Is there a technical name for this kind of chord?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Participant
    Audrey Nickel on #158708

    What do you call the chords we play so often that are just root/fifth/octave?

    adam-b-harris on #158709

    Guitarists call them “power chords” and use them frequently in rock/pop/grunge styles. Unfortunately traditional music theory falls down a bit in naming things

    Jerusha Amado on #158710

    I’m thinking that you mean the tonic chords, with the root in the base position–e.g. CEG as the tonic chord for the C major scale.


    Audrey Nickel on #158711

    No…I’m talking about chords that are just the root, the fifth and the octave (CGC for example), typically played with fingers four, two and one.

    harp guy on #158712

    In all of my theory courses I’ve just heard them referred to as “open fifths harmony.” (Or something similar). I mean… because of the lack of a 3rd or the lack of pitches higher up (making chords built on 4ths or 5ths), it can’t be classified as major/minor/diminished/quartal/quintal.

    So I think this is sort of one of those things that has fallen into the cracks in terms of having a distinct name. It is also sometimes called “an empty fifth” or a “bare fifth.”

    kay-lister on #158713

    I just call it an octave fifth.

    Jerusha Amado on #158714

    I was confused.

    ann reid on #158715

    Yeah, “open fifth”.

    Audrey Nickel on #158716

    Thanks all!

    william-weber on #158717

    How about a “colorless chord”? My keyboard mentor argued that while others claimed that the third determines a triad’s color, a root-fifth-octave had a color of its own. The metallic sound organs can produce is built from a tall stack of octaves and fifths. None of which is rigorous music theory, admittedly.

    Karen Johns on #158718

    Open fifth, or maybe we could call it the “fifth harp chord”.

    Audrey Nickel on #158719

    It definitely has a color of its own.

    I recently played an arrangement of Carolan’s Welcome in a concert.

    ann reid on #158720

    My composition teacher, Dorothy Priesing, wrote a song called “Now Is the Caroling Season” that was used as the feature selection on a nice old album by the Fred Waring Chorale.

    The final chord as an open fifth. We adorable college students would torment her in rehearsals by having someone softly hum a major or minor third at the end of the piece.

    She brooked no nonsense when it came to the performance in concert. I’m sure if anyone had sung anything but the opened fifth she would have made them apologize and dragged them off the stage.

    The sound is very Middle Ages appropriate.

    kreig-kitts on #158721

    Guitarists sometimes call a root, fifth, and octave a “power chord.”

    Mel Sandberg on #158722

    Audrey, I read your question and the replies with fascination.

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