Chords are fundamental elements in music and composition, and they come in many forms that sound different giving musicians a wide variety of options to choose from. In short, a chord is defined as a set of notes played simultaneously. These notes aren’t chosen randomly; they’re picked from scales. To keep things simple and clear, the key of C will be used in all the examples.
The first and most fundamental chord is the major chord, which contains the root, the major 3rd and the perfect 5th. So C major would have C, E, and G. The same structure applies to minor chords, however the minor 3rd will be used instead of the major 3rd, which is logical. So C minor would consist of C, Eb, and G. In the case of the major chord, G is the minor 3rd of E, and in the case of minor chord, G is the major 3rd of Eb. So this brings up the term triad. A triad is 3-note chord that can be stacked in thirds, meaning that the notes are separated by major or minor thirds.
Major and minor chords can be used on their own to create music. However, they’ll seem boring and redundant after a certain period of time. This is where scales come in handy; they can be used to add extra notes, also referred to as color-tones, to create a more exotic sounding chord. It’s very common to add the 7th note of a scale to a chord and this can be done to create several new chord types. A major 7th chord, for example is a major chord with the major 7th ad. A minor 7th chord, is a minor chord with the minor 7th added to it. Both 7th’s can be used in either of the chords; combining the minor 7th with the major chord yields what is called a dominant 7th, or simply a 7th. A major 7th added to a minor chord leads to what’s called a minor major 7th. Another option is to omit the 3rd from the chord, resulting in suspended chords. Common examples of suspended chords are sus2, and sus4, in which the the 2nd and the 4th replace the 3rd respectively.
In short, it’s a good idea to experiment with different chord structures to achieve different sounds. The best way to accomplish this is to add scalar tones, which always work since they belong to the scale. For more advanced chords, using modes is a pretty good way to achieve more exotic and sometimes unsettling sounds.