• # Easy to Ways to Remember Large Chords

As you know, there is a formula for everything! Nothing is random — even when playing by ear…

From the most basic triad (or three-fingered chord) to the largest thirteenth chord, there are easy, systematic ways to remember ALL chords, regardless of size.

Let’s start basic and then I’ll show you how to remember larger chords.

If you have the 300pg course, page 50 displays a chart like this:

 # of notes Type of chord Three Triad Four Seventh Five Ninth Six Eleventh Seven Thirteenth

… If you’re just starting out, don’t be confused by these names and numbers.

Simply put, three-note chords (like a Cmaj or Fmin) are called “triads.”

As you add tones to the basic triad, you form “sevenths” and “ninths” — and all the others. We will get into this in a moment.

Key Rule: By knowing major scales, you can figure out any triad, seventh, ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth.

I always talk about major scales so I won’t waste time listing them here. You can find newsletters on them at my new archive site www.pianoweekly.com or in the 300pg course (chapter four).

But for now, I’ll show the C major scale:

C D E F G A B C

Basically, to form various chords, you just take notes from the C major scale. Keep in mind that each note of a scale is played individually, one after the other (don’t confuse scales and chords).

On the other hand, when you are playing chords, you are holding down multiple notes at the same time.

In order to apply these simple principles below, you’ll have to convert the major scale above to numbers. We’ve discussed techniques like this in prior weeks (www.pianoweekly.com) .

C = 1
D = 2
E = 3
F = 4
G = 5
A = 6
B = 7

So…

Once you know your major scales as numbers, you can apply these formulas to make any chord you want:

Major triads (Ch 5): 1 + 3  + 5
Minor triads (Ch 8): 1 + b3 + 5
Diminished triad (Ch 9): 1 + b3 + b5
Augmented triad: 1 + 3 + #5

Major seventh (Ch 10): 1 + 3 + 5 + 7
Minor seventh (Ch 10): 1 + b3 + 5 + b7
Dominant seventh (Ch 10): 1 + 3 + 5 + b7
Half Diminished seventh: 1 + b3 + b5 + b7
Diminished seventh (Ch 13): 1 + b3 + b5 + bb7  (or just think of it as “6”)

Major ninth (Ch 11): 1 + 3 + 5  + 7 + 9
Minor ninth (Ch 11): 1 + b3 + 5 + b7 + 9
Dominant ninth (Ch 11): 1 + 3 + 5 + b7 + 9

and so on… (eleventh chords, thirteenth chords, altered chords, major sixth, minor sixth…)

Now… let me help you to apply these formulas:

In the key of C major, let’s say you wanted to play a C maj chord (aka “C major triad”). Since the formula is 1+3+5, simply take the first, third, and fifth tone of the C major scale and play them together.

What’s the 1st tone of the C major scale?  Answer: C
What’s the 3rd tone of the C major scale? Answer: E
What’s the 5th tone of the C major scale? Answer: G

C major triad: C E G

It’s that simple.

If you’re just starting out, you may have run into a problem with the “b3”, “b5”, or “bb7” and — that’s understandable (I’d be confused too if I were just starting out). Let me explain.

Whenever you see a “b” or “#”, that simply means to lower or raise the note a half step.

“b” means to lower the note a half step. So if you see b3, that means to take the third tone of the scale and lower it one-half step.

So if a minor chord is 1 + b3 + 5, in the key of C major, that is:

C Eb G

Why Eb?

Because we simply took the third tone of the scale and lowered it one-half step.

With that said, you should be able to figure out all the chords above:

Major triads (Ch 5): 1 + 3  + 5
Cmaj: C E G

Minor triads (Ch 8): 1 + b3 + 5
Cmin: C Eb G

Diminished triad (Ch 9): 1 + b3 + b5
Cdim: C Eb Gb

Augmented triad: 1 + 3 + #5
Caug: C E G#

Major seventh (Ch 10): 1 + 3 + 5 + 7
Cmaj7: C E G B

Minor seventh (Ch 10): 1 + b3 + 5 + b7
Cmin7: C Eb G Bb

Dominant seventh (Ch 10): 1 + 3 + 5 + b7
C7 (aka Cdom7): C E G Bb

Half Diminished seventh: 1 + b3 + b5 + b7
C half dim7: C Eb Gb Bb

Diminished seventh (Ch 13): 1 + b3 + b5 + bb7  (or just think of it as “6”)
Cdim7: C Eb Gb A

What about the more extended chords like ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths?

What if I told you that you could play any ninth, eleventh, or thirteenth chord by knowing just seventh chords?

You can.

Major Ninth Chords

The formula for a major ninth chord is:
1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9

The Cmaj9 chord, for example, is:

C E G B D

But a shortcut is to simply play an Emin7 over C.

C bass   *  E G B D (Emin7) on right hand = Cmaj9

So, how can we make this a “rule” to apply to all maj9 chords?

Simply put, take the iii min7 of any major key.

1) Start with the keynote of the major scale. So if you want to play a Cmaj9 chord, the keynote would be “C”. Play this on your left hand.

2) On your right hand, locate the third tone of the scale and play a minor seventh chord on that tone. So in the key of C, the third tone is E. Therefore, you’d play an Emin7 chord on C bass.

For your convenience, here’s a list of all twelve major ninth chords:

Cmaj9: C + Emin7 chord (C E G B D)
Fmaj9: F + Amin7 chord (F A C E G)
Bbmaj9: Bb + Dmin7 chord (Bb D F A C)
Ebmaj9: Eb + Gmin7 chord (Eb G Bb D F)
Abmaj9: Ab + Cmin7 chord (Ab C Eb G Bb)
Dbmaj9: Db + Fmin7 chord (Db F Ab C Eb)
Gbmaj9: Gb + Bbmin7 chord (Gb Bb Db F Ab)
Bmaj9: B + D#min7 (B D# F# A# C#)
Emaj9: E + G#min7 (E G# B D# F#)
Amaj9: A + C#min7 (A C# E G# B)
Dmaj9: D + F#min7 (D F# A C# E)
Gmaj9: G + Bmin7 (G B D F# A)

Let’s move on…

Minor Ninth Chords

Minor ninth chords have a similar formula. Instead of taking the 3rd tone of the scale and playing a minor 7th chord on it (like we did above), simply take the b3rd of the scale and play a major 7th chord on it.

So it’s sort of like the opposite of the maj9 chord.

Maj 9 vs Min 9

Maj 9: We took the 3rd tone of the scale and played its minor seventh chord.
Min 9: We will take the b3rd tone of the scale (or the relative major) and play its major seventh chord. Don’t worry about relative major/minor — this would take a few more concepts to explain. For now, just remember the b3 of any key!

1) Start with the keynote of the major scale (C for example).

2) On your right hand, locate the b3 tone of the scale. That involves finding the natural third tone (E) and lowering it one-half step to Eb. So, to recap, the b3 of C major is “Eb.”

3) Simply play Ebmaj7 over C bass and there’s a nice min9 chord!

Cmin9: C + Ebmaj7 chord (C Eb G Bb D)

You try the rest…

Cmin9: C + Ebmaj7 chord (C Eb G Bb D)
Fmin9: _______________________
Bbmin9: _______________________
Ebmin9: _______________________
Abmin9: _______________________
Dbmin9: _______________________
Gbmin9: _______________________
Bmin9: _______________________
min9: _______________________
Amin9: _______________________
Dmin9: _______________________
Gmin9: _______________________

Next week, I’ll teach you easy ways to play eleventh and thirteenth chords using similar formulas.
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#### Jermaine Griggs

Founder at HearandPlay.com
Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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