Steel Trappings

Haumana: A Student's Journey Through Hawaiian Music and Steel Guitara

What is a Chord

April 11, 2017 • Steve TylkaEducation and Training

In my last article, I discussed correspondence with professional steel guitarists as well as advice for new players. This month I'd like to discuss chords and why I find them important to a steel guitarist. For those steel guitarists with a background in standard guitar, ukulele, or piano, the desire to experiment with chord shapes will naturally develop. We have all come to love the endless harmonic possibilities offered by the steel guitar. However, we are at a unique disadvantage when it comes to the availability of notes we can include in a chord or melodic phrase. Because of this, we must take care to use the right notes at the right time. We have the opportunity to express ourselves when playing music and once we fully understand chords we can allow our audience to share our passion for the steel guitar and Hawaiian music.

So, what is a chord? In music, a chord is two or more notes that are played simultaneously. Chords come in many varieties including triads, seventh chords, and extended chords. The heart of a chord is the triad which contains the first, third, and fifth scale degree. Many of our readers are familiar with Major and Minor triads, since they provide the most noticeable sonic variations in popular music styles. Major and Minor triads are identified by the effect placed on the third scale degree in the triad. A Major triad contains a Major third in its triad. In the key of G, a Major triad includes the notes G, B, and D which highlight the G Major scale (GABCDEF#G). This differs from the Minor triad which features a lowered or flat third. The notes included in a G Minor triad include G, Bb, and D which highlight a G Minor scale (GABbCDEF#G). While the third scale degree effects Major and Minor chords, other chord types effected by alternative scale degrees. Augmented chords feature a sharp or raised fifth note, making a G Augmented triad G, B, and D#. Other chords, such as a Diminished chord, feature a lowered third and a lowered fifth. A G Diminished would include G, Bb, and Db.

In future articles I will discuss scale degrees and how one may determine where chords fit into scales. For now, understanding the four chord types I've mentioned will benefit beginning steel guitarists. How does one go about learning chord shapes on the steel guitar? The truth is there is no substitute for experience. Many of the most common chord shapes used came about through trial and error. Since there are many different levels of player frequenting the Steel Trappings page, I will recommend Troy Brenningmeyer's video lesson discussing chord shapes found on lessonswithtroy.com. In his video lesson, Troy offers numerous examples of the chords I've discussed here as well as numerous way to achieve specific chord shapes and inversions. Troy also discusses a variety of chords that are accessible throughout the chord shapes he provides including a few hidden chordal possibilities.

Lessons With Troy

So, why should you learn chord shapes? Eventually you will find yourself adding your own flavor to songs. While you may choose to quote your favorite artists, you will have to determine how and when you will play specific licks and chords throughout a song. Understanding chord shapes and how they relate to one another will help you recreate your favorite phrases or your own melodic lines.

I hope this article starts you down the path of chord exploration. Like anything else related to steel guitar, it will take time to master all the possible chord shapes, but it is worth the effort.

As always, I'd like to thank Addison Ching, Alan Akaka, and Troy Brenningmeyer for everything they do for the Steel Guitar community. I hope this article finds everyone in good health!

Until Next Time, Aloha!

Feature

Archives

May, 2022
April, 2022
March, 2022
February, 2022
January, 2022
December, 2021

Complete Issue Archive
Complete Series Archive


Categories

Education and Training
Entertainment
Equipment
Festivals and Conventions
Instruments and Luthiers
News
Steel Guitar History


Authors

Author Index

Tags


Events

2022

Facebook LiveYouTube
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase

Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday
May 28, 2022 – LIVE STREAMED on Facebook and YouTube 3PM - 5PM HST

Facebook LiveYouTube
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
June 11, 2022 – Windward Mall, Kane‘ohe, Hawai‘i
11:30 AM - 4:00 PM HST

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week   
July 11-14, 2022 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī
Nightly Evening Performances 5:30PM - 6:30PM HST
Facebook LiveYouTube
Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
July 15, 2022 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī
Friday Performances 4PM - 6:30PM HST
Facebook LiveYouTube
Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
July 16, 2022 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī
Saturday Performances 11AM - 2PM and 4:30PM - 6:30PM HST

AISGC
AISGC Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival

July 21-23, 2022 – Winchester, IN
Tickets available online or at the door

2022 HSGA Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
August 11-13, 2022 – Foster City, CA
Tickets available online or at the door
Facebook LiveYouTube
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival Keiki Kine at Kahala Mall
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
August 27, 2022 – Kahala Mall, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani   
December 8-11, 2022 – Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, Kamuela, Hawai‘i Island.
Facebook LiveYouTube
Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Experience at Mauna Lani
incorporating the
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase
December 10-11, 2022 – Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, Kamuela, Hawai‘i Island.
Friday Ho‘olaule‘a 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM HST
Saturday Twilight at Kalāhuipua‘a concert 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM HST

Copyright ©2017 by Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences, Inc., and Cyberventures Unlimited.Terms of Use

About HIMELE
HIMELE is a Hawai‘i non-profit corporation that supports music enrichment and education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to educate, promote, and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments.