In the previous issue we got to know the personalities of our Primary Chord Family, the 1 chord / 4 chord / 5 chord. These basic triads are like Mom, Dad, Brother; C, F, and G in the key of ‘C’, and they’re all major.
Next we’re going to head across town and pay a visit to our aunt, uncle, and cousin, our Close Family, the chords built on 2/3/6, which are all minor chords.
The ‘Close Family’ of Chords
The 6 Chord, (A minor in the key of ‘C’), is your aunt; the alter ego of your Mom, the 1 Chord. Because they share 2 common tones their musical DNA is pretty close, but remember Mom is a major triad and the 6 Chord is minor, making her sound slightly darker, even potentially sinister if you hang out with her too long. Let’s put it this way, in the musical words of John Williams: *Luke Skywalker = Major / the 1 Chord / Hero / all-around good guy. *Darth Vader = Minor / the 6 Chord / generally a big meanie / don’t let your sister date this guy. You get the picture.
Having said that, when mixed in the context of the Primary Triads the 6 Chord makes for some amazing musical chemistry. If you can play a million songs with 1 / 4 / 5, then you can play 10 million by adding the 6 Chord to the mix. Check this out:
Here’s a boatload of hit pop songs that are all based on the same 1/5/6/4 progression. Think back to your first junior high party playing the “Heart & Soul” duet with that cute 8th grade girl. That’s the power of the 1-6-4-5 chord progression! (I ended up marrying my duet partner from that party 🙂
Warm & Fuzzy
If the 6 Chord is your Mom’s sister, the 2 Chord is the 4 Chord’s cousin (it’s an odd family, I know). I say that because like the 1 and the 6, the 2 Chord (‘D’ minor in the key of ‘C’) shares two common tones with the ‘F’ chord, making them almost interchangeable. The 2 Chord’s personality is awesome; it is warm, hopeful, comforting; climbing up from the 1 chord to the 2 chord sounds like life is worth living and you should really give your dream one more chance. For some warm and fuzzy 2 Chord goosebumps check out “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson or “Fool on the Hill” by the Beatles.
The 3 Chord is one of my favs (E minor in the key of ‘C’), not used as often as the others, but if you’re looking for a little ‘heart twinge’ this is where the romance comes from fellas (I’m getting a little tear in my eye just thinking of the sound ). Listen to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “If I Fell” by the Beatles to get a feeling of the 3 Chord’s personality and what it can add to your music. To hear a beautiful climbing progression through both the 2 and the 3 chord, listen to “Here, There, and Everywhere” by the Beatles.
Weird Cousin Darryl
OK, you’re probably thinking, “3 Primary Triads – 3 Secondary Triads, but there are 7 notes in the scale. What about the chord built on the 7th scale degree?” Well… let’s face it – every family has a ‘weirdo’ and in my family of chords this guy is “That Guy”. For starters, the triad built on the 7th scale degree is not major or minor, it is diminished (yeah, I know; weird).
And it is almost never used in songs we play today. He’s like your weird cousin Darryl; yes, he’s part of the family but he’s awkward. He really doesn’t play well with others and you kinda wish he wouldn’t show up at family parties.
However, there’s this guy across the street (who isn’t even part of your chord family) but he’s an awesome hang; he is Phil, the chord built on the flat 7th scale degree, Bb in the key of ‘C’. Trust me, you would much rather make music with ‘Flat 7 Phil’ rather than ‘Diminished Darryl’!
Next issue we delve deeper into our “friends and family” plan of chord personalities.