• Revealed: How Most Beginners Master Scale-Degree Chords

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    I’ll be showing you how beginners master scale-degree chords with little or no effort in this lesson.

    A vast majority of starters find it difficult to play all the scale-degree triads on the piano. The average beginner does not usually go beyond knowing the chord of the first, fourth, and fifth degrees to knowing the chords of the second, third, and sixth degree.

    If you invest the next 12 minutes in this lesson, you’ll learn step-by-step, how to play all scale-degree chords with absolute ease.

    Attention: Although this lesson is written with beginners in mind, intermediate and advanced players can also benefit from the concept.

    Let’s get started with a review on scale-degree chords for the sake of those who are interested in learning it, or refreshing their minds on it.

    A Quick Review On Scale-Degree Chords

    The Preliminaries

    A chord is a collection of three or more related notes (agreeable or not), that are played [or heard] together.

    From the definition above, here are important things to note about a chord:

    • A chord MUST consist of three or more notes.
    • There MUST be a relationship between the notes.
    • The notes of a chord CAN be agreeable or NOT.
    • The notes of a chord are designed to be heard together.

    The attributes above are vital in the definition of a chord because it highlights some of the essential keywords. However, the most important of them all is the relationship between the notes of the chord.

    For example, the notes C, E, and G:

    …when played together, produce the C major triad because of the relationship between them. C, E, and G are related by a giving scale and a class of harmony.

    In the scale relationship between C, E, and G:

    …the notes are the first, third, and fifth tones of the C natural major scale:

    …while in the intervallic relationship between the notes C, E, and G:

    …is in third intervals and that’s why from C to E:

    …is a third interval, and so is E to G:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    A chord is basically a product of the scale and intervallic relationship between notes. Once anyone has mastered this relationship, chord formation becomes the easiest thing in the world to do.

    “What Is A Scale Degree Chord?”

    There are eight notes in every key and each note of the scale is considered as a scale-degree. Consequently, there are eight degrees in every key (be it a major or a minor key.) For example, in the key of C major:

    C is the first degree

    D is second degree

    E is the third degree

    F is fourth degree

    G is the fifth degree

    A is sixth degree

    B is the seventh degree

    C is eighth degree

    Every scale-degree has its corresponding chord, which is simply known as the scale-degree chord. Due to the fact that this lesson is designed for beginners, we’ll narrow down our application of scale-degree chords to triads.

    Scale-Degree Triads In The Key Of C

    Although there are eight scale-degree triads, the eighth scale-degree triad is a duplicate of the first scale degree triad. In the key of C major:

    …the first scale degree triad is the C major triad:

    …while the eighth scale-degree triad is also the C major triad:

    Consequently, we’ll be focusing on seven scale degree triads.

    On the first degree of the scale (which is C):

    …is the C major triad:

    On the second degree of the scale (which is D):

    …is the D minor triad:

    On the third degree of the scale (which is E):

    …is the E minor triad:

    On the fourth degree of the scale (which is F):

    …is the F major triad:

    On the fifth degree of the scale (which is G):

    …is the G major triad:

    On the sixth degree of the scale (which is A):

    …is the A minor triad:

    On the seventh degree of the scale (which is B):

    …is the B diminished triad:

    How Beginners Master Scale Degree Triads

    There are two challenges that most beginners encounter while learning scale-degree triads.

    The first challenge is association. Most beginners find it challenging to recall scale-degree triads and that’s because of the absence of association.

    Using the concept of association, a triad can be derived from another triad. For example, the A minor triad can be derived from the C major triad:

    …by raising the fifth chord tone of the C major triad (which is G):

    …by a whole step (to A):

    …to produce the [second inversion of the] A minor triad:

    The second challenge is smoothness. Another challenge that is common among beginners is lack of smoothness. When most beginners move from one chord to another, most times, the chord tones do not move to the closest possible option.

    The movement from the C major triad:

    …to the E minor triad:

    …can be played smoothly, in such a way that the voices move to the closest possible option.

    “Check Out A Smoother 1-3 Chord Progression In The Key Of C…”

    Chord 1:

    …the C major triad.

    Chord 3:

    …the E minor triad.

    Chord 1

    Chord 1 is the C major triad:

    …and should be played in second inversion. The octave transposition of the fifth chord tone (which is G):

    …to a lower octave (which is also G):

    …produces the second inversion of the C major triad:

    …which is chord 1 in the key of C major:

    Chord 5

    Chord 5:

    …which is the G major triad, can be derived from chord 1:

    …the second inversion of the C major triad. The lowest note in the second inversion of the C major triad:

    …is G:

    …and it’s important to note that it is the root of chord 5:

    …the G major triad. Consequently, after playing chord 1:

    …the lowest note in chord 1 (which is G):

    …is the root of chord 5:

    Chord 4

    In the major scale, the fourth scale degree is always a whole step below the fifth degree. In the C major scale:

    …the fourth degree (which is F):

    …is a whole step below the fifth degree (which is G):

    Consequently, the root of chord 4 is a whole step below the fifth, which is F:

    …in this case. So, the root of chord 4 is always a whole step below the root of chord 4.

    Chord 3

    Chord 3:

    …the E minor triad, can be derived from chord 5:

    …the G major triad, by raising the fifth tone of the G major triad (which is D):

    …by a whole step (to E):

    …to form the E minor triad:

    …which is chord 3.

    Chord 2

    Chord 2:

    …the D minor triad, can be derived from chord 4:

    …the F major triad, by raising the fifth tone of the F major triad (which is C):

    …by a whole step (to D):

    …to form the D minor triad:

    …which is chord 2.

    Chord 6

    Chord 6:

    …the A minor triad, can be derived from chord 1:

    …which is the second inversion of the C major triad) by raising the lowest note (which is G):

    …by a whole step to A:

    …to produce the A minor triad:

    Final Words

    Congratulations! Getting to this point let’s me know that you’re serious about playing and mastering scale-degree triads.

    We’re just getting started. In another lesson, we’ll learn how these scale degree triads can be mastered in all 12 major keys.

    See you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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