TonalityGUIDE - basic tonal music theory and analysis for undergraduates
  Startcentre  |  Reference Guide  

Chords and Scales
introduction diatonic scales triads diatonic chords chromatic chords embellished chords

Page one | Page two

short progs.
longer progs.

Most dissonant notes are best understood in terms of the melodic embellishments introduced in the Toolkit. However, the addition of a sevenths, ninths elevenths and thirteenths above the root of a triad have traditionally been discussed as chords in their own right - harmonic rather than melodic embellishments of triads. The next page discusses how these chords are usually the result of voice-leading. These chords are briefly introduced below - follow the various links for more comprehensive discussions of these chords in context.

The addition of a seventh above the root to a triad is so common that there is some justification for discussing these as chords in their own right.

Five different types of seventh chord can be constructed based on the diatonic triads of the major and minor scales with the addition of the seventh. These are shown in the example below, but the various types are discussed in more detail in the diatonic short progressions section.

The five types are:

You can find out the closest position (and therefore the root) of any chord by rearranging it as a stack of thirds. The following example shows a seventh chord in inversion and then rearranged in root and close position:

Ninths, Elevenths and Thirteenths
The seventh is constructed by adding a third to a root position triad and a whole group of embellished triads can be formed by adding further thirds. Ninths, elevenths and thirteenths above the root do not, however, play such an important functional role in most tonal styles.

The example below adds successive thirds to a G major triad up until the interval of a 13th above the root (a 15th would simply double the root by adding another G!). As seen in later examples, thirteenth chords often do not contain the whole stack of thirds, typically omitting the ninth and/or eleventh:

In most tonal styles ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords arise principally as a result of melodic decoration. In other words they are primarily a horizontal phenomenon rather than a vertical one. Examples illustrating this point can be found on page two of the section on embellished chords.

The Tonality GUIDE tonal music analysis tool kit
information and orientation as you browse around
chord identification
understanding voice-leading
style awareness

© Copyright Thomas Pankhurst

TonalityGUIDE - Tonal Harmony and Voiceleading - Table of Contents