How Many Chords Are There? Exploring Types, Progressions, And Extensions

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Explore the various types of chords, including major, minor, dominant, and diminished chords. Learn about common chord progressions and chord extensions such as seventh and ninth chords. Discover the number of chords in a key and how they can be used in different progressions.

Types of Chords

Major Chords

Major chords are the foundation of many songs and are known for their bright and happy sound. They consist of three notes: the root, the major third, and the perfect fifth. For example, in the key of C, the major chord would be C-E-G. Major are often used to create a sense of resolution or stability in a song.

Minor Chords

In contrast to major chords, minor chords have a more somber and melancholic sound. They are also made up of three notes: the root, the minor third, and the perfect fifth. For instance, in the key of A, the minor chord would be A-C-E. Minor chords are commonly used to evoke emotions such as sadness or introspection in music.

Dominant Chords

Dominant chords add tension and create a strong sense of movement in a song. They are made up of four notes: the root, the major third, the perfect fifth, and the minor seventh. In the key of G, the dominant chord would be G-B-D-F. Dominant chords are often used to lead into other chords, creating a sense of anticipation and resolution.

Diminished Chords

Diminished have a tense and dissonant sound, making them perfect for creating tension in music. They are made up of three notes: the root, the minor third, and the diminished fifth. For example, in the key of E, the diminished chord would be E-G-Bb. Diminished chords are commonly used as transition chords or to add a sense of suspense to a song.

Augmented Chords

Augmented chords have a unique and dreamy sound and are often used to add an unexpected twist to a song. They consist of three notes: the root, the major third, and the augmented fifth. For instance, in the key of D, the augmented chord would be D-F#-A#. Augmented chords are commonly used as passing chords or to create a sense of tension that resolves into another chord.

In summary, understanding the different types of chords is essential for any musician or songwriter. Major provide a bright and happy sound, while minor chords evoke a sense of melancholy. Dominant chords create tension and movement, while diminished chords add dissonance and suspense. Lastly, augmented bring a unique and dreamy quality to music. By incorporating these chords into your compositions, you can create a wide range of emotions and moods.


Common Chord Progressions

I-IV-V Progression

The I-IV-V progression is one of the most commonly used chord progressions in music. It is often referred to as the “three-chord trick” because it only uses three chords from a given key. These chords are built on the first (I), fourth (IV), and fifth (V) degrees of the major scale.

In the key of C major, for example, the I-IV-V progression would consist of the chords C major, F major, and G major. This progression is widely used in various genres, including rock, pop, and blues, and it creates a sense of familiarity and stability in a song.

I-V-vi-IV Progression

Another popular chord progression is the I-V-vi-IV progression. This progression became particularly famous due to its use in many hit songs. It involves the chords built on the first (I), fifth (V), sixth (vi), and fourth (IV) degrees of the major scale.

In the key of G major, for instance, the I-V-vi-IV progression would include the chords G major, D major, Em (E minor), and C major. This progression has a catchy and emotional quality, and it is often associated with uplifting and anthemic songs.

ii-V-I Progression

The ii-V-I progression is commonly found in jazz and other genres influenced by jazz music. It is a three-chord progression that revolves around the second (ii), fifth (V), and first (I) degrees of a major scale.

For example, in the key of F major, the ii-V-I progression would consist of the chords G minor, C major, and F major. This progression creates a sense of tension and resolution, as the V chord (C major) leads naturally back to the I chord (F major).

I-IV-vi-V Progression

The I-IV-vi-V progression is another popular chord progression that has been used in countless songs across different genres. It features the chords built on the first (I), fourth (IV), sixth (vi), and fifth (V) degrees of a major scale.

In the key of D major, for instance, the I-IV-vi-V progression would include the chords D major, G major, B minor, and A major. This progression has a catchy and memorable quality, and it often creates a sense of anticipation and resolution.

I-IV-I-V Progression

The I-IV-I-V progression is a straightforward and widely used chord progression. It involves the chords built on the first (I), fourth (IV), and fifth (V) degrees of a major scale, with the first chord (I) being repeated before transitioning to the fifth chord (V).

In the key of A major, for example, the I-IV-I-V progression would consist of the chords A major, D major, A major, and E major. This progression is commonly found in many popular songs and provides a sense of familiarity and energy.

By utilizing these common chord progressions, songwriters can create engaging and memorable music. Understanding the theory behind these progressions allows musicians to build upon them and create their unique sound. Experimenting with different chord progressions can lead to exciting musical discoveries and help in crafting captivating songs.


Number of Chords in a Key

Major Key Chords

In music theory, a major key is a musical scale based on a major scale. It is often associated with a happy or uplifting sound. Major key chords are the chords that are derived from the major scale of a particular key. These chords are the foundation of many popular songs and are used extensively in various genres of music.

In a major key, there are seven chords that are built on each degree of the major scale. These chords are referred to as diatonic . The diatonic chords in a major key follow a specific pattern of chord qualities. This pattern consists of three major chords, three minor chords, and one diminished chord.

The three major chords in a major key are built on the first, fourth, and fifth degrees of the major scale. For example, in the key of C major, the major chords would be C, F, and G. These chords are often referred to as the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords respectively.

The three minor chords in a major key are built on the second, third, and sixth degrees of the major scale. Continuing with the key of C major, the minor chords would be Dm, Em, and Am. These chords provide a contrasting, more subdued sound compared to the major chords.

The seventh degree of the major scale is where the diminished chord is found. In the key of C major, the diminished chord would be Bdim. This chord has a tense and unstable quality to it and is often used to create tension and lead to resolution in a piece of music.

Minor Key Chords

In contrast to major key chords, minor key chords are derived from a minor scale. The minor scale has a different pattern of intervals compared to the major scale, resulting in a different set of chords.

Similar to major key chords, there are seven chords in a minor key that are built on each degree of the minor scale. These chords also follow a pattern of chord qualities. In a natural minor scale, the pattern consists of three minor chords, three major chords, and one diminished chord.

The three minor chords in a minor key are built on the first, fourth, and fifth degrees of the minor scale. For example, in the key of A minor, the minor chords would be Am, Dm, and Em. These chords create a melancholic or mysterious atmosphere in music.

The three major chords in a minor key are built on the second, third, and sixth degrees of the minor scale. Continuing with the key of A minor, the major chords would be Bdim, C, and G. These chords add a brighter and more uplifting element to the overall sound of a minor key.

Similar to major keys, the seventh degree of the natural minor scale is where the diminished chord is found. In the key of A minor, the diminished chord would be G#dim. This chord adds tension and can create a sense of unease in a minor key progression.

Diatonic Chords

Diatonic chords refer to the chords that are naturally occurring within a particular key. These chords are built using the notes of the major or minor scale of the key and follow the specific pattern of chord qualities discussed earlier.

In both major and minor keys, diatonic chords provide the foundation for creating harmonies and melodies. They are the chords that naturally fit within the key and create a sense of stability and resolution.

Understanding diatonic chords is essential for songwriters and musicians as it allows them to create chord progressions that sound harmonically pleasing. By using diatonic chords, musicians can create a coherent and cohesive musical composition.

Tonic Chords

The tonic chord is the chord built on the first degree of a major or minor key. It is often referred to as the “home” chord as it provides a sense of resolution and stability. In a major key, the tonic chord is a major chord, and in a minor key, it is a minor chord.

The tonic chord is the most important chord in a key and sets the tonal center of a piece of music. It is often used at the beginning and end of a musical phrase or section to establish a sense of familiarity and closure.

When a musician or songwriter wants to create a sense of resolution or bring a musical phrase to a conclusion, they often use the tonic chord. It provides a sense of finality and can evoke various emotions depending on the context and progression of the music.

Dominant Chords

The dominant chord is the chord built on the fifth degree of a major or minor key. It is often referred to as the “dominant” because of its strong and leading quality. In a major key, the dominant chord is a major chord, and in a minor key, it is a minor chord.

The dominant chord has a strong pull towards the tonic chord and is commonly used in chord progressions to create tension and resolution. It sets up the listener’s expectation for the tonic chord and provides a sense of forward motion in the music.

In addition to its role in creating tension and resolution, the dominant chord is also used to add energy and excitement to a musical composition. It is often found in the chorus or climax of a song to create a powerful and memorable impact.

Overall, understanding the number of chords in a key, including major key , minor key chords, diatonic chords, tonic chords, and dominant chords, is crucial for musicians and songwriters. By utilizing these chords effectively, they can create harmonically rich and engaging music that resonates with listeners.


Chord Extensions and Alterations

Seventh Chords

Seventh chords add an extra layer of complexity to traditional triads by incorporating the seventh note of the scale. This additional note creates a rich and expressive sound that can add depth and color to your chord progressions. There are several types of seventh chords, each with its own unique flavor.

  • Major Seventh (maj7) – This chord consists of the root, major third, perfect fifth, and major seventh. It has a bright and airy quality, often associated with jazz and pop music.
  • Dominant Seventh (7) – The dominant seventh chord adds a minor seventh interval to the major triad. It has a strong and resolved sound, commonly used in blues and rock music.
  • Minor Seventh (min7) – This chord features a minor third, perfect fifth, and minor seventh. It has a melancholic and introspective quality, frequently found in jazz and soul music.
  • Half-Diminished Seventh (ø7) – Also known as the minor seventh flat five chord, this chord combines a diminished triad with a minor seventh. It has a dissonant and mysterious sound, often used in jazz and classical music.

Ninth Chords

Ninth chords take the complexity of seventh chords even further by incorporating the ninth note of the scale. These chords have a lush and sophisticated sound that can add a touch of elegance to your compositions.

  • Dominant Ninth (9) – The dominant ninth chord adds a major ninth interval to the dominant seventh chord. It has a rich and jazzy quality, commonly used in funk and R&B music.
  • Major Ninth (maj9) – This chord includes a major seventh and major ninth interval. It has a dreamy and romantic sound, often found in smooth jazz and ballads.
  • Minor Ninth (min9) – The minor ninth chord combines a minor seventh and minor ninth interval. It has a dark and mysterious quality, frequently used in jazz and neo-soul music.

* Suspended Chords

Suspended chords, also known as sus chords, provide an alternative to traditional major and minor triads. They create a sense of tension and release by replacing the third note of the triad with either a second or fourth.

  • Suspended Second (sus2) – This chord replaces the third note with the second. It has a bright and open sound, often used in folk and acoustic music.
  • Suspended Fourth (sus4) – Instead of the third, this chord incorporates the fourth note of the scale. It has a strong and resolved sound, commonly found in rock and pop music.

Altered Chords

Altered chords introduce chromatic alterations to traditional triads, adding tension and dissonance to your compositions. These chords create a unique and unpredictable sound that can add excitement and intrigue to your music.

* Augmented Chords

Augmented chords feature a raised fifth, creating a bright and tense sound. They are commonly used in jazz and classical music to add color and tension to chord progressions.

* Diminished Chords

Diminished chords consist of two minor thirds stacked on top of each other. They have a dark and unstable sound, often used in jazz and classical music to create tension and suspense.

Extended Chords

Extended chords go beyond the basic triad and incorporate additional notes from the scale. These chords add complexity and richness to your compositions, allowing for a greater range of harmonic possibilities.

  • Eleventh Chords (11) – The eleventh chord includes the root, third, fifth, seventh, and eleventh notes of the scale. It has a lush and sophisticated sound, frequently used in jazz and contemporary music.
  • Thirteenth Chords (13) – This chord adds the ninth and thirteenth notes to the basic triad. It has a full and rich sound, commonly used in jazz and gospel music.

By incorporating these chord extensions and alterations into your music, you can create unique and compelling compositions that capture the attention of your audience. Experiment with different chord progressions and explore the possibilities that these chords offer. Let your creativity guide you as you navigate the rich world of chord extensions and alterations.

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