Jazz Chords – Make your own.

How to create chords

All western music theory starts with the CHROMATIC SCALE (which is all 12 notes written out). The Chromatic Scale can start on any note but we are going to look at the Chromatic Scale that starts on C:-

C, C# or Db, D, D# or Eb, E, F, F# or Gb, G, G# or Ab, A, A# or Bb, B, C.

            There are no E# or Fb notes and there are no B# or Cb notes. There is no explanation for this it is just something that has happened that way.

            The distance between each note is called a SEMI-TONE. This distance is the same regardless of the names of the notes, so the distance from C to C#/ Db is a semi-tone and the distance from E to F is a semi-tone.

            SEMI is Latin for Half so 2 SEMI-TONES is called a TONE. So the distance from, say, C to D is a TONE.

            To find any Scale you can use a, pre-determined, formula and the first Scale we are going to look at is he Major Scale. Because the Major Scale will start on C it is called the C Major Scale. So firstly we need to learn the formula and then apply it. To find the C Major Scale we need to use a formula made up of TONES and SEMI-TONES. The formula is :-

TONE, TONE, SEMI-TONE, TONE, TONE, TONE SEMI-TONE.

So to find the C Major Scale you must firstly write the note C. This is very important and if you don’t the formula will not work out correctly. Once you have the first note (C) you can then apply the formula.

            Having written C then count up a tone to the next note (use the Chromatic Scale for this) – D.

            Then count up another tone from D to find the third note – E.

            If you continue to apply the formula you will get the C Major Scale. You will know if you are correct as the last semi-tone will bring you back to C. You should get the notes:-

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

Now that you have the C Major Scale you can find the chords that sound good with the C Major scale. The most basic chord is called a TRIAD (Tri is Latin for 3) and it has 3 notes. The reason that certain chords work with the Scale is that they are made up from the notes that are in the Scale.  So using that why not take the notes we have and make the chords from them.

The notes that you use in the triads must appear in the Scale. Again there is another formula to help us do this and it is:-

1, 3, 5.

            This becomes more obvious when you look at the C Major Scale again.

                                                             1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8  9

                                               C, D,  E,  F,  G, A, B, C, D.

            So what you do is you go to the C Major Scale and say C is the first note therefore from C your

3 note is E and your 5 note is G. So your triad will be:- C,E,G.

          Once you have a Triad you can then add notes to that Triad. The most popular are the 7th, 9th and 6th (in that order).

  1 3 5 7 9 6
C Major C E G B D A
D Minor D F A C E B
E Minor E G B D F C
F Major F A C E G D
G Major G B D F A E
A Minor A C E G B F
B Minor b5 B D F A C G

Building on the Triads that you already have, just add the notes you need to make the chord.

            For the 7th chords you just add the 7th note to the triad to make the 7th chord. E.g. C Major with the 7th is called C Major 7th.

C Major Chord
C Major 7

Major Chords (using notes of the Major Scale).

Triad – 1, (Major) 3,5.                                                                     Eg. C Major – C,E,G.

Major 6th –           Major triad + 6 note.                                            C Major 6    – C,E,G,A.

Major 7th –           Major triad + 7 note                                             C Major 7    – C,E,G,B.

Major 9th –           Major triad + 7 + 9 notes.                                     C Major 9    – C,E,G,B,D.

Major 11th –         Major triad + 7 + 9 + 11 notes.                             C Major 11  – C,E,G,B,D,F.

Major 6/9 –          Major triad + 6 + 9 notes.                                     C Major 6/9  – C,E,G,A,D.

Major add 9 –      Major triad + 9 note.                                              C Major add 9  – C,E,G,D.

Major add 11 –    Major triad + 11 note.                                            C Major add 11 – C,E,G,F.

Dominant Chords.  The Minor notes used are a Major note dropped by 1 semitone.

E.g. The Major 7th of C  is B so the Minor 7th of C is Bb (one semitone lower).

Triad – Major Triad.                                                                           Eg. C Dom   – C,E,G.

Dom. 7th –       Major Triad + Minor 7 note.                                       C Dom 7      – C,E,G,Bb.

Dom. 9th –       Major Triad + Minor 7 + Major 9 notes.                      C Dom. 9    – C,E,G,Bb,D.

Dom. 11th –     Major Triad + Minor 7 + Major 9 + Major 11 notes.    C Dom. 11   – C,E,G,Bb,D,F.

Sus 4

Triad – 1,4,5.                                                                                    Eg. Csus4      – C,F,G.

Dom. 7 Sus 4 –    Sus 4 Triad + Minor 7 note.                    C Dom. 7 sus4 – C,F,G,Bb.

Dom. 9 Sus 4 –    Sus 4 Triad + Minor 7 + Minor 9 notes.               C Dom. 9 sus4 – C,F,G,Bb,D. There are lots of other chords but if you know these and can play and hear them, then you have a very extensive chord vocabulary. Enjoy.

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