In this issue we will introduce the rest of the most common chords you will find in music. You will also learn how to build bigger and more colorful chords using upper extension notes. Let’s get started!
Before we start it’s worth noting that the two most important pieces of a chord are the third and the seventh. These two notes will give a chord it’s character and you could comp through an entire song. The remainder of the notes of a chord are also useful, as they give us different colors and textures to play with.
To find the seventh of a chord we can use the same method we used on the previous article to build a triad and then stacking an additional major or minor third on top of it. Depending on the triad and third that we are using the following chords can be formed:
|Major 7th||maj7, Δ||Major triad + major 3rd|
|Minor 7th||min7, m7, -7||Minor triad + minor 3rd|
|Dominant||7||Major triad + minor 3rd|
|Half diminished||m7b5, ø||Diminished triad + major 3rd|
|Diminished||dim, o||Diminished triad + minor 3rd|
|Minor-major||min-maj, min(maj7), -Δ||Minor triad + major 3rd|
Chords of the same family often can be replaced by other chords within their family as long as there are no clashing notes with other instruments or with the melody. This means that if we see a chord as
Gmaj7 we can add upper extensions, remove the root and fifth, invert it, etc. and it will retain it’s character to a certain degree. When we do this, add or remove chords from an existing harmony we say that we are reharmonizing a song.
As we have seen so far, the process of building complex and colorful chords is as simple as just keep stacking thirds together. Upper extensions are obtained in the same way. The extensions that work best for the main chord families are:
|Major||9, #11, 13|
|Minor||9, 11, 13|
|Dominant||9, 11, 13|
|Half diminished||9, 11, b13|
It’s not necessary to include all upper extensions when we are spicing a chord. For example, for the
Dmaj13 chord we can choose to play
Dmin7 and add the 13th of
D or we can also include the 9th or the 11th.
Upper extensions should be added tastefully, as they can create a train-wreck with other instruments or the melody of a song, but they can also turn a boring chord progression into something unique.