• The “Polychord” Game: How Many Chords Can You Spot?

    in Chords & Progressions

    Polychords are huge extended chords that consist of two or more smaller chords.

    As your chords get bigger and bigger, you’ll spot smaller chords within.

    These smaller chords present opportunities to explore other voicings.

    For example, if you spot a C minor triad and an Eb major 7 in the same chord, this gives you countless ways to voice the chord… including two-hand versions:

    • C minor (root) on left hand /// Eb major 7 (root) on right hand
    • Eb major 7 (third inversion) on left /// C minor (first inversion) on right
    • C minor (first inversion) on left /// Eb major 7 (2nd inversion) on right

    And these are just three quick examples of dozens of possibilities.

    So the first step is to simply spot as many chords as you can.

    Once you’ve identified all the chords present, try inverting (rearranging) each chord, mixing and matching one with another. If there are 3 or 4 different chords present, focus on two, noting how they sound together.

    This is a big game of trial and error.

    So let’s try it…

    How many chords can you spot in this C dominant 13 chord?

    Answer:

    • C major
    • E diminished
    • G minor
    • Bb major
    • D minor
    • F major
    • A minor

    And to be honest, there are probably many more. I just went for the obvious ones.

    *Also note: For the F major and A minor, just picture the chord repeating itself. So, in your head, you’re not just seeing F+A, you’re seeing F+A+C as if the chord has started back over at C. The same thing for the A minor chord. You’re not just seeing the single note “A” (because it is, indeed, the highest note). You’re seeing A+C+E (because the C+E are in the beginning of the chord).

    Now that you have a list of chords, this should keep you busy mixing and matching the ones you want. Not all will work because some are dependent on each other but take some time to fool around with it… “trial n error” style!

    You’ll be amazed at how far this idea of “polychords” takes ya!

    Until next time —

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    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!

    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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    { 23 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Humberto

    Hey, Jermaine, I also spot in the C-E-G-Bb-D-F-A example a C7 chord followed by a D minor chord.

    Is that in fact a formula for all 13 dominant chords? The dominant 7th chord for the root note followed by a minor triad starting on the 9th tone?

    That would make it easy to figure out quickly all 13 dominant chords

    Humberto

    Humberto

    Reply

    2 Jermaine Griggs

    Yes! Absolutely! That’s one way I describe in the two reports as well. Good observation!

    Reply

    3 Jermaine Griggs

    Update: Since I only introduced the triad chords within this big one, I just thought I’d follow up with the bigger chords that exist within it:

    C dominant7
    E half dim 7
    G minor 7
    G minor 9
    F major 7
    F major 9
    F major 11
    Bb major 7
    Bb major 9
    Bb major
    D minor 7
    D minor 9
    D minor 11
    A minor 7

    Reply

    4 Beverly

    Where were you when I studied piano many years ago.? I find the tip of polychords so helpful

    hearandplay.com has become my early morning ritual. After 6 months of viewing the site I finally ordered Jazz 101. Can’t wait to get it.

    Reply

    5 regina

    i really enjoy your phone text weekly . Erased 4-4-11 notes by mistake

    Reply

    6 Silvio Martina

    Germaine Griggs,
    You are a genius. Chords have, as I see ,no end. They keep getting around all the time.
    It is a great idea to play with the chords, because there is no end. Chords keep on going till someone gets tired. You opened my eyes to see what I not even was aware of.
    Very, very good point.
    Thank you very much.

    Reply

    7 steve

    Hi and thx again Germaine.Hearandplay.com i have to say is the best source of info for those that wish to learn.

    Reply

    8 steve

    Great Stuff Jermaine.Game On

    Reply

    9 David

    u’re God sent

    Reply

    10 hen night glasgow

    I admired your helpful words. excellent information. I hope you write many. I will continue watching

    Reply

    11 Business Cards Derry

    Bonjour love this blog check out mine

    Reply

    12 Emmanuel Hisay

    I really like to have a book with examples on C Major Scale or even the 15 major scale book. If you do have such book, please rush me information on the prices and video. Thanks

    Reply

    13 James Peck

    Hey Jermaine,

    Great little exercise you got here! Mind if I use it for some of my Grade 6+ pupils?

    Reply

    14 Lisa M. Cartwright

    Thanks, Jermaine!

    Reply

    15 Matsobane

    Jarmaine, you are a star, man! I think you are gifted. I was not aware of these other non-triad chords in this polychord. But when do we use this polychord? This question may seem stupid to those who have piano expertise like you do.

    Reply

    16 Bernice Gaymon

    This is great ! Came at a good time for me. I am currently working with polycords
    and this information is very helpful.

    Reply

    17 keratilwe

    Hey jermaine I truly understand the concept of poly chords and that they are bigger chords stacked on top of each other but also consisting of smaller chords. But how do I apply them to normal sunday church services?

    Reply

    18 meloney

    Hi Jermaine…
    I have ordered lessons from you in 14 Nov 2014 but have still not received… I did sent email to query this. Extra money is also deducted for dvd’s that apparently is coming in shipment. Please give feedback on this

    Reply

    19 Percy Malaga

    In the bibliography, the common Polychords are C13, C7alt in many forms, but…
    I shown other polychords:
    Absus4/C7 = C7(b9,#9, #11,b13)
    Ebm7(b5)/C7 = C13(b9,#9, #11)
    Ab7/C7 = C7(#5,#9,#11)
    F#m/C7 = C13(b9,#11) ó C13(b5,b9)
    Gb9/C7 = C7(b5,#5,b9) ó C7(#5,b9,#11)
    Db/C7 = C7sus4(b9,b13) ó C7sus4(#5,b9)
    (this, only play Root b7 or root & 5 in the left hand)

    Enjoy!

    Percy

    Reply

    20 Nkholo

    i found your lesson comments very good, i am stag i have learned few chords i can go beyond, what should i do

    Reply

    21 Andre Springer

    Very interesting to see that you can get so much out of one cord. Thanks Bra.

    Reply

    22 amori sylvester

    C major
    Bb major and the
    D minor

    Reply

    23 Carolyn

    Thanks Jermaine. Wow! Great way
    to look at poly chords. I just can’t let
    this opportunity pass without expressing my gratitude for your music classes. They have Improved
    my musical knowledge and ability greatly. Most of all, I appreciate you having a honest business. You are a blessing not only to me but go thousands of other people who benefit from your teaching. May God continue to tremendously bless you and GMTC Family.

    Reply

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