How To Make Major Chords Sound Richer

Here is a simple tip to beef up your chords. I would like to share with you a simple thing that you can do to beef up major chords.

A common challenge that many piano players have is how to make their playing more professional. Things like, how can you take a simple triad (3 note chord) and make it sound bigger, richer, and fuller.

Here is a simple way to do it.
Let’s take a C Major chord for example which consist of the notes C E and G.
If you understand basis chord theory, you know that major chords are derived from playing the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones together of a major scale.

The C Major scale consists of the notes C D E F G A B

C Major scale

Each tone of the major scale has a corresponding number which is called a scale degree or scale number.

C = 1
D = 2
E = 3
F = 4
G = 5
A = 6
B = 7
This is the case for all 12 major scales. The F Major Scale for example would consist of the notes

F G A Bb C D E

F major scale

F = 1
G = 2
A = 3
Bb = 4
C = 5
D = 6
E = 7

 

When we take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tone of any major sale and play those tones at the same time, we will be playing a major chord.

C major triad

Now what I love to do is to make major chords sound richer by adding additional scale degrees or scale numbers.

In order to understand how to extend chords we must also understand how to extend the major scale.

The C Major scale for example actually consists of these 13 notes C D E F G A B C D E F G A

C = 1
D = 2
E = 3
F = 4
G = 5
A = 6
B = 7
C = 8
D = 9
E = 10
F = 11
G = 12
A = 13

The scale actually goes all the way up to the number 13.

There are a couple of scale degrees that I love to add to the 1st, 3rd, and 5th.

I love to add the scale degrees 9 and 13.

So in the case of the C major scale all the scale degrees together would consist of the scale numbers 1, 3, 5, 9, and 13.

So therefore, in the case of the C major chord the actual notes with the 9 and 13 included would be

C E G D A

 

For further clarity the F major scale with the extended numbers would be

F G A Bb C D E F G A Bb C D

F = 1
G = 2
A = 3
Bb = 4
C = 5
D = 6
E = 7
F = 8
G = 9
A = 10
Bb = 11
C = 12
D = 13

 

F major chord
If we were to add the scale degrees 9 and 13 the actual notes would be F A C G D

 

Now here is where your creativity as a musician comes in!

Once we establish what the correct notes are then we have to determine how we are going to voice and arrange those notes to create the type of sound that we want. We must come up with a chord voicing. A chord voicing is simply how you arrange the notes of a particular chord.

Allow me to give you a chord voicing that I like to use when I play major chords with the extended
tones 9 and 13 included.
For a C major chord I would play this chord voicing.

(Notes are from left to right)

Left Hand   C G E           Right Hand   A D G

 

The F major chord would be the this chord voicing.

(Notes are from left to right)

Left Hand      F C A           Right Hand    D G C

 

I encourage you to experiment with playing major chords with the added tones 9 and 13.

It adds a nice color to your chords and if used tastefully in the right situations, it could sound very nice!

Musically Yours,

Kenneth Hollins

KH

 

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