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What makes a chord

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by beyondat, Sep 27, 2009.

  1. beyondat


    Jan 13, 2008
    Bronx, New York
    Why are two notes played in unison on a piano called a chord whereas on bass three notes are required for it to be a chord? Or am I wrong?
  2. two notes played in unison are not a chord, regardless of instrument, it is an interval.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    It's like defining three dimensional space, you need three different points.

    You can use two different notes to imply harmony, but you kind of need other stuff going on.
  4. beyondat


    Jan 13, 2008
    Bronx, New York
    Maybe I've been taught wrong! I was told that EF and BC on a piano are chords also.
  5. They can be used as chords, like guitarist playing power chords or even octaves, but no , a minimum of three notes is necessary to construct a chord according to my music theory 101 notes. As said already, this applies to all instruments using western theory.
  6. Nope, just intervals. Strikingly dissonant ones at that.
  7. JansenW


    Nov 14, 2005
    Cambridge, MA
    The most common definition of a chord is 3 notes played, but music is full of exceptions.

    Depending upon the instrument and the piece played, a chord can be implied by less than 3 notes.
  8. A chord is distinguished by a TRIAD. Usually being the first, third, and fifth scale tones. After that, other tonal colors can be added by adding the 7th, 9th, 10th,13th.......and so on. As already said, two notes may imply some type of harmony but are only intervals.
  9. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    3 or more notes played at the same time.
  10. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I've seen double stops called chords. Only in schools though when it is assumed that kids don't get the difference between two notes and three...
  11. Catfishstudios made a good point about power "chords" on a guitar (or bass). As much as they sound like chords, there's no proper notation to depict them as a chord on paper, as they're just a root and 5th, with the added octave to fill it out.
  12. René_Julien


    Jun 26, 2008
    Well, if put a lot of distortion on it and then play 2 notes at the same time you can call it a powerchord.

  13. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    You can't write that????
    I can.
  14. You can write it, but I mean write it as a chord. is it major or minor? you can't tell because there's no 5th, or 7th, or anything. you just know it's not augmented or diminished, which doesn't help much.
  15. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    If you're playing two notes it's not a chord.
    The major or minor issue might be resolved when looking at the key of the piece or the section where this"powerchord" occurs.
  16. That was exactly my point. It can't be written as a chord because it isn't one. I wrote my last comment in response to the guy that claimed he could write it as a chord.
  17. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Ah, I see.
  18. atheos


    Sep 28, 2008
    Tampere, Finland
    Chord = 3 different notes (octaves don't count). There are no exceptions in this.

    If you play E and G notes, sure, they sound like E minor. But it could also be C major without root note. Or any other chord with those two notes. Add the 5th (B) and it can no longer be C major as C major doesn't contain B note. Got it?

    Same with power chords. They're only two notes - root and 5th, usually added octave and maybe even the 5th one octave higher. They sound like chords only when they're in a riff. Otherwise you can't even say if they're major or minor as there's no third note (in every meaning) to define that.
  19. superhand


    Sep 14, 2009
    Fresno, CA
    A chord has three or more notes. "Powerchord" probably doesn't mean much outside the context of guitar or sometimes bass. I have always heard of two notes played together as a doublestop.

    Maybe this link can help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_(music)

    Yeah you were definitely taught wrong. Not only are those not chords, they sound horrible together, they are only a half-step apart. That is one of the most dissonant intervals in music.
  20. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    Power chord is the industry term for what classical theorists call the chord of the open fifth. I've heard rock/pop/jazz pianists use that term also, and it can be applied on any chording instrument. It's application is too broad and useful in ALL styles of music to simply be classified as "just an interval", because in order for it to be a power chord, there must be three notes - root fifth octave, and there must be three intervals, fifth, fourth and octave. Classical composers often ended the pieces they wrote in minor with an open fifth specifically because of its ambiguity and to avoid the cliché of the picardy third. For example, Mozart ends his requiem on an open fifth (power chord), and it can be heard elsewhere too.

    Industry standard would be to notate a C powerchord as "C5". I've never seen a trained musician not know what was meant by that.

    This is usually the way to look at it. From an analytical perspective, the power chord is neither major nor minor (and thats the entire point!), but key context gives the impression of major/minor.

    An interesting point could be made that power chords are in fact MAJOR because of how strong the major third is in the overtone series that's been reinforced three times. I suppose it depends on the instrument you're playing (and how much/what kind of distortion you're using for guitar), but its very possible to hear the major third overtone without actually playing the major third.

    You can't tell whether or not hybrid voicings (triads/upper structures over bass note) are major or minor either, but there isn't anybody saying that they aren't chords. What's G/C? Analyzed from C, its 1 5 7 9. Where's the third? It could be Cmaj9 or C-(maj9). Or what about D/C (within the context of C being the root)? That 1 9 #11 13 analyzed from C. Are they not chords then?

    My point here is that the entire function of the power chord is not to IMPLY another harmony. If a guitarists chugs along on an A power chord in the lower register, there is absolutely no way that could imply an Fmaj7. Perhaps if people still disagree with it not being a chord, you could classify it as a "voicing" or a "chord-like structure" or something else. But there is way more to it than simply being the interval of a fifth.

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