Understanding Chords

Voicing and Inversions



Often some of the chord members are not voiced in 3rd’s order.  They are inverted.  If that’s the case, we need to flip them (in your mind) until they are in an ascending set of 3rds in order to find the root, 3rd, 5th etc of the chord.

Here is a set of chords to work on as they might be voiced in barbershop.

Look at chord 1.  Notice that there is a duplication of the Bb’s, and that the distance between the Tenor D and the Lead Bb is a 3rd but between the Bass and Bari. is a 4th.  So to get rid of that 4th, pretend it is above the Tenor note.  That puts the notes in 3rds order with the Bb on the bottom.  Therefore,  Bb is the root of the chord, since it is now on the bottom (in our pretending).  That makes the Tenor note the 3d and the Bass note the 5th of the chord.

Now look at chord 2.  Here the Bass and Bari. are in 3rds and the Lead and the Tenor are in 3rds but the Bari and Lead are only a 2nd apart.  To get rid of that 2nd, either put the G & Bb above the Tenor (pretend) or put the C & E below the Bass to get the 4 notes in order.  Now we have C,E,G,Bb in order.  So C is the root, E the 3rd, G the 5th and Bb the 7th.  This makes a Barbershop 7th since C--E=Maj.3rd, E-G=Min.3rd and G-Bb is another minor 3rd. - the pattern for a barbershop 7th chord.

Here are the chords again.

Chord 3. Again we have 3rds between the Bass & Bari and also between the Lead and Tenor but a 2nd between the Bari and Lead.  Again to get rid of the 2nd. put the Bass and Bari above the Tenor or put the Lead and Tenor below the Bass. Now we have C,Eb,Gb,Bb  - a diminished triad with a Maj.3rd between Gb & Bb so we have a half-diminished chord with the C as the root, Eb the minor third, Gb as the 5th and Bb as the 7th.

Do chord 4 & 5.  Then check your results on the next line.

The answer is: Chord 4:  Eb,Gb,Bb,Db   & Chord 5: Bb,D,F,Bb

This is the way to find out what chord member your particular voice is singing and to analyze the chords as to what kind they are. 

Here are most of the possibilities:

    Major Chord (Triad)

    Minor Chord (Triad)

    Barbershop 7th

    Fully Diminished 7th Chord

    Half Diminished 7th Chord

    9th Chord

    Major Triad with a Major 7th

    Minor Triad with a Minor 7th

                (In many contexts. called a Major triad with an added 6th)

    Minor Triad with a Major 7th 

As we said, Chords are all about 3rds.

                                        Click Here To Continue

                                   I would love to hear from you. 

                          I appreciate any comments or suggestions.