If I asked you to tell me in 5 seconds what the notes are that make an Eb minor chord, could you tell me? No? Then this video is going to help you.
(If you are a guitarist, chances are you are currently thinking to yourself “learning the notes that are in every chord sounds boring and difficult and like a useless way to spend my time”. Before you stick with that opinion, please take a look at my video posted below.)
Let us first get to why you should be learning the notes in the chords.
1. The more you get to know chords the better time you will having using them. This could be for writing your own songs, learning other peoples songs, or even jamming. It’s a skill that you will find ends up being useful in many aspects of your playing.
2. The better you know your chords the better improviser you will become. Being familiar with the chord tones makes it easier for you to target chord notes. There are multiple ways you can do this, but it will all come to you much quicker if you take some time to get to know the notes you are working with.
3. When composing a tune, having a good grasp of the notes within your chord progression is going to help you a great deal with melodies and voicing. This is especially true if you are using voice leading.
Now lets move on to how you can remember all the notes in all of the chords (without losing your mind).
1. Figure out what notes are in every chord. Don’t worry about any kind of 7th, 9ths or #11 chords. Begin with the major and minor triads. If you aren’t sure how this is done, I recommend reading this eBook on Basic Theory for guitar.
2. Create a table that has all of the notes of every major and minor triad. Don’t know how to do this, or just don’t feel like it? No fear, you can find a pre-made on the e-book that I posted above (in Appendix B).
3. Work on your chord note recall. I go over this in the video below. It is an easy exercise that can be done anywhere and only needs to be done for just a couple minutes a day. You don’t even need to have a guitar.
After incorporating this exercise into your daily practice, you will find that in at least a few weeks that you will start to remember the notes in every triad. And once you have a solid foundation you will find learning other chords (augmented, diminished, altered etc.) come more naturally to you.
There really isn’t much to this exercise. And the greater thing is that it can be practiced no matter where you are. Whether that be in line at the grocery store, waiting for a bus, or in the middle of a meeting or class that is dragging on. You can also try it with a friend by simply taking turns to answer and ask.
If you combining this with my previous exercise about how to learn your notes on the guitar fretboard then you are on a great path to truly understanding your fretboard. Enjoy!
Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.
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