• How To Determine The “CQ” Of Any Given Chord At A Glance

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    I’ll be taking you by the hand and showing you (step-by-step) how to determine the CQ of any given chord.

    At this point, I’m very certain that you’re wondering what the abbreviation CQ means. I’m also sure that a few others will think it’s related to the IQ (which is known as the intelligence quotient). :)

    We’re starting out in this lesson by answering that question in the next segment.

    What Is The “CQ” Of A Chord?

    Please permit me to think aloud:

    Oh my God! How do I even start? Hmmm! How do I even let them know that the CQ is something they already  know before now?


    “Alright…Back To The Lesson!”

    The CQ of  a chord simply refers to its chord quality:

    C is for chord and Q is for quality (So, CQ = Chord Quality).

    The chord quality (aka – “CQ”) of a chord refers to the totality of its harmonic attributes that sets it apart from every other chord.

    Although there are so many chords in tonal music, every chord type has its harmonic attribute that makes it unique and differentiates it from every other chord type out there.

    For example, when we’re looking at the CQ of the major triad (the C major triad in particular):

    …we’re basically making reference to the totality of the harmonic attributes that makes it a major triad and also sets it apart from other triad types:

    Minor triad

    Augmented triad

    Diminished triad

    Alright, now that we’ve learned and understood what a CQ is, let’s go ahead and explore the two basic chord qualities: the major and minor quality.

    The “Major/Minor” Concept Of Chord Quality

    In tonal music, the concept of quality has two categories: major and minor. This should explain why there’s a major key and a minor key (no diminished and augmented keys).

    Although there are many chord types, these chord types can fall under two tonal categories:

    Major quality chords

    Minor quality chords

    So, all chord widths (triads, seventh chords, extended chords) and chord types (major, minor, augmented, diminished, dominant, altered, suspended, etc.) used in tonal music belong to these two broad categories.

    How To Determine The “CQ” Of A Chord At A Glance

    Let’s go ahead and look at how the “CQ” of a chord can be determined at a glance. First, we’ll start out with major quality chords, then we proceed to minor quality chords.

    Major Quality Chords At A Glance

    You can tell that the CQ of a chord is major if the distance between its root and third tone is a major third interval.

    The major third interval is the interval that ALL major quality chords share in common. So, any chord that the distance between its root and third tone is not a major third interval is NOT a major quality chord.

    “So, What’s A Major Third Interval…”

    The distance between the first and third tone of the major scale is a major third interval. In the key of C major:

    …where the first and third tones are C and E (respectively):

    The interval “C-E” is a major third interval. Consequently, all C chords that have “C-E” as their root and third tones are major quality chords.

    So, at a glance, you can tell if a C chord is a major quality chord or not and this is determined by the interval between the first and the third tone.

    Using the following major third intervals, you can determine if any given chord is a major quality chord or not:

    C major third interval:

    Db major third interval:

    D major third interval:

    Eb major third interval:

    E major third interval:

    F major third interval:

    Gb major third interval:

    G major third interval:

    Ab major third interval:

    A major third interval:

    Bb major third interval:

    B major third interval:

    So, given the D half-diminished seventh chord:

    …you can determine if its “CQ” is a major chord quality or not using its root and third tone (which are D and F):

    The interval “D-F” is NOT a major third interval. Consequently, the D half-diminished seventh chord is NOT a major quality chord.

    At a glance, you can tell that the following chords are major quality chords:

    The C augmented triad:

    The C dominant seventh chord:

    C altered chord:

    …and this is because for each of the chords, the interval between the root and third tone is a major third interval (which is “C-E”):

    Final Words

    The CQ of a chord can basically be major or minor. However, under these two tonal categories, we have sub-categories.

    In a subsequent post, I’ll tell you why augmented chords are a sub-category of major quality chords and why diminished triads are considered as a sub-category of minor quality chords.

    See you then!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Carolyn

    Thanks. If the chords were in 1st or
    second inversions would it still be applied the same way? What would be the Intervals for EGC and GCE?


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