Chords - How to Figure Out Which Chord is Which?

by Michael

So I get that chords are made of triads, and those triads can have extensions and different voicing's, but how do you figure out which chord is which? For example, if I were to play an E chord, would I build it off of a C major scale? or do I use a E major scale? And if it has some fancy voicing's, how would I know its an E chord?

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by: Maria

Hi there,

Short answer:
First, find the notes in the chord you want to know what it is. Put them in order from lowest to highest in a close position (as close as possible would be thirds apart.)

3 note chords (basic triads) can be either major, minor, augmented, or diminished. So, an E chord needs to be specified to either. Most commonly major or minor.

If you have an E major chord, for example, it will always consist of E, G#, and B. In any order or position but only these exact notes.

Sure, the E major chord can be found using the notes from scales that also include the same notes. In the E major scale, for example, this chord can be built on the first step of the scale. But it's still the same chord!

To learn more about chords, start by checking out these pages:
Basic Piano Chords
Chord Theory
Piano Chord Inversions
Diatonic Harmony

Happy Practicing,

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