Difference Between Chords and Notes

Chords vs Notes

There are so many terminologies such as chord and note are used in the field of music and understanding the difference between chords and notes is very important to the students of music in the beginning stage as  they are two terminologies very often used in music composition. Writing music is usually not something every Tom, Dick, and Harry could do, yet it is rather a skill that is mastered only by a few whose knowledge in writing music is nothing but extraordinary. To compose music and then to write it appropriately are two important factors in the process of producing music or songs. As mentioned before, among the many terminologies associated with writing music, particularly western music, chords and notes are two terms which often cause confusion among many and are commonly used interchangeably. This article seeks to explain the difference between chords and notes.

What are Chords?

Chords, or as properly known, musical chords, are a harmonic cluster of three or more notes which are played either together or continuously as broken chords. Either they are played together or continuously, chords sound simultaneously. There are several types of chords: arpeggios, broken chords, seventh chords, extended chords, chromatic chords, diatonic chords, major chords, minor chords, etc. The most common kind of chords is major and minor triads which are derived from major and minor scales respectively. The root of the chord is the note of the scale of which the chord is played. For instance, the chord of C major is C E G and the chord of A minor is A C E. Yet, sometimes, chords are played differently to this style. There are inverted chords which are referred to as augmented and diminished chords where the normal chord or triad is inverted up or below. Notion of the chords is demonstrated as plain staff notations, roman figure notations or by various chord names and symbols.


What are Notes?

In music, a note is a musical symbol which represents a duration and pitch of a particular sound. Notes are presented on a musical stave and are titled by letters according to their duration and pitch. In western music, notes are given letters as C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C and they are also called Do, Re, Me, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do in Latin. Based on the duration of the sounds, notes are given different symbols. Main notes include, a whole note is called a semibreve, a half note is called a minim, a quarter note is called a crotchet, and an eighth note is called a quaver. There are accidentals, sharps [#] and flats [♭], are added to the notes: For example, an F becomes an F-sharp [F#].

Difference Between Chords and Notes

What is the difference between Chords and Notes?

• A note is a single sound while a chord is a group of sounds played simultaneously.

• Notes denote duration and pitch of a sound while chords denote harmony.

• Notes contribute to the melody whereas chords contribute to the harmonic structure of the melody.

• Chords are created by the root, the third, the fifth, and sometimes the seventh of a scale while notes utilize just any degree of the scale: do re me fa so la ti or do.

• Chords can be played with inversions while notes cannot.

Reviewing the above mentioned differences, it is obvious that chords and notes differ in their meaning and function. To simply put it, a note is a single sound while a chord is a set of sound played at the same time or continuously to create a harmonic sound in a piece of music.


Photos By: Ethan Hein (CC BY 2.0), MaxiuB (CC BY 2.0)