C chord on stringed instruments

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I (31m) am new to music and trying to understand how the human ear hears a chord as a combination of strings.

To avoid ambiguity I’ll focus on the C chord of a 5 string banjo tuned to G.

The individual strings for a C chord are played with E,C,G,E,G(high)

How do G and E combine to sound like C? My initial thought is constructive wave interference but that seems like it would make an F note, not C.

Please help a newbie 🙂

In: 1

8 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

The E and G don’t “combine” to sound like a C note. Rather, the three notes together make up a C chord (specifically C major). Chords are made by starting at the first note, called the root, and adding different notes at specific intervals. So, if C is number one, then adding the third and fifth notes (C-d-E-f-G-a-b) makes a C major chord. If you start at D, the third and fifth notes are F# and A, which makes a D major chord (whether a sharp or flat is involved has to do with the key, but that’s a another can of worms)

Anonymous 0 Comments

The E and G don’t “combine” to sound like a C note. Rather, the three notes together make up a C chord (specifically C major). Chords are made by starting at the first note, called the root, and adding different notes at specific intervals. So, if C is number one, then adding the third and fifth notes (C-d-E-f-G-a-b) makes a C major chord. If you start at D, the third and fifth notes are F# and A, which makes a D major chord (whether a sharp or flat is involved has to do with the key, but that’s a another can of worms)

Anonymous 0 Comments

As said below, what you get when two or more notes are played together is a Chord .

Chords are generally the changes in the song, between verses, choruses etc.

So when you play a C chord, you can play all the notes within it and they normally follow this pattern, imagine a piano (even better if you a real one of virtual one)
Start at C (if you don’t know this Google and come back!)

Now the white keys on a piano can be part of some cool patterns (the blacks can too but for the sake of This C chord).

Anonymous 0 Comments

As said below, what you get when two or more notes are played together is a Chord .

Chords are generally the changes in the song, between verses, choruses etc.

So when you play a C chord, you can play all the notes within it and they normally follow this pattern, imagine a piano (even better if you a real one of virtual one)
Start at C (if you don’t know this Google and come back!)

Now the white keys on a piano can be part of some cool patterns (the blacks can too but for the sake of This C chord).

Anonymous 0 Comments

Also G and E don’t combine to sound like F, that just isn’t how sound works. You hear all the notes together, they don’t combine into a thing. We just happen (through some accidents of physics and biology and culture) happen to like how C E and G played at the same time sound.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Also G and E don’t combine to sound like F, that just isn’t how sound works. You hear all the notes together, they don’t combine into a thing. We just happen (through some accidents of physics and biology and culture) happen to like how C E and G played at the same time sound.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’m not sure exactly what you’re hearing, but the wave interference works very differently from your mental picture. If I play a C, I don’t get a pure C sine wave, but instead I get a bunch of harmonics. If you looked at the note say on a computer, what you’d see is a lot of the C you played, but also a C an octave above, a G a fifth above that, a C 2 octaves up, then the E above that, the next G and so on. These are called overtones or harmonics, and how loud each one is goes a long way towards making instruments sound the way they do.

In terms of actual frequency, there’s the frequency f of the note you played (the fundamental), and integer multiples of that, so 2f, 3f, 4f and so on. Each octave is a factor of 2 in frequency, so going up one octave is 2f, two octaves if 4f etc., which is why 3f is a G if the fundamental is a C.

If you were to play two different notes, if they happen to share an overtone, then they can reinforce each other, and that overtone can sound like a note. Similarly, you can get interference like you said, which tends to produce the sum and difference of the two frequencies. A G is 3/2 of a C, and an E is 4/3 of a C. I don’t think you can combine those to get a C, so you’re probably hearing something else, but this is the basic idea of how frequencies combine.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’m not sure exactly what you’re hearing, but the wave interference works very differently from your mental picture. If I play a C, I don’t get a pure C sine wave, but instead I get a bunch of harmonics. If you looked at the note say on a computer, what you’d see is a lot of the C you played, but also a C an octave above, a G a fifth above that, a C 2 octaves up, then the E above that, the next G and so on. These are called overtones or harmonics, and how loud each one is goes a long way towards making instruments sound the way they do.

In terms of actual frequency, there’s the frequency f of the note you played (the fundamental), and integer multiples of that, so 2f, 3f, 4f and so on. Each octave is a factor of 2 in frequency, so going up one octave is 2f, two octaves if 4f etc., which is why 3f is a G if the fundamental is a C.

If you were to play two different notes, if they happen to share an overtone, then they can reinforce each other, and that overtone can sound like a note. Similarly, you can get interference like you said, which tends to produce the sum and difference of the two frequencies. A G is 3/2 of a C, and an E is 4/3 of a C. I don’t think you can combine those to get a C, so you’re probably hearing something else, but this is the basic idea of how frequencies combine.