Kirk Lorange

The Related Chords

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The TAB, GuitarPro file, midi files and notation that come with this lesson are now only available as part of the "Fingerstyle Lesson Pack" Details here.
The central, sturdiest, structure of Music is the KEY. How do you define the word KEY? I like to see it as a "family of 7 notes and 7 chords". The notes are those of the major scale, and the chords are those built on the scale notes.

The best way, I've found, to think of a scale is to think of it as a circle, like a clock.


As coincidence would have it, there are 12 notes in total, just as there are 12 hours on a clock, so the analogy works well. A major scale, however, makes use of only 7 of those 12, so there are going to be some gaps in the sequence, and since 12 doesn't divide by 7, those gaps are going to be uneven. Look at the image above, and you'll see the way those 7 notes arrange themselves for the C scale: see the way E and F are right next to each other? and the same for B and C? That's where the adjustment is made. The sequence of intervals (the distance between notes) is Tone Tone Semitone, Tone Tone Tone semitone. That is the formula from which ALL music comes. Remember it forever.

The chord aspect of the KEY:

The formula for chords is very simple: pick 3 alternate notes from the scale, play them together, and you've got yourself a chord. So looking above again, C E and G is the first chord; D F and A is the next; E G and B the next, and so on. You can see that there will be 7 chords in all. Chords are named after their lowest note, so you can already see that the chords in C will be:

C D E F G A B ... but which flavor exactly? They can't all be the same flavor, because the relationships of the notes in each trio of notes is going to change as we move through the scale. Why? because the scale is uneven. If the distances between each were the same, all chords would be the same flavor, but they're not. There are Tones and Semitones. The way the flavors work out is as follows:


So that's the key of C. 7 notes and 7 chords ... 3 are major, 3 are minor, and one is half-diminished.

Now it becomes a little clearer why these chords are called "related". They all come from the one "mother" scale. The chords are kind of like the scale's children. You can see that there are 3 majors, 3 minors and that one half diminished. (Don't worry too much about it). That same sequence of Major - minor - minor - Major- Major - minor - half diminished applies to all 12 keys, by the way, so you only need to learn it once. C is the clearest key to study, that's why I used it here.

The movie shows me playing the related chords in sequence, starting on C and ending on C again. Again, think "circle". You can hear in the movie how the sequence of chords sounds like the major scale played as chords ... and no wonder. It IS. It's important to take a second or two and really understand that all those chords use only those 7 original notes, and only three at a time. Where you see chords played with more than three notes, the extra note(s) will be repeats.

The way these 7 chords are written in shorthand is I ii iii IV V vi vii , the upper case meaning "major", the lower case "minor". Written this way, you could describe them as the 'generic' chords of any major key.

The next part of the movie shows me finger picking my way through these related chords. You can hear a certain "classical" sound to them, in fact there is a famous piece written (last century) around this sequence. It's a beautiful sequence, that's why it's lasted all these years, but those chords in any order will always sound good together. Why? Because they're related. They're all from a family that gets on well together. Play those chords and make melody with those notes and all will be well.

The picking piece I play in the movie is below in tab form.


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