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Thread: Basic Chord Theory - Stupid Question

  1. #11
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    There is some great info and suggestions in this thread, thanks to all! I'm going to have to read it a few more times.

    Totally agree about "YouTube learning". The tendency is often to gloss over the basics. Or to crawl through just enough of the basics to get somebody started... at a snails pace... but, still never fully explain basic theory.

    Having never learned any of this in school (other than a semester of music in 7th or 8th grade as one of those "rotating elective" kind of things), it's been a slow process. People start talking about the circle of fifths as if it's the end-all of things... but, for me, I just looked at it and said, "Why?" I can't just accept that it IS, I wanted to know the why, and that info is harder to find in a digestible form.

    But, I'm getting there.

    I'm a driving instructor by day, so I can relate that to what I'm up against here. Learning to drive involves a lot of different processes. Learning the rules of the road, practicing physical car control skills, and learning to deal with traffic in the real world just to gloss over a few. As an instructor, I try to start from the basics and work up. You can't learn to deal with traffic until you've got car control and know the rules! (but, an awful lot of parents try to teach their kids that way, anyway)

    Same with learning music. You can't expect to be a good musician if you don't "learn the rules" and "practice the physical skills". The rules take constant reinforcement. The skills take constant and ever-expanding practice.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  2. #12
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    Oh God. No.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Choirguy View Post
    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...
    That's awesome!



    Quote Originally Posted by Martinlover View Post
    Oh God. No.
    Can't tell if post was cutoff or the bad guys got Martinlover.

  4. #14
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    My "Oh God. No." Comment was complete. I only meant this kind of talk will make my head explode. I fear I will not progress further than where I am right now.

  5. #15
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    It seems like you folks are getting into analysis-paralysis. I'm not a music teacher or anything like that, but let me tell you how I treat the triads. You can either reject it, or embrace it, or modify it.

    I deal with roots. I don't care if the root is the lowest note, or the second inversion, or the third inversion because we play ukuleles and beggars can't be choosers.

    Here's my methodology: let's take the B note and the minor triad as examples. I go to the G string and I find my B note(s); I figure out what I have to do in order to get a flat three and a five around that note. I write down that shape because it will work with all notes. Then I move on to the C string and do the same thing.

    Once you have a shape for each of the strings, you are done. You now know how to form B minor no matter where the B occurs. Yes, these B minors are different inversions and, yes, they have different nuances. However, you should stop cogitating about it and just play it. Your ear will be your guide as to which one works and which one doesn't.

    Do this for each chord quality that matters to you. Once you do that, you can play the chords you want on whatever fret you want.

  6. #16
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    "When you don't know music theory, it seems like rocket science; when you do, it's more like plumbing."
    One thing: The notes in a chord don't have to be in order, whether it's root position, 1st inversion, 2nd inversion; they can be spread out and/or doubled; these are called, "voicings."
    So, for example, any combination of C, E, and G in any order or spacing comprises a C Major chord.
    I have a PDF of a really good introductory article on chord construction, but it was too big to attach to a Forum post. PM me if you'd like me to email you a copy.
    "Thanks, but you should have heard what I was trying to play!" - T. Monk

  7. #17
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    Still lots of great info coming out in this thread! I must ask good stupid questions.

    Back to my original thought... I think my error was in trying to think about looking at a chord (assuming it's an unknown) and trying to determine what the chord IS based on the notes of the chord... and the theory that the lowest note is supposed to be the root and the name of the chord.

    My fallacy there was in ignoring possible inversions, and that "the lowest note" isn't always the lowest note. AND... I should generally KNOW what chord I'm playing, anyway.

    If I know I'm playing a G, then I know the root is G and so on. While it IS possible to deconstruct a chord based on what notes are being played, it's not something I should normally have to do.

    The rest comes down to me getting more familiar with and remembering all of the basic bits of chord theory. Root + Major 3rd + Perfect 5th... and what modifications to that make a minor or major or 7th and whatever. Buuuut... to really work that kind of magic from memory on the ukulele, I need to learn the fretboard. And maybe I should learn some better strumming patterns. And, gee, wouldn't it be neat if I could figure out how to do some fingerpicking?

    So much to learn, so little brain. But, I'm still having fun.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  8. #18
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    Standard re entrant tuning
    gCEA
    C is the lowest note and A is the highest note
    Yet, all open strings is both a
    C6 (low note) or
    Am7 (high note)

    Heck, I played elementary school, junior and senior high bands and it wasn’t until a few years ago when the Circle of Fifths clarified Keys and related sharps or flats - its right there in the Circle.

  9. #19
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    Following up on previous comment, I want to share probably the best $10 I ever invested in musical theory. It is "The Chord Wheel" and it is an enhanced circle of fifths. It is a circle of fifths, but it also tells you the degrees of all the keys, what chord qualities work with which degrees, how many flats/sharps each key has, and certainly other things that I am forgetting. I think it would be a great investment for any beginner.

  10. #20
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    A lot of help here with great information. I'll throw in my $.02.

    TLDR; As you said, it is "just a matter of being able to pick out at a glance the relationship of the notes in question."

    I recommend learning the three (some might say four) basic shapes of the major and minor and the four shapes of the dominant 7th. A good book for this is Sokolow & Beloff's Ukulele Fretboard Roadmaps. I like this book because it simplifies matters for the major and minor by doubling the note on the 1st and 4th strings (for re-entrant, anyway). You'll have to learn the fretboard well enough to know where the root is in each shape and with time the 3rd 5th and 7th. From there, you should be able to figure out any other chord. With time, you'll see the different shapes as different inversions, which helps in reading music notation. Good luck and enjoy the ride.

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