Most of us have used chord books or musical slide rules at one time or another, but a new system has just come on the market promoting a charmingly low‑tech approach to working out chords for either the guitar or keyboard. Priced at under £5 each, the two Adams Chord Systems come mounted on an A4‑sized piece of hardboard, upon which is printed a list of 26 different chord types, from major to minor 9ths. Alongside each chord type is a row of numbers corresponding to the intervals between the notes in the chord. The 'clever bit' is represented by a movable wheel that shares the board with the aforementioned chord list. Printed around the wheel are the numbers 1 to 12, and on it are the note/chord names in semitone steps. By turning the wheel so that the root or name note of the chord is adjacent to the number 1, you can read off against the other numbers for any desired chord type, and discover the notes in your chosen chord. Holes and plastic pegs are provided, so that you can, if you wish, mark the numbers around the wheel, to save having to remember them.
If you have the keyboard version, you'll find a three‑octave keyboard printed along the top of the board, with all the note names printed on it. Using the holes and pegs provided, you can build up your chosen chord in any inversion, before copying it into the book of blank chord templates provided with the boards.
The guitar version is similar, except this has a guitar neck printed down one side of the board, complete with nylon strings, each of which has a plastic bead threaded onto it. By sliding the beads to the notes depicted on the movable wheel, you can again work out any number of inversions, for any chord type.
In some ways, I found using these devices a little long‑winded, and in some circumstances, a simple chord book or chord slide rule would be both quicker and easier to use. However, this method does make you provide some of the mental input, and it is quite easy to come up with chord inversions that you may not necessarily find in the books. This is especially true of the guitar version, where you can incorporate open strings to create your own power chords. I also feel the large size of the boards and the simplistic approach would lend itself well to teaching situations, especially with younger pupils. Whatever you think of the idea, given the incredibly low price, the Adams Chord Systems represent exceptional value for money, and the only real shortcoming I can think of is that systems like these don't help you work out which fingers to use! Paul White