Chord Progression: I-vi-IV-V

Throughout the long tumultuous history of Rock ‘n’ Roll, there have been certain song patterns that have shown up over and over. Many of them are cliches by now (how many times have you heard the fire/desire rhyme?), but others are classics, comfortable sounds we recognize in our bones. We’ve heard them a million times, but can’t help but feel inspired anew every time. Today I’ll cover one of those: The I-vi-IV-V Chord Progression. Yeah, just rolls of the tongue, right? Well, trust me that it sounds better when you play it than when you try to name it.

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Suspended Chords

I covered major and minor chords in a previous lesson. A suspended chord is what you get when you take a major or minor chord and replace the interval of the third with another interval.

To review, here are the interval formulas for major and minor chords.

Major Minor
root, major third, perfect fifth root, minor third, perfect fifth

(You can refer back to my intervals lesson if you don’t remember what the interval names mean.)

You’ll notice that the two chord formulas only differ in the second note added, which is an interval of either a major third or a minor third. So if you take that out there is nothing to distinguish a major chord from a minor chord. In fact Continue reading Suspended Chords

Seventh Chords

Previously, I talked about the basic three-note chord types, the triads. To review, there are four basic types that are commonly used. Here they are with their interval formulas:

Major Minor Augmented Diminished
root, major third, perfect fifth root, minor third, perfect fifth root, major third, augmented fifth root, minor third, diminished fifth

To each of these chord types, we can add more notes to create more complicated chords. There is no limit to what we can add, but the most common type of note to add is a seventh, either a minor seventh, major seventh, or diminished seventh. As you can imagine, when combined with the four chord types we have to start with, this leads to, like, a million different chords (ok, actually 12, but you get the idea). Fortunately, some are used more frequently than others, and some are almost never used, so I’ll present the most common ones first.

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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