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Section 6.4 Analyzing Chords

When a three–note chord is represented by four or more notes (some of which are duplicates of the original three notes) and spread out across a grand staff, we can arrive at a lead–sheet symbol by answering three questions:

  1. What is the root of the chord?

  2. What is the quality of the chord (i.e., is the chord major, minor, diminished, or augmented)?

  3. What is the bass note (i.e., is the chord inverted)?

To determine the root of the chord, write all the notes only on the lines of the staff in treble clef (you may need to use ledger lines).

You could also choose to write all the notes only on the spaces in a staff.

The bottom note is the root when the chord is stacked as a triad. In this case, the root is \(\text{D}\).

Next, determine the quality of the triad (major, minor, diminished, or augmented) by analyzing if there is a M3 or m3 from the root to the 3rd, and if there is a M3 or m3 from the 3rd to 5th.

Since there is a m3 (3 half steps) from \(\text{D}\) to \(\text{F}\) and a M3 (4 half steps) from \(\text{F}\) to \(\text{A}\), the triad is minor.

Finally, determine if the chord is inverted by checking to see if a note other than the root is the lowest note. Since the bass note (lowest note) is the root \(\text{D}\), the chord is not inverted. The chord is in root position, so the lead–sheet symbol is \(\left.\text{D}\text{m}\right.\).

Now, try the process again.

On scratch paper, stack the notes only on lines in the treble clef to determine the root.

The root is \(\text{E}\).

Analyze the quality of the triad by measuring from \(\text{E}\) to \(\text{G}\) and from \(\text{G}\) to \(\text{B}^♭\).

It is an \(\text{E}\) diminished triad (\(\left.\text{E}^{\circ}{}\right.\)).

Finally, determine if the chord is inverted. Is the root (\(\text{E}\)) the lowest note?

Since the lowest note is \(\text{G}\), the chord is inverted. Our lead–sheet symbol is \(\left.\text{E}^{\circ}{}\middle/\text{G}\right.\), which means we have an \(\left.\text{E}^{\circ}{}\right.\) chord with a \(\text{G}\) in the bass.