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Chords Part 7 X/Y Chords


This seems to be a commonly misunderstood term.

If a chord is written as something like C/G then it simply means that you play the chord given by the first letter, with the bass note given by the second letter - in this example, we have C major with a G bass note.

Chords like these may have a bass note which is already part of the chord itself, as in this example (C major is made up of the notes C E G , so the G bass is part of the chord) or they may have a bass note which is 'outside' the chord, something like E/A (A is not part of the E major chord).

Working out what notes are in these type of chords presents no extra problems - simply work out the notes in the chord given by the first letter, then add the bass note.

These X/Y type of chords can get more complicated than straight major/minor chords with things like Asus2/C#, but the principle is the same.

To work out this chord, start with Asus2.

spelling = 1st 2nd 5th

look up the intervals in the table of intervals to get the number of semitones you have to count up for each note.

2nd = 2 semitones up from A = B
5th = 7 semitones up from A = E

so Asus2 = A B E

therefore Asus2/C# = C# A B E

(it's standard practice to 'spell' chords from low to high)

Chords Part 8 'Add' and Chromatic Chords

Just to recap, here are the triads and chords I've covered so far :

Major, minor, sus2 and sus4 triads and chords
Major 7th, flat 7th and minor 7th chords
9th, min 9th, maj 9th, 11th, min 11th, maj 11th,
13th, min 13th, maj 13th chords

All other chords fall into the series of chords with 'added' notes or chords with altered notes.

Added chords

Chords with 'added' notes are just what they sound like. They are usually written as something like Cadd2, Cadd4 etc.

Simply start with the 'base' chord (C in this example) and add the appropriate note. You can of course add to any 'base' chord whether it's major or minor or whatever.

Be sure you understand the difference between add2 and sus2 chords, and add4 and sus4 chords - the sus chords have the 3rd *replaced* with another note. The 'add' chords simply add to the triad, so Cadd2 would be :

Cadd2 = C triad + 2nd = 1st, 2nd, maj 3rd, 5th
Csus2 = Csus2 triad = 1st, 2nd, 5th

Similarly there is an important difference between 'add9' and '9' chords. A C9 chord *must* have the flat 7th in it (see above), but the Cadd9 chord will not - it's just a C major triad with a 9th added.

You can carry on adding as many notes as you want. If you play around with alternative tunings you could quite easily come across chords like Aadd2add4, but most of the time you'll just have one added note.

You can of course add a note to a chord that isn't a simple major or minor chord - you can have things like Csus4add9 etc.

Altered chords

These are chords with chromatic alterations. The 5th, 2nd, 4th, 9th etc can all be chromatically altered - i.e moved up or down by a semitone (halfstep)

Examples of this are chords like E7#9 and E7b9

- the 9th of a normal E9 chord has been sharpened in the E7#9, and flattened in the E7b9.

So what are the notes for these ?

Well, starting with the 'E7' bit :
E7 = 1st, maj 3rd, 5th, flat 7th = E, G#, B, D
Now add the #9 (count up 15 semitones from E) - G
So E7#9 = E G# B D G
Similarly E7b9 = E G# B D F

There are a few different ways to write these chords.

'-' and '+' signs are sometimes used to mean 'flat' and 'sharp' respectively, but 'b' and '#' are used as well.

You might even see 'dim' and 'aug' (diminished and augmented) used too for the same thing.

So E7#9 could be written as E7+9 or E7aug9
and E7b9 could be written as E7-9 or E7dim9

With these chromatically altered chords there is almost no limit on the number of chords you can create - most of these will be used in jazz, but some (like the E7#9) appear quite a lot in rock music too.

Too work out the notes to these types of chord it's best to start with the 'basic' chord, then add the chromatic notes to this. So , as above for E7#9, start with E7, then add the #9.

You may find several chromatic notes in one chord - like A13b5b9 - treat it just the same way - build up the A13 chord, then swap the 5th and 9th for the flat 5th and flat 9th.

Chords Part 9 Diminished and Augmented Chords

The only chords left to cover are the diminished and augmented. The diminished chords is either written as 'dim' or sometimes using
a small circle like the symbol for degrees.

A diminished chord is made up of these notes :

1st, min 3rd, flat 5th, double flat 7th (double flat 7th is the same note as the major 6th, but it's usually written as double flat 7th - don't ask me why !)

So A diminished would be : A, C, Eb, Gb

As a point of interest, the intervals between successive notes in a diminished chord are ALL minor thirds.

This means if you start to build a dim chord on a C, you end up with the same notes as for the A dim.

In other words Adim = Cdim = Ebdim = Gbdim = A+C+Eb+Gb So when you play a diminished chord, if you move it up the neck by 3 frets you still have the same chord !!

There is also a chord called the half-diminished, or diminished 7th. I usually write this one as somthing like E7-5 - just another name for the same chord. It's best if you're aware of the different names used for the same chord.

The difference between this one and a 'normal' diminished is that the 7th of the chord is a flat 7th not a double flat 7th (hence half-diminished).

So the spelling is 1st, min 3rd, flat 5th, flat 7th

An augmented chord is made up of these notes :
1st, maj 3rd, sharp 5th
So A augmented would be : A C# F
Intervals between successive notes are all maj 3rds - i.e 4 semitones)
You can see augmented chords written as something like 'A aug' or 'A+'.

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