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Lesson 4.10 - Writing and Recognizing Chords

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The chords you will need to know for Grade 4 ABRSM Music Theory, are those built on the Tonic, the Subdominant and the Dominant. (Trinity College introduces the Dominant chord in Grade 3 and the Subdominant in Grade 4). You will remember these are the 1st, 4th and 5th degrees of the scale.

Previously you have come across the Tonic Triad where a chord was built on the key note - the "tonic" using the 1st, 3rd and 5th degrees of the scale. The principle is the same for the two new chords, but you just need to build the chord starting on the 4th or 5th degree of the scale. Here are the three triads in the key of 
E major.
Here are the PrimaryTriads of E major - chords built on the tonic, suddominant and dominant
There are two other things to bear in mind in this topic.
  • In a minor key the dominant triad contains the 7th degree of the scale and you will remember that the 7th note of a harmonic minor is raised.  So for example in the scale of E minor - the 7th note is raised to D sharp.  This 7th degree of the scale occurs in the dominant triad and so the dominant triad contains a D sharp. In fact the middle note of the dominant triad in any minor key is raised. 
The dominant triad of any minor key contains a raised 7th
  • Triads may be written in "open position" which means that all the notes might not necessarily be close to each other. They may even cover two clefs.The trick to recognizing the chord easily, is to look at the bass note. Both the chords here, for example are a tonic triad of C major.

Chords may be written in close or open position

Practice this topic with our workbook
"Music Theory Practice - A Complete Course"
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