Chord Theory


Could anyone explain to me how the names of chords and their corresponding notes relate to their musical intervals?

If I take one exemplary chord we have

Root note

3rd (3 Semitones above the root)

5th (7 semitones above the root and 4 semitones above the 3rd)

Why is it called 5th when the interval obviously is not 5 to any of the other notes?

Sorry for asking probably obvious stuff but I never paid attention to it at school.




I found this ressource quiete helpfull.

When you play around with it, it explains quiete a lot through experimentation.

Essentially its also derived from the circle of 5th´s.

So that mean, if you check the the C major scale.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The 5th for the C chord is, G

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Well thanks for your answer.

Obviously I checked the internet as well. Besides being not a native speaker (I am sure there are tutorials in German as well) I am not trying to learn music theory this afternoon but was just asking why it is that the terminology isn’t very self-explanatory.

In case the second note is called 3rd and the third 5th every time regardless of their actual interval (which could be an explanation I could think of) a simple answer would have been sufficient.

Maybe it is due to my bad english and my lack of precision in describing the things I am after but I was hoping that the question was pretty clear.

No fucking around but to be honest posting a link with a comment LOL in my eyes is just rude.

I am pretty sure though that every second question asked in this forum can be answered by posting a link.

So… thanks for helping Amadeus Mozart.

Maybe there is someone else who may answer this without having to laugh about the apparently absolutely obvious facts.

Thanks a lot :slight_smile:
So am I right in believing that the 5th for example is the fifth note but depending on the scale it might me nor than 5 semitones as some of the tones are not part of the scale?

Did you read the last paragraph of the ‘Definition and history’ section of the page that I linked to?

They say music is like mathematics, but the guys who developed musical theory would have failed grade school math.

Hi Jens,

yes thats correct , its the relationship in the scale, what makes it the 5th, 7th, 4th or whats o ever.

I can also recommend that your Mozart is checking this out:

It will help a lot just to play around, and watch them creating a jazz score.
(Well i hate jazz, but it makes a lot of things clear.)
Like the sus4 sustained chord for example, taking the the 4th note to sustain it from the chord before. (when it makes musical sense to sustain the note in the next chord.)

If you look at chord progressions, for example I, IV, V I,

that just means they take the first, fourth, fith, first chord, and thos chords are again based on the notes. C, F, G, C for example.

To build that chord, you need to learn the intervalls of the chords:

In music theory, a major chord ([url=“”] [url=“”]Play ([url=“”]help·[url=“”]info)) is a [url=“javascript:void(0)”]chord that has a [url=“javascript:void(0)”]root, a [url=“”]major third, and a [url=“”]perfect fifth.[sup][url=“”][1][/sup] When a chord has these three notes alone, it is called a major [url=“javascript:void(0)”]triad. Major triads with additional notes, such as the [url=“”]major seventh chord, are also called major chords.

The C chord , would then be: C, E, G

Thanks a lot.
I think that answers all my questions.
I was asking to understand how to program a chord on a synth using the oscillators.
Now I probably still don’t get it completely but lets say I am tuning the oscillators to play a minor chord and I am playing different notes does this result in a wrong chord in some cases as the semitones are placed irregulary above the keyboard or is the chord purely defined by the intervals of the different notes (oscillators) to each other?

sorry for being a bitch. Wasn’t meant to be rude but the article on wiki is just way too long and far too compressed for a novice to understand what it is about. It would probably take quite some time instead of a quick read through.
Without any knowledge I just read the first couple of lines and didn’t know what I was Reading two seconds ago.

Hey yents,

Considering the gaps between 1st (root) and 5th : if you play in C major or Bb major it’s always the same number of semitone (7). That’s why it’s called perfect.

The thing that matters in chords (at a very basic level) is if it’s minor or major. And this difference is only one semitone on the 3rd :
3 semitones is called a minor 3rd
4 semitones is called a major 3rd

The root note has no effect on these “rules”.

Now if you play a whole melody with minor chords instead of notes, it will end a bit weird, but not that much : this way of doing has been used extensively since the sampler exist. People would grab a sample and play with it, even if it didn’t suit theory.

So there is no rule anymore. Do whatever sounds right to your ear, and in the worst case you can still call it experimentation : it may become a standard in 10 years the same way major chords progression is OK nowadays.


Now theory is still something you should consider digging.

Don’t worry, you’re not the one who is being a bitch. The chords that work in a regular major scale (or the parallel minor) are these for the corresponding stages:

I Maj
II Min
IV Maj
V Maj
VI Min

for example on C D E F G A B

Most of the popular music works inside this system. But that doesn’t mean you can’t break out of there. Any chord progression can be cool and you can find lead lines that work on top of it.

Also you can just transpose the same chord structure up and down as you please using a chord memory or tuned oscillators. It might be hard to sing on top of that but a lot of house music does that for example. If it sounds good to you go for it.

Ok cool.
The latin numbers in front of the chords alfred mentioned - do they correspond to the root note?

By the way. Thanks guys you really helped a lot.
Now I can go online, listen to chords, look them up and recreate them with pitched oscillators.
That is all I wanted… for now :wink:


Hi Yentz,

yes, the I II IV, V is referring to the root note,

so the IV chord is the G chord. Withe the Intervalls 3 and 5.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

G chord => 5, 8 , 10

the circle of 5th shifts this scale then by 5, thats why its called circle of 5.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

so the next shift is done again on 5.

Within the choosen scale, you do the progression, of the chords.

Essentially when you shift the scale, you add more of the black keyboard keys to your scale. # and flats when you move forward and backwards.

Not sure if answered clearly for you or not but the way I’d look at it is:
A chord is defined by the intervals. So if you set your oscillators to play a minor seventh, then it is always a minor seventh no matter which note you make the root.
A real world example would be if a guitarist played a chord shape and moved it up and down the neck. It is always the same chord, same intervals, just different notes making up those intervals.

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This thread helped so much. Thanks guys!!!

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An important addition to what has been said so far: Chords often sound much better when using inversions of the chord instead of base chords. Just try flipping notes around. This is particularly important when playing a sequence of chords. It just sounds much nicer when you minimize the distances between the notes of the different chords.

Let’s say you play A minor and D minor. A minor: A, C, E. D minor: D, F, A. Twist D minor around and play A, D, F instead. You got the A in A minor already, so this inversion is much more obvious from a sonic perspective…

Of course, you might also ignore this because constant intervals (tuned oscillators or dialed-in intervals on the OT) also sound great in techno music. What I described just gives a more piano-like feel to chord lines.

To make chords more massive, skip notes and add them an octave higher (or lower) --> choir arrangement. For instance, A, E, C, A instead of straight-forward A, C, E.

Add 7th, 9th intervals to chords for a jazzy feel, preferably at a medium position (inversion of a chord). For instance, D minor 7: A, C, D, F.

P.S. Just stay within C major and A minor (and corresponding II, III, IV’s) to avoid black keys. That’s why you don’t see a #/b in my examples. You can transpose your keyboard up and down.

P.P.S. All basic chords made of white keys fit to A minor/C major, because I, II, III, IV, etc. are then all white keys. So just play an A on the bass and start improvizing on the right hand.

P.P.P.S. I can’t stop. You definitely need the pentatonic scale, which just leaves out some of the keys: A, C, D, E, G, A. Great for improvizing melodies. Put some stickers on your keys if you like.

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@yentz… try this I find this helpful with the way that the OT works on its sequencing.

and I use an app called piano companion too to assist


May be this vst will help you