Major chord

Last updated
major triad
Component intervals from root
perfect fifth
major third
root
Tuning
4:5:6
Forte no.  / Complement
3-11 / 9-11

In music theory, a major chord is a chord that has a root, a major third, and a perfect fifth. When a chord has these three particular notes, it is called a major triad . For example, the major triad built on C, called a C major triad, has pitches C–E–G:

Contents

Major chord

In harmonic analysis and on lead sheets, a C major chord is usually notated C, Cmaj or CM. A major triad is represented by the integer notation {0, 4, 7}.

A major triad has a major third (M3) on the bottom, a minor third (m3) on top, and a perfect fifth (P5) between the outer notes. Major and minor thirds.png
A major triad has a major third (M3) on the bottom, a minor third (m3) on top, and a perfect fifth (P5) between the outer notes.

A major triad can also be described by its intervals: the interval between the bottom and middle notes is a major third and the interval between the middle and top notes is a minor third. By contrast, a minor triad has a minor third interval on the bottom and major third interval on top. They both contain fifths, because a major third (four semitones) plus a minor third (three semitones) equals a perfect fifth (seven semitones).

In Western classical music from 1600 to 1820 and in Western pop, folk and rock music, a major chord is usually played as a triad. Along with the minor triad, the major triad is one of the basic building blocks of tonal music in the Western common practice period and Western pop, folk and rock music. It is considered consonant, stable, or not requiring resolution. In Western music, a minor chord "sounds darker than a major chord", giving off a sense of sadness or somber feeling. [1]

Some major chords with additional notes, such as the major seventh chord, are also called major chords. Major seventh chords are used in jazz and occasionally in rock music. In jazz, major chords may also have other chord tones added, such as the ninth and the thirteenth scale degrees.

Inversions

A given major chord may be voiced in many ways. For example, the notes of a C major triad, C–E–G, may be arranged in many different vertical orders and the chord will still be a C major triad. However, if the lowest note (i.e. the bass note) is not the root of the chord, then the chord is said to be in an inversion: it is in root position if the lowest note is the root of the chord, it is in first inversion if the lowest note is its third, and it is in second inversion if the lowest note is its fifth. These inversions of a C major triad are shown below.

Major chord

The additional notes above the bass note can be in any order and the chord still retains its inversion identity. For example, a C major chord is considered to be in first inversion if its lowest note is E, regardless of how the notes above it are arranged or even doubled.

Major chord table

In this table, the chord names are in the leftmost column. The chords are given in root position. For a given chord name, the following three columns indicate the individual notes that make up this chord. Thus in the first row, the chord is C major, which is made up of the individual pitches C, E and G.

ChordRootMajor thirdPerfect fifth
CCEG
CCE (F)G
DDFA
DDFA
DDF DoubleSharp.svg (G)A
EEGB
EEGB
FFAC
FFAC
GGBD
GGBD
GGB (C)D
AACE
AACE
AAC DoubleSharp.svg (D)E (F)
BBDF
BBDF

Just intonation

Comparison, in cents, of major triad tunings Comparison of major chords (0,4,7).png
Comparison, in cents, of major triad tunings

Most Western keyboard instruments are tuned to equal temperament. In equal temperament, each semitone is the same distance apart and there are four semitones between the root and third, three between the third and fifth, and seven between the root and fifth.

Another tuning system that is used is just intonation. In just intonation, a major chord is tuned to the frequency ratio 4:5:6.

The just major triad is composed of three tones in simple, whole number ratios. Major triad.svg
The just major triad is composed of three tones in simple, whole number ratios.

This may be found on I, IV, V, VI, III, and VI. [2] In equal temperament, the fifth is only two cents narrower than the just perfect fifth, but the major third is noticeably different at about 14 cents wider.

See also

Sources

  1. Kamien, Roger (2008). Music: An Appreciation (6th brief ed.). p.  46. ISBN   978-0-07-340134-8.
  2. Wright, David (2009). Mathematics and Music. pp. 140–141. ISBN   978-0-8218-4873-9.

Related Research Articles

Equal temperament Musical tuning system where the ratio between successive notes is constant

An equal temperament is a musical temperament or tuning system, which approximates just intervals by dividing an octave into equal steps. This means the ratio of the frequencies of any adjacent pair of notes is the same, which gives an equal perceived step size as pitch is perceived roughly as the logarithm of frequency.

Just intonation Musical tuning based on pure intervals

In music, just intonation or pure intonation is the attempt to tune all musical intervals as whole number ratios of frequencies. An interval tuned in this way is said to be pure, and may be called a just interval; when it is sounded, no beating is heard. Just intervals consist of members of a single harmonic series of an implied fundamental. For example, in the diagram, the notes G3 and C4 may be tuned as members of the harmonic series of the lowest C, in which case their frequencies will be 3 and 4 times, respectively, the fundamental frequency and their interval ratio equal to 4:3; they may also be tuned differently.

In music theory, an interval is a difference in pitch between two sounds. An interval may be described as horizontal, linear, or melodic if it refers to successively sounding tones, such as two adjacent pitches in a melody, and vertical or harmonic if it pertains to simultaneously sounding tones, such as in a chord.

In music theory, the tritone is defined as a musical interval composed of three adjacent whole tones. For instance, the interval from F up to the B above it is a tritone as it can be decomposed into the three adjacent whole tones F–G, G–A, and A–B. According to this definition, within a diatonic scale there is only one tritone for each octave. For instance, the above-mentioned interval F–B is the only tritone formed from the notes of the C major scale. A tritone is also commonly defined as an interval spanning six semitones. According to this definition, a diatonic scale contains two tritones for each octave. For instance, the above-mentioned C major scale contains the tritones F–B and B–F. In twelve-equal temperament, the tritone divides the octave exactly in half as 6 of 12 semitones or 600 of 1200 cents.

Perfect fourth musical interval

A fourth is a musical interval encompassing four staff positions in the music notation of Western culture, and a perfect fourth is the fourth spanning five semitones. For example, the ascending interval from C to the next F is a perfect fourth, because the note F is the fifth semitone above C, and there are four staff positions between C and F. Diminished and augmented fourths span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones.

Perfect fifth musical interval

In music theory, a perfect fifth is the musical interval corresponding to a pair of pitches with a frequency ratio of 3:2, or very nearly so.

A seventh chord is a chord consisting of a triad plus a note forming an interval of a seventh above the chord's root. When not otherwise specified, a "seventh chord" usually means a dominant seventh chord: a major triad together with a minor seventh. However, a variety of sevenths may be added to a variety of triads, resulting in many different types of seventh chords.

Semitone musical interval

A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most dissonant when sounded harmonically. It is defined as the interval between two adjacent notes in a 12-tone scale. For example, C is adjacent to C; the interval between them is a semitone.

Major third musical interval

In classical music, a third is a musical interval encompassing three staff positions, and the major third is a third spanning four semitones. Along with the minor third, the major third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is qualified as major because it is the larger of the two: the major third spans four semitones, the minor third three. For example, the interval from C to E is a major third, as the note E lies four semitones above C, and there are three staff positions from C to E. Diminished and augmented thirds span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones.

The intervals from the tonic (keynote) in an upward direction to the second, to the third, to the sixth, and to the seventh scale degrees of a major scale are called major.

Minor third musical interval

In music theory, a minor third is a musical interval that encompasses three half steps, or semitones. Staff notation represents the minor third as encompassing three staff positions. The minor third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is called minor because it is the smaller of the two: the major third spans an additional semitone. For example, the interval from A to C is a minor third, as the note C lies three semitones above A. Coincidentally, there are three staff positions from A to C. Diminished and augmented thirds span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones. The minor third is a skip melodically.

Major seventh musical interval

In music from Western culture, a seventh is a musical interval encompassing seven staff positions, and the major seventh is one of two commonly occurring sevenths. It is qualified as major because it is the larger of the two. The major seventh spans eleven semitones, its smaller counterpart being the minor seventh, spanning ten semitones. For example, the interval from C to B is a major seventh, as the note B lies eleven semitones above C, and there are seven staff positions from C to B. Diminished and augmented sevenths span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones.

The intervals from the tonic (keynote) in an upward direction to the second, to the third, to the sixth, and to the seventh scale degrees (of a major scale are called major.

Major sixth musical interval

In music from Western culture, a sixth is a musical interval encompassing six note letter names or staff positions, and the major sixth is one of two commonly occurring sixths. It is qualified as major because it is the larger of the two. The major sixth spans nine semitones. Its smaller counterpart, the minor sixth, spans eight semitones. For example, the interval from C up to the nearest A is a major sixth. It is a sixth because it encompasses six note letter names and six staff positions. It is a major sixth, not a minor sixth, because the note A lies nine semitones above C. Diminished and augmented sixths span the same number of note letter names and staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones.

The intervals from the tonic (keynote) in an upward direction to the second, to the third, to the sixth, and to the seventh scale degrees (of a major scale are called major.

Minor sixth musical interval

In Western classical music, a minor sixth is a musical interval encompassing six staff positions, and is one of two commonly occurring sixths. It is qualified as minor because it is the smaller of the two: the minor sixth spans eight semitones, the major sixth nine. For example, the interval from A to F is a minor sixth, as the note F lies eight semitones above A, and there are six staff positions from A to F. Diminished and augmented sixths span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones.

Minor chord

In music theory, a minor chord is a chord that has a root, a minor third, and a perfect fifth. When a chord has these three notes alone, it is called a minor triad. For example, the minor triad built on C, called a C minor triad, has pitches C–E–G:

In Western music, the adjectives major and minor may describe a chord, scale, or key. As such, a composition, movement, section, or phrase may be referred to by its key, including whether that key is major or minor.

Comma (music)

In music theory, a comma is a very small interval, the difference resulting from tuning one note two different ways. Strictly speaking, there are only two kinds of comma, the syntonic comma, "the difference between a just major 3rd and four just perfect 5ths less two octaves", and the Pythagorean comma, "the difference between twelve 5ths and seven octaves". The word comma used without qualification refers to the syntonic comma, which can be defined, for instance, as the difference between an F tuned using the D-based Pythagorean tuning system, and another F tuned using the D-based quarter-comma meantone tuning system. Intervals separated by the ratio 81:80 are considered the same note because the 12-note Western chromatic scale does not distinguish Pythagorean intervals from 5-limit intervals in its notation. Other intervals are considered commas because of the enharmonic equivalences of a tuning system. For example, in 53TET, B and A are both approximated by the same interval although they are a septimal kleisma apart.

Guitar chord

In music, a guitar chord is a set of notes played on a guitar. A chord's notes are often played simultaneously, but they can be played sequentially in an arpeggio. The implementation of guitar chords depends on the guitar tuning. Most guitars used in popular music have six strings with the "standard" tuning of the Spanish classical guitar, namely E–A–D–G–B–E' ; in standard tuning, the intervals present among adjacent strings are perfect fourths except for the major third (G,B). Standard tuning requires four chord-shapes for the major triads.

Quarter-comma meantone, or 14-comma meantone, was the most common meantone temperament in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and was sometimes used later. In this system the perfect fifth is flattened by one quarter of a syntonic comma (81:80), with respect to its just intonation used in Pythagorean tuning ; the result is 3/2 × 14 = 45 ≈ 1.49535, or a fifth of 696.578 cents. This fifth is then iterated to generate the diatonic scale and other notes of the temperament. The purpose is to obtain justly intoned major thirds. It was described by Pietro Aron in his Toscanello de la Musica of 1523, by saying the major thirds should be tuned to be "sonorous and just, as united as possible." Later theorists Gioseffo Zarlino and Francisco de Salinas described the tuning with mathematical exactitude.

Five-limit tuning

Five-limit tuning, 5-limit tuning, or 5-prime-limit tuning (not to be confused with 5-odd-limit tuning), is any system for tuning a musical instrument that obtains the frequency of each note by multiplying the frequency of a given reference note (the base note) by products of integer powers of 2, 3, or 5 (prime numbers limited to 5 or lower), such as 2−3·31·51 = 15/8.

Overtones tuning

Among alternative tunings for the guitar, an overtones tuning selects its open-string notes from the overtone sequence of a fundamental note. An example is the open tuning constituted by the first six overtones of the fundamental note C, namely C2-C3-G3-C4-E4-G4.