How to Write Music

This is our old "How to Write Music" course. It has been replaced by our new Pop Music Theory course.

3. Chords


Lesson 3: Chords

(This lesson is a basic introduction to chords. If you already know what chords are, you can skip to Pitches In Chords or Lesson 4: Chord Progressions.)

When you hear music, there are usually many instruments playing different notes at once. Even if there's only one instrument (guitar or piano), it's probably playing several notes at once. So, if you want to create music like this, how do you choose several notes to play together?

Several notes played together is called a chord. There are many different chords, and the commonly used chords have names (and nicknames). For example, the 3 notes C, E, and G make the chord called "C major triad"; nicknames for this chord are "C major" or "C chord" or even just "C".

So, let's hear this chord. First, click on each of these 3 notes, one at a time:

Sound requires Google Chrome (see Enabling Sound).
c e g

Now, listen to the C chord "arpeggiated" (i.e., "strummed"). Each note starts separately, but then they all sustain so you can hear them sustaining together. Click (just once) anywhere in the group of notes:

Now, listen to the C chord in "block" style, with all 3 notes played at once. Click on the chord, and hold the mouse button down to sustain it:

OK, now we've listened to a single chord. The next step is to string chords together, in Lesson 4: Chord Progressions.

by Conrad Albrecht 2015. Questions, comments, ideas? Tell me on Facebook!

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