Basic Three-Note Chords: Introduction
The system of harmony I will talk about is based on chords. Chords are the building blocks of harmony, just as scales are the building blocks of melody. Melodies can be seen as a sequence of notes from a scale, and harmony can be seen as a sequence of chords. Scales are a group of notes that sound good when you play them one after the other (in whatever order you choose) to make a melody, and chords are a group of notes that sound good when you play them at the same time. Most of the music that you hear has a melody and chords that go along with it. When a folk musician sings and plays guitar, they are singing the melody, while the guitar provides the harmony in the form of chords. The vast majority of the music you hear can be boiled down to this relationship between melody (scales) and harmony (chords).
In this chapter, I’m starting with groups of three notes for a reason. Groups of two notes are fairly easy to figure out for yourself. Any group of two notes has its use, and each couple sounds good in many situations. Although groups of two notes are pretty self-explanatory, there are two-part pieces of music that are worthy of deep harmonic study (I have Bach’s two-part inventions in mind). But the study of these groups of two notes usually involves looking at the three-note chords that are implied by the two notes. Let’s look at the most common ways of making three-note chords.