The sound of New Age music can be divided into the 3 parts melody, harmony, and rhythm. The harmony aspect can be thought of simply as chords. Now New Age music does use certain piano chords more than others.
One chord I’m fond of is the 9th chord. All this means is that the ninth note of the scale is used to create the chord with. For example, a triad built from the C Major scale is spelled – c-e-g. If we add the seventh note in the scale (b) we get a seventh chord – C Major 7. It’s spelled – c-e-g-b. Simple enough.
Now if we continue up the scale we will hit the octave C. The next note after this is the 9th note (d). It’s also the 2nd note in the scale. This can get confusing but it’s just a system of counting. The C Major 9 chord is spelled c-e-g-b-d. This chord has a very rich sound and is used often in New Age music. It can be used as an ostinato, or as broken chord or arpeggio.
A typical New Age chord progression is simple and usually stays within the scale it came from. We can play C Maj. – F Maj. and G Maj. and by using just these 3 piano chords, improvise and create in the New Age style.
In fact, in the online lesson “Ocean Dreams,” this is exactly what is done. Except in this lesson, I eliminate the seventh tone from the chord and play an octave in the left hand.
By eliminating the seventh tone, I’m creating a more folksy or New Age sound. The seventh tone is used mainly in Jazz music but can be used in New Age music as well.
Once the left hand is “down” I add in tones from the C Major scale, especially the ninth tone (d) and the New Age sound is apparent. Other piano chords used in New Age music will be detailed in other articles later on.