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

January, 2023
December, 2022
November, 2022
October, 2022
September, 2022
August, 2022

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
HIMELE Events
2023 Festivals and Workshops
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Ka Makana Ali‘i
February 18, 2023 – Ka Makana Ali‘i Shopping Center, Kapolei

Kona Steel Guitar Festival
March 23-25, 2023 – Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, Keauhou, Hawai‘i

Kaua‘i Hawaiian Steel Guitar Symposium *
May 3-4, 2023 – Sheraton Coconut Beach Resort, Kapa‘a, Hawai‘i

Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival
May 4-6, 2023 – Sheraton Coconut Beach Resort, Kapa‘a, Hawai‘i
May 7, 2023 – Kukui Grove Center, Lihue, Hawai‘i

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
June 10, 2023 – Windward Mall, Kāne‘ohe

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week
July 10-15, 2023 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
July 14, 2023 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
July 15, 2023 – Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikīkī

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival Keiki Kine at Kāhala Mall
August 19, 2023 – Kahala Mall, Honolulu

2023 Northern California Hawaiian Steel Guitar Symposium *
September 24, 2023 – Odd Fellows Lodge, Cupertino, CA

Maui Steel Guitar Festival
October 14, 2023 – The Shops at Wailea, Wailea, Hawai‘i
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST
October 15, 2023 – Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, Kahului, Hawai‘i
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST

2023 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts

Facebook LiveYouTube
All broadcasts originate from the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Facebook Page and YouTube Channel. Festival broadcasts may also stream from the respective festival's Facebook Page.


Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday
January 28, 2023 – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Ka Makana Ali‘i
February 18, 2023 – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Kona Steel Guitar Festival
March 25, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 12:00 Noon - 3 PM and 5 PM - 8 PM HST

Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday - Live from Molokai!
April 22, 2023 (tentative) – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival
May 6, 2023 – Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 12:00 Noon - 3 PM and 5 PM - 8 PM HST

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
June 10, 2023 – 11:30 PM - 4:00 PM HST

Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
July 14, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 4PM - 6:30PM HST


Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikīkī Steel Guitar Festival
July 15, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – 11AM - 2PM and 4:30PM - 6:30PM HST
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival Keiki Kine at Kahala Mall
August 19, 2023 – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday
September 9, 2023 – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST

Maui Steel Guitar Festival
October 15, 2023 Ho‘olaule‘a concert – Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, – 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST

Livestream Steel Guitar Saturday
November 19, 2023 – 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM HST


Other Events
HSGA Virtual Festival 4
February 4, 2023 Facebook LiveYouTube

2023 AISGC Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival *
July 27-29, 2023 – Towne Square Community Center, Winchester, IN
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association (HSGA) 2023 Festival *
September 21-23, 2023 – Odd Fellows Lodge, Cupertino, CA
* Registration Fee Required

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.