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Thread: How do I use chords in a progression besides major/minor/diminished?

  1. #16
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    I just have a nother question semi off topic, i hear alot of stuff about harmonic minor and melodic minor like you have in your chart, but i'm just wondering what you use those for.
    Everything you do with the modes of the major scale, you can do with the modes of melodic minor or harmonic minor (in theory). That includes creating chord progressions, improvising over chords and chord progressions, adding extensions, creating comping lines over a static chord, etc, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    also, are those scales the same pattern as the major scale?
    No! I assume you are asking if the pattern on your guitar looks the same for major scale modes, melodic minor scale mode and harmonic scale mode. The intervals are different, so the patterns will be different.

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    or another way to ask it would be, let's say we took all the major scales of every key, and all their modes, and all the melodic minor keys and all the harmonic minor ones, how many different patterns woudl we have? 3?
    Again, depending on what you define by patterns. If patterns are e.g. CAGED patterns for the major scale, you have 5 patterns for the major scale alone. Add to that the 3NPS patterns, I guess you will add another 5. Then you have the so-called solo patterns, and you will have a few more. And that gives you 12-13 only from the major scale. If you prefer to define each mode with their own CAGED system (I do not), you would probably end up with 7 times this number. Adding the harmonic minor and melodic minor and you will have trippeled this number.

    My question is: What do you define as patterns?

  2. #17
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    What I've done for learning and memorizing the major scale and it's modes, in addition to the harmonic minor, was to just memorize the entire scale from e.g. the bottom F on the first string of the low E string, to the top F on the 13th fret of the high E string.
    That includes 7 small 3nps "boxes" per scale; one for each mode. So if I want to play dorian, I start on the second "box" , which looks like aeolian with a heightened sixth. If I want to play mixolydian, I start using the 5th pattern (mixolydian), which looks like ionian with a lowered seventh. The "boxes" loop 1-7-1-7, and if I want to e.g. strife through three or four octaves to get a wider phrase, I just start on e.g. the dorian 1, play it all the way through the sixth, go to the next octave and play the same pattern etc... It sounds more complicated than it is, because all I'm really doing is playing through the same memorized patterns. I can also "see" any box, I just relate it to the tonic I'm playing. So if I want to play in e.g. Bb phrygian, I can start on the 6th fret of the low E-string with the phrygian pattern, or on the 8th fret of the D-string with the same pattern, and see which box that pattern relates to. I found out that the patterns only fit in specific places for each box, so there's no way you can mistake where you are, as long as you know the first octave you're playing. As I said, the boxes also loop 1-7-1-7, so I can play all over the neck (and start wherever I want to on the neck) as long as I know each individual box and it's placement in the system.

    I basically did the same with harmonic minor, but I haven't played this scale for too long, so I only know the 1st mode of harmonic minor (aeolian #7), the locrian #6, the ionian #5, the dorian #4 and the phrygian #3 as of now. I don't know the conventional names, so I name them by appearance.

    Doing this, I can find any triad or seventh chord, integrate it with the caged system by finding the root (the C-shape goes behind the tonic, the A-shape in front etcetc), improvise dyads and triads and all kinds of arpeggios (as long as the muscle memory is there). I don't necessarily know what I'm doing, but as long as the scale fits the backing chord (as in has the same notes), there's no way to hit a bad note. Of course, if I'm playing a song full of 30 modulations in 20 seconds, I probably wouldn't be able to keep up,a but that's all about training. I've only played for 5 years, so I've still got a lot of training ahead of me. It's a lot easier (for me) to memorize 7 boxes and play them to death in every possible way than to memorize 5 different 3nps patterns, in addition to a CAGED system, a CAGED 7th system, a CAGED 9th system, 5 3-octave solo systems, a few extra arpeggio systems etcetc... It also feels a lot freer.

    As for the melodic minor: I'm not mainly a jazz guitarist, so I don't really have much use for it. I also find the general sound of the scale KINDA uninteresting, so I'm saving it for later.

    I've done this with a few other scales as well, like the minor pentatonic. I've also done it partially with other scales, like the "lydian arpeggio scale" hirajoshi (1-3-#4-5-#7), the whole half/half whole diminished (which only requires two pattern memorizations) and the whole tone scale (which only requires one memorized pattern). Based purely on the tonic, I can mix these scales as much as I want, as long as I know which chord is playing. I wouldn't e.g. mix the aeolian #7 with ionian over a major 7th chord, but I might mix ionian #4 with ionian, to at least get an extra passing tone, or go from regular lydian to the first position hirajoshi pattern (as it's all chord tones + the #4).

    I find this system to be the easiest in the long run for me, at least.

  3. #18
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    if you look at lydian and mixolydian and ionian and aeolian and dorian and whatever, these all are the same pattern. if you put dots on all their notes you can move them around so that they land exactly on top of each other. the only difference would be, one to the other, the location of the root note.

    so for all those modes there is only one pattern. one pattern if you don't make a root note distinction. not in terms of intervals relative to root note, but in terms of just dots on a fretboard where notes of the scale are.

    like C major is 7 other notes' some kind of mode, depending on which note. i don't know my modes off by heart that way, but the white notes on a piano i know are A minor and C major and 5 other modes for all other white notes on the piano. these 7 scales are all the same pattern, but not all the same intervals relative to the root note.

    I'm just wondering if melodic and harmonic minor are that way also.

  4. #19
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    If you define all the major scale modes the same pattern, then melodic minor and harmonic minor will give you two more patterns. Totally 3, as you mentioned earlier.

    I find that way of looking at it a bit strange, and I find the CAGED patterns to be my favourite. I then have 5 patterns for the major scales, 5 for melodic and 5 for harmonic.

  5. #20
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    if you look at lydian and mixolydian and ionian and aeolian and dorian and whatever, these all are the same pattern. if you put dots on all their notes you can move them around so that they land exactly on top of each other. the only difference would be, one to the other, the location of the root note.

    so for all those modes there is only one pattern. one pattern if you don't make a root note distinction. not in terms of intervals relative to root note, but in terms of just dots on a fretboard where notes of the scale are.

    like C major is 7 other notes' some kind of mode, depending on which note. i don't know my modes off by heart that way, but the white notes on a piano i know are A minor and C major and 5 other modes for all other white notes on the piano. these 7 scales are all the same pattern, but not all the same intervals relative to the root note.

    I'm just wondering if melodic and harmonic minor are that way also.
    Yes. It's better to see them in that respect as "scale types" or "scale forms" than as "patterns". The word "patterns" (as you know!) is used in other ways, esp in guitar theory. (One scale type will have many fret patterns, depending on where on the neck we want to play it.)

    An old jazz teacher of mine once recommended learning FOUR scale types thoroughly:
    MAJOR 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
    HARMONIC MINOR 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7
    MELODIC MINOR 1-2-b3-4-5-6-7
    HARMONIC MAJOR 1-2-3-4-5-b6-7
    Each of these scales has 7 modes, and there is no overlap between any of them. (No mode of one of them is a mode of any of the others.)
    Of course, we were supposed to learn them in all 12 keys, all the way up and down our instruments... That's 48 key scales, 336 modes, and many overlapping patterns (number varies depending on how you want to count them)....but still only 4 scale forms.
    And if you know those 4 forms, there's no need to memorise 336 modes!

    You can perhaps see the distinctions better by spelling the scales in half-steps, using "1" for a half-step and "2" for a whole step (the whole scale adds up to 12):

    MAJOR = 2-2-1-2-2-2-1
    HARMONIC MINOR = 2-1-2-2-1-3-1
    MELODIC MINOR = 2-1-2-2-2-2-1
    HARMONIC MAJOR = 2-2-1-2-1-3-1

    You should be able to see from that that however you organise the scales modally, they remain distinct.

    BTW, I never found much use for harmonic major! Cool scale, but very rarely applicable.


    In comparison, here's the diminished and wholetone scales:

    DIMINISHED = 2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1
    WHOLETONE = 2-2-2-2-2-2

    You can clearly see the modal implications here. Diminished has just two modes (whole-half and half-whole), and the wholetone has only one!
    Another couple of distinct scale forms (rarer still) are these:

    AUGMENTED = 3-1-3-1-3-1
    DOUBLE HARMONIC or BYZANTINE = 1-3-1-2-1-3-1

    Like the diminished, the augmented has just two modes, while the Double Harmonic (notice the neat symmetry of form!) has seven. The latter is a widespread scale in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and is a good source if you want pseudo-"ethnic" sounds of those regions. (You've heard it before in Dick Dale's "Misirlou".)

  6. #21
    Modbod UKRuss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Jan
    Jesus Christ, I know so little.

    Sheesh. :P
    Just take a little at a time. Print this thread out and take it little by little. It may seem daunting what the guys are taling about here, but actually the principals are relatively simple.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by gersdal
    No. 3-6 chords will do for a lot of guitarists.

    It depends on the function of the chord. In a diatonic progression it will be ok to throw in 6, maj7, maj9 and sus4 at any time on the I chord. Sus4 is a chord that is creating tension and wants to go somewhere, so you will typically use that in combination with a chord change (could be back to I). 7 is not normally used for the I chord, unless it is functioning as a secondary dominant for the IV chord. Etc etc. Check good reference books on the topic.

    Ted Greene "chord progressions" and most theory books have lots of info on this.

    Hope this helps.


    I looked up Ted Greene's books "Chord Progressions" and "Chord chemistry". All the people who left a review seemed to speak pretty highly of the books. So I was wondering if you had any personal experience with the books?

    When I started the thread, I said something like, "shouldn't a good guitarist be able to come up with a chord progression twenty chords long"? While I know that's not practical and most songs don't have that, my idea was to do it as more of an exercise in song writing, so in the future I'm not struggling to find good chords.

    So I was wondering if Ted Greene's books would help someone accomplish something like this. Most of the people who left reviews said if you are willing to study the book and put the time and effort into it, you will learn how to tie together all sorts of different chords and chord inversions beautifully. That's the sort of thing I'm looking for. But I'd like to know how to tie them together, essentially "forever." I guess it would be a very, very advanced "voice leading" theory? (Is that the right term?)

    So I was just wondering if you think Greene's books could really help me? Thanks.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    I looked up Ted Greene's books "Chord Progressions" and "Chord chemistry". All the people who left a review seemed to speak pretty highly of the books. So I was wondering if you had any personal experience with the books?

    When I started the thread, I said something like, "shouldn't a good guitarist be able to come up with a chord progression twenty chords long"? While I know that's not practical and most songs don't have that, my idea was to do it as more of an exercise in song writing, so in the future I'm not struggling to find good chords.

    So I was wondering if Ted Greene's books would help someone accomplish something like this. Most of the people who left reviews said if you are willing to study the book and put the time and effort into it, you will learn how to tie together all sorts of different chords and chord inversions beautifully. That's the sort of thing I'm looking for. But I'd like to know how to tie them together, essentially "forever." I guess it would be a very, very advanced "voice leading" theory? (Is that the right term?)

    So I was just wondering if you think Greene's books could really help me? Thanks.


    I just went to Ted Greene's website where he has lessons, and most of the lessons appear to be a lot of different chord boxes, which is what people said his books are like. They look too confusing for me. I really need to be walked through things slowly. So maybe his books aren't for me.

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    first of all, thanks for the response to my question guys, this thread somehow got lost from me for a while i'll check those out and see how they sound.

    but also, AGreatPair, why don't you just set out and try to make a continuous forever chord progression?

    i've never really tried that before, but through trial and error you should be able to do it.

    you might need to be flexible with your rhythm/tempo if you want to do that for a long time.

    you could try mixing different ones you know together too.

    try often modifying chords by one note as well, such as playing a major that is one step away from a minor chord in the key you're in, and then move the root up one to build a diminished chord then you can link to the next minor up. i find that can be cool, but other modification like this might inspire you to do something else then you can hunt for that sound.

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    ok i've so far only gone as far as checking melodic minor. it seems to have kind of arabian feel to it.

    I also tried playing just a song i liked and seeing if i could find a way it worked well with it, and it didn't work so hot. maybe i wasn't in the right melodic minor key? or is this scale only good for specific songs written for it?

    so i guess really what i'm wondering is when these scales could be useful, and maybe some songs i could use them in would be cool too, so i can see how they sound in practice.

    i think i've used it before without knowing it, but only ever for really short periods of time. am i right in thinking that this scale is basically only useful in short spurts or for songs that are written in that scale?

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    I don't mean to hijack my own thread here, but this is a chord question, and I feel it doesn't warrant a new thread. So, here it is: If you play chord which you don't know the name of, how do you find the name of it?

    For example, I was messing around earlier, and I just randomly played this, which I thought was one of the coolest sounding chords I've ever heard.

    E-----5------
    A------------
    D-----2------
    G-----6-----
    B------------
    E------------



    So clearly the root note of the chord is an A. But I am also playing E, C#, and B. So here's my question: How do I know what chord an A, E, C#, B is? and how do I even know the notes are in that order? The chord is probably some strange inversion, anyway. So, if it is an inversion, A being the root note in this case means very little.

    What is the name of this chord and why?

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    I don't mean to hijack my own thread here, but this is a chord question, and I feel it doesn't warrant a new thread. So, here it is: If you play chord which you don't know the name of, how do you find the name of it?

    For example, I was messing around earlier, and I just randomly played this, which I thought was one of the coolest sounding chords I've ever heard.

    E-----5------
    A------------
    D-----2------
    G-----6-----
    B------------
    E------------



    So clearly the root note of the chord is an A. But I am also playing E, C#, and B. So here's my question: How do I know what chord an A, E, C#, B is? and how do I even know the notes are in that order? The chord is probably some strange inversion, anyway. So, if it is an inversion, A being the root note in this case means very little.

    What is the name of this chord and why?
    In my experience there's no getting around putting in LOTS of time with the basic scales - playing them, memorizing them, reciting them, etc.

    As for personally how I saw your example, I guess I look for how the notes might stack in thirds - and A, C#, E just jumps out at me as an A major triad right off the bat. With the B in there I'd call it something like an A(add9).

    BTW, the lowest note in the chord isn't necessarily the root. Most of us would recognize 332010 as clearly a C chord (with a G in the bass), for example.

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    I don't mean to hijack my own thread here, but this is a chord question, and I feel it doesn't warrant a new thread. So, here it is: If you play chord which you don't know the name of, how do you find the name of it?

    For example, I was messing around earlier, and I just randomly played this, which I thought was one of the coolest sounding chords I've ever heard.

    E-----5------
    A------------
    D-----2------
    G-----6-----
    B------------
    E------------



    So clearly the root note of the chord is an A. But I am also playing E, C#, and B. So here's my question: How do I know what chord an A, E, C#, B is? and how do I even know the notes are in that order? The chord is probably some strange inversion, anyway. So, if it is an inversion, A being the root note in this case means very little.

    What is the name of this chord and why?
    http://all-guitar-chords.com/chord_name.php

    this site has a bunch of features, one of which is doing exactly this, at the top there are links for different stuff the link i gave you brings you to the page to find the name of chords.

    just click on the fretboard where the notes you played are.


    as for why, they name chords based on where the notes fall in relation to the major scale if you put the root as the root of the major scale.

    1-3-5 of the major scale is the major chord. flatten the third, you get minor.

    move the 5th up a semi tone you get augmented. add the 7th you get major 7.

    all the names of chord are based on this and there are different names for every configuration.

    maybe someone here has a table that shows all possibilities and the names associated with those, but unfortunately i don't know of such a table online to show you.

    but if all you want to do is find the names of chords then the site i posted works well.

    it's pretty straightforward though, they did it a pretty smart way, you just need to know what terms they used to describe what, but basically all the numbers refer to spots on the major scale that uses the same root as the root of the chord you are naming. 9, 11 and 13, are because you've gone all the way through and you're up into the next octave.


    you'll find also that for many chords there are multiple options for what you would call a chord.

    for example diminished 7 chords are comprised of 4 notes, you can choose any one of those four notes to be your root. so every chord you put-in that is dim7 will have 4 different names. this is because there is a tone and a half between every note of this chord. so because of that you can play the arpeggio all the way through an octave and it will continue all the way through on the tone and a half pattern without change, through as many octaves as you want forever keeping the tone and a half pattern going.

    so you can just continue forever playing a tone and a half all the way through your fretboard start to finish. see, if it's always perfectly symmetrical, then who is to say which note is the root? they all could be.

    which incidentally is a pretty cool thing about dim7. if you play that arpeggio you'll probably instantly recognize that sound, which i personally really like, but it's not always simple to work in, but when it works, i find it gives a cool effect. it's a fairly common sound you'd find in jazz, and not too much elsewhere.

    if you want a quick way to play it on your guitar, start on low E, play a note, skip a semi tone and a half, then play the same thing the next string up except move over a fret. going to the b string you'll need to move over 2 frets of course.

    a common way to play this is to play one note the next one, the previous one, the next one, the next one after that, then back to the prior one, then back again, and so on.

    i don't know how easy that will be to understand from written text, but those are dim7s and every dim 7 is 4 dim7s in one. so since there are only twelve notes, there basically only exists 3 dim7 chords, at least in pattern at any rate. 3 x 4 = 12
    Last edited by fingerpikingood; 09-01-2009 at 04:41 AM.

  14. #29
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    ok i've so far only gone as far as checking melodic minor. it seems to have kind of arabian feel to it.
    Not as arabian as harmonic minor, surely?
    (Actually there are a couple of Indian raga scales that match melodic minor - but then almost every scale we use (and lots more) are echoed in Indian raga scales.)
    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    I also tried playing just a song i liked and seeing if i could find a way it worked well with it, and it didn't work so hot. maybe i wasn't in the right melodic minor key? or is this scale only good for specific songs written for it?
    Partly yes.
    It's jazz where melodic minor is regarded as most important (almost as important as major); they use it as an improvisation scale, mainly as follows:
    1. Over the tonic chord in a minor key. Eg, in A minor, on an Am chord, use A melodic minor. (Don't use it on an Am chord anywhere else )
    2. A half-step above the V chord in a minor key. Eg, in A minor, on the E7 chord, use F melodic minor. IOW, 7th mode of F melodic minor (E as root). This gives the "superlocrian" or "altered" scale you've probably heard of: 1-b2-#2-3-b5-#5-b7, or 1-2-1-2-2-2-2 in half-steps. (Also known sometimes as the "diminished wholetone" scale.)
    3. A 5th above a bVII chord in a major key. Eg, in C major, on a Bb chord, use F melodic minor. This is known as "Lydian dominant": 1-2-3-#4-5-6-b7 (2-2-2-1-2-1-2).
    You also get this scale used on a bII chord in a minor key. So Bb7 might be used to resolve to A minor, and will take the same scale (F melodic minor, same as E altered).
    Any time you see a 7#11 chord (or 9#11 or 13#11), that means lydian dominant; or "mixolydian #4" if you prefer.

    There are one or two other modes used in jazz, but those are by far the most common. But only one of them has a real "melodic minor" sound (A mel min on Am). The others are coincidence, in that the cool extensions/alterations they like using on the chords happen to produce a scale that matches a mode of melodic minor.

    The classical use of melodic minor (which sometimes happens in pop) is quite different. It's used in melodies (hence its name ), when resolving upwards to the root. But only when resolving upwards. When the melody descends, it uses natural minor (b7 and b6).
    A good example in pop is the Beatles' "Yesterday":
    Code:
    ----------0-1-|0-----------|--------------|---------------------
    ----0-2-3-----|--3-3-------|--3-3-1-------|---------------------
    --2-----------|------------|--------3-2-0-|3--2-2---------------
    --------------|------------|--------------|-------------------
    --------------|------------|--------------|------------------
    --------------|------------|--------------|------------------
    D melodic minor______       D natural minor (F major)
    But any use of melodic minor - outside its jazz modes - is quite rare, so it's not surprising you can't find a way of using it naturally.

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    so i guess really what i'm wondering is when these scales could be useful, and maybe some songs i could use them in would be cool too, so i can see how they sound in practice.

    i think i've used it before without knowing it, but only ever for really short periods of time. am i right in thinking that this scale is basically only useful in short spurts or for songs that are written in that scale?
    Yes. (See above ).

    One famous jazz standard that has melodic minor in the melody (written into the composition, rather than used in improvisation) is "Autumn Leaves" - but it's only there for 2 notes at the end of the A section.

    Another famous tune with a good scattering of (non-classical) melodic minor sounds is the James Bond theme (but it has a lot of chromatic notes in it as well).
    The final chord is a classic melodic minor chord:

    -----------------
    --7---------------
    --8---------------
    --9---------------
    --10---------------
    --0---------------

    Em(maj9) (or "Em007", as some like to call it )

  15. #30
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    I don't mean to hijack my own thread here, but this is a chord question, and I feel it doesn't warrant a new thread. So, here it is: If you play chord which you don't know the name of, how do you find the name of it?

    For example, I was messing around earlier, and I just randomly played this, which I thought was one of the coolest sounding chords I've ever heard.

    E-----5------
    A------------
    D-----2------
    G-----6-----
    B------------
    E------------
    The convention is to write chords the other way up, as in tab:
    E------------
    B------------
    G-----6-----
    D-----2------
    A------------
    E-----5------
    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    So clearly the root note of the chord is an A. But I am also playing E, C#, and B.
    Hold on, if you're playing B too, put it in the chord:
    E------------
    B-----0------
    G-----6-----
    D-----2------
    A------------
    E-----5------
    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    So here's my question: How do I know what chord an A, E, C#, B is? and how do I even know the notes are in that order? The chord is probably some strange inversion, anyway. So, if it is an inversion, A being the root note in this case means very little.

    What is the name of this chord and why?
    It's to do with frequency relationships. That chord would be an A chord even if A wasn't on the bottom, because of how the frequencies inter-relate. You don't need to know the numbers, but it means that A simply sounds like the ruling note.

    IE, the simple answer to "which note is the root?" is "which note SOUNDS like the root?"

    The way to work out a chord root - if you're not sure which note sounds like it - is by looking at the intervals. Take every possible pair of notes and look at what intervals they make. You have 4 notes here, which means 6 intervals in all.

    1. A-E = perfect 5th
    2. A-C# = major 3rd. (In this case there's an octave in between, making it a 10th, but always reduce intervals to within an octave)
    3. A-B = major 2nd or 9th
    4. E-C# = major 6th
    5. E-B = perfect 5th
    6. C#-B = minor 7th

    The ruling interval to look for is the perfect 5th, because that is the strongest consonance after the octave. The bottom note of a perfect 5th is the root, because the upper note is a harmonic of the root - both notes, in fact, are "contained" in a virtual lower octave of the bottom note.
    You look to other intervals to confirm that, and/or to identify the chord type.

    In this case, as we can see, there are two perfect 5ths. When this happens, go with the lower one of the two, that will be stronger. So that points to A as the overall root.
    We can confirm this with the major 3rd A-C#, which gives us a major triad, the strongest-sounding chord type.
    The last note, B, is then the 2nd or 9th (related to the A root, remember). Chord-naming convention means we call this an "add9" (not add2, for some obscure reason ).
    (In terms of those frequency ratios, B is "contained" in E, but E is "contained" in A. B is a harmonic of both notes; E is a harmonic of A; A is not a harmonic of either E or B. So A rules.)

    There may be times when there is no perfect 5th in the chord. Eg with this simple shape:

    ---
    -2- C#
    -2- A
    -2- E
    ---
    ---

    There we have a perfect 4th (E-A), major 6th (E-C#) and major 3rd (A-C#). This is an A major triad, of course, in 2nd inversion (5th on bottom), and the root is determined as the upper note of the 4th.
    So a perfect 4th (when looking for roots) should always be seen as an inverted 5th.
    P4s are not quite as powerful indicators as P5s, so if a P5 confllicts with a P4, go with the P5:

    ---
    -0- B
    -2- A
    -2- E
    ---
    ---

    There we have the same P4 (E-A), but also a P5 (E-B). (and a major 2nd, A-B)
    In that case, E-B wins out, and we have an Esus4 chord. The A loses, and is heard as a suspended 4th, a slight tension.
    But the chord remains intriguing, an ambiguous sound, because of that root conflict: a kind of gentle tussle between E and A for supremacy.
    If we "resolve" the A downwards, to G#, we kill that ambiguity and the chord becomes a plain E triad, with E completely in charge:

    ---
    -0- B
    -1- G#
    -2- E
    ---
    ---

    But in the case of a sus4, voicing can make a difference:

    -0- E
    -0- B
    -2- A
    ---
    ---
    ---

    Same notes as Esus4, but this time A rules; for two reasons:
    1. A-E is now a perfect 5th, strong
    2. The E-B 5th has been inverted to a P4, and the E root is up high, weakening it still futher.
    So this chord becomes "Asus2". Again, we can confirm the "A" identity by "resolving" the B upwards:
    -0- E
    -2- C#
    -2- A
    ---
    ---
    ---

    Or we can surprise our ears by turning it into a 1st inversion E triad:

    -0- E
    -0- B
    -1- G#
    ---
    ---
    ---

    Although E is at the top (a weak position for a chord root), it still rules because of the frequency ratios. Our ears take in all the pitches and relate them (subconsciously) to a much lower E, of which all 3 notes are overtones or harmonics. IOW, all 3 notes "fit inside" a virtual low E.


    There will, of course, be times when there is no 5th or 4th in the chord. The next intervals to look for are:
    1. major 3rd (bottom note = root)
    2. minor 6th (inverted major 3rd, so top note = root)
    3. tritone (augmented 4th or diminished 5th, same either way up). Root could be a major 3rd below or major 2nd above one of the notes, making it a (rootless) dom7 chord. Or the root could be one of the notes, making it a diminished chord of some kind (dim7 or m7b5). You need to look at other notes in the chord to confirm which.
    Quite often, such a chord could be identified correctly in 2 or 3 ways anyway. Perhaps there's a bass note (played by another instrument) which gives you a clue?
    Take this chord:

    -5- A
    -5- E
    -5- C
    -4- F#
    ---
    ---

    F#-C = tritone.
    F#-E = minor 7th
    F#-A = minor 3rd (reduced to within the octave)
    C-E = major 3rd
    C-A = major 6th
    E-A = perfect 4th

    Lots of confusing stuff there! Here are all the root options:

    1. A - because of E-A. Supported by the C, suggesting an A minor chord. (Minor 3rds are not strong indicators to chord identity, unless working together with a 5th or 4th, as here.) F# would then be the 6th, making it Am6.
    2. C - because of C-E. A weak option, because there is no supporting 5th. A would be the 6th, and F# the #4. Highly unlikely!
    3. F#. C would be the b5. A is a minor 3rd, making a dim triad. E is then the minor 7th, making the chord F#m7b5, or F# "half-diminished".
    4. The tritone F#-C suggests a missing root of either D or G#/Ab (see tritone rule above). Supporting the idea of D is its 5th, A. E would then be the 9th, making the chord a rootless D9.
    5. If Ab were the missing root, that's supported by its major 3rd C. F# would then be Gb, the chord's 7th. E would be a #5, and the A would have to be a b9 (Bbb). Making a rootless Ab7#5b9. (Don't laugh, or shake your head in disbelief - such chords do occur in jazz... )

    To sum up, the most likely ID for this chord is F#m7b5 (because F# is bottom). Am6 is a good 2nd choice, and D9 is also a strong possibility depending on context. IOW, identifying an ambiguous chord like this can be easier when looking at surrounding chords.

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