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Tertian, Secundal, Quartal, Power, Added and Extended Chords


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Chords in music are varied and numerous. This has lead to them being classified for easier study based on certain peculiarities of their constituent intervals.

The shape of D major chord in the E major shape (3rd position)- CAGED system for guitar
(Intervals in music. U = tonic note, equivalent to the root note of chords)

Certain terms among them warrant attention:

Tertian Chords: A chord that can be broken down into a sequence of thirds (major third (M3) or minor third (m3) intervals) is called a tertian chord.

Common chords such as C major (composed of the notes C-E-G) are tertian because the notes constitute such a sequence of intervals of thirds : C-E is a M3 and E-G is a m3 interval. Again C-Eb-G (C-Eb is m3 and Eb-G is M3).

Other tertian chords include majors, minors, augmented, diminished, flat5, major7, minor7, dominant7, diminished7, half-diminished7, etc chords.

Again, chords that are not built this way are called non-tertian chords.

Secundal Chords: Secundal chords are, likewise, built up of a series of second intervals (m2 and M2) - e.g. C-D-Eb (C-D is M2 and D-Eb is m2); C-C#-D# (C-C# is m2 and C#-D# is M2); C-C#-D (C-C# and C#-D are both m2); C-D-E (C-D is M2 and D-E is again M2). These chords tend to be quite dissonant.

Quartal Chords: Quartal chords are those that are made up of a series of fourths (perfect fourths or augmented fourths) - e.g. C-F-B (C-F is P4 and F-B is TT); C-F#-B (C-F# is TT and F#-B is P4).

Added Chords: Added chords are non-tertian chords composed of a tertian triad and an added note. The chord is non-tertian due to the addition of this "added" note though it contains a tertian triad - i.e. it can not be fully decomposed into a series of thirds. This property excludes chords like the seventh chords. These are decomposable into a sequence of three thirds from the root note. The added sixth (add6 or 6), minor 6th (m6), augmented sixth, fourth (add4 or 4), M7#11, added thirteenth (add13 or 13), etc are examples of added chords. The chords that are decomposable into a sequence of thirds are not called added chords.

Extended Chords: Extended chords are tertian chords or triads with notes that extend, or contain added notes, beyond the seventh, i.e. from an octave beyond the one in which the root note resides. The ninth (9 or add9), eleventh (11 or add11), and thirteenth (13 or add13) chords are extended chords.

The 5ths and Power Chords: The term "power chord" is a misnomer. It is merely a musical interval - i.e., two notes sounded together. It is composed of the root note + the perfect 5th notes of any scale. Often noted as A5, B5, E5, etc., this "chord" is supposed to be played on two strings - preferably the bass strings, though it is commonly played as a "1-5-1" (root+5th+root). Power chords are primarily for basses. They are colloquially referred to a the "fifth chord" (note : not "add 5th"). ") The notation is often mistaken to another chord - the "added 5th" chord, meant to be a chord produced by playing the major or minor triad and the perfect 5th (again). This too is a misnomer. Duplicating a note (sounded more than once) doesn't mean that the chord structure would change. The name of the chord to which this 5th is “added,” thus, remains unaltered despite of this addition. In a guitar, we play many "major" chords using more than three strings, but the chord is still a major chord as the duplicate notes do not count when it comes to naming a chord. These "add 5" chords that are commonly used really are the plain and simple major or minor triads that they “add to”. But, in certain non-tertian chords (above), the diminished chord, augmented chord, etc. that lack a perfect 5th note anyway, a concept of "add 5" makes sense again. These may not sound pretty, but they do exist. Finally an added 5th interval may be sharp ("add #5" or "augmented 5th") or flat ("add b5" or "-5" or "diminished 5th"). These are different form the rest and commonly occur in jazz. The #5 chord is played as by adding an augmented 5th interval to the base chord, while the -5 chord adds a diminished 5th.
http://basicmusictheory.blogspot.com/2011/03/tertian-secundal-quartal-added-and.html



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Comments: 4 comment(s)...have your say!

Mike Grosssaid...

How can you possibly justify the 'power chord' as an add chord?

Two notes cannot in any way constitute an add chord or even a chord for that matter.

It's certainly not an add5 chord. That would imply that you were adding a fifth to the chord, and you're not, as you only have one other note, thus there is no chord for you to add to.

It's an ambiguous diad. And a classical no-no.

Mike Grosssaid...

In what alternate universe and under what pseudo-logic do you live that would allow a 'power chord' to constitute an add chord?

I'd say I'd love to hear your justification, but there isn't one, and I'd be lying.

Windmills don't work that way...

Dr. Arindam Sarkarsaid...

I completely agree with you. Thanks for catching that mistake. It was more of a loose expression and I've rectified the article to reflect the clarification.

The chord that I was referring to was the "major triad + the 5th interval of the next octave." That ought to have made it some sort of a "added 12th" type of an extended chord (if we can, indeed, call that that). This is a common misnomer and I guess I fell prey to it myself.

I have explained power chords in details in the following posts as well. You'd be glad to know that I do know how windmills work. :)

Chords in Music : sus2, sus4t M4, add2/2, add5, power chords/5, and Root Note of Guitar Chords

Thanks again for the constructive criticism.

Anthony Vanoversaid...

The 5th chord can still be analyzed as tertian. It's a triad with the 3rd removed. However, I think of power chords uniquely as 4th or 5th dyads.

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