Atonal music does not use major/minor or modes, instead using the notes in the chromatic scale freely.


A cadence is a description of two consecutive chords. Cadences are often identified at the end of a musical phrase where the chords can suggest completion or suspense. For more information see Cadences


A collection of three or more notes.

Chord Progression

A series of chords often referred to in Roman Numerals such as IV-V-I.


Chromatic refers to every note of the 12 notes in Western music. A chromatic scale would be one that plays each note in turn.

Circle of fifths

A representation of all of the 12 musical notes, arranged in a circle.  All the notes are a fifth apart. For more information, see circle of fifths


Connectors in SeeChord are lines that join adjacent chord symbols with the chart. Connectors allow us to see overall patterns more clearly, and can contain information themselves depending on the type of connector used. For more information, see connectors.


The term diminished meaning literally “made smaller” refers to a type of chord characterised by the flattened fifth. In the key of C, this would consist of the notes C Eb Gb and usually A. For more information see Diminished chords


The fifth note in the scale from the tonic.  G is said to be the dominant of C.


The musical interval of a fifth.  G is a fifth above C.


The collection of notes or tones that are sounding at a particular moment in a piece of music.  The harmony can often be described in terms of chords.


The distance from one note to another.  For example, D is said to be 2 notes away from C, or a 2nd. G is a 5th away from C.


The set of notes that make up the majority of the music in a piece or section of music. The key is defined by the tonic which is a letter from A to G. The notes in that key are ordered in the form of a scale.

Key change

The point at which a piece of music uses a different key. This is sometimes accompanied by a change of key signature. Sometimes referred to as modulation


Major refers to the sound of a collection of notes or chord. It is often described as sounding happy. The most important notes that define a major tonality are the tonic and the note four semitones above it. For example, C and E.

Middle 8

The middle 8 refers to the part of a song that is neither the verse or the chorus! It often appears after the second verse or second chorus as a contrasting passage of music. For more information see song construction.


Minor refers to the sound of a collection of notes or chord. It is often described as sounding sad. The most important notes that define a minor tonality are the tonic and the note three semitones above it. For example, C and E flat.


The set of notes that make up a scale is given a name that is called a mode. Examples are the common major scale which is called the Ionian mode. Other common modes are Dorian, Mixolydian and Aeolian which consist of slightly different notes or pitch relationships. Modes are often used to create a specific “feel” to a piece of music. For more information, see Modes.


Modulation occurs when a piece of music “changes key”. This usually involves the harmony being based around a different note or key from that which it started in. Modulations can sometimes be denoted by a change of key signature, or by the use of accidentals.

Music theory

Music theory is the study of the way music is constructed, written and performed. The Associated Board run graded music theory exams from Grades 1-8 that take students through all areas of music.

Perfect cadence

The perfect cadence, often represented by roman numerals as V7-I is the chord relationship between the fifth chord and the root chord. A perfect cadence in C would be G7-C although the 7th chord is optional. For more about cadences see cadences.

Resultant harmonies

Harmonies that arise from the movement of notes within their respective parts. These harmonies are often not representative of the overall harmonic sense of a passage of music.


The representation of a chord using an pre-determined image.


The description of a chord, passage or piece of music referring to the key and whether it is mnajor or minor. eg. “The tonality was mostly major”


The root note of a piece of music.  If a piece of music is in the key of C then the note C is the tonic.


The three basic notes that form a chord.  Such as C-E-G for a C major chord.


The practise of leading back to the root note by falling fifths at the end of a repeating phrase. For example a phrase that ends with C C C C might be changed to C Am Dm G7. This leads back to C neatly.

Twelve bar blues

Probably the most recognizable chord progression of all time. It is a simple mix of three chords, I IV and V at its simplest, but can be turned into almost anything by skillful composers/improvisers.