Chord construction is one of the basics of music theory but it must be undertaken at the right point in a programme of study
There are three important elements of music theory that a student needs to understand before they embark upon a study of how chords are formed and constructed
When students are familiar with note naming (click for a free note naming worksheet), intervals of a whole and half step and the construction of Major and minor scales then they are ready to apply themselves to the construction of chords (download our Free Music Lesson Plans to give you a working method for getting them to this stage as quickly and easily as possible)
The materials on this website provide a "step by step" working method designed to take music students from a place where they have no functional "joined up" knowledge of music theory to a situation where they fully understand scales, chords and harmonic systems.
If your students need to construct a chord from a standing start then all that is required is that they are able to easily identify the notes of the relevant Major or minor scale. From there they simply define the first (Root), third and fifth notes of the scale to give them the (root, third and fifth) notes contained within the chord.
The material below looks at a lesson using one of our chord worksheets designed to allow our students to better understand the construction of major and minor chords triads and in particular it looks at the problem of "enharmonic thinking" where students will routinely refer to notes by the wrong name (D# rather than Eb?)
The free worksheet that you can print from this page uses a simple "Three Stage Process" to arrive at a situation where all of the notes of any Major or minor chord are correctly identified
The chord worksheet invites students to firstly identify the notes of a particular chord and then to go on to understand how these notes combine to produce either a Major or a minor triad.
In the example below we can see how it is possible to encourage the student to "work from what is known to what is unknown" (one of the most effective methods of producing a "joined up" knowledge of a theoretical base)
What is "known" is that the root of the triad is definately and unambiguously a note of G and that the fifth of the chord is a D note.
the note which may cause confusion is the third of the chord which a student may think of as either A# or Bb?
The challenge for a teacher is to help the student to a stage where they can determine the correct name for the note. Using the alphabetic sequence (G=1, A=2, B=3, C=4, D=5, etc.)
We can easily identify the notes of G and D as being natural notes (the white notes on a piano keyboard) as they are "unambiguous" in that there is no "either or" choice of note names associated with them.
It can seem like there is no logic to the black notes and that naming them is some sort of optional process.
By counting up the alphabetic sequence (G=1, A=2, B=3, C=4, D=5, etc.) it is possible to help the student to arrive at the correct name for the note.
If G is the first (or root) then the second note (the next note in the alphabetic sequence) must be some kind of A?
If the second note is A then the third note must be some kind of B (in this case Bb)?
Carrying on you could determine that if the third is a B of some description then the fourth must be some kind of C note and so on?
By asking the student to count the half-step (semitones) between the root (G) and the third (Bb) and then to identify the interval created (a minor third) they then have all of the information required to name the chord (G minor)
By using a combination of the musicteachingresources.com worksheets and handouts based around the identification of scales, chords and intervals it is possible to acheive a situation where a student will be able to construct any Major or minor scale and from there to construct or identify any major or minor triad as well as provide information relating to the intervals that make up those chords and scales.
The material can be presented to students as individual sheets during lessons or can be compiled into workbooks for revision or assessment purposes and in addition can be "customised" to take into account the strengths and weaknesses of individual students
These resources are especially designed to make life easier for classroom music theory or instrumental teacher's who need to explain music theory. They have been put together so that an individual music educator might work with all ability levels within a single session as many of the materials are presented using a range of levels of support.
Some of the sheets have blank keyboard diagrams on them and some ask only for the note name (rather than the notation).
In this way it is possible to ensure that a student develops an understanding of music theory using concepts they are already familiar with (the alphabet from A to G and the ability to count from one to twelve) before moving on to develop that understanding to take in written notation etc.
The chord worksheet that you can download below is one of a range of handouts that are designed to encourage students to understand the construction of major and minor triads.
It simply consists of a collection of root position chords with different starting notes to be studied and identified.
The beauty of using this system is that by asking your students to provide the "letter name" of notes before attempting to write the note on a staff of music you will be able to identify examples of "enharmonic thinking" (eg regarding a note of F# as a Gb) and take steps to explain what difference thinking the "right way" makes to developing a useful working knowledge of music theory
In order to give you some idea of the quality and value of our materials to music teachers just download it and use it with our blessing.