18.Why Do I Need Chords?


Triads are simple Chords that share a relationship with scale notes:

  • Both chords and scales sound pleasant.
  • As Chords change, musicians improvise melodies shaped from chords' key.
  • Chords rhythmically support a melody, giving it a foundation.

To simplify Chord reading, we practice which sharps and flats are in scales. Then improvisation (creating melodic phrases) flows freely. It's inspiring to create beautiful art, as our instrument or voice skills improve.

19. Adding to Triads

Triads, being simple Chords, need sharps and flats. The first, third, and fifth note of a scale may start its own triad, with its own key.



C Major has no flats or sharps. Starting on the root of the scale, C:

1 3 5

This makes the C Major triad, with every note natural.



The next triad starts with E, the 3rd scale step from C (CEG). Follow closely to find E's key:

E Major contains sharps, and one half step down from E is D#. Following the Order of Sharps, we add sharps till we reach D#:

F# C# G# D#
Fat Cats Go Down

Four sharps are in the key of E. When improvising over the E triad chord, we must sharp every F,C,G,D:

E G# B
1 3 5



The last triad starts on G, the 5th note of the C triad (CEG). Find G's key by going down a half step, to F#. This is the First letter in the order of the sharps (Fat). The G Major triad is:

1 3 5

When playing melodies over G triad (chord), sharp every F.

With any triad, first find a scale's key, in order to improvise the correct notes. Bringing these triads together:

1 3 5
E  G# B

We can see how the 1,3,5 triads are not in the same key, even though we formed them through the C Major scale notes. Each chords' root note begins a new key.

Triad branches may develop from the last note of each triad, making a new chord:

G B D | D F# A | A C# E

The root note changes, creating G, D, A triads, each with a new key.

More triads information: Triads Page

20. Let's Rock!

Let's put theory into practice.


Little snippets of phrases, or themes, in music sound good, or catchy, when played over chords. They're like parts of melodies that I call Licks.

Remember songs like, "Theme from the Twilight Zone", or, Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5", or, "Santa Clause is Coming to Town"? Each contain parts of melodies that people remember later.

"This method beats plodding through scales, because we learn Keys by creating music."

"Santa Clause is Coming to Town" has a part that goes, "better watch out... better not cry". It's just 4 notes that are echoed with 4 more notes. These are the same consecutive notes in a major scale, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th notes (repeat 5th note), echoed by the 6th, 7th, and 8th (repeat 8th) notes. This analysis of song snippets, or licks, allows us to find in what scale they belong, and in which key.

In Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, we may remember the beginning, which is 3 of the same notes, followed by a long note, which is a 3rd step down from the first three. In this phrase, as well as others, we can play them over triads or chords, and they'll sound perfect if played in that triad's Key.

We improvise our own melodies by stringing together many phrases or licks. The chords let us know which key to play. And adding triad notes are a useful tool to fall back on when our melody is somewhat idle.


  1. Two things are happening :
  2. 1. The familiar sound of a lick or phrase
  3. 2. The correct notes in the key, for that phrase

We accomplish the correct tones, no matter the key, by knowing the notes' distances (intervals) from each other. We just need to know the key's name (root).

Then, we may space out the distance between the phrases' notes according to the sharps or flats of that key. It seems difficult until we listen to our phrase. Our hearing will tell us if we play a wrong note, and our instrument will show us the correct position.

21. Rocking On

Imagine a band is playing chords behind our solo, and we're playing the licks we know. When the chord suddenly changes, we must play different notes for the same lick. "What, you mean a phrase can be played in any key?" Yes, if we first name the Key of the chord, then flat or sharp the proper notes for our lick. This also works for minor keys.

We might write down different triads or keys, and quickly change our phrase into each new chord. This method beats plodding through scales, because we learn Keys by creating music. Many of the phrases or licks are formed by breaking a Major Scale into pieces that have diverse rhythms - which leads to our next subject:

22. Rhythm

michaeljackson.png king of pop
michael jackson

We've entered the fun zone of music.

Rhythm makes notes' duration (length of sound) long or short. We know the difference between a long or short note, and we remember snippets of phrases from various songs, so we may understand how rhythm works to divide a note's length. So, sound has duration, but what duration is between the sound? It's silence that's called Rests.

In other words, Rhythm is sound and silence of different lengths; or Notes and Rests of different durations. Without looking at sheet music, we can analyze the sound duration from radio, internet, or wherever there's music.

Why doesn't music sound random, like other noises? Because the sounds are setup to the Keys. Likewise, note phrases are divided into pieces that are catchy, and sometimes symmetrical in their divisions. The durations for each note or rest are in equal complementary parts.

23. The Long and Short of Rhythm

Songs' phrases contain different note lengths or durations, sounding catchy and pleasant. Beginning musicians may ignore rhythm to concentrate on getting the sound to mesh properly with the keys, or chords. But no one wants to get up and move to a boring sound. So punch it up with rhythm!

Play melody notes, making some shorter and louder for emphasis. The phrase's feel changes. Our minds may get so stimulated by a phrase, that another pops into being, to continue the line of melody. That's true Improvisation, when inspiration springs from sound.

Note Division

Let's look further into the divisions of sound: Music is about symmetry, which comes from equal divisions of notes. These divisions are based on a pattern, usually 2, 3, or 4. The brain may only be able to digest little pieces at a time, and more than 4 gets complicated.


So, dividing a sound into 4 equal parts, makes 4 equal parts of silence, or rests, between the sounds (counting the rest after the last sound).

/ - / - / - / -
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 -

We may now say we have 4 sounds, and call them Beats. Each Beat can be a different note, but we are keeping the duration (length) of the notes equal. So, 2 of those notes are half of the 4 beats as a whole (2/4).

/ - / -
1 - 2 -

And 1 of those notes is a quarter of the whole amount (1/4).

/ -
1 -


  • 4 beats : whole duration / - / - / - / -

  • 2 beats : half duration / - / -

  • 1 beat : quarter duration / -

This also works for rests: 2 rests are half of the 4 rests, or whole. And 1 rest is one quarter of all the rests (4). This equality of 4 notes and rests, sounds good in rock music.


Moreover, if we divide in 3's, then we have 3 notes, and 3 rests.

  • 3 beats : whole duration / - / - / -

  • 2 beats : two third's duration / - / -

  • 1 beat : one third duration / -

This equality of 3 notes and rests sounds good in musicals, old dances like waltzes, and some Latin music. We'll know if the music has a division of 4 or 3, just by listening for when the phrases end.

Confusion in written music happens, since the same written note appears for every type of division, 2, 3, or 4. We simultaneously must do the math of the rhythm, and determine which tone to produce. This mix of sound and duration sometimes distracts new musicians, so they exclude one or the other.

Combining a tone's pitch (high and low), and length is easier when we think of a melody in the midst of a background beat. Melodies speak to us through emphasized notes and changing pitch, just as in conversation. Even the pauses (rests) suggest rhythm and meaning.

Recommended reading: Sound Waves

The next page interprets beats and tones, and shows an alternative to guitar tab.

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