Basic Chords

Categories: Music theory, Chords

Level: Beginner

From the previous lessons, you now hopefully understand how notes and intervals are named. Here I will cover the construction and naming of some simple chords. We already know that the space between two notes is called an interval. If we play the notes one after the other, it's called a melodic interval, because it's as if you're playing a melody. If we play them at the same time, it's called a harmonic interval, because it's, you know, a harmony. Now if we take a harmonic interval, and add a third different note, we have a chord. That was easy, right? After that, we can keep adding more notes to make more and more complicated chords, but for this lesson let's stick with three-note chords, also called triads, for all you Latin-speakers. By the way, does anybody else remember the old game Rise of the Triad? Back in I think '95 or '96, I think it was. Somewhere between Doom and Duke Nukem 3-D, it was my favorite game. Anyway, that's irrelevant. Where were we? Oh yeah, so basically, the definition of a chord is just any three different notes played at the same time. The intervals between these three notes define what the chord sounds like. There are a lot of different possible combinations of intervals, but only a few that are commonly used. Continue reading Basic Chords

Music Theory Lesson: Intervals

Category: Music theory

Level: Beginner

In the last lesson, we talked about the musical alphabet, and how notes are named. We discussed that the distance between two adjacent notes is called a half-step, and that two half steps is called a whole-step. Very exciting, I'm sure.

The generic term for the distance between two notes - any two notes - is an interval. Turns out there are names for lots of intervals, not just the half-step and whole-step. And some of these intervals have more than one name. Remember how I said that much of music theory is giving fancy names to things you may already understand? Well, here is a perfect example. Intervals are something we get instinctively. It's when they get names like "diminished seventh" that people run for the hills. Don't. In this lesson, you can listen to them, hear them in context, and see where they are used in real life, and not just read about them abstractly.

Continue reading Music Theory Lesson: Intervals

Music Theory: The Musical Alphabet

Music Theory

Level: Beginner

This article presents an introduction to the way musical notes are named and referred to. If you already know even a little music theory, this may seem pretty basic for you, so you may want to skip ahead or come back for more advanced lessons. If you’re a “play by ear” musician, you may not see the need to learn any theory at all. In many ways, music theory is giving names and complicated explanations to things we already know instinctively. Still, the next time you’re jamming and someone asks you to play an A sharp, it would be good to understand what that means. In addition, this lesson provides a base for later, more interesting, lessons. Continue reading Music Theory: The Musical Alphabet

Welcome to Guitarator

Allow me to introduce myself: your friendly web-app programmer, web-log writer, entertainer, time drainer, and site maintainer. On stage I call myself Eddy Boston, musician. On the job I’m Edmund M. Sullivan, software engineer. To my friends, I’m Ed or Eddie or Eddy or Sully.

In this space, you will find a new article twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, covering music theory, guitar, songwriting, performing, and music software. Hopefully somewhere in that swath of subjects is something you seek.

The theory lessons will start out at the most basic level, but will quickly progress to advanced topics. So if you find them too easy or if they contain things you already know, never fear: just check back later for the more advanced lessons. In any case, they will be interspersed with anecdotes and observations that I find interesting.

Also on this site is a useful collection of applications for guitar players. The Chorderator allows you to type a chord name in an intuitive way, just as you would write it in standard notation, and see how it is played. You can find fingerings in alternate tunings, and you can add a capo to see how the fingerings change. The results page also includes a handy list of related chords – all possible intervals and some suggested substitutions.

The Scalerator is similar, but allows you to look up scales. It will show you how to play any one of a large variety of scales, in any key, in any tuning, at any place on the fretboard.

The Chord Designer is a sort of “reverse Chorderator.” You lay out where on the fretboard you are putting your fingers, and the Chord Designer gives you the name of the chord and even lets you listen to what it will sound like.

More applications are constantly being added, and the site as a whole is under constant development, so check back frequently.

I hope you enjoy the Guitarator. Rock on.

-Eddy Boston