Rests: whole rest, half rest, quarter rest and more

Music generally doesn’t only consist of a long stream of only notes. Music also needs some rests. How do we write rests?

Whole rest, half rest, quarter rest

As with notes, rests have durations, you can have short rests and longer rests.

The equivalents of the whole note, half note and quarter note are the whole rest, the half rest and the quarter rest.

Whole rest

The whole rest has, like the whole tone, a duration of 4 beats.

In the staff, you can write a whole rest as follows:

whole rest

Half rest

The half rest has, like the half tone, a duration of 2 beats.

You can write the half rest as follows:

half rest

Quarter rest

And, as you might have guessed already, the quarter rest has a duration of 1 beat.

Here, you can see the quarter rest in a staff:

quarter rest

Eighth rest, sixteenth rest and more

The eighth rest, with a duration of a half beat, can be written as follows:

eighth rest

And, you might not be surprised when I tell you that the sixteenth rest, with duration of a quarter beat, can be written as the eighth rest with an extra flag (see below). Like was the case with the sixteenth note.

sixteenth rest

By adding more flags, we can make thirty-second rests and sixty-fourth rests (see below). Those very short rests are not often used.

thirty second sixty fourth rest

Examples

To give you an idea of rests in music, listen to the examples below and compare them with their corresponding staffs. All the sound samples start with a metronome that counts 4 beats before the rhythm on the staff begins.

I will start with simple examples, and then make them gradually more difficult.

The first example uses whole rests and notes and half rests and notes:

whole halmf rest example

The second example has also half and quarter rests and notes:

half quarter rest example

And now also with eighth rests and notes:

eighth rest example

At this point, it’s a good time to combine different note and rest durations with different notes on the treble clef. Let’s again start with a simple example and again gradually increase the level of difficulty.

Example 1:

note rest example 1

 

Example 2:

note rest example 2

 

Example 3:

note rest example 3

 

Perhaps that this last example was a bit difficult to follow. In the video below, I explain exactly how you can deal with difficult rhythms that you can come across when reading sheet music.

This 7 minute video is an extract from a video in my online piano course “How to play the piano or keyboard from scratch“. It explains how to play notes that are not exactly on the beat, but in between two beats. This is illustrated with the verse and chorus of the song ‘Let it be’ from the Beatles.

In the video, you will see measures (or bars), a 4 quarter time signature, and a pickup in the beginning of the chorus and the verse. You don’t need to know what this all is to be able to follow the video.

 

To fully master rests and notes, it’s important to practice regularly. Be sure to do the exercise in the link below.

Rests and notes

 

Did you appreciate this lesson? What do you think of the video? Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Note lengths – Whole notes, half notes, quarter notes and much more

Note lengths

Note lengths are important in music: a note can be played (very) short, (very) long and everything in between.

You can measure note lengths in number of beats; but this can also be in fractions of a beat.

But, what is exactly a beat?

What is a beat?

A beat could be defined as the basic rhythmic unit in music.

When you clap your hands or tap your toes when you listen to a piece of music, you do that normally on every beat.

Notation of note lengths in the staff

Whole note, half note and quarter note

Some basic note lengths (or note values) are the whole note, the half note and the quarter note. You can see them displayed in the staff below.

whole note half note quarter note

The whole note has a duration of 4 beats. In 4/4 time, this corresponds to a whole measure, from where ‘whole note’ has its name. The duration of a half tone is half of that of a whole tone, so 2 beats. And, logically, a quarter note has a duration of 1 beat.

Listen to a sound sample of the whole note, half note and 2 quarter notes as in the staff above. The metronome clicks every beat. You will hear the metronome count 4 beats before it starts.

Remark: whole note and half note have nothing to do with whole tone and half tone. The first 2 are durations, the last 2 are intervals.

The stem of a note (the little vertical bar) can be pointed upwards (as in our previous examples), but also downwards. Generally spoken, the stem is upwards for notes in the lower half of the staff, and downwards in the upper half. See the next figure for an example.

note stem up down

Eighths notes and sixteenths notes

An eighth note has a duration half of that of the quarter note, which means a half beat. You can thus have two eighth notes in one beat. The note symbol for an eighth note is:

eighth note

A sixteenths note is again half as long as an eighth note. You can have 4 sixteenths notes in one beat.

The note symbol for a sixteenth note is:

sixteenth note

When 2 or more eighths or sixteenths notes are played after each other, you can make beamed notes as follows:

Combinations are also possible:

beamed notes combination

Look at the next combination of quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenths notes and listen to the corresponding sound sample. The metronome starts with 4 beats before it begins.

quarter eighth sixteenth note

Other note lengths

By adding extra flags to the stem (little vertical bar on the note), we can make thirty-second notes (8 in a beat), sixty-fourth notes (16 in a beat), etcetera.

thirty-second sixty-fourth notes

We can augment the note length by 50% by adding a dot after the note, for example:

  • 1 + ½ = 1½ beats:       quarter note with dot
  • 2 + 1 = 3 beats:           half note with dot
  • ½ + ¼ = ¾ beats:        eighth note with dot

Remark: a ¾ beat note followed by a sixteenth note (¼ beat) can be notated as beamed notes, as follows:

eighth with dot sixteenth note

Example: look at the next combination of notes and listen to the corresponding sound sample. As always, the metronome starts with 4 beats before it begins.

What to do if we want a note with a duration of –let’s say- 2½ beats? We can do this by linking a half note (2 beats) and an eighth note (½ beat) together:

notes linked together

Make sure to master your knowledge of note lengths by doing the exercises that are available via the 2 links below:

Whole note, half note, quarter note. Choose the right staff with the audio

Half note, quarter note, eighth note. Choose the right staff with the audio

Please let us know what you think of this lesson by leaving a comment below.

The notes on the treble clef

Musical notes are written on a staff. A staff consists of 5 horizontal lines where the notes can be placed. The notes on the treble clef can be on or in between the 5 horizontal lines.

staff

The treble clef

The treble clef is mainly for notes from middle C and higher. So this is for the right hand on the piano. This is, however, not a rule. You can display notes on a treble clef that are lower than middle C. And sometimes, but not often, notes on the treble clef are played with the left hand.

To indicate that the staff we’re reading is in treble clef, we use the next treble clef symbol at the beginning of the staff:

Staff with treble clef

 

As I said, the notes can be displayed on or in between the lines of the staff. The note on the lowest line is an E. This is the E which is a major 3rd higher than the middle C.

Note E on staff

The next note, F, is displayed between the lowest 2 lines of the staff.

Note F on staff

The G is on the 2nd line.

Note G on staff

In this way we can go on, which gives us all the notes that can be placed on or in between the lines of the staff.

Notes on staff

An easy way to remember the notes on the treble clef is by looking at the notes that go in between the lines: they make the word ‘FACE’.

Face notes on staff

From the ‘FACE’-notes, it’s very easy to deduce all the other notes.

Ledger lines

As I mentioned before: the treble clef is for notes from middle C and higher. And it was even possible to display notes lower than middle C. How is this possible when the note on the lowest line is an E? Let’s first put a D on the staff. That’s still easy: just put it under the lowest line.

The note D on staff

 

But how can we put the middle C? The middle C should be again on a line. But we don’t have any lines anymore. Well, you can do that with ledger lines.

A ledger line is a little horizontal line just under or above the staff that you place there where you want your note. The middle C is then displayed as follows:

The note C on staff

You can even make the B:

Note B on staff

For the A, we need a 2nd ledger line:

Note A on staff

You can go on putting extra ledger lines for even lower notes. Now, the next question may arise: till how many ledger lines can you go? Well, officially, you can have as many ledger lines as you want. But, ask yourself: is it still readable? I would say that it’s still possible to read 3 or 4 ledger lines without a too big effort. But sometimes, you see even more ledger lines…

It’s also possible to put ledger lines above the staff to display higher notes.  Can you see which note is displayed in the next figure?

The high E on staff

 

Well, I hope you found it on your own…

If not: it’s an E!

This is not all

As you might have noticed, this is not all:

And now it’s time to do some exercises. Click on the link below to test your knowledge of the notes on the treble clef.

Place the note on the treble clef on the piano keyboard (only white keys)

 

Please tell us what you think of this lesson (and the trick to remember the treble clef notes) by leaving a comment below.

3

Where is middle C on the piano or keyboard?

From all the C’s on the piano, there’s only one that is the middle C. The middle C is, as you guessed already, a C that doesn’t sound (very) low nor (very) high. It sounds, well, in the middle… But where is middle C on a piano or keyboard? That depends on the piano or keyboard, as we will see later.

In the next sound sample, you can hear a middle C so you can compare it to the middle C on your piano or keyboard.

Where is the middle C?

The location of the middle C on a piano or keyboard depends on the number of keys that your instrument has. An acoustic piano normally has 88 keys. An electronic keyboard however has not necessarily always 88 keys. There are keyboards with 76, 73, 61 or 54 keys, and even other numbers of keys exist. As a general rule: the middle C is the C that is nearest to the exact middle of the keyboard.

Let me illustrate this with some keyboard-examples.

The middle C on an 88 key piano (most acoustic pianos)

To find the middle C on an 88 key piano or keyboard, look for the exact middle of the keyboard. Since the keyboard has 88 keys, this is between key 44 and 45 (red arrow in figure). The middle C (highlighted in blue) is the C nearest to the exact middle of the piano.

middle C 88 keyboard

On an 88 key piano or keyboard, the middle C is the 4th C from the left of the keyboard.

fourth C 88 keyboard

The middle C on a 76 key piano

The exact middle of a 76 key piano is showed in the next figure. In the same figure, the middle C –which is the C nearest to the middle of the keyboard- is also indicated.

middle C 76 keyboard

The middle C on other keyboards

As mentioned above, the general rule states: the middle C is the C that is nearest to the exact middle of the keyboard. And, to be honest, it’s normally not even necessary to count the number of keys, divide by 2, look for the nearest C, etcetera: with a little bit of feeling, you can see at a glance which C is the middle C.

 

 

Please tell us what you think of this lesson by leaving a comment below.

How to form a diminished chord

A diminished chord has -like a minor chord- a minor 3rd interval from the first note (the root) to the second note of the chord. The difference with minor chords lies within the 3rd chord note as we will see below. Like with minor chords and major chords, we can have diminished triads and diminished 7th chords.

If you want to hear sound samples of the different chords, please refer to the lesson ‘What is a chord? How do different chords sound?’.

Diminished triads

A diminished triad is made of the root, the minor 3rd and the flattened 5th. So, in the case of the C diminished triad, this would be:   C   Eb   Gb

Another example is the G diminished triad: G   Bb   Db

The notation for a diminished chord is (in this case C diminished):     C O or Cdim. And in the case of G diminished: G O or Gdim.

Half diminished chords

As with major and minor chords, we can add the 7th. When we add the minor 7th to a diminished triad, we get a half diminished chord. Let’s see how that works in the key of C. The C diminished triad is C   Eb   Gb. The minor 7th in the key of C is the Bb, so C half diminished is: C    Eb    Gb    Bb

The notation for the C half diminished chord is: CØ or Cm7b5.

CØ is a nice and short notation, but Cm7b5 actually shows better what’s going on in the chord:

  • The ‘m’ stands for minor, since we have a minor 3rd
  • The ‘7’ stands for the 7th in the chord, in this case a minor 7th
  • The ‘b5’ stands for the flattened 5th in the chord

The G half diminished chord is: G   Bb   Db   F

So we can write G half diminished as: GØ or as Gm7b5

A half diminished chord can also be considered as a minor chord (but a minor chord with a flattened 5th).

Diminished 7th chords

Perhaps you noticed that a diminished triad is made of 2 stacked minor 3rd intervals. Look at the C diminished triad: from the root (C) to the minor 3rd (Eb) is a minor 3rd interval and from Eb to Gb is also a minor 3rd interval. Well, why not adding another minor triad? So, let’s do that!

What is a minor 3rd up from Gb? A minor 3rd consists of 3 semitones and 3 semitones up takes us to A. The only problem is that the 3rd note in the Gb minor scale cannot be an A.  Ab is the 2nd note, so the 3rd note must be written with the letter ‘B’ (see the rules in the major scale lesson). The only way we can do that, is with a double flat: Bbb (which is of course the enharmonic equivalent of A).

So, the C diminished chord is: C   Eb   Gb   Bbb

G diminished is a bit easier because it doesn’t contain any double flat: G   Bb   Db   Fb

The notation for diminished chords is as follows:

C diminished: C O7, Cdim7 or C O

G diminished: G O7, Gdim7 or G O

Even though diminished chords have a minor 3rd, they are, in contrast to half diminished chords, not considered as minor chords.

All the other diminished chords

Diminished 7th chords

And here comes the good news: there are only 3 different diminished 7th chords! Not 12, as was the case with minor and major chords (but this is only for diminished chords, not for half diminished chords since there are 12 different half diminished chords!). Only 3? Let me explain:

Look at the Eb diminished chord:

  • From Eb, up a minor 3rd to Gb
  • Then, from Gb, a minor 3rd up to Bbb
  • Finally, from Bbb, a minor 3rd up to Dbb (which is a C)

So, Eb diminished is: Eb   Gb   Bbb   Dbb (or C)

Compare this with the C diminished chord: C   Eb   Gb   Bbb

Even when not written totally the same (Dbb instead of C), the chords are exactly the same! And, indeed: a diminished chord of a note of the C diminished chord has the same notes as the C diminished chord itself. So this means that Cdim7, Ebdim7, Gbdim7 and Adim7 all are the same chord!

(Btw, notice that I wrote Adim instead of Bbbdim, because it would be a bit ridiculous to talk about the Bbbdim chord when we can simply say Adim.)

This enables us to finally make the table with the 3 different diminished chords:

Diminished chord: Chord notes:
C O7, Eb O7, Gb O7, A O7 C    Eb    Gb    A
Db O7, E O7, G O7, Bb O7 Db   E   G   Bb
D O7, F O7, Ab O7, B O7 D   F   Ab   B

Some remarks concerning this table:

  • Notice that the roots of the chords listed in the left column are the same as the notes of the diminished chords in the right column.
  • Instead of writing the correct notes for each individual diminished scale (like Bbb for Cdim), I wrote the easiest enharmonic equivalent (A instead of Bbb).
  • For the diminished chords with a black note root: I didn’t list the enharmonic equivalents, but you can find the notes of for example D# O7 at Eb O

Half diminished chords

Here’s the table with half diminished chords:

Half diminished chord: Chord notes:
CØ C   Eb   Gb   Bb
DØ D   F   Ab   C

 

EØ E   G   Bb   D
FØ F   Ab   Cb   Eb
GØ G   Bb   Db   F
AØ A   C   Eb   G
BØ B   D   F   A
DbØ / C#Ø Db   Fb   Abb   Cb  /  C#   E   G   B
EbØ / D#Ø Eb   Gb   Bbb   Db  /  D#   F#   A   C#
GbØ / F#Ø Gb   Bbb   Dbb   Fb  /  F#   A   C   E
AbØ / G#Ø Ab   Cb   Ebb   Gb  /  G#   B   D   F#
BbØ / A#Ø Bb   Db   Fb   Ab  /  A#   C#   E   G#

 

 

Please tell us what you think of this lesson about diminished chords by leaving a comment below.

Chord inversion: different ways to play the same chord

Let me start with a simple C major triad. You can play the C major triad in 3 different ways on the piano. All you need is a chord inversion. Let me explain…

Chord inversion in a triad

I will continue with the C major triad: C   E   G.  On the piano keyboard, it looks like:

C root

You can see that the C, the root of the triad, is at the bottom. We call the C major triad in this position the root position.

When we move the lowest note, the C, to the top, we get: E   G   C.

Or, on the piano keyboard:

C 1st inversion

We call this the C major triad in 1st inversion.

When we move now the lowest note (which is the E) to the top, we get: G   C   E.

We call this the C major triad in 2nd inversion (see next figure).

C 2nd inversion

When we move now the lowest note (which is the G) to the top, we’re back in root position, with the root (the C) at the bottom.

You can see that it’s possible to make three different ways to play a major triad:

  • Root position
  • 1st inversion
  • 2nd inversion

 

Now, you can imagine that all triads, whether they are major, minor, diminished or whatever, can be played in those 3 positions.

Chord inversion in 7th chords

We can apply the same ‘trick’ in 7th chords: always move the bottom note to the top to get to the next position.

Let me illustrate this with the C7 chord. In root position, this is: C   E   G   Bb (see figure)

C7 root position

Let’s move the root to the top to go to the C7 chord in 1st inversion: E   G   Bb   C (see figure)

C7 1st inversion

Move the bottom note (the E) to the top, and we’re in 2nd inversion:

C7 2nd inversion

Again, move the bottom note (now the G) to the top, and we’re in 3rd inversion:

C7 3rd inversion

And, as you guessed already, when we move now the bottom note (the Bb) to the top, we’re back in root position.

This means that the 7th chords have 4 possible positions:

  • Root position
  • 1st inversion
  • 2nd inversion
  • 3rd inversion

And, of course, you can apply the same trick to all other kind of 7th chords (minor 7th, major 7th, …).

 

It takes some time to really master the inversions of all kind of chords, that’s why it is important to practice a lot with it. You can do this by doing the exercises that are accesible via the links below. Do them in the order as they appear in this list, because they go from easy to more difficult. Do an exercise for about 5 minutes and then come back at the same or a next exercise later (or the next day).

Place the notes of the major triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the minor triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the dominant chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the minor 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the major 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (all the inversions)

 

 

Please tell us what you think of this lesson and the exercises by leaving a comment below.

 

4

How to form a minor chord

Minor chords

How are minor chords formed? The most important characteristic of a minor chord is the minor 3rd interval from the root (starting note) to the second chord note. We can have minor triads and minor chords with a 7th.

If you want to hear sound samples of the different chords, please refer to the lesson ‘What is a chord? How do different chords sound?’.

Minor triads

A minor triad is made of the root (1st), 3rd and 5th note of the minor scale. For example, the C minor triad is formed by the root, the 3rd and the 5th note of the C minor scale. So, the notes of a C minor triad are: C, Eb and G. Notice the minor 3rd interval between the root (C) and the Eb. The Eb is therefore called the minor 3rd in the key of C.

Two more examples:

  • The A minor triad: the root, minor 3rd and 5th in the key of A are A, C and E, so the A minor triad is: A    C    E
  • The Db minor triad: the root, minor 3rd and 5th in the key of Db are Db, Fb (enharmonic equivalent of E) and Ab, so the Db minor triad is: Db    Fb    Ab

Minor 7th chords

Minor 7th chords are formed by a minor triad with an extra note: the minor 7th. The minor 7th is the note that makes a minor 7th interval with the root note. The minor 7th in the key of C is Bb. So, the C minor 7th chord consists of the notes C, Eb, G and Bb.

We write the C minor 7th chord as Cm7, Cmin7 or C-7

I will take the 2 other examples from above to give you 2 more minor 7th chords:

  • The A minor 7th chord: the A minor triad (A C    E) with the added minor 7th (G) gives us the A minor 7th chord:    A    C    E    G
  • The Db minor 7th chord: add the minor 7th in the key of Db to the Db minor triad to get: Db    Fb    Ab    Cb   (Cb being the enharmonic equivalent of B)

Minor major 7th chords

Minor major 7th chords are almost never used in rock/pop/blues music, but a lot in jazz.

A minor major 7th chord is made of a minor triad with an added major 7th note. At first sight, the name is a bit confusing: is it a minor chord or a major chord? Well, it is a minor chord because of the minor 3rd (it’s built on a minor triad!). The ‘major’ in the chord name refers to the 7th because it is a major 7th note.

We write a C minor major 7th chord as C-∆7 or Cm∆7.

A minor major 7th chord is easy to find when you know the minor 7th chord: just raise the minor 7th by a semitone.

Taking the same examples as before, we get:

  • The C minor major 7th chord: C    Eb    G    B
  • The A minor major 7th chord: A    C    E    G#
  • The Db minor major 7th chord: Db    Fb    Ab    C

All the other minor chords

With the information in this lesson, you can now find out all the other minor chords. Start with all the 12 triads, and then put the minor 7th or major 7th on top to find the minor 7th and minor major 7th chords. If you don’t remember well all the minor scales, then have a look at the lesson about minor scales. For the minor chords that have a ‘black key root’: take the roots that have a minor scale with not more than 6 sharps or 6 flats (see ‘How to form a minor scale’). For the sake of completeness, I will also add the enharmonic equivalents with more than 6 sharps or flats in parentheses.

When you’re finished, check your answers with the solutions below.

Triads

Minor triad Chord notes
Cm C    Eb    G
Dm D    F    A
Em E    G    B
Fm F    Ab    C
Gm G    Bb    D
Am A    C    E
Bm B    D    F#
C#m (Dbm) C#    E    G#    (Db    Fb    Ab)
D#m / Ebm D#    F#    A#  /  Eb    Gb    Bb
F#m (Gbm) F#    A    C#    (Gb    Bbb    Db)
G#m (Abm) G#    B    D#    (Ab    Cb    Eb)
Bbm (A#m) Bb    Db    F    (A#    C#    E#)

 

Minor 7th chords

Minor 7th chord Chord notes
Cm7 C    Eb    G    Bb
Dm7 D    F    A    C
Em7 E    G    B    D
Fm7 F    Ab    C    Eb
Gm7 G    Bb    D    F
Am7 A    C    E    G
Bm7 B    D    F#    A
C#m7 (Dbm7) C#    E    G#    B    (Db    Fb    Ab    Cb)
D#m7 / Ebm7 D#    F#    A#    C#    /    Eb    Gb    Bb    Db
F#m7 (Gbm7) F#    A    C#    E    (Gb    Bbb    Db    Fb)
G#m7 (Abm7) G#    B    D#    F#    (Ab    Cb    Eb    Gb)
Bbm7 (A#m7) Bb    Db    F    Ab    (A#    C#    E#    G#)

 

Minor major 7th chords

Minor major 7th chord Chord notes
C-∆7 C    Eb    G    B
D-∆7 D    F    A    C#
E-∆ E    G    B    D#
F-∆7 F    Ab    C    E
G-∆7 G    Bb    D    F#
A-∆7 A    C    E    G#
B-∆7 B    D    F#    A#
C#-∆7 (Db-∆7) C#    E    G#    B#    (Db    Fb    Ab    C)
D#-∆7 / Eb-∆7 D#    F#    A#    C##    /    Eb    Gb    Bb    D
F#-∆7 (Gb-∆7) F#    A    C#    E#    (Gb    Bbb    Db    F)
G#-∆7 (Ab-∆7) G#    B    D#    F##    (Ab    Cb    Eb    G)
Bb-∆7 (A#-∆7) Bb    Db    F    A    (A#    C#    E#    G##)

 

It’s really important to practice a lot in order to be able to quickly come up with the right minor chord when you’re play a song for example. The exercises below are an excellent way to practice your minor chord knowledge.

If you don’t know what chord inversions are, then do only the exercises in root positions. Otherwise, you can follow the lesson about inversions.

Minor triads:

Place the notes of the minor triad on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the minor triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Minor 7th chords:

Place the notes of the minor 7th chord on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the minor 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Mix of all chords (also major!):

If you know how major chords work, you can do also the following exercises. If not, look first at the major chords lesson.

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (all the inversions)

 

I hope you learned a lot about minor chords. Please let us know what you think of this lesson and the exercises by leaving a comment below.

 

How to form major chords

Major chords

How are major chords formed? The most important characteristic of a major chord is the major 3rd interval from the root (starting note) to the second chord note. We can have major triads and major chords with a 7th.

If you want to hear sound samples of the different chords, please refer to the lesson ‘What is a chord? How do different chords sound?’.

Major triads

A major triad is made of the root (1st), 3rd and 5th note of the major scale. For example, the C (major) triad is formed by the root, the 3rd and the 5th note of the C major scale. So, the notes of a C major triad are: C, E and G. Notice the major 3rd interval between the root (C) and the E. The E is therefore called the major 3rd in the key of C.

Let’s try another example:  the A major triad. The root, 3rd and 5th in the A major scale are A, C# and E.

OK, one more example: the Eb major triad. The root, 3rd and 5th are Eb, G and Bb.

We write the major triad just with its root note, so the C major triad is simply written as C. The context will tell you if the symbol C refers to the single note C or to the C triad.

Major 7th chords

Major 7th chords are formed by a major triad with an extra note: the 7th note of the corresponding major scale. In the scale of C major, the 7th note is a B, so the C major 7th chord consists of the notes: C, E, G and B. Note that the interval of the root (C) to the 7th note in the scale (B) is a major 7th interval. That’s why we call this chord the C major 7th chord. So the word ‘major’ in the chord name refers to the major 7th (the B) of the scale, not to the major 3rd (the E). We write the C major 7th chord as: C∆7, CMaj7 or CM7.

Let me take the 2 other triad examples to show you 2 more major 7th chords:

The A major triad was: A, C# and E. Add the major 7th of the A major scale, and A∆7 consists of the notes A, C#, E and G#.

When you apply the same thing to Eb, you can see that Eb∆7 consists of the following notes: Eb, G, Bb and D.

Dominant or 7th chords

Instead of adding the major 7th to the major triad, we can also add the minor 7th to the major triad. The minor 7th in the scale of C is Bb (the minor 7th is the note that makes a minor 7th interval with the root). So the C dominant (or C seventh) chord consists of the notes C, E, G and Bb.

We write this chord as: C7.

Note: a major 7th chord is a major triad with a major 7th, but a 7th chord is a major triad with a minor 7th. So we don’t call this a minor 7th chord. A minor 7th chord is a chord based on a minor 3rd interval between the root to the second chord note. So here, the word ‘minor’ doesn’t refer to the 7th, but to the 3rd. A bit confusing, I admit, but things are like that…

So, A7 consists of the notes A, C#, E and G (since G is the minor 7th in the key of A). And Eb7 consists of the notes Eb, G, Bb and Db.

All the other major chords

With the information in this lesson, you can now find out all the other major chords. Start with all the 12 triads, and then put the minor 7th or major 7th on top to find the dominant (7th) and major 7th chords. If you don’t remember well all the major scales, then have a look at the lesson about major scales. For the major chords that have a ‘black key root’: take the roots that have a major scale with not more than 6 sharps or 6 flats (see ‘How to form a major scale’). For the sake of completeness, I will also add the enharmonic equivalents with more than 6 sharps or flats in parentheses.

When you’re finished, check your answers with the solutions below.

Triads

Major triad Chord notes Number of sharps/flats

in the major scale

C C   E   G 0
D D   F#   A 2 sharps
E E   G#   B 4 sharps
F F   A   C 1 flat
G G   B   D 1 sharp
A A   C#   E 3 sharps
B B   D#   F# 5 sharps
Db (C#) Db   F   Ab   (C#   E#   G#) 5 flats (7 sharps)
Eb (D#) Eb   G   Bb   (D#   F##   A#) 3 flats (9 sharps)
F# / Gb F#   A#   C#   / Gb   Bb   Db 6 sharps / 6 flats
Ab (G#) Ab   C   Eb   (G#   B#   D#) 4 flats (8 sharps)
Bb (A#) Bb   D   F   (A#   C##   E#) 2 flats (10 sharps)

 

Major 7th chords

Major 7th chord Chord notes Number of sharps/flats

in the major scale

C∆7 C   E   G   B 0
D∆7 D   F#   A   C# 2 sharps
E∆7 E   G#   B   D# 4 sharps
F∆7 F   A   C   E 1 flat
G∆7 G   B   D    F# 1 sharp
A∆7 A   C#   E   G# 3 sharps
B∆7 B   D#   F#   A# 5 sharps
Db∆7 (C#∆7) Db   F   Ab   C   (C#   E#   G#   B#) 5 flats (7 sharps)
Eb∆7 (D#∆7) Eb   G   Bb   D   (D#   F##   A#   C##) 3 flats (9 sharps)
F#∆7 / Gb∆7 F#   A#   C#   E#   / Gb   Bb   Db   F 6 sharps / 6 flats
Ab∆7 (G#∆7) Ab   C   Eb   G   (G#   B#   D#   F##) 4 flats (8 sharps)
Bb∆7 (A#∆7) Bb   D   F   A   (A#   C##   E#   G##) 2 flats (10 sharps)

 

Dominant (7th) chords

Dominant chord Chord notes Number of sharps/flats

in the major scale

C7 C   E   G 0
D7 D   F#   A 2 sharps
E7 E   G#   B   D 4 sharps
F7 F   A   C   Eb 1 flat
G7 G   B   D   F 1 sharp
A7 A   C#   E   G 3 sharps
B7 B   D#   F#   A 5 sharps
Db7 (C#7) Db   F   Ab   Cb   (C#   E#   G#   B) 5 flats (7 sharps)
Eb7 (D#7) Eb   G   Bb   Db   (D#   F##   A#   C#) 3 flats (9 sharps)
F#7 / Gb7 F#   A#   C#   E   / Gb   Bb   Db   Fb 6 sharps / 6 flats
Ab7 (G#7) Ab   C   Eb   Gb   (G#   B#   D#   F#) 4 flats (8 sharps)
Bb7 (A#7) Bb   D   F   Ab   (A#   C##   E#   G#) 2 flats (10 sharps)

 

And now it’s time to practice all that you’ve learned in this lesson. The exercises below are an excellent way to practice your skills.

If you don’t know what chord inversions are, then do only the exercises in root positions. Otherwise, you can follow the lesson about inversions.

Major triads:

Place the notes of the major triad on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the major triad on the piano (all the inversions)

Dominant chords:

Place the notes of the dominant chord on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the dominant chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Major 7th chords:

Place the notes of the major 7th chord on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the major 7th chord on the piano (all the inversions)

Mix of all chords (also minor!):

If you know how minor chords work, you can do also the following exercises. If not, look first at the minor chords lesson.

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (only root positions)

Place the notes of the chord (dominant/minor 7th/major 7th) on the piano (all the inversions)

 

I hope that you learned a lot in this lesson about major chords. Please tell us what you find of this lesson and the exercises by leaving a comment below.

 

What is a chord? How do different chords sound?

What is a chord? How do the different chords sound?

So, what is a chord?

A chord is a group of notes (typically 3 or more) played simultaneously. When a sequence of different chords is played, we speak of a chord progression, like for example in a blues chord progression.

Different types of chords

Below, you can find a short description of the most widely used chords in Western music. For a more detailed description of all the types of chords, please refer to the articles about major chords, minor chords and diminished and augmented chords.

Triads

A special type of chords that we often use in Western music is the triad. A triad is simply a chord that consists of 3 notes: the first note (the first note is also called the root), the 3rd and the 5th note of a scale. This scale can be a major scale, a minor scale or another sort of scale.

Seventh chords

A seventh chord in its basic form consists of 4 notes:  the root, the 3rd, the 5th and the 7th note of a scale (minor, major , …). So it’s actually a triad with an added 7th.

How do the chords sound?

It’s important to give you an idea of how chords sound, and to hear the difference between the different sort of chords. Therefore, you can listen to the sound examples below:

The root of all the chords in the sound samples below is a C. Because in this way, it’s easier to compare the different chords.

Triads

Seventh chords

 

Listen well to the difference of the chords. So, start to listen to the difference between the major, minor, diminished and augmented triads to get a feeling for the major, minor, diminished and augmented sound. Then listen to what the 7th and the major 7th do to the sound by:

  • comparing a major triad with a dominant (or 7th) chord and with a major 7th  chord (so compare C with C7 and C∆7)
  • comparing a minor triad with a minor 7th chord and with a minor major 7th chord (so compare Cm with Cm7 and C-∆7)

 

Did you like this lesson on how different chords sound? Please tell us what you think of this lesson by leaving a comment below.

 

2

How to form a natural minor scale

First of all, why do I say ‘natural minor scale’, and not simply ‘minor scale’ (I also called a major scale just ‘major scale’ without any other specification)?

This is, because there exists only one type of major scales, but there are 3 types of minor scales:

  • the natural minor scale
  • the harmonic minor scale
  • the melodic minor scale

In this lesson, we talk only about the natural minor scale, in another lesson, I will talk about the other 2 minor scales.

The natural minor scale

When you know how to form a major scale, it’s very simple to form a natural minor scale. Before telling you the general rule, let me first show you this with an example:

In this example I will show you how to form the A natural minor scale. Well, as I promised, it’s very simple: the notes of the A natural minor scale are exactly the same as the notes of the C major scale, so only the white keys on the piano.

So the A natural minor scale is:

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A

The only difference is the starting note, the root: A natural minor starts on an A, where C major starts on a C. And that’s all! Simple, isn’t it?

Since A natural minor and C major share the same scale (only another starting note), we say that ‘A minor is the relative minor of C major’ and ‘C major is the relative major of A minor’.

Now, every minor scale has its relative major scale, so the question now is: “How to find out which relative major scale belongs to a natural minor scale?”

Well, when you look at A minor/C major, you see that from A, when you go up a minor 3rd, you arrive at C.

So, when you want to find out –for example- what the C natural minor scale is, you have to go up a minor 3rd from C. A minor 3rd up from C brings us to Eb.

Eb major is the relative major of C minor and so they share the same scale. This means that the C natural minor scale is:

C  D  Eb  F  G  Ab  Bb  C

The other natural minor scales

As an exercise, you could now try to find out all the other natural minor scales. The best way to start is perhaps with our list of major scales. Then start with a certain major scale, find its relative minor, and start on the root of that relative minor scale and you’re done.

For example: start with the Db major scale. What’s the relative minor of Db major? Well, now you have to go down a minor 3rd!

A minor 3rd (3 semitones) down takes us to Bb (not A#, because in the scale of Db, it’s a Bb).

Another way to find the relative minor of a major scale is to look at the 6th note in the major scale: remember that the relative minor of C major was A minor. Well, A is the 6th note in the scale of C major.

OK, try to see if you can find the other natural minor scales. You will find the solutions just here below:

Tables with all the natural minor scales

First, the table with sharps:

Major scale Relative minor Natural minor scale Number of sharps
C Am A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A 0
G Em E  F#  G  A  B  C  D  E 1
D Bm B  C#  D  E  F#  G  A  B 2
A F#m F#  G#  A  B  C#  D  E  F# 3
E C#m C#   D#  E  F#  G#  A  B  C# 4
B G#m G#  A#  B  C#  D#  E  F#  G# 5
F# D#m D#  E#  F#  G#  A#  B  C#  D# 6

Followed by the table with flats:

Major scale Relative minor Natural minor scale Number of flats
C Am A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A 0
F Dm D  E  F  G  A  Bb  C  D 1
Bb Gm G  A  Bb  C  D  Eb  F  G 2
Eb Cm C  D  Eb  F  G  Ab  Bb  C 3
Ab Fm F  G  Ab  Bb  C  Db  Eb  F 4
Db Bbm Bb  C  Db  Eb  F  Gb  Ab  Bb 5
Gb Ebm Eb  F  Gb  Ab  Bb  Cb  Db  Eb 6

 

Notice that the D# natural minor scale (6 sharps) and the Eb natural minor scale (6 flats) are the same scales, only written differently (they are enharmonic equivalent).

 

Now, it’s important to practice the natural minor scales. I advice you to do the exercise below.

Place the notes of a natural minor scale on the piano

 

Please tell us what you think of the natural minor scale lesson and the exercise by leaving a comment below.