major or whatever, wherever the notes are. I was wondering if there was any simple convention for identifying these up-the-neck chords with open strings - and it sounds like there isn't.

Not having names for them makes it harder to pass them around. For example, you can't really say "try playing that E major chord where you play an A shape as if you had a capo on the seventh fret, but you only finger the third fourth and fifth strings"


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Burke
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 08:45 PM

I know perfect is not qualitative. I've heard of perfect 5ths (you augment or diminish these don't you?) vs major or minor 3rds. What I've never heard of is a 'perfect' musical combination as including 3 notes. Unfortunately the OED did not quote what the chord being referred to was. Care to speculate on what 3 notes would have been referred to?

I would suggest that the real problem is some theorists insisting on a weird precision in language where is does not exist. For example in 1870 George Grove called a chord, "the simultaneous occurrence of several musical sounds, producing harmony, such as the 'common chord,' the chord of the sixth, of the dominant, ... etc., etc." That's it, 5 lines. Even by 1954 The lead sentence of 7 lines was pretty much the same, "the simultaneous occurrence of several musical notes, producing concordant or dissonant harmony." But it adds: "Certain of the more frequently employed chords have names of their own such as the triad or 'common chord'" and so forth. Emphasis mine. Doesn't say it can't be a chord just because theorists haven't named it.

Shall we argue about what several is? If you're referring to an indeterminate number of say 2-5 things for example what do you call it? I call it several. That's why a term like that exists. It makes no sense to tell Lucius that when he's holding these strings down it's a chord, but when it's those strings it's just playing the guitar. It would appear however that the new edition had to say be explicit about 2 because so many people need that precision.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: pict
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 09:18 PM

As Charlie Parker said you only learn theory so you can go beyond it(paraphrasing).It all comes down to your ears "Theory informs but practice convinces" or as Ellington said"If it sounds good it is good!".


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Sorcha
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 09:33 PM

Very intersting discussion on what appears to be a "simple" question. I still stick with "more than one note"........Makes me in Good Company, as I am with the Grove.......Thanks, Zeb, for starting this one, it is Very interesting.


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Subject: RE: Help: What is a Chord?
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 11:24 PM

Let me ask this: If you play one of the bass courses (double string) of a 12-string guitar, say, the open A, which simultaneously sounds A and the A an octave above that (two notes, and furthermore, an octave, which is a perfect interval -- are you playing a chord?

Careful how you answer, 'cause this is leading somewhere. . . .

Don Firth


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