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#1115138 - 12/28/08 02:18 PM Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
JagNut Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/08
Posts: 24
Loc: Arlington Texas
In my attempts at self-teaching, I have done a considerable amount of reading about music theory as an adjunct to my early-lesson practice.

I understand most of what I have read about chord construction, even though I remember little of it, and can do even less.

The construction of basic chords (Major, Minor, Augmented, Diminished, 7th, etc.) seems fairly straightforward. And I understand the concept of inversions, and that sometimes notes are eliminated while still preserving the same chord.

What I wonder about is the inverse. If I see a scale containing, say, three/four note chords, how do I go about identifying the name of the chord? Is it necessary to memorize all the notes of all the chords, as well as all their possible inversions?

Or is their some simpler heuristic that that I haven't yet found to simplify the task? (Thankfully, a lot of sheet music provides the names of the chords).
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#1115139 - 12/28/08 03:31 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2995
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
usually, a chord will include the 7th and the 3rd.
So what you do is start by identifying the possible chords.

For example, if I play Gb C and F
what chord can it be.

If Gb is the 3rd, then C would be the 7th. That makes a nice D7 with a #9

If Gb is the 7th, then C is the 3rd, and that makes a nice Ab7 with with a 13th in it.

F can't be a 3rd or 7th because F# is 1/2 above.

So there you go, the chord is either D7 or Ab7.

They happen to be a tritone apart, which is normal for dom. 7th chords.

Try it with this chord:
Ab C Db and F
what chords could it be?

hope this helps

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#1115140 - 12/28/08 09:55 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3165
I don't know if this is the answer you are looking for, but it is a method that is helpful in identifying chords that are not in a readily-identifiable form, i.e. the notes are mixed up, which occurs often.

First, eliminate any redundant notes.

Next, group the notes together as closely as possible.

See if you can identify what you have.

If not, take the bottom note and put it on the top. For example, if you have A, middle C, E, and G, take the A and put it above the G.

Now you have C, E, G, and A. The C-E-G is a C major root triad; the A is the 6th tone; The chord is a C6.

If putting the bottom note on the top does not reveal the chord, keep doing it for the same number of notes, i.e. 4 notes, 4 inversions.

Often what you do have is a chord, with a note that does not fit any conventional chord. For example, you might have C-E-G-F#, which is not, to my knowledge, a chord. In that case, what you have is a chord, (c-e-g) and a melody note which is the note that does not fit.

Hope this helps.
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#1115141 - 12/29/08 12:31 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
Highlander One Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 111
Loc: Texas
Or the notes A, middle C, E, and G, could also be an Am7 chord in root position.

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#1115142 - 12/29/08 02:18 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3165
That was such an easy one I missed it!
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#1115143 - 12/29/08 02:44 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
Swingin' Barb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 889
Loc: North Carolina
 Quote:
Originally posted by knotty: Try it with this chord:
Ab C Db and F
what chords could it be?[/b]
Bb minor 7 comes to mind quickly. I use that one a lot for my left hand closed voicing.

Fun thread!
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#1115144 - 12/29/08 03:03 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
Highlander One Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 111
Loc: Texas
It is a Db maj7. \:\)


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#1115145 - 12/29/08 06:29 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
jjtpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/08
Posts: 213
Loc: Jamestown, NC
+1

Second inversion.
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#1115146 - 12/29/08 08:09 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
smjl Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/05/08
Posts: 13
 Quote:
Originally posted by knotty:
usually, a chord will include the 7th and the 3rd.
[/b]
I'm curious why you say this--maybe in some music, but I don't think that's generally the case at all.

I like rocket88's description, that's pretty much how I do it. It gets faster with practice, and with chord familiarity. After a while, you will have memorized the simpler chords, but I still have to work through possibilities for some of the trickier chords. Also: if you know the key of the piece, often the chords that show up will be the I, IV, V, V7, and relative minors, so I keep an eye out for those as the first options.

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#1115147 - 12/29/08 10:17 PM Re: Recognizing Chords from Sheet Music Notes
mdsdurango Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/04
Posts: 1755
Loc: Durango Colorado
Glen, what kind of sheet music are you working with?
If you are reading both clefs you may have good luck identifying the base note as the root of the chord. Not always but it should be in there somewhere, usually at count one.

Thirds and sevenths are the "essential chord notes" in jazz and rarely will you see a chord without those two notes. Of course the third and the seventh move around a bit so you still have to do some analysis.
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