The List of Chord Identifier tools

Posted by Esteban Miranda on

Do you know how to make chords? Or do you have trouble finding them?

 

In this article today with Top Music Arts, we bring you all the tools you need to Identify the chords of your favorite songs and help you find the ones you like for your own compositions. With some tips, guides and as always summing all the content that’s out there on the internet, trying to help all of you to save time from searching (having 20 tabs open of the same subject like I do!) and hoping you canalize it in practicing your craft!

 

First of all, we should go through some of the fundamentals of Chords and how they are built, so let´s get to it…



What is a Chord?

 

It´s any harmonic set of notes (pitches) consisting of 2 or more (generally 3 or more), that are sounding Simultaneously.

Also have in mind that for many practical and theoretical purposes, Arpeggios and broken chords, or sequences of Chord notes, may also be considered as chords.

An ordered series of Chords is called a Chord Progression. As any chord may in principle be followed by any other chord, certain patterns of chords are more common in western music, and some patterns have been accepted as establishing the Key (tonic note) in common-practice harmony and so making notable the movement between Tonic and Dominant chords. To describe this, Music Theory (western) has developed the practice of numbering chords using Roman Numerals which represent the number of Diatonic steps up from the tonic note of the Scale and also assigning them three different functions.  

 

 

Chords and what we call Chord progressions are frequently used in modern popular music, yet, they are absent from the music of many parts of the world.

In Tonal Western classical music (music with a Tonic Key or "Home Key", and not the Classical genre), the most frequently encountered chords are Triads.

Other chords with more than three notes like Extended Chords (Maj7, Min7, Maj13, Min9 chords for example) which are used in contemporary classical musicJazz and more modern genres like Future Bass among other genres as well, are built with 4 notes or more, but we´ll talk about them in detail on another time.

What we need to always appreciate is the rhythmic (duration) and harmonic (notes) elements of them, and how they work with different instruments.





What is a Triad?

 

In Music, a Triad is a set of three notes that can be stacked vertically in thirds. When stacked in thirds, notes produce what we call, Triad Chords.

The triad's components, from lowest-pitched tone to highest, are called:

 

  • The Root – The Note that gives the name to the Chord.

  • The Third – The first interval above the Root giving us a Major Third (4 semitones) or a Minor Third (three semitones). 

  • The Fifth – The following interval above the Third being a minor third or a major third, therefore its interval above the root gives us a Diminished Fifth (6 semitones), a Perfect Fifth (7 semitones), or an Augmented Fifth (8 semitones). Perfect Fifths are the most commonly used interval above the root.

Have in mind that the notes of a triad, do not always have to use the root as the lowest note of the triad. When the 3rd or the 5th is the lower note, we call that an Inversion.  

So, as we were saying, Triads are built by adding, one over the other, every other note of a Diatonic Scale (standard major or minor scale).

For example, a C major triad uses the notes C–E–G (skipping over D and F).

While the interval from each note to the one above it is a third, the length of those thirds varies depending on the type of the triad or chord you are playing. They are built with many similarities, but at the same time, they sound very different.   

 

 


And that brings us to our first and most handy tool to identify chords.



 1. Ear Training

 

The following definitions spell out the intervals of each note above the Root note. Since triads are constructed by simply stacking thirds, they can be alternatively defined as this 4 types of Triads or Chords.

Each type can be distinguished by its particular sound, if you train yourself by getting used to hearing the difference between types of chords, you only have to identify the Root Note of them. What you can do by using an instrument to play until you match the note, or using our next tool, but first things first!

With proper Ear Training, you´ll start figuring chords out faster and easier before you know it.

 

Let´s go through each one of them so we can show you the difference…



Major

 

The most common and popular type of all time. Made by the 1st, 3rd, and 5th note of any major scale, we´re sure you´ve heard it millions of times!

Major triads contain a major 3rd interval with another minor 3rd stacked above it, that we call a Perfect 5th.

In the major triad of C, made with C–E–G, the interval C–E is the major third and E–G is the minor third.

 

Root note

Major 3rd

(4 semitones from Root)

Perfect 5th

(7 semitones)

 

If we´d have to describe its sound we´d say its kind of a relaxed, pleasing sound, or even a Happy sounding type of chord



Minor

There's only one note changing from a Major to a minor chord, you´ll see that one semitone can make a huge difference.  

Minor triads contain a minor 3rd interval, and a major third stacked above it, giving us a perfect 5th interval.

In the minor triad of C: C–Eb–G, the interval C­–Eb is a minor third and Eb–G is a major third.

 

 

Root note

Minor 3rd or 3

(3 semitones)

Perfect 5th

(7 semitones)


With a flat third, the chord turns to sound quite uneasy, and maybe also Sad. 


For you to have a better hearing practice, we recommend you all to listen to the samples as much as you can, and try to memorize the differences and play them in any instrument if you can!



Diminished

Major and Minor chords are the most common types, but there are also Diminished and augmented, which are difficult to tell them apart for most people.

Diminished triads contain a minor 3rd interval, and another minor 3rd stacked upon, leaving us a diminished 5th interval.

In the diminished triad of C: C–Eb–Gb, there are two minor 3rd intervals stacked one over the other, so the first one is C–Eb and the second one Eb–Gb.

 

 

Root note

Minor 3rd or 3

(3 semitones)

Minor 5th or 5    

(6 semitones)

 

This is kind of a tension-builder type of chord, with another quality than the Major and Minor, we could say it´s the one that has more Tension and sounds smaller than a Minor chord. 



Augmented

Augmented triads contain a major 3rd interval, followed by another major 3rd stacked up to the third, giving us an augmented 5th.

In the Augmented triad of C: C–E–G#, there are two major 3rd intervals one over the other, so the first one is C–E and the second one Eb–G#.

 

 

 

Root note

Major 3rd  

(4 semitones)

Augmented 5th or #5

(8 semitones)

 

Many people can´t easily tell the difference between Augmented and Diminished, not as easy as with Major and minor chords (more standard). But let us help out with that, the diminished sound smaller, because of the smaller intervals within it. And in the Augmented, the intervals are bigger, so it sounds more Open and Bigger. Sounding tense, but with a unique sound.    

 

2. Lower Note Trick

If you´ve been able to figure out the types of your chords (generally major or minor), you can use this tip to help you find the Root Note of those chords much faster!

With a little bit of help of a low-pass filter and Ableton´s Tuner, we can find each chord´s lower note, most of the time the lower note is the chord´s root note or also the 5th the of the same chord. 

 

  1. Create an Audio Track and drag your reference song you need to identify its chords.

  2. Add an Eq Eight and a Tuner to the track.

  3. Select the Low-pass option in the first of the bands and cut the Hi frequencies until you can hear only the Bass or Sub and the lower sounds.

  4. Check the notes that are being played in the Tuner and figuring out if the chords are Major, Minor, Diminished or Augmented you´ll have your progression in no time!

 

 

In our previous articles, you might´ve seen us share some knowledge about Progressions, Chords, and Scales. Here you can check out the article about the 5 most used Chord progressions in EDM with a lot of basic information that could prove useful if you are interested in the subject and need to dig deeper into Chords.



3. Web Apps

With help of some of this Browser Apps, you can skip the theory part for now and start getting used to playing all the chords you don´t know by building them and comparing them. 

You can build Piano Chords and Scales with the piano world's app, in a very easy and Intuitive way. This is especially helpful for trying out extended chords (Maj9, Min9, Maj13 for example).

You just have to Click on the Root of the chord you would like to learn (For example C). An orange drop-down menu will then open, choose the specific chord you wish to learn (for example, C dim). The desired chord and all the information about it will immediately appear on the player below.

The same way you can learn about Scales!

The OnlinePianist App is also available for iOS and Android devices.




In case you know the name of the chords, but you don´t know how to play them in your instrument of choice, you can use this Chord Browser from Scales-chords page. 

Simply type the chords name, for example, Cmaj7, choose the instrument you want to learn the chord in, and it will display different ways of playing the same chord.

Try the Chord Browser here: https://www.scales-chords.com/


 
If you are more of a Guitar player, here is another web app that can help you figure out chords. This one, in particular, helps you name the chords you know to play but don´t know the proper way to call it. You can use it by simply clicking the fret and string you are pressing on your guitar´s fretboard and then press go, and it will name the chord you selected instantly.

Try the Chord Namer here: https://jguitar.com/chordname


4. Plugins

Another way of figuring out which chords are being played on a sample, for example, is the chord identifier plugins. 

There are many types, definitely more complex than the web apps, but easier to use in conjunction with your DAW of preference. 

 

 

 

The first one we´re going to mention is Melodyne 4, it´s not known for being a chord identifier tool, but for a pitch-correcting tool such as Autotune. But unlike autotune and other pitch changing plugins, this one has a Polyphonic view, in which, you can play your samples or song and see which notes are being played and figure out the chords that way.

This is not a free plugin, but it has more than one use, so it has that in its favor if you are considering to buy. 

You can purchase it from their shop here: https://shop.celemony.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/CelemonyShop

 

 

The second one we have to show you is called Scaler and it´s one of the greatest chord identifier plugins out there. 

It's a distinct MIDI effect device that makes finding chords and progressions intuitive and easy. With note detection, scale selection, and chord suggestions.

The Scaler Plugin can determine what key and scale you’re in and suggest chords that match your music, or it can inspire a tune from scratch by providing a set of initial chords in an unexplored key. With the onboard bank of over 2,000 scales and modes including genre and artist presets, there’s more than enough to keep the creativity flowing.

Once you’ve determined a scale, Scaler lays out basic diatonic chords for you to audition, and lets you take things further with dozens of chord variations and voicings to try out. Theory buffs can also get an insight into each chord’s harmonic function.

It can:

  • Discover your music’s key and explore alternative scales and chord sets
  • Choose from hundreds of keys, and get the harmonic flavors of pro artists
  • Easily audition chords and find alternative voicings and common substitutions
  • Quickly build intelligent progressions by dragging chords into Scaler’s chord sequencer
  • Drag chords and progressions from anywhere in the plugin out to your DAW
Scaler´s not a free plugin and you can purchase it from their webpage here:

Another plugin option we have for you is the J74 HarmoTools, designed for Ableton MAX. Its a set of devices for Real-Time MIDI harmonization, adapting multiple MIDI tracks by following chords and/or scales of a leading MIDI track. The tool provides building blocks for MIDI analysis, visualization, filtering as well as creation. Included are also tools for network collaboration. For use within a Live set.
Great tool to learn Chords, Scales, and Music Theory altogether. 
HarmoTools is available as a free download.
You can download the software here: http://fabriziopoce.com/HarmoTools.html


 

 


In case none of those tools were enough to help you figure out chords, here are ALL the Major and Minor chords and each of the notes that compose them. 

With the help of a Piano you should have no problem, besides, it´s the best instrument to learn Music Theory. But if you haven´t one, don´t worry, A minor has the same notes in a guitar, a ukelele, Banjo, Mandolin, or whatever the instrument. You just have to learn some of that instrument´s technique to know how to play chords.

We recommend you all to try to memorize them, play them, and start getting used to them. Starting to learn which notes make which chord is without a doubt, the best way to learn them!


Major chord table

Chord

Root

Major third

Perfect fifth

C

C

E

G

C

C♯

E♯ (F)

G♯

D

D♭

F

A♭

D

D

F♯

A

D

D♯

F (G)

A♯

E

E♭

G

B♭

E

E

G♯

B

F

F

A

C

F

F♯

A♯

C♯

G

G♭

B♭

D♭

G

G

B

D

G

G♯

B♯ (C)

D♯

A

A♭

C

E♭

A

A

C♯

E

A

A♯

C (D)

E♯ (F)

B

B♭

D

F

B

B

D♯

F♯

 

 
Minor Chord Table

Chord

Root

Minor third

Perfect fifth

Cm

C

E♭

G

Cm

C♯

E

G♯

Dm

D♭

F♭ (E)

A♭

Dm

D

F

A

Dm

D♯

F♯

A♯

Em

E♭

G♭

B♭

Em

E

G

B

Fm

F

A♭

C

Fm

F♯

A

C♯

Gm

G♭

B (A)

D♭

Gm

G

B♭

D

Gm

G♯

B

D♯

Am

A♭

C♭ (B)

E♭

Am

A

C

E

Am

A♯

C♯

E♯ (F)

Bm

B♭

D♭

F

Bm

B

D

F♯

 

 


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