Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 27

Thread: Basic Chord Theory - Stupid Question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Safety Harbor, FL
    Posts
    125

    Default Basic Chord Theory - Stupid Question

    Okay, I get basic chord theory. A basic chord consist of a triad of notes where the "root" note is the lowest note, and is the name of the chord. The next note is a major 3rd (4 half-steps up) and the third note is a 5th (another 3 half-steps up) Simple enough, though difficult for a novice to remember. Looks pretty on a musical staff.

    So, let's say we're making a G chord. We get the notes of G on the bottom, with B and D stacked on top of it. G is the lowest, G is the root. G is the name of the chords. I'm with you so far.

    Now, trying to keep up with some of these awesome videos on YouTube that explain how to change a standard chord to, say a 7 chord. Cool stuff, and it makes sense... up to a point.

    Back to the G chord, and they're flying through this logic as if it's supposed to be natural and make sense to me... We take the root note and move it down a half tone to make it a 7th. Cool. Got it. (edit: Yeah, that's GMaj7, it would be a whole tone to get to G7... I wasn't thinking while I was typing)

    Now... Without breaking out a reference book. Just using my knowledge of the fretboard and basic theory... how do I look at that G chord and know which note is the root?

    The root is supposed to be the lowest note, right? Let's ignore the fact that I'm tuned in Low G... with standard uke tuning, my G Chord is a very high B on the A string, a a lower G on the E string, an even lower D on the C string, and a very high G on the open G string.

    Am I supposed to just see that as the notes of G, B and D and infer that G is the root? Why? D is clearly the lower note! Does that mean that our standard ukulele G chord is actually an inversion?

    Am I missing some key piece of information, or is there really just that much "you need to remember that G B and D make a G chord, and G is considered the lowest note no matter what octave it's in"??

    I think I may know the answer. We're basically ignoring what octave each note is for determining what the chord name is.

    And then... C is considered the lowest note on the scale? I have a bit of a background in computer programming, and was trying to approach it in a logical linear fashion with A being high and F being low. (and also taking octaves into consideration) But, I don't think that's right.

    Or is it just a matter of being able to pick out at a glance the relationship of the 3 notes in question. "Seeing" the language of major 3rds and Perfect 5ths so that the notes automatically "stack" correctly and all becomes clear?

    I've decided to take a major step back before trying to get deep into extended chords. I want to wrap my head around the logic of standard chords! I know how to play most of them... I want to get to where I know what the notes are and why.
    Last edited by LorenFL; 12-03-2020 at 09:39 AM.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Canada Prairies, brrr ....
    Posts
    1,312

    Default

    The notion of root as lowest note is nice in theory and teaching. In practice, chords are not played in isolation and the role of lowest note can be taken over by bass or whoever or whatever carries the melody. You have to look the bigger picture of a song and how all parts work together.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Safety Harbor, FL
    Posts
    125

    Default

    Yeah, I've picked that notion up from getting slightly into more advanced chords like Add9 and such. On the uke, they'll have to drop a note, and it just might be the ROOT note that gets dropped. Weird, but I get it.

    I guess another way to look at my dilemma is that I'm not likely to be playing a major chord and not know what that chord is. (unless I'm playing purely by muscle memory, which is entirely possible) If I know I'm playing a G... and I know which string I'm playing a G note on... then I can apply that modification to make it a 7th chord.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    NorCal
    Posts
    728

    Default

    Music theory on a ukulele is a tough nut to crack. The theory makes so much more sense on a piano (keyboard) where the lowest note is actually the root. Here it is easier to understand (before understanding) that a chord is the thumb, middle, and pinky fingers.

    On a uke, many (most?) of the first position chords are inversions. And they are different with a low G string (now the G is the lowest note, not the D). Even the terminology of a 7th chord is expressed differently in that on a keyboard, you add the 7th note to the "1 3 5" of the fingering. On a uke, it is accurate to say drop the root by two frets, but you really still want to keep the root if possible and some of music theory actually goes by the roadside. A Hawaiian D7 (2020) sounds like a D7 (2223), so use it if you want the sound or the ease of fingering.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Safety Harbor, FL
    Posts
    125

    Default

    Yeah, music theory definitely seems to make more sense on the keyboard! (I don't play keyboards, but I can see it)

    I'm glad I'm not trying to learn to read sheet music. I find that whole system to be lacking in the way it treats sharps and flats. Probably because I'm so inexperienced.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Nashville, TN USA
    Posts
    1,493

    Default

    It's a great idea to know the formulas for how scales and chords are built, because it really "takes your playing to the next level" (as they say, haha)!

    The notes of a chord can be stacked in any order (see "inversions"), so the root doesn't always have to be the lowest note. A basic triad is a three-note chord, but a 7th chord has four notes. It's not lowering the root so much as adding a 7 or a flat 7 to the basic triad. A triad is root, third, & fifth, and a dominant 7th chord would be root, third, fifth, & flat seventh.

    The first position G chord is a good example on a four-string instrument like the uke:

    G Major - 0232 = G (hi or low), D, G, B - or Root, 5th, Root, 3rd <- four strings, but only three different notes (a triad with the root doubled)

    GMaj7 - 0222 = G, D, Gb/F#, B - or Root, 5th, 7th, 3rd <- four strings, now a four-note chord

    G7 - 0212 = G, D, F, B - or Root, 5th, flat 7th, 3rd <- still four strings, four different notes


    Hey, play those three chords, then go to a C chord and you're playing 'Something' by the Beatles!

    Hope this is helps.
    Last edited by Steedy; 12-03-2020 at 10:49 AM.
    If music be the food of love, play on! -Bill Shakespeare

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2020
    Location
    Planet Earth
    Posts
    139

    Default

    The root isn't always going to be the lowest note in a chord and the lowest note in the chord isn't always going to be the root. There is a difference between root position and root note. When the root note is the lowest note in a chord it is a root chord then when the major or minor third interval from the root is the lowest note, they call it the 1st inversion chord, then when the 5th interval is the lowest note they call it the 2nd inversion chord. Major and minor intervals are interesting. You start with the root then add a major 3rd interval to it then add a minor third interval to that and you have a major triad. When you add a minor third interval to the root and then add a major 3rd interval to that, you have a minor chord.

    If I was you, I would learn the three basic major and minor closed chord shapes and learn to easily shift between them. If you string your Uke to Low G, and always play full closed chords, your Root chord will have the root note on the 1st and 4th strings for example C-5433. Remember that shape and where the root note is. And your first inversion chord will have the root note on the second string, for example G-4232. Remember that shape and where the root note is. And your second inversion chord will have the root note on the 3rd string, for example F-5553. The F note is on the 3rd string 5th fret. Remember that shape and where the root note is. It gets easier when you start playing and stop talking about them. Cycle through the inversions on a single chord, say a C until you can shift smoothly between them, then try other chords starting from the first inversion to the 2nd to the root. If you start out low enough, you will have room to shift higher through the inversions, if not you may have to jump back down to get your target shape. It's good exercise.
    Last edited by Mike $; 12-03-2020 at 12:42 PM. Reason: to avoid confusion in terms

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2020
    Posts
    629

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by LorenFL View Post
    Yeah, music theory definitely seems to make more sense on the keyboard! (I don't play keyboards, but I can see it)

    I'm glad I'm not trying to learn to read sheet music. I find that whole system to be lacking in the way it treats sharps and flats. Probably because I'm so inexperienced.
    Music theory will seem natural once you get used to the staff notation (standard notation). More so than on a keyboard (because keyboard is oriented to C major/A minor layout while the staff is neutral).

    I think if you search for "harmony/harmonization" and "voice leading", you'll get many of your answers posted here answered. The very short answer, which you may already know but not realize it, is that chords are multipe notes (harmony) and different their forms (inversions) help music flow (voice leading). Those are the most basics of chord knowledge, then the rest will become very understandable.

    Part of the problems of learning from Youtube videos is that many basic things aren't taught enough to really build upon. The vid creators, I think, mainly want to attract viewer counts and easier to just skip around to what's hip and/or help solve a specific technical problem. This usually means, not spending the boring time of building a good foundation.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota
    Posts
    2,482

    Default

    I'm not sure if this will help you, but I'm a big fan of this image:



    Think of chords like a snowman. No matter what, there's a base, middle, and head (7th chords become monsters with two middles).

    You can stack the middle or the head on the bottom, but no matter what, it's still the same snowman.

    However, were you to describe the snowman in his various forms, quickly, you would do so based on what was on the bottom, regardless of what is on the top.

    So we label chords, in pure theory, by inversion...what the lowest sounding note of a chord is.

    In ukulele, we don't worry about inversions too often. Some people do...but they generally aren't just playing and singing songs they love at that point and are far much deeper into all kinds of trouble...
    My ukulele blog: http://ukestuff.info

    My ukulele YouTube channels:

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    San Francisco CA USA
    Posts
    11,615

    Default

    What you call the chord on sheet music generally really only matters to the bass player, who typically plays the root note of the chord. For example, take the chord shape 1212. That can be the diminished 7th for any of the four notes in that chord: G#dim7, Ddim7, Fdim7, or Bdim7. What you call it when you're assigning a chord name to that chord shape depends on what note you want the bass player to play. It isn't necessarily a G#dim7 merely because G# is the lowest note in the chord (assuming you play it on a low G ukulele). For each of the other chords it can be -- Ddim7, Fdim7, or Bdim7 -- it's an inversion of that chord because the root note of the chord is not the lowest tone when you play it. You can go up the neck to play the chord in such a way that the root note is the lowest tone. For example, 4545 is the same four chords, but the note on the G string, and the lowest tone on a low G ukulele, is B, so each of the other chords that you can play using that shape is an inversion.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •