Simply said, a chord is a set of notes. There are chords with 2 notes, 3 notes, 4 notes and more. The “character” of a chord depends on the distances between the single notes, also called intervals. MelodyBuilder comes with a vast database of all kind of chords, so this short tutorial is only there in case you want to learn a bit more about the background.

How to build a chord?

What chord type a certain chord is depends on its building formula.

Let’s take as example a minor chord. Minor chords are often associated with sadness or melancholy (although it really depends on the context and what other chords you are playing before and after). To build a minor chord for a certain note:

  1. Add the base note to the chord.
  2. Add the note that is 3 half tone steps away from the base note.
  3. Add the note that is 7 half tone steps away from the base note.

Example: The A minor chord consists of the notes A, C, E.

For a major chord, you flip the intervals:

  1. Add the base note to the chord.
  2. Add the note that is 4 half tone steps away from the base note.
  3. Add the note that is 7 half tone steps away from the base note.

Example: The A major chord consists of the notes A, C#, E

There are a lot of other chord types.

They all have in common that they use a certain formula to build the chord starting from its base note.

Examples:

  • Instead of adding two notes that are 3 and 7 half tone steps away from the base note to get a minor chord, add two notes that are 2 and 7 half tone steps away to get sus2 chord. This chord is sounding a bit dirtier and less like “campfire music”.
  • Take a minor chord and add a fourth note which is 10 halftone steps away, and you’ll get a minor 7 chord which sounds, let’s say, a bit more “intelligent” without losing the character of a minor chord.
  • If you take a minor or major chord and remove the second note, you’ll get a so-called power chord that just consists of two notes and sounds for example pretty nice when played with an electric guitar and a lot of distortion on the amplifier.

What are chords good for?

As said before, each chord type has a certain “character”. The notes of a chord work together in a certain way and using chords you are left with building bricks that in one or the other way make sense without you having to re-invent the wheel with every song you attempt to crate.

Chords can sound tacky, weird, sad, disturbing, … but they are never just random notes. In the broader picture, most songs are based on so-called chord progressions, a sequence of several chords. Here the characters of the single chords work together to build the character of the chord progression and ultimately the character of your song. That also means that the character of a chord depends on what other chords you are playing. There is a lot of theory behind this topic. Using MelodyBuilder you simply play around with chords, move them around in your sequence and this way find good sounding chord progressions.

Where to learn more?

ultimate-guitar.com