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.

 

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Martin Cohen
 

Martin Cohen is a science and piano teacher. He is also a jazz musician and composer.

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