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Topic Options
#1957857 - 09/12/12 12:54 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 12089
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Tech 5

Why I'm I referred to as "poor Virginia?" Does this mean I have too far to go before I can really play the piano as it was intended to be played?

Virginia, we've been stressing that that theory helps in playing music, and also a practical hands-on way of studying theory first. Like anything, music and the theory behind it can get more complicated and as you progress you'll natural keep stride. There's advanced, and then there is geek-speak, and the side issues Ed and I were discussing yesterday were on the geek side. It isn't necessary for practical purposes, and could be confusing.

Well here's an equivalent, in a sitcom episode with ready-to-assemble furniture.
episode - analysis paralysis


Edited by keystring (09/12/12 01:00 PM)

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#1957885 - 09/12/12 02:02 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Jeff Clef]
Brian Lucas Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 1017
Loc: Nashville, TN
Just keep in mind that there is academic theory and what I call practical theory. We have to remember that all of this theory is designed to explain what we hear so another can replicate it. Knowing all the theory in the world won't help you unless you can translate that into practical knowledge to connect what you hear in your head or on a recording to what you play on the piano. That's why lots of people read a bunch of books and are still discouraged when they can't play.
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
One good thing about PW is that, every so often, people who really know something will turn on the lights for the rest of us. It does not happen every day, but it can be worth slogging through a lot of dross to get there.
I like turning on lights. That's why I'm here and that's why I teach. smile
_________________________
-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
My Sight Reading eBook
My Music

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#1957926 - 09/12/12 03:42 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
Tech 5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 194
Loc: South Carolina
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: Tech 5

Why I'm I referred to as "poor Virginia?"


Information overload IMHO.

Originally Posted By: Tech 5

Does this mean I have too far to go before I can really play the piano as it was intended to be played?


Don’t give that a moment's consideration. There are so many different ways of playing the piano and enjoying the music you can make with it.


Thanks for clarifying. I agree about the information overload 'cause it was giving me a headache, but I'm better today and ready for some more studying of chords and such.
_________________________
Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden

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#1957930 - 09/12/12 03:50 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring]
Tech 5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 194
Loc: South Carolina
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: Tech 5

Why I'm I referred to as "poor Virginia?" Does this mean I have too far to go before I can really play the piano as it was intended to be played?

Virginia, we've been stressing that that theory helps in playing music, and also a practical hands-on way of studying theory first. Like anything, music and the theory behind it can get more complicated and as you progress you'll natural keep stride. There's advanced, and then there is geek-speak, and the side issues Ed and I were discussing yesterday were on the geek side. It isn't necessary for practical purposes, and could be confusing.

Well here's an equivalent, in a sitcom episode with ready-to-assemble furniture.
episode - analysis
paralysis



"Analysis paralysis"....I'm going to have to remember this because I do tend to over analyze things and I've ordered 3 books that if I take the time to read them I won't have time to practice....at least not 2hrs per day while I'm working full time.

Great advice and info.

Thanks!
_________________________
Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden

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#1957940 - 09/12/12 04:03 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 12089
Loc: Canada
How something is presented also makes a big difference. A simple thing can be presented using formal technical language that can send a student's head spinning. It makes everything seem complicated, but the writer sounds clever. In good teaching you leave your ego at the door, and your primary concern is that the student will get the picture. Concepts always come before terminology, and those concepts are best learned through live experiences.

The foundation of theory lies in simple things. They are often skimmed over or carelessly taught, yet they are not trivial. Take for example the idea of an interval, which is the distance between two notes. If time is spent exploring this, with experimentation; or the idea of playing with the middle note of a major and minor scale - this opens insight into many other things. Then if you come across fancier things, they'll relate to what you know.

The best wording came from a student studying theory with me who had first self-taught, "I used to think that simple things in music were complicated. Now I know that complicated music happens through simple things." If you get to that kind of space, then the world opens up.

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#1958135 - 09/13/12 03:07 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: LoPresti

It is a small detail, but since we are learning here, we may as well be correct. The chords in the tenth column are not diminished triads, as the º symbol indicates, but are in fact diminished seventh chords, and most (all?) are spelled incorrectly.

Ed, it is ironic that I agree with you, and I believe this has not been evident in the past. The problem is this medium, having to present incredibly complicated ideas to people who are on every conceivable level, from rank amateurs to highly sophisticated and experienced musicians.

As always there are two very different ways to look at the dim7 chrord, and I want to present both views – as best I can.

1) In a fake book or lead sheet, a composer would definitely write C°7 for chord that, when written out, would have to be written C Eb F# A. Why? Because he is not going to write F#°7/C, which THEORETICALLY is what the chord really is.

Now, since only a melody note will be there for such lead sheets, an experienced musician who also has been involved in a lot of notation will mentally “compute” the spelling of this chord, notated as C°7, based on context.

2) To use a practical example, the tune “What’s New” will start on D°7 to C or C6 or C something. That does not mean that the chord will be spelled D F Ab Cb. It simply means that this chord will move to C, and that demands the spelling of D FAb/B.

3) Again, this D°7 chord COULD be written as B°7/D, but I have never in my life seen that done. I DO recommend that students write it that way, as an intermediate step to bridge the gap between theory and practical needs, but always with the warning that they will see D°7 in practical usage.

4) There are some very famous and very fine arrangers who use ° for both a three OR four note diminished chord. I don’t like this notation, but anyone reading charts had better know that it is common.

Here is specifically what Dick Hyman says on the subject, quoting:

“Arrangers and players usually deal with four-tone diminished chords [C Eb Gb A] rather than diminished triads [C Eb Gb]

Some writers refer to the four-tone chords as ‘diminished sevenths’. Diminshed chords, whether of three or four tones, are often indicated by ° instead of dim.”

In my experience he is on solid ground when stating that countless fake books will use ° for the four-note diminished chord. The fact that I don’t like it and don’t follow that “convention” is not going to change how lead sheets are written.

Now, the case AGAINST this notation:

1) Using ° to express both three and four-note chords is very imprecise and leads to the conclusion that the three-note chord does not exist and is not important. If I see B D F, vii° in the key of C, I am not going to assume an Ab. I want chord symbols to be more precise than that.

2) Jeff’s chart is practical, but a student who is advanced enough to slog through all that info, in all keys, is advanced enough to understand the concept of C°7 THEORETICALLY being written C Eb Gb Bbb, which would at least make the spelling of the chord, as presented, consistent in all keys.

3) For very practical reasons, IF the symbol C°7 is used for C Eb F# A, and it would be in lead sheets, at some point students need to know that THEORETICALLY that notation is based on the bass note and not the root, because:

4) The THEORETICALLY root of a diminished chord is the note on the bottom when the chord is stacked in 3rds.

5) Again, to complete the foundation, and this is really tough for me as a teacher, this idea has to be taught at SOME point: C Eb F# A = F#°7/C: C D# F# A = D#°7/C: C Eb Gb A = A°7/C: BUT C Eb Gb Bbb = C°7

6) Finally, we THEN have to explain that F#°7/C, D#°7/C, A°7/C as well as C°7, the THEORETICAL chords, will all be written simply as C°7 in a lead sheet, and in many they will all be written as C°

It takes me MONTHS to cover all this info with really sharp students. But it only takes me five minutes or so to get students to PLAY dim7 chords in all keys, simply by pattern, feel, sound.

So all this fuss about notation is necessary, for those who are writing music, and I teach it. I am not in any way arguing with you or making light of the points you are making.

Instead I am trying to present the vast CHASM that separates the theoretical world of notation from the practical needs of all players who are merely reading music, charts included, with the intent of improvising but not setting down what they are doing on “paper”.

Finally this:
Quote:

While, as diminished SEVENTH chords, these enharmonic spellings will sound right, if one attempts to use PianoStudent88's perfectly correct start to building these, the chart will not make sense.

I fully agree. PP88 is essentially presenting the spelling demanded by VII°7 chords, with the preference of using the “mid-point” of expressing such chords as inversions, using a slash. Thus she is exactly in sync with what I teach, and I think with what you teach.

Again, I would only point out that any “inversion” of a dim7 chord will always be written with chord symbols that reflect the bass note, not the root. The important thing to remember is that chord symbols do not show function and so are used to represent “it is what it is” sound, which leaves us to be as precise as we wish about spelling based totally on experience.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1958250 - 09/13/12 11:38 AM How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Hi Gary,

YES! to all the above. I especially appreciate that quote from the venerable Dick Hyman, which I had not heard previously.

I would make this observation: For all the convoluted complications in TEACHING the diminished seventh chords, the actual (theoretical?) construction of each is quite simple:
(Following the convention for any chord construction, where you always build referencing the root) -
*Pick a root
*Superimpose a minor third
*Superimpose a diminished fifth
*Superimpose a diminished seventh

Obviously, I know you already know this, but perhaps others can benefit from it.

Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1958280 - 09/13/12 12:33 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: PianoStudent88]
Batuhan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 931
Loc: Istanbul
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
When counting half-steps, it's like counting steps walking: you count each step you take. Don't count your starting point as a step.

So, to figure out B major chord.
Start at B.
Take 1 half-step, arrive at C
Take 2nd half-step, arrive at C#
Take 3rd half-step, arrive at D
Take 4th half-step, arrive at D#

OK, we just found D# as the second note of the B chord.
Start at D#.
Take 1 half-step, arrive at E
Take 2nd half-step, arrive at F
Take 3rd half-step, arrive at F#

Does that make sense?


Thats the long way. I recommend using whole step instead of half step.

As we know a major triad consist of M3 + m3

M3 = 2 Whole Step
m3 = 1.5 Step

So

B to D# is a M3 because includes 2 whole step.
D# to F# is a m3 because includes 1.5 step.

If you wanna find C Major do the same

Find C first and add M3 to it so you are on E and add m3 to it you are on G.
_________________________
Sorry for my English, I know it sucks, but I'm trying to improve.


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#1958287 - 09/13/12 12:58 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 672
Loc: Chicago
GaryD. Sorry to jump in on a discussion that's over my head, but could you explain this:

"2) To use a practical example, the tune “What’s New” will start on D°7 to C or C6 or C something. That does not mean that the chord will be spelled D F Ab Cb. It simply means that this chord will move to C, and that demands the spelling of D FAb/B.

3) Again, this D°7 chord COULD be written as B°7/D, but I have never in my life seen that done. I DO recommend that students write it that way, as an intermediate step to bridge the gap between theory and practical needs, but always with the warning that they will see D°7 in practical usage."

Why is is that the chord before C is not really a D diminished 7th? If I'm playing the tune in a piano trio, by bass player will play D, which I gather is correct, but why does it matter how the chord I'll play is spelled?

Thanks!


Edited by jjo (09/13/12 12:59 PM)

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#1958339 - 09/13/12 02:20 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Batuhan]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Batuhan
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
When counting half-steps, it's like counting steps walking: you count each step you take. Don't count your starting point as a step.

So, to figure out B major chord.
Start at B.
Take 1 half-step, arrive at C
Take 2nd half-step, arrive at C#
Take 3rd half-step, arrive at D
Take 4th half-step, arrive at D#

OK, we just found D# as the second note of the B chord.
Start at D#.
Take 1 half-step, arrive at E
Take 2nd half-step, arrive at F
Take 3rd half-step, arrive at F#

Does that make sense?


Thats the long way. I recommend using whole step instead of half step.

As we know a major triad consist of M3 + m3

M3 = 2 Whole Step
m3 = 1.5 Step

So

B to D# is a M3 because includes 2 whole step.
D# to F# is a m3 because includes 1.5 step.

If you wanna find C Major do the same

Find C first and add M3 to it so you are on E and add m3 to it you are on G.

There is another way to go about finding chords, and that is to find a "home base" chord, memorize it in all keys without notation, then associate the feel of the chord with the colors and the sound.

I teach all the chords mentioned here to kids by the end of elementary school, and the very youngest play major chords in all keys, but they do it this way:

C E G
F A C
G B D

All white

D F# A
E G# B
A C# E

Black note in middle, reverse oreo

Db F Ab
Eb G Bb
Ab C Eb

Oreos

Gb (or F#)

Gb Bb Db
All black, triple chocalate

Bb D F
B D# F#
Odd-balls

We just memorize these. While I am teahing major by rote, both hands ASAP, root position, I am also working hard on reading, so these chords start appearing in our music everywhere.

But teaching them apart from reading, getting them nailed down first, as a skill, allow me to move from this easy chord to minor, diminished, augmented, sus4, sus2 and sus4(add2).

Once major is in place, I simply add a note to form what is often called a dominant 7, in all keys, and we use that to "slither" to all other forms of the 7 chord.

It's the exact opposite of over-thinking. It relies on touch, feel and sound. The notation can come later, and I don't have to get into the theory of intervals, which is a HUGE can of worms.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1958346 - 09/13/12 02:26 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Brian Lucas Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 1017
Loc: Nashville, TN
Yes Gary. I do something similar. I call them chord shapes (straight line, tent, V, weird). I agree that mastering the major chords and then altering them to form other chords is the fastest way to learn. The only thing I do differently is when I teach 7ths, I teach students to drop it from the root. Pretty much any extension 7-13 I relate to one of the 3 triad notes. Much easier to see it that way.

And like you said, it's fast. I get most kids playing along with their favorite song in a few weeks. True, it's basic block chords, but they get excited and will practice more for you when they see results.
_________________________
-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
My Sight Reading eBook
My Music

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#1958350 - 09/13/12 02:31 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: jjo]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: jjo
GaryD. Sorry to jump in on a discussion that's over my head, but could you explain this:

"2) To use a practical example, the tune “What’s New” will start on D°7 to C or C6 or C something. That does not mean that the chord will be spelled D F Ab Cb. It simply means that this chord will move to C, and that demands the spelling of D FAb/B.

3) Again, this D°7 chord COULD be written as B°7/D, but I have never in my life seen that done. I DO recommend that students write it that way, as an intermediate step to bridge the gap between theory and practical needs, but always with the warning that they will see D°7 in practical usage."

Why is is that the chord before C is not really a D diminished 7th? If I'm playing the tune in a piano trio, by bass player will play D, which I gather is correct, but why does it matter how the chord I'll play is spelled?

Thanks!

The answer: if you are an ear player and you see Ddim7 in a lead sheet, the D tells you what the bass is. If it is Ddim7 going to C, it will be spelled D F Ab B because of voice-leading. If you are reading music, an arrangement of "What's New", and the arrangement is in C, that's the spelling that will be used.

If you are reading the music, you don't care. If you are playing by ear, you don't care, most likely. If you are writing the music, you do.

But this opens up a HUGE can of worms. All this talk about something like Bdim7/D is only for spelling. THEORETICALLY dim7 chords are often taught first as "stacked". That means they are built every other letter: B D F A. D F A B can't be stacked. So stacking them gives us a function, VIIdim7, which is taught in theory. In the key of C a VIIdim7 is B D F Ab.

Looked at in this very specific way, D F Ab B is an inversion because the THEORETICAL root is B.

What makes our dim7 chord different is that it is NOTATED by the bass note, not the root. So if we write Bdim7/D, which is logical and helps some students who are analying and learning to write music, we write something that does not exist in letter notation.

In other words, you will see Ddim7, I will see Ddim7, we will both know how the chord is supposed to sound, and we will both know that the bass note is D.

I'm assuming your question is not really about how to play the chord, just why so much confusing junk is being written about it.

I don't teach ANY of this confusing theory to my beginning students. I teach them to play dim7 chords first, then to recognize them in music. We don't worry about spelling until problems occur in music, then we talk about them.

Sorry to have been confusing. smile
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Piano Teacher

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#1958406 - 09/13/12 03:30 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: jjo
GaryD. Sorry to jump in on a discussion that's over my head, but could you explain this: . . .

But this opens up a HUGE can of worms.

I am not the least bit interested in RE-opening that proverbial can, but for jjo's question, here is the theoretical problem to contemplate:

Any seventh chord must, by definition, have some sort of seventh above the root. (That's what makes it a seventh chord!) Where is our seventh in the stack D - F - Ab - B ?

It is the self-same problem in jazz theory as in classical. When Gary, or you, or I see the figure Dº7, we all THINK of it the same way. It is when we go to CONSTRUCT the chord, or to analyze the chord, that the messiness begins.

Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1958417 - 09/13/12 03:50 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Brian Lucas]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas
Yes Gary. I do something similar. I call them chord shapes (straight line, tent, V, weird). I agree that mastering the major chords and then altering them to form other chords is the fastest way to learn. The only thing I do differently is when I teach 7ths, I teach students to drop it from the root. Pretty much any extension 7-13 I relate to one of the 3 triad notes. Much easier to see it that way.

And like you said, it's fast. I get most kids playing along with their favorite song in a few weeks. True, it's basic block chords, but they get excited and will practice more for you when they see results.

Brian, I do the same thing re 7ths, but I use the octave. Play C with the LH, play octave with RH and drop down two keys. It's almost instant. Play the four note chord with two hands, get comfortable with that, then refinger to play with LH if hand is big enough. Then "clone" into RH.

Then play them at random, once they are all there, kind of a primitive "parallelism". Add sustain pedal and a lot is learned.

The only "7" chord I don't teach that way is the dim7. Since I am teaching it by feel, look, sound, I start from a 6 chord, have them lower the two middle keys, example:

C E G A-->>> C D#/Eb F#/Gb A/Bbb. Since at this point I am not talking about spelling, I don't worry about the "grammar" part until we hit these chords in music.

By the way, I need to give Keystring credit for the term "grammar". I never thought of it, but it is a lot like grammar, I think, getting the spelling "right". wink
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1958421 - 09/13/12 03:56 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: jjo
GaryD. Sorry to jump in on a discussion that's over my head, but could you explain this: . . .

But this opens up a HUGE can of worms.

I am not the least bit interested in RE-opening that proverbial can, but for jjo's question, here is the theoretical problem to contemplate:

Any seventh chord must, by definition, have some sort of seventh above the root. (That's what makes it a seventh chord!) Where is our seventh in the stack D - F - Ab - B ?

It is the self-same problem in jazz theory as in classical. When Gary, or you, or I see the figure Dº7, we all THINK of it the same way. It is when we go to CONSTRUCT the chord, or to analyze the chord, that the messiness begins.

Ed

Ed, you are really not opening a can of worms. That can is already open. smile

There are at least three ways to go.

1) Teach the chord without notation, in which case the spelling is a non issue at FIRST.
2) Teach the chord without playing it, purely theory, in which case the spelling is crucial from the get-go.
3) Do both, in which case it is all about the timing of introducing principles.

If I am working with a talented seven year old who is successfully PLAYING a Cdim7 chord, it is rather obvious why I am not hammering on the C Eb Gb Bbb spelling. Will I get to that? Of course.

If I am working with an experienced player, tween teen or adult, I will immediately jump into the who dim7 problem, because it goes beyond the chord. It has to do with intervals.

As is true of an aug6 vs m7(intervals), the problem of dim7 vs M6 very soon becomes "the elephant in the room".

To me the can of worms is all about which worm you examine first.
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Piano Teacher

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#1958439 - 09/13/12 04:39 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 12089
Loc: Canada
The idea of starting with the term "fully diminished chord" was bandied about. I think that fits well with the student's first need which is to get a feel for what the chord's character is: the "thirds" (I'm including aug2 - hence quotation marks), the unique sound, characteristics, the total equal distribution within an octave. I'm staying with the idea of starting with physical experience and understanding, and then meshing it with the reading/writing aspect. They have to fit together hand in glove, rather than being two separate sets of knowledge.

The challenge is not for a teacher to know what it's about, because most teachers do (should). The challenge is to gradually bring all this together in a way where it will still make sense to the student and it won't lead to musical geekdom (a bunch of facts not connected to music.)

Obviously all of the grammar rules of music cannot be taught at once. Hence my suggestion for the beginning:
- understand the chord by experiencing it
- have the idea that there are many ways of spelling it which will still reflect this experienced "fully diminished" chord
- at some point the idea of enharmonics come up, and probably early. You run into it as soon as you hit any black key.
- eventually the spellings and their reasons will come up, but with the first two or three points in place, it won't be confusing.

You cannot teach everything at once.

The problem that I have run into with both method books and theory books is that because you cannot teach everything at once, they simplify things. The student will get the idea that the simplified picture they get is how music actually works. Then when they get to advanced music, it's confusing. It is also irritating to have to unlearn a picture that was carefully studied.

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#1958444 - 09/13/12 04:49 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 672
Loc: Chicago
Ed: I understand that the following chord has a seventh: B D F A, whereas D F Ab B has no seventh (the B is a sixth). If you spell it D F Ab Cb does that solve the problem? I'm still not seeing why the chord is really B diminished over D, as opposed to D diminished properly spelled.

Sorry to be going back to this, but it the long discussion, this point interested me. I recognize that it doesn't affect what I'd play, but from a theory point of view I'm curious.

thanks,

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#1958469 - 09/13/12 05:38 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: jjo]
keystring Offline
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Posts: 12089
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: jjo
Ed: I understand that the following chord has a seventh: B D F A, whereas D F Ab B has no seventh (the B is a sixth). If you spell it D F Ab Cb does that solve the problem? I'm still not seeing why the chord is really B diminished over D, as opposed to D diminished properly spelled.

Sorry to be going back to this, but it the long discussion, this point interested me. I recognize that it doesn't affect what I'd play, but from a theory point of view I'm curious.


jjo, there are two things involved. One of them is what a chord or interval is and does (what we hear, what the distance is between keys), and the other is how it is spelled. For fully diminished chords it depends on what is happening "grammatically" in the chord. (What key is it in, where is it going, what is its function, etc.)

The "naming" of chords usually goes by letters. A "seventh" is the seventh letter name of a chord. B(*)D(*)F(*)Ab(*)Cb means we are using letters 1,3,5,7 so according to the idea of "seventh", the spelling would have to be Cb. That is also why it is probably better to refer to this generically as a "fully diminished chord" to get around this.

In reality in music you will see all kinds of spellings for the chord that has this sound, and that series of intervals (in the sense of how many half steps) between the notes. That depends on the grammar (above).

For people learning to work with music, such as students learning to play written music or write out music, understanding what it is and how it works should be primordial.

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#1958471 - 09/13/12 05:40 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: jjo]
LoPresti Offline
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Registered: 12/07/10
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Originally Posted By: jjo
Ed: . . . . . If you spell it D F Ab Cb does that solve the problem?

Yup, jjo - problem solved!

Going back to what Gary wrote, he is working with some little ones who may not be ready to think in terms of Cb, and most are not ready for all types of intervals. Then, the problem of enharmonics magnifies itself as we get deeper into the flat keys. You, Gary, I, and many others, can instantly play a Gbº7; but I need to stand on my head to correctly spell it.

Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1958485 - 09/13/12 06:03 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Offline
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Ed, I once asked you in the teacher forum about teaching fundamentals. At the time you were giving a student some good advice on how to approach whatever question he had in music. But in order for the student to use your approach, that student had to draw on fundamentals in music, and therefore had to have these fundamentals. I asked how you would go about teaching these, and you wrote that you had hoped I might have an idea. As I understand, you have actually taught here and there, but it has been of students who already have these foundations. The giving of these foundations in a real meaningful way is a challenge.

I'm looking at this part:

Quote:
working with some little ones..


I believe strongly that anyone of any age must first get foundations in a real and concrete way. The biggest mistake that is made with adult students is to teach abstract concepts right off the bat. Adults do reason abstractly and are used to concepts and theories. But this is wrong thinking. It becomes "head knowledge", divorced from music, and it interferes with being able to absorb what music is about. Adults who have never studied music need to draw on simple concrete experiences just like children.

I am capable of understanding the idea of Cb and the idea of "7". But if I start with these rules and exercise "musical algebra exercises" I will remain divorced from the actual picture. I have chosen not to go that route, and I think the results are generally positive.

At the same time, this forum is the "adult beginner forum". While it's a mixed group, many will be in an actual beginner starting place. At the same time, others may have gotten the cart before the horse in the sense of theory books and rules before experience.

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#1958491 - 09/13/12 06:19 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: jjo
Ed: I understand that the following chord has a seventh: B D F A, whereas D F Ab B has no seventh (the B is a sixth). If you spell it D F Ab Cb does that solve the problem?

Yes. It solves the "stacked 3rds problem" because now the letters are right. For sound it makes no difference, as you know.

The only reason why this is so important is for understanding the concept of written intervals. D-Cb, the interval is a diminished 7th. D-B is a major 6th. So TECHNICALLY we referring to a chord written with a major 6th as a diminished 7th chord.

A curious adult will ask why a chord that has a M6 in it is labeled as dim7.
Quote:

I'm still not seeing why the chord is really B diminished over D, as opposed to D diminished properly spelled.

Again, D F Ab Cb has a dim7 in it, D-Cb. D F Ab B does not. So we silently agree to call D F Ab B a Dim7 in charts or lead sheets, but eventually we realize that this is a shortcut for what REALLY is B D F Ab (a real diminished chord) with a D in the bass.

For those who just grow up with lead sheets, this is a non-issue. At some point they either find out “the rest of the story”, which they need to do to WRITE music, or they just memorize the sound, feel and patterns and do not concern themselves with spelling.

I hope that helps. Again, I have a very step-by-step way of teaching this chord.

1) I teach people how to play the chords, no music.
2) I introduce the concept of naming the four-note diminished chords by their bass note, which is fully in sync with real-time practical usage in lead sheets and chord symbols in full standard piano arrangements, where chord symbols are added for people who can’t read the bass clef.
3) I get into the “grammar”, the spelling, when we encounter WRITTEN chords and I have to answer the dreaded question: “If it says dim7, where is the dim7?”

That last question is the elephant in the room. That’s what opens up the can of worms. smile
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#1958494 - 09/13/12 06:35 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Offline
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Again, what I see in all this is a systematic way of getting students go get a REAL understanding of chords from all sides, gradually, over time, through careful and systematic teaching. This is important for all beginners of all ages.

It is nice reading the various teachers chiming in telling us their various approaches to achieve this: Brian Lucas, Gary, JamesPlaysPiano - I think I've left out a number of names for which I apologize. We don't realize that what is first taught is the hardest to teach, because each involves brand new concepts.

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#1958499 - 09/13/12 06:53 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
jjo Offline
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Thanks to Ed and Gary. I think you left out a key part of what you are saying (so primitives like me can understand). In What's New, the problem is that the melody is a B, so if the chord is D dim, assuming the melody is part of the chord, you don't have a real diminished chord (from a spelling standpoint). That's why you need to call if a B dim over D in the bass. Theoretically, if the composer had labelled the melody note Cb, you could have a D dim chord underneath that, no?

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#1958516 - 09/13/12 07:32 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: jjo]
LoPresti Offline
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Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: jjo
Thanks to Ed and Gary. I think you left out a key part of what you are saying (so primitives like me can understand). In What's New, the problem is that the melody is a B, so if the chord is D dim, assuming the melody is part of the chord, you don't have a real diminished chord (from a spelling standpoint).

First of all, jjo, there is nothing "primitive" about any of your work that I have seen.

Second of all, I would like to volunteer to lead a crusade to change classical and jazz nomenclature AND theory. Thenceforth, that all-so-troublesome chord we have been discussing shall be known as Dº add 6. Now is everyone happy?

(I'd sign off with, "Poor, poor Virginia", but that would start another round of what that means . . .)
Ed

_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1958524 - 09/13/12 07:55 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: jjo]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: jjo
Thanks to Ed and Gary. I think you left out a key part of what you are saying (so primitives like me can understand). In What's New, the problem is that the melody is a B, so if the chord is D dim, assuming the melody is part of the chord, you don't have a real diminished chord (from a spelling standpoint). That's why you need to call if a B dim over D in the bass. Theoretically, if the composer had labelled the melody note Cb, you could have a D dim chord underneath that, no?

That's the gist of it. And using that reasoning, D F Ab Cb is a textbook example of how to write a dim7 chord, in root position.

This is why I explain D F Ab B as Bdim7/D, to explain that B is the root of the STACKED spelling, which is the only one that contains the interval that matches the name of the chord.

In other words, if you (as a student) ask me where the dim7 INTERVAL is in D F Ab B, I have to explain in some way why we are looking at a M6.

We could also invent a new symbol - Dm6-5. Then for every spelling we would have to invent a new symbol. The result would be a bunch of new symbols that no one uses. What are we going to do fo D F G# B? You see sooner or later that by insisting that our chord symbols reflect spelling AND show the base note, we have two choices.

1) Label Bdim7/D. Problem: no one DOES that, so we have a theoretical solution that makes sense but that is not used.
2) Say that we will agree that C D#/Eb F#/Gb A/Bbb, regardless of spelling, will be labeled as Cdim7 with the assumption that the symbol describes the sound in all cases but the spelling only 25% of the time. wink

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#1958612 - 09/13/12 11:39 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
peejay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/10/09
Posts: 52
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
2) Say that we will agree that C D#/F# F#/Gb A/Bbb, regardless of spelling...

I think that should be C D#/Eb F#/Gb.

Off that topic but on overall topic, I've got a question about a specific chord symbol: Db9

Is it a D(b9)? or a (Db)9? or a typo for D7b9 or Db7 or Db7b9? For reference, a D7b9 does show up later in the same song and where the melody repeats, the second time it does show up as a Db7.

Having Db9 alone just seems like not enough info, to me.

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#1958621 - 09/13/12 11:57 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: peejay]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: peejay
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
2) Say that we will agree that C D#/F# F#/Gb A/Bbb, regardless of spelling...

I think that should be C D#/Eb F#/Gb.

Off that topic but on overall topic, I've got a question about a specific chord symbol: Db9

Is it a D(b9)? or a (Db)9? or a typo for D7b9 or Db7 or Db7b9? For reference, a D7b9 does show up later in the same song and where the melody repeats, the second time it does show up as a Db7.

Having Db9 alone just seems like not enough info, to me.

Thanks for catching my typo.

Cb9 is wrong because we can't tell if it is C D G Bb Db or Cb Bb Gb Bbb Db

D(b9) will work But Db7b9 is standard. Db7-9 is also common. smile
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#1958668 - 09/14/12 02:43 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: peejay]
LoPresti Offline
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Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: peejay
. . . I've got a question about a specific chord symbol: Db9 . . . Having Db9 alone just seems like not enough info, to me.


PJ, this precise question started a three- or four-page hornet's nest on one of the other Forums a few months ago. When most of us write a potentially ambiguous symbol like this, we use parenthesis to make our intention clear, ie. Db(9) or D(b9).

When one is faced with guessing a composer's or arranger's intentions, which happens occasionally, the melody, and the surrounding harmonic progression(s) will usually tell us which is "correct". Do you have an exact instance about which you are puzzling?

Ed
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#1958673 - 09/14/12 03:03 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring]
dire tonic Offline
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Registered: 07/17/11
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Loc: uk south
It’s spelling time again! I’ve been dipping in and out of some of these threads for a week or two and had been meaning to say something for a while, so apologies if it’s a long post – it’s an accumulation.

May I contrast a practitioner’s view with that of the teachers? I spent practically my entire working life (now retired and recreational) in the nooks, crannies and more open reaches of commercial music where chord charts lie in the kernel of production and ‘harmonic analysis’ is a daily drudge. Between a reckless phase of playing in bands and finishing in later life as an orchestral arranger on uk pop records I spent the best part of three years preparing lead sheets for the major uk publishing houses so I can tell you something about the approach and the priorities. At some later date it might be of interest to mention something about the scandalous business of ‘piano sheet music’, a snapshot of the tolerances that pervaded the industry, the rubbish it churned out (I suspect still does), and may offer some insight as to why this constant preoccupation with fine detail – particularly when this is focused as it has so often lately been, on the diminished chord - is misplaced.

Someone mentioned a composer preparing his lead sheet. In fact for the most part this just doesn’t happen. Why? He’s far too busy writing songs so he can fatten his purse. It’s a chore he simply doesn’t want to take on. He’s very likely to be a strumming guitarist or self-taught pianist who doesn’t have the polished script of the professional and the lead sheet must pass muster for the copyright document it functions as. Which leads to the main obstacle; no small minority of composers (we’re really talking song-writers here) are all but musically illiterate. They’d be incapable of doing the work, neat or otherwise.

Of course I was incapable too at the outset and it’s well over 50 years now since I took a few first lessons in chord notation. What I took away from them was how much I needed to learn about the tricky lopsided, jazzy tensions, yet how blessedly straightforward were those symmetric constructions based on the simple divisors, 3 and 4, of the number 12. I learnt that if we look at stacked intervals of n consecutive semitones (and irrespective of starting note!!)

n=3 - diminished … 3 variants
n=4 - augmented…4 variants

(n=2 gives us the whole tone scale, n=6 the tritone)

So, I was taught that there are three different diminished chords – structurally identical of course but different by transposition. For each of those three, there are 4 chords which share identical notes – the inversions. The melodic or harmonic context will usually (but not always) favour a particular inversion, That was it in a nutshell and I have to say I was quite satisfied by that. In sharp contrast, the world of the diminished chord as discussed here appears to be a conundrum.

I spotted four contentions.

How can we know its ‘proper’ root?
How do we conventionally name it?
How do we spell the chord?
Does it comprise of 4 notes or 3?

Let’s take each one in turn.

How can we know its proper root?: I would say we shouldn’t fret about it because a lot of the time the context will determine it but let’s look at a less amenable example. We’re transcribing a lead sheet from a recording of an ensemble or a rock/pop band and there are competing voices in the instrumentation which have taken their own inversion. In such a situation (and it is not uncommon) it becomes meaningless to argue the toss between, for example, G dim and Bb dim when what was originally written on the orchestrator's score as a G bass note has yielded to the bass player's creative choice of Bb and where it has been approved by the record producer who loves the substitution for its singing quality. If that wasn’t difficult enough, the violas, the 1st and 2nd violins are playing (above middle C reading upwards) a wide spread of the notes E, Bb and G while the guy on the rhodes is playing…….one gets the drift. In popular music it is so often impossible to pin these things down therefore it is NOT an issue because it MUST NOT be an issue. So to summarise; If its root is not downright obvious then it is discretionary! Nobody in the studio or in the control room gives a fig what the chord is called. We know that irrespective of its name, it’s going to sound fine.

On nomenclature: I never used Cdim7 in any of the lead sheets I presented using always Cdim or C° but I have seen them on others’ work – usually on piano copies. Earlier work I think. My rhythm charts were always C° and on the London wine bar scene (maybe in the US too, I don’t know) we used a few other shorthands for common chords (e.g. ma7 replaced by a tiny triangle suffix). In my experience Cdim7 is less prevalent. The upshot? Working musicians have seen all variants. Chord labeling is ALWAYS about convention, i.e. that which has evolved, been accepted by the consensus and has stood the test of time. It is far less concerned with consistency or logic. Brevity and familiarity are the prime objectives. So, if tomorrow a new and rather twisted musical form takes root using outlandish harmonic combinations which would – in the current lingo – require some convoluted label, there will sooner or later be a new label, a new shorthand.

4 notes or 3? By now we’ll have seen how it might be difficult for a diminished chord to escape with only 3 notes being played when you’ve got a mob of musicians doing their own thing! Will that 4th note be avoided? Probably not. Someone’s almost bound to play it! It’s a curious thing about the diminished chord that its character, its colour if you will, doesn’t change significantly with either choice. If it’s a closely voiced chord, the 4-note sounds thicker of course but it seems to perform the same function as the triad.

Spelling: My tutor never mentioned it and in the 50+ years that have followed neither have I nor have any of the hundreds of musicians I’ve worked with. I apologise if this seems too outspoken but I think such concerns are a complete waste of time and ultimately non-musical. An hour spent ruminating on such issues would be so much better spent pulling out a reference chart and painstakingly working out some basic, arguably less controversial chords with the aim of locking them into memory. I urge any keen student to not get hung up on spelling.

Looking at chord symbols more generally, it should be clear that their main function as they are and have been used in popular music is to provide a broad-brush description that any instrumentalist/arranger can take as a starting point. In other words, their purpose is to provide a harmonic skeleton which can be fleshed out in a variety of styles and in any ensemble setting. Not all songs will adapt to all genres but it’s worth reflecting on the fact that the humble C major chord can assume markedly different voicings and modes of play when interpreted through the various genres of jazz, rock, ‘light music’, R&B, folk, C&W, soul, gospel, pop and other-world varieties. More to the point, chord symbols have become an autonomous alternative to stave-notation; this is particularly true for guitarists and the like but I know several superb pianists with an enviable harmonic instinct, good with symbols but who are poor readers otherwise. So what flows from this? We must accept that by virtue of their very rough’n’ready-ness, chord symbols in the commercial context will not submit to any kind of straight-jacket, that they cannot be set in the matrix of a water-tight and consistent grammar. If one wants precision, one must return to the stave.

I hope this will be treated as an alternative perspective, not as a correction to anyone’s thinking on the subject. In the light of Virginia’s initial post however, I think it’s fair to ask if the sort of issues being addressed in the latter part of this thread could possibly be relevant to the nature of the initial enquiry and if perhaps they might sometimes run the risk of wilting curiosity’s tender bud.




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#1958677 - 09/14/12 03:30 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring]
Tech 5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 194
Loc: South Carolina
Originally Posted By: keystring
I'm staying with the idea of starting with physical experience and understanding, and then meshing it with the reading/writing aspect. They have to fit together hand in glove, rather than being two separate sets of knowledge.

The challenge is not for a teacher to know what it's about, because most teachers do (should). The challenge is to gradually bring all this together in a way where it will still make sense to the student and it won't lead to musical geekdom (a bunch of facts not connected to music.)


You cannot teach everything at once.



I like the way you think. Do you start with teaching by ear with a new adult student then move to reading music?

Too bad I don't live in Canada.
_________________________
Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden

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