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The Woodshed : The Name Game

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JJ Rocks Article # 100:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 22 June, 2008

This is a simple game to play for beginning music students that I call the The name game. It is designed for those who are just learning chord construction and want to know a good way to remember what steps in the major scale make up different chords. Now since the minor (and all other scales) find their origin in the Diatonic major scale, we will use this scale to name the steps in the chords. Of course if the steps have to be flatted to acquire the proper chord formula thats just part of the game. Just remember to only use flats (no sharps) since they are basically the same thing with two names and this helps to keep your thoughts less complicated.

In my class we do not use the term one as the beginning of a major scale since multiple octaves overlap which causes one of the second octave to also be known as eight of the first octave. So to cut out any confusion we can refer to the first and last notes of a major scale as the root. So the scale will go: root 2 3 4 5 6 7 root. And of course the very first chord spelling that you should know is: root 3 5. This is a major chord and is also referred to as a major triad. And when you flat the 3rd (take the note down a half step) you will have: root b3 (flat 3rd) 5 which is a minor chord or triad. I know that many of you think this is elementary, but lets remember that the woodshed article goes out to many musical levels including beginners.

Im not going to go into the many different chord constructions that exist because you will see them in any decent music book. The theme behind this article is a practice technique that can be used to remember how chords are made. All you have to do when you are around any of your musical friends who are beginners is to ask how a certain chord is constructed. When my students walk through the door one of the first things that I say is How do you spell a minor seventh flat 5 chord? Or maybe Ill ask How about a 7th chord. And of course what I mean is for them to tell me what steps (natural or flatted) in the scale make up that chord. Its a fun and a very rewarding game that will help students to remember chord construction and like anything that you want to learn it should be practiced on a regular basis.

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