• On The 3-Chord: The Most Complicated Minor Chord In The Major Key

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

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    The 3-chord in the major key is arguably the most complicated minor chord and I’ll tell you why this is so.

    There are challenges associated with the formation of extended minor chords on the 3-chord in the major key and it’s always been on my mind to share this with you, but due to the long list of topics that I would want to cover before this lesson, I’ve delayed and delayed until now.

    “Alright! Let’s Get Started…”

    Although there are three minor chords in the major key:

    The 2-chord

    The 3-chord

    The 6-chord

    The formation of extended minor chords (like the minor ninth and minor eleventh chord) is a lot challenging for certain reasons that I’ll be showing you in this lesson.

    Before we go any further, let’s quickly review the basic triad and minor seventh chord that can be played as the 3-chord in the major key.

    Triads And Seventh Chords For The 3-chord In The Major Key

    The term “3-chord” is associated with the chord of the third tone in the key.

    Attention: All our references will be given in the key of C major.

    The third tone in the key of C major:

    …is E:

    So, all possible 3-chord options in the key of C major will have E as their root.

    Let’s take a look at the minor triad and minor seventh chord for the 3-chord in the key of C major before we go any further.

    The E Minor Triad

    Following traditional guidelines of chord formation, the distance between the successive notes of a chord is a third interval.

    So, starting from the third tone of the C major scale (which is E):

    …we’ll be adding another note (in the key of C major) that is a third above E (and that’s G):

    …and another third above G (and that’s B):

    Altogether, we have “E-G-B” which is the E minor triad:

    …and the 3-chord in the key of C major.

    The E Minor Seventh Chord

    The E minor triad:

    …spans from E to B:

    Adding another note (still in the key of C major) that is a third above B (and that’s D):

    …produces the E minor seventh chord:

    The Challenges Of Going Beyond The Minor Seventh Chord

    Following the procedures of the formation of the E minor triad and the E minor seventh chord:

    The E minor triad:

    The E minor seventh chord:

    …one would naturally want to form extended chords like the minor ninth, minor eleventh, and the minor thirteenth chord.

    But this can be challenging to do on the 3-chord and this is because of the available extensions (ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth).

    In the key of C major:

    …the available extensions for the 3-chord are F, A, and C:

    F is the ninth:

    A is the eleventh:

    C is the thirteenth:

    The use of the ninth and thirteenth extensions produce minor chords with an intolerable degree of dissonance and minor chords are not designed to be dissonant.

    Attention: Dissonance makes a chord to sound unpleasant and minor chords are not supposed to have this unpleasantness that is associated with the ninth and thirteenth extensions of the 3-chord.

    Dissonance #1 — “The Dissonance Between The Root And Ninth Tone”

    When the root and the ninth tone of the 3-chord in the key of C major — which are E and F:

    E:

    F:

    …are played together “E-F”:

    …the outcome is a minor ninth interval.

    “Can I Tell You Something About The Minor Ninth Interval?”

    The minor ninth interval is the most unpleasant interval in tonal music and has an intolerable level of dissonance. This explains why it is generally avoided in harmony and chord formation.

    “Now Back To The Ninth Extension…”

    If you still go ahead and add the ninth tone (which is F):

    …to the E minor seventh chord:

    …the outcome would be an E minor seventh (b9) chord:

    …which is a very dissonant minor chord.

    Also note that in the E minor seventh (b9) chord:

    …the fifth and ninth tones (B and F):

    …are a tritone apart and that’s another level of dissonance altogether.

    Dissonance #2 — “The Dissonance Between The Fifth And Thirteenth”

    There’s another minor ninth interval between the fifth tone and the thirteenth extension:

    The fifth tone (B):

    The thirteenth tone (C):

    The interval “B-C” is a minor ninth interval and has similar traits like the “E-F”‘ interval we encountered earlier (between the root and the ninth extension):

    “E-F” (a minor ninth interval):

    “B-C” (a minor ninth interval):

    So, it’s the same unpleasantness associated with the minor ninth interval that minor thirteenth chord of the 3-chord would inherit.

    Final Words

    Now that we’ve identified the challenges associated with going beyond the minor seventh chord, we’ll look into how these challenges can be surmounted in a subsequent lesson.

    Meanwhile, feel free to follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more information.

    All the best.

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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

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




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