Root notes and Chords

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  1. #1

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    Root notes and Chords

    I'm completely internet taught, so there are large gaps in my theory knowledge, and I don't have a teacher to ask about my specific misunderstandings, so I'm sorry if this is a novice question.

    If I were to play an E and an Ab that would be an E major. However, if I were to play the same Ab and the E above that, is it still an E major? Or is it a different chord entirely, with the Ab as the root?

  2. #2

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    Uhm, no... E and Ab would not be an E major. For one thing, a chord by definition is 3 notes or more. Therefore "power chord" is a misnomer since it is technically only two notes (usually, the root and the perfect fifth. The octave doesn't count as a third note since it is the same note as the root).

    E and Ab would form a major third interval, but not a major chord.

    The three notes that make up a major are: the root, the major third, and the fifth. For E, that would be: E, G# (ie Ab), and B.

    If your question is about the interval from an Ab to an E as opposed to an E to an Ab, the answer is:

    E to Ab = major third
    Ab to E = sharpened fifth

    Depending on which is lower and which is higher, their interval relationships change. However, if you are composing a major chord (in this case: E, Ab, B), you can make a chord as long as those notes are involved.

    The typical E major chord:


    6 strings, but only 3 notes. Specifically 3 Es, 2 Bs, and 1 G#/Ab. The three Es are on the low E, high E, and D. The two Bs on the A and B. The one Ab on the G.

    To make it minor, all you have to do is flatten the single Ab/G# to a G.

  3. #3

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    Worth noting...E and Ab are technically a diminished 4th, while E and G# would be a Major 3rd.

    If you have E, G#, and B, but change the order of those so that the G# or B is the lowest note in the chord, it's still the same chord...just a different inversion. The E will always be the root note, no matter where it is in the chord.

  4. #4

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    You often see inversions labeled in tab like


    where the chord root is the first, but the 'bass' note is that of the one of the inversions
    just passing through....

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by WarriorOfMetal View Post
    Worth noting...E and Ab are technically a diminished 4th, while E and G# would be a Major 3rd.
    Super important. You have to go up the scale letter by letter (E, F#, G#; not E, F#, Ab) with accidentals (b/#) as needed, or you run into serious problems (E, F#, Ab, A, B) really fast.
    zero|sum @ Facebook, Youtube, Bandcamp

  6. #6

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    Think if it like this,
    E major contains 4 sharps:
    F#,C#,G#,D# and thus the note order for GMaj is as follows:

    Now, to form a chord you need at least 2 notes(diad), but mostly you'll be forming triads to begin with. A triad is based off of the Root note(E), the 3rd(G#), and the 5th(B). With what you are talking about(E on bottom, or E on the top) is called an inversion. Inversions are the same chord, but the root is not on the bottom. For example, on staff paper an EMaj in root position would read as follows:
    First Inversion or E6:
    G#,B,E(octave), which simply means from the bottom note to the top is a Major 6th
    Second Inversion or E6/4:
    B,E(octave),G#(octave), which simply means from the bottom note to the top is a Major 6th, and from the bottom to the middle note is a 4th.

    The most important thing for you to do is to memorize the order of sharps and flat, and the circle of 5ths(learn it, live it, love it):

    An excellent way to remember the order of sharps is a mnemonic device. Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bread. The bold letter is the note that is sharped. The order of Flats is the order of sharps backwards. The easiest way to remember is the word BEAD, followed by GCF. Hopefully this is pretty clear and not convoluded.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for the help guys, this cleared up quite a bit of confusion. I'll just have to keep learning.

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