Tag Archives: piano

What is piano chord?

Posted on August 12, 2020 by songtive

piano chords with Piano Companion

A piano chord is one of the main building-blocks of music in western culture. Along with scales and intervals, piano chords are responsible for the creation of cohesion and structure in essentially every song and piece of music.

A piano chord can also be defined as a collection of notes in a predetermined type of ordering. This ordering is based on the idea of stacking two notes over a root at a determined interval (distance) called a third. The three notes that make up a piano chord are respectively called root, third, and fifth due to the order in which they appear. A simple approach to playing your first piano chord would be to visualize them as a simple but abstract three-note structure that can be imposed over the white keys of the keyboard. Basically, an initial note then skips one key, press that one, and repeat the previous step.

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Musical intervals and piano chord

To be able to learn to quickly construct piano chords, we should first examine their most fundamental building blocks, the aforementioned intervals. A musical interval is the measure of the distance between any two given pitches within a reference system. A good way of understanding intervals is through the use of the smallest possible distance between two distinct notes, the half step. This method to measure distance can be exemplified by playing any key of the keyboard and then playing the most immediate key over or under it. For example, C and C# or C and B. It should also be noted that our tuning system only contains twelve distinct pitches, meaning that after 12 half steps the system repeats itself with the last note carrying the same name as the initial one.

These intervals are then categorized in a series of numbers directly correlated to the number of half steps and keys implied.

 

Interval Name Amount of Half Steps
Minor second 1
Major second 2
Minor third 3
Major third 4
Perfect fourth 5
Augmented fourth 6
Perfect fifth 7
Minor sixth 8
Major sixth 9
Minor seventh 10
Major seventh 11
Perfect octave 12

Types of piano chords

Triadic piano chords are the most simple and common types of chords we can find in music. These are essentially small collections of three notes which follow a certain ordering of third intervals within a scalar reference system.

Western tonal music and its particular tuning system produce only four distinct types of triads. Namely, major, minor, diminished, and augmented. On top of having a radically different sound and emotional properties, these chordal structures are differentiated from each other by the ordering and quality of the intervals between its constituent factors. These intervals are always thirds, both major and minor. The order in which they appear will determine the quality of the piano chord at hand. These are exemplified in the table below:

Type of chord Quality and order of thirds* Amount of half steps and total intervallic content
Major M3+m3 4+3=7
Minor M3+M3 3+4=7
Diminished M3+m3 3+3=6
Augmented M3+M3 4+4=8

*Where “M3” is the major third and “m3” is a minor third.

Like most things in music, like rhythm, form, or dynamics, chord types aren’t absolute and isolated objects. They are a product of the distance relationships between its constituent members (notes) and as such, conform abstract, distance-based structures that can be applied to any given note of the chromatic system (twelve-note system), using it as root to produce a chord. That’s why to produce any chord of any type, you should just choose a starting pitch and apply the structure and order of the intervals over it.

Finally, it should be noted that piano chords are simple musical structures of very low order in terms of hierarchy. Furthermore, they are somewhat similar to single words in written language, meaning that they carry a particular meaning by themselves but not a fully developed idea. Also, they are susceptible to being combined with other chords to make up progressions (similar to the way words combine to produce sentences in written language). These progressions are common patterns or successions of certain chords that produce coherent musical ideas and phrases.

Extended piano chords

Following the same logic applied to the formation of simple triadic chords, we can create more complex structures by stacking even more thirds over the root note. By adding a single extra note on top of the triad we get a seventh chord.

Depending on the original triadic structure on which these chords are based, the quality of the new one may vary. For example, if we add a major third over the last note of a major chord, we get a major seventh chord, if we add a minor third over the same structure, we get a dominant seventh chord.

Type of chord Triadic origin Quality and order of thirds* Amount of half steps and total intervallic content
Dominant seventh Major M3+m3+M3 4+3+4=11
Major seventh Major M3+m3+m3 4+3+3=10
Minor seventh Minor m3+M3+m3 3+4+3=10
Minor – Major seventh Minor m3+M3+M3 3+4+4=11
Half – Diminished Diminished m3+m3+M3 3+3+4=10
Fully – Diminished Diminished m3+m3+m3 3+3+3=9
Augmented dominant seventh Augmented M3+M3+º3 4+4+2=10
Augmented major seventh Augmented M3+M3+m3 4+4+3=11

*Where “M3” is a major third, “m3” is a minor third and “º3” is diminished third.

How to read piano chords

Notation and reading of chords are actually very simple and intuitive processes. The root of the piano chord at hand will always be capitalized and then followed by other characters that explain their particular qualities and peculiarities.

Type of chord Notational symbol (examples in C)
Major C
Minor C- or Cm
Augmented Caug or C+
Diminished Cdim or Cº
Major seventh Cmaj 7
Dominant seventh C7
Minor seventh Cm7
Fully diminished Cº7

If you are looking for a piano chords dictionary or piano chords scale. Feel free to check out our Piano Companion for iOS, Android, macOS. Additionally, if you want to learn notes, chords, theory then you can check ChordIQ for iOS, Android.

The Chord Progressions of Christmas Music

Posted on November 29, 2019 by songtive

The Chord Progressions of Christmas Music

Chord progressions provide for the basis of every song. First is a look at the chord progressions of the choruses of four popular Christmas songs from different eras. After that, you will find how to replicate the chords of these choruses using the Piano Companion app on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Mariah Carey’s Christmas song “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was first released in 1994 and has turned into a modern-day classic. In fact, there are estimates that the song will hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in 2019, a full 25 years after the initial release. Written and produced by Carey alongside Walter Afanasieff, the chord progression and chords in the chorus are much more complicated than one may think for an instantly catchy song.

“Jingle Bells” dates back to 1857, when it was performed by James Lord Pierpont and titled “One Horse Open Sleigh”. There is no doubt that this has become a well-known classic, and it has been covered by countless singers ever since it was originally released. Its chorus does not follow a simple sequence with its chord progression and chords; rather, it utilizes multiple of them that combine to make this previously seemingly simple song into a classic.

“Last Christmas” was released by Wham in 1984. It topped the Billboard charts in many countries, mostly throughout Europe, and peaked at #5 on the US Holiday 100. It’s been a mainstay on holiday playlists ever since it was released, with countless covers and reissues. The chorus of “Last Christmas” follows a four-chord progression and utilizes four chords, as noted above. The chord progression is used in many other songs, particularly in the beginning stages of jazz music. With that in mind, it is impressive that Wham pulled this chord progression off as a holiday pop song.

Like “Jingle Bells”, “Frosty The Snowman” is a classic holiday song that seems to have been a mainstay in holiday music for a long time. The song was written in 1950 by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson, the former of which sang (but did not write) “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. “Frosty The Snowman” went as high as #7 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart, a now-defunct chart that preceded its flagship Hot 100. It also went to #4 on the now-defunct Billboard Country Singles chart. Despite being in the simple key of C Major, the chorus has a rather complicated chord progression. While most of the chord progressions are I and IV, and most of the chords are C and F, the sequence of them does not follow prolonged patterns and is occasionally interrupted by other chord progressions and chords.

If you are looking for a way to play these melodies yourself, download Songtive’s Piano Companion app on your phone, tablet, or computer. Upon opening the app, navigate to the Chords Dictionary tab to get a visual glance at how to play each cord. Then, find your way to the Piano tab and you can try it for yourself. The default sound is Grand Piano, and there is a setting to change the sound of something such as a guitar or synth by tapping on the upward arrow in the top right corner. Even better, you can record while you play so that you have a chance to listen back.

If it takes you some time to find the chords in the Chords Dictionary tab, there is no need to worry; once you find the chords, you can add them to your Chords Dictionary to make it quick and convenient to re-find the chords.

Tutorial 2 – Minor Scale Construction and Introduction to “Circle of Fifths”

Posted on February 25, 2016 by songtive

In our first post we were talking about the names of notes, it’s placement on keyboard, Major scale construction method and how “Piano Companion” application can help you in memorising all these musical things. Today, we are going to discuss how to build a Minor scale using the same method as we used for a Major scale creation. We will also introduce a very handy tool – “Circle of Fifths”.

As you can remember from the previous post (Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale), to construct a Major scale we need to know the specific order/pattern of gaps/steps or (in musical terms) “intervals” between notes. You probably already know that these intervals are called “semitones”. The order/pattern for the Major scale is 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 and the easiest way of figuring it out – was counting gaps between white notes on keyboard from “C” to another “C” note. We can apply the same concept to create any Minor scale. We just need to find out which Minor scale has all white keys in it as well. There is a great musical feature in the application, that will help us to do that. If you open the main menu of “Piano Companion” you will see the button “Circle Of Fifths”:

When you press the button, you will be redirected to another screen, where you actually can see the “Circle of Fifths”:

 Ok, you all probably have a question in you mind: “How this tool can actually help me to find the key, that I am looking for?”In our case it is A Minor scale, which has all white notes (which has no flats and has no sharps). Please have a look at the circle again:

 

There are 3 sections in the circle:

  1. Purple section – It represents Major scales.
  2. Peach section – It represents Minor scales.
  3. White section – It represents sharps and flats that each of these key has.

Can you see that a letter “A” is underneath a letter “C”? You can also see that there is a white section underneath both letters “C” and “A”.

Basically, that means that a “C Major scale” has no sharps and flats, as well as “A Minor scale” has no sharps and flats too. This is exactly what we were looking for, isn’t? The same rule applies to other letters of the circle. According to the picture, it’s clearly seen that a “G Major scale” has 1 sharp as well as “E Minor scale” has one sharp too. A “D Major scale” has 2 sharps, whereas a “B Minor scale” has 2 sharps as well and etc. Now you can tell for sure, that a “C Major scale” and “A Minor scale” has all the same notes, only the root note/ starting point is different. These scales are called “Relatives”. So, if you ever want to find out which Minor key has the same amount of sharps or flats as your chosen Major scale (and opposite), you can always use a “Circle of Fifths” as your guide.

This is not all that a “Circle of Fifths” can assist you with. It has much more information that it may seem from the first glance, however we will talk about this handy tool deeper, a little bit later. Right now, let’s come back to the main goal we were aiming for – Minor scale construction. Please go back to your main menu of the “Piano Companion” and choose a “Piano”:

Here is our piano roll, but with note names on it, just to make the process easier:

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If you press the keys from A to A, you will hear the A Minor scale. So let’s have a look at the specific order/pattern for Minor scales. We are sure that you all understand, this order/pattern is different, than the one for Major scales. How do we determine it? Once again, all you need to do is look at the keyboard and count how many gaps/steps there are in between each note of the scale. Have a look at the picture below:

Cool, now we can confidently tell that the specific note order is 2-1-2-2-1-2-2, which is the order/pattern of gaps/steps that applies to any Minor scale. With this pattern you will be able to create any Minor scale!

There is one more interesting fact about the name of a Minor scale. It has another more specific name – “Aeolian scale”. If you remember the Major scale is also called – “Ionian scale”. Don’t forget, you can always check these scales in “Scales Dictionary” of the “Piano Companion” application:

As you can see, we have emphasised some “little circles” on the picture. There are two types of them:

  1. Fully coloured circles – represent 1 Tone/ 2 semitones
  2. Half coloured circles – represent 1 semitone.

That means if you forgot the specific sequence of intervalic gaps for “Ionian” or “Aeolian” scales, you can always refer to this “circle pattern” because it is equal to the“numeric pattern” of “2-1-2-2-1-2-2” or “2-2-1-2-2-2-1”.

That is all for today and If you find our articles useful, just keep an eye on our blog, as this is just a beginning. New posts will be added frequently. Keep on doing music!