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Three-Note-Chord Specials

What's left for now?

There are some topics we already touched. But we have to do this is detail now. So we get a collection of single things also interesting for all chords.

Chord inversions

If we take a chord this has now three notes, e.g. Root, major 3rd and perfect 5th. And I already told you that only the existence of these notes will define the major chord. So a C major could be played C - E - G or E - G - C or G - E - C. It is always a C major chord.

But the sound of a chord really changes with the sequence,  so there is a name for this: chord inversion.

The basic form of a chord is: 1 - 3 - 5, which means that the root note is the lowest note.

Moving the '1' to the end will give you the first inversion: 3 - 5 - 1

Now moving the '3' on top will give you the second inversion: 5 - 1 - 3

When playing chord inversions on an instrument this is done by shifting notes one octave up or not using the root note on the lowest string. Let's take the G major as an example:

G ----------   G major, base form
D -----0----
A ---2------
E -3--------

G -----0----   G major, 1st inversion
D ---0------
A -2--------
E ----------

G -------4--   G major, 2nd inversion
D -----5----
A ---5------
E ----------

When going into detailed chord theory chord inversions have an important role. As you can image inverting a chord can create a voicing which is identical with a different chord. Look at the last sequence, the G major 2nd inversion. Taking the D as root, the G would be a perfect 4th and the B would be major 6th. In fact this is Dsus46, an this is a (very exotic) chord. Just to give you an idea why you have to know what chord inversions are.

Chord inversions are possible for all chords, not only major or minor.

Are there other three note chords?

Of course, there are. You are not limited to major, minor, dim and augm chords.

Here is a table with three note chords using A as root note, just for your convenience:

Chord type interval structure full name
A, Amaj 1 - 3 - 5 major
Am, Amin 1 - b3 - 5 minor
Adim, Ao 1 - b3 - b5 diminished
Aaugm, A+ 1 - 3 - #5 augmented
Asus2 1 - 2 - 5 suspended 2nd
Asus4 1 - 4 - 5 suspended 4th
Asus46 1 - 4 - 6 suspended 4 6

Are there no chords with two notes?

There are. In the correct sense they are not chords because chords have at least three notes. But a lot of people call them chords. So lets have a look:

Power chords

These are not chords and they consists of root and perfect 5th (1 - 5). Their chord symbol is X5 (where X=A ..G#) They are often used in rock and pop because the third is missing, so these 'chords' have no major or minor feeling. And they are very easy to play (some guitar players dont know anything else). Here are A5 - B5 - C5, three absolutely overwhelming 'chords':

G --------------
D --------------
A --7--10-11----
E --5--8--9-----

(How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb? 1-5-1-5-1-5-...)

Power chords are also helpful for bass. As the 3rd is missing, and so there is no major/minor orientation, one size fits for all. Another point is that the frequencies of the notes in a power chord have an even ratio, so even when played on the lower positions power chords sound very straight and clear.

The 'NoFifth' Chords

A missing third makes the chord undefined, it is neither major, nor minor. On the other hand the perfect fifth is not relevant for the major/minor gender. So leaving the perfect fifth out still keeps the major/minor orientation. Sometimes the 5th is skipped in chords, or replaced by another note (like the 6th).

Double stops

Double stops are just two notes played together. They are not even power chords if the dont show the 1 - 5 interval relationship.

No summary, no exercises, no woman, no cry ...

This was just to fill some gaps opended in the previous chapters. BUT ...

Some good examples to study basic chords and chord inversions:

The Police So lonely
Message in a bottle
Led Zeppelin Stairway to heaven
Rolling Stones Start me up
Jimi Hendrix And the wind cries Mary
Dire Straits Money for nothing

Now let's go on with Beyond Three-Note-Chords.