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Hymn Chord Construction


The Chords Are Built From Scales.  After playing very many hymns, I have been able to list the chords you need to play from a hymn book.  You learn them one at a time and practice using the technique on the Chord Practice page.  Start learning chords while you learn music basics.


Chord Name                                     Scale Numbers


Major Triad                                        1       3       5


Minor Triad                                        1      b3      5


Dominant Seventh                             1       3       5      b7


Major Sixth                                         1       3      5      6


Diminished Triad                               1      b3      b5


Major Seventh                                    1      3       5       7


Diminished Seventh                          1      b3    b5    bb7


Seventh Suspended Fourth              1      4       5      b7


Ninth Chord                                        1      3      5      b7    9


Augmented Triad                               1      3      #5


Minor Seventh                                    1      b3     5      b7


Minor Sixth                                          1      b3     5      6


Half-Diminished                                  1      b3    b5     b7


Flat symbol is b. Sharp is #. Double flat is bb.  The number 1 is the root or keynote.  The keynote can be any one of the twelve scales that you studied.


The column of Scale Numbers shows what notes you play to form the chord shown in the Chord Name column.   For example to play a C Major Triad, the Scale Numbers are 1, 3 and 5.  Looking at the C Major Scale you see that 1, 3, and 5 are C, E, and G.


To play Eb Major Triad, go to the Eb scale.  There you see the 1, 3, and 5 scale notes are Eb, G, and Bb.


If you wanted to play a Diminished Seventh you see the chord construction is 1, b3 (flat 3), b5 (flat 5), and bb7 (double flatted 7).  If you want a C Diminished Seventh, go to the C scale and you find the 1 is C.  The 3 is E so E flatted would be Eb.  The 5 is G so flatted it would be Gb. The 7th is B so double flatted you would play A.  But concerning this chord do not refer to this note as A, it is double flatted B.  And so it goes for all the chords.  This is the proper way to learn chords.  If you know the chord construction by scale numbers and you know the scales, you will be able to form the chord in any key.


There is only one five note chord in our list, the ninth chord.  The ninth scale degree is simply one scale note after eight.   Eight is a repeat of 1 (the keynote) an octave higher.  That makes 9 the same as 2, just higher.   But if you are like me you can only play four notes with one hand so one note must be left out.  In hymns the ninth is often on top (the melody note), so you would leave out the root to play it.  So practice it that way.  You would play 3, 5, b7, and 9.  When playing hymns, if the ninth is not on top just play a dominant seventh instead.


With the above chords you will be able to play any song in the hymn book.  All of these chords are used in hymns.  You definitely need all the chords listed above. Some of the more complex hymns can use10 different chords with many chord changes. 


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