What is meant by chord spelling ?
The way chords are made is based on the key of their root note. For instance, C Major, C Minor, C7 and C sus 4 are all derived from the key of C Major.
The chords of D Major, D Minor, D7 and D sus 4 are all based on the key of D Major.
Example: Key C Major
When deriving a chord, it is usual to call the notes that make up a chord its “spelling”. Put simply it is the notes (represented by numbers) that spell a chord. Each type of chord is spelt the same way, whether it is a C Major, B Major or F# Major.
Only the notes themselves change, the numbers related to the tonic note of the key remains the same.
Major Triads (3 note chords)
Taking the more straightforward chord of MAJOR, it is spelt using only three letters (called a triad). The spelling of a major chord is the 1st note of the scale, the 3rd note and the 5th note. This gets abbreviated to 1st,3rd and 5th.
Using C Major, the 1st,3rd and 5th notes are C, E and G. Playing any number of these notes in any order will give you what is essentially a C Major chord.
Minor Triads (3 note chords)
Minor Triads also contain three notes, only this time they are the 1st, the flattened 3rd and the 5th. To flatten a note, simply drop it in pitch one semitone (or, in guitar terms, one fret).
Using C Major, the 1st, flattened 3rd and 5th notes are C, Eb and G. Playing any number of these notes in any order will give you what is essentially a C Minor chord.
These two triads (Major and Minor) form, for the most part, the fundamental underlying structure of almost all other chords.
Four note chords:
Adding another different note (not one already used) to a triad will change the sound of the chord and give you another chord name.
The Seventh chord (more correctly called a dominant 7th) is spelt, 1st, 3rd, 5th, flattened 7th.
C 7 is made up of C (1st), E (3rd), G (5th) and Bb (flattened 7th)
The Minor Seventh chord is spelt using the minor triad, and adding a flattened 7th.
Cm7 is made up of C (1st), Eb (flattened 3rd), G (5th) and Bb (flattened 7th)
Example: Key of E Major
Given the notes of the key E Major (above), and the spellings of the chords mentioned previously, work out the actual notes of the following chords, starting with the two basic triads: