Magazine article Guitar Player

The 4-String Banjo: Chord Concepts

Magazine article Guitar Player

The 4-String Banjo: Chord Concepts

Article excerpt

THIS MONTH I WOULD LIKE TO offer some fundamental ideas on chord structure and usage.

It is better for any musician, regardless of what instrument he or she plays, to first study music theory and then apply the theoretical knowledge on his or her favorite instrument. That is an excellent way to improve your skills as a musician. It is very important to continually develop both your technical skills and your knowledge of theory.

To begin our discussion of chord construction, let's take a look at a C major scale:

You can build a chord by adding notes at the intervals of a third and a fifth above any note in the scale. Such three-note chords are called "triads." There are four types of triads: major, minor, augmented, and diminished. We will concentrate on major triads this month. The scale note that the triad is built upon is the root of the chord, and when the root note is the lowest (bass) note of the chord, the triad is in root position.

The triads that are built using the notes of a major scale as root notes are called "diatonic chords." Below are the root position diatonic triads in the key of C major (triads built on the notes of a C major scale). These chords are usually identified by Roman numerals, as shown:

The chords that are constructed on the first, fourth, and fifth degrees (I, IV, and V) of the scale are the most important and the most frequently used. They are the three primary triads, commonly known as "family chords. …

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