Color Tones and Chords

Published: Oct 7, 2013 Updated: Jan 5, 2016

ANY ukulele guitar | Subjects: advancedchordstriadstheory

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The most important notes or chord tones in a chord are the notes that contribute most to the actual sound or color of the chord. For a major or minor triad the third of the chord performs this function. For other chords any note that makes it different from other chord types with the same root are the color tones.

This information is critical when creating your own melody and chord ukulele arrangements and are limited to four, three or two strings to harmonize a melody.

This lesson is a more for less type of lesson exploring what notes are actually important in chords. The best place to start with this concept is 4-part chords and the Big Six Core Chords.

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For the core 4-part 7, maj7 and m7 the color tones are the third and seventh of the chords. The root or letter name of the chord and the fifth for these three chords are the same. Here are the notes of a 7, maj7 and m7 chord using C as the root for each:

  • C7 is C E G Bb the 1 3 5 b7 of the C major scale*
  • Cmaj7 is C E G B the 1 3 5 7 of the C major scale
  • Cm7 is C Eb G Bb the 1 b3 5 b7 of the C major scale

As you can see the C and G are the same for all three chords and don't actually contribute to the color of the chord.

For the remaining three of the big six chords: the half-diminished seventh (m7b5), diminished seventh (dim7) and augmented seventh (aug7) chords all but the root contribute to the color of the chord.

  • Cm7b5 is C Eb Gb Bb of the C major scale
  • Cdim7 is C Eb Gb Bbb of the C major scale
  • C+7 is C E G# Bb of the C major scale
  • The names of the notes of any chord can be derived from the major scale based on the chord's root.
Exploring Color Tones

From the four voicings of the 7, maj7 and m7 chords in the Big Six series of lessons find and only play the thirds and sevenths of the chords - the color tones.

As you might be able to figure out – knowing the names of the notes in ALL your chords and the notes of the fingerboard will go a long way when exploring this approach to chords. You pretty much can not apply any of this without knowing the notes of the fingerboard and at a minimum the 15 major scales.

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The Big Six Core Chords - Level I

The Big Six chords include: Seventh 7, Major Seventh maj7, Minor Seventh m7, Half Diminished Seventh or Minor Seven Flat Five diminished 7 (m7b5), Diminished Seventh o7 and Augmented Seventh +7. These six chords form a core set of chords.

Upper Partials and Chord Extensions

A chord extension or upper partial are the chord tones above the octave and not one of the fundamental 4-part chord tones. These are the ninths, elevenths and thirteenths of chords.

Chord Alterations

The fifth, ninth, eleventh and thirtheenth of a chord can be altered.

The Big Six Core Chords - F7, four voicings, Chord Intervals

The Big Six Core Chords - F7, four voicings. Learning the locations of the chord intervals - the 1 3 5 b7.

The Big Six Core Chords - F7, four voicings - Chord Tones

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The Big Six Core Chords - F7, Four Voicings, Learning Process

The Big Six Core Chords - F7, four voicings. From shape to chord tones to intervals and back again. Really, learning what a chord is made of.

Chord Spelling - An Alternate Approach

An alternate approach to determining the chord tones of any chord. Bottom-line is, it's the notes that make the chord, not the shape. A C chord is C, E, G - NOT this or that shape.

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