Memorizing the formulas behind both major and minor chords can help immensely when creating them, whether major chords are created by harmonizing scale degrees, while minor chords consist of major chords with an altered third tone.
Step one in creating music is choosing your root note; once that has been established, the remaining steps become straightforward.
The root note is the lowest pitch in any chord and serves as the basis upon which subsequent intervals are created, as well as being its name. Visualizing its location as being part of an unbroken triangle shape over three octaves may help.
Minor triad chords, like major scales, can have their notes arranged differently to produce distinct sounds and tonalities. This arrangement process is known as an inversion and gives each chord its unique sound.
Root position is the easiest and most ubiquitous minor triad chord voicing you’ll come across when listening to musical compositions, often used without even realizing that it exists as its own category of chord.
Minor chords can be found everywhere from pop and jazz music, where they often pair with dominant chords in harmonic progressions to add variety in jazz music’s ii-v-I pattern. But these chords offer much more than filler or accentuating dominant notes: they also serve to highlight melodies as filler chords in songs or add flavorful variation when used alone in melodies.
The minor third is one of the most essential intervals to understand, since it forms the basis of many minor chords we use in music.
Staff notation uses three half steps, or semi tones, to define a minor third; this differs from major thirds which span four. This distinction helps identify chords as being minor or major.
Musically speaking, a minor third can be represented by any note in the scale that falls a full tone below its tonic – hence its term as an “interval of minor thirds.”
As an example, you can form a C diminished chord by placing a B double flattened seventh over its root note – this form of harmonic relationship would constitute a minor third as it lies three semitones below the tonic (Gb). However, using an enharmonic note like A instead would result in an augmented second because its interval spans the same number of staff positions and contains equal number of semitones.
Perfect fifths are the foundational building blocks of chords, providing harmonic support and creating guide tones for melodies to flow more naturally. Furthermore, perfect fifths appear frequently in “tall tertian” harmonies (containing more than three tones stacked above the root) helping soften dissonant intervals between notes.
Like other intervals, finding a perfect fifth doesn’t require sharp or flat symbols for intonation – simply use the Cycle of Thirds to identify which note lies a perfect fifth above or below any given note.
One effective way of remembering how to find perfect fifths is to imagine a bunny (B) looking up at a fly (F). Raising F raises B, thus decreasing one half step. Below are answer charts which use this logic for showing correct intervals; similarly this method works when finding perfect fifths between notes.
Now you are familiar with triads that feature a minor third on the bottom and a perfect fifth on top, commonly referred to as m chords and known as tertian intervals. A minor triad can also be played in various orders known as inversions; when one inversion involves playing notes other than its root it is known as 1st Inversion while when 2nd Inversion involves notes other than fifth it is known as 2nd Inversion.
Keep this in mind when working with triads: they form the cornerstone of any chord. Once you understand them, more intricate extensions and voicings become possible. Also be sure to practice all 12 keys so you can recognize basic triads by ear.
In our next lesson we will take a closer look at diminished and augmented triads – stacks of minor thirds and major thirds respectively.