A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of two or more (usually three or more) notes (also called “pitches”) that are heard as if sounding simultaneously. (For many practical and theoretical purposes, arpeggios and broken chords, or sequences of chord tones, may also be considered as chords.)
Chords and sequences of chords are frequently used in modern West African and Oceanic music, Western classical music, and Western popular music; yet, they are absent from the music of many other parts of the world.
In tonal Western classical music (music with a tonic key or “home key”), the most frequently encountered chords are triads, so called because they consist of three distinct notes: the root note, and Intervals of a third and a fifth above the root note. Other chords with more than three notes include added tone chords, extended chords and tone clusters, which are used in contemporary classical music, jazz and other genres.
An ordered series of chords is called a chord progression. One example of a widely used chord progression in Western traditional music and blues is the 12 bar blues progression. Although any chord may in principle be followed by any other chord, certain patterns of chords are more common in Western music, and some patterns have been accepted as establishing the key (tonic note) in common-practice harmony–notably the movement between tonic and dominant chords. To describe this, Western music theory has developed the practice of numbering chords using Roman numerals which represent the number of diatonic steps up from the tonic note of the scale.
Common ways of notating or representing chords in Western music (other than conventional staff notation) include Roman numerals, the Nashville number system, figured bass, macro symbols (sometimes used in modern musicology), and chord charts.