Motivate music students by teaching the forbidden secret chords: H, J, K, Z-minor, Omega, and more!


Most musical instruments are capable of playing more than one note a time. This is typically referred to as a “chord.” 

The Issue:

Unfortunately, the list of chords is relatively small and well-understood (Fig 1): once music students learn them, they won’t have any more aspirational chord-learning goals, and will surely become demoralized.

Fig. 1: Normal guitar chords. You can print out all the practical ones on a regular-sized sheet of paper! After that, the mystery is gone.


We can take inspiration from Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, which begins with “…I’ve heard there was a secret chord…” . Unfortunately, the specific secret chord in question is never revealed, so we’ll have to just create our own new set of “secret” chords.

These will use letters beyond just A, B, C, D, E, F, and G; perhaps even including Greek letters, Chinese characters, ancient Sumerian cuneiform.

There’s only one problem: what would these new esoteric chords actually be? For one possibility, see Figure 2.

Fig. 2: Most guitar-like stringed instruments are played by pressing down on certain strings with one hand and strumming / plucking the strings with the other hand: thus, only ONE side of the strings are actually being used. Here, we see a possible application of the “secret” chords: the user presses down the frets as shown (the circles in the middle of the diagram) and then strums with TWO additional hands (red arrows, labeled “1” and “2”). In this fashion, both sides of the guitar can be played simultaneously, adding efficiency to musical output.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear how additional “forbidden chords” could be created for instruments like the piano, where the internal workings are somewhat isolated from the user, and thus resistant to the shenanigans described in Figure 2.


By motivating music students with the tantalizing secret of forbidden knowledge, we can improve national musical education!

PROS: Motivates music students. If the “strum in two locations” system in Figure 2 is adopted, musical efficiency (notes per seconds) is increased by 100%, which should give our nation a competitive edge in the creative arts.

CONS: None! This is entirely practical, and should be adopted immediately.