Enharmonia

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What’s going on everyone! You’ve been out there cutting your teeth on some intense analysis, and I think you earn a treat! So today, we are briefly going to discuss enharmonic equivalents. Big words, simple concept. So sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, about two notes being one, its all about how you spell that stuff, now let’s go have some fun (Gilligans’ Island was a fun show).

So enharmonic equivalents are two notes with different names that share the same pitch. Pretty cut and dry, right? Good lesson everyone! Peace!

No. I won’t leave you like that. Lets listen to the pitch B (the note right below C). Grab an instrument, play the note, listen to the note, now internalize it in your ear brain… aaaaaaaand good! Ok, now I want you to play a C-flat… You hear that right? The same pitch, just spelled differently! “But Kyle! What’s the point!?” It’s to make music playing difficult, as it should be!!! No… No, that’s not the point. I would say that enharmonic spellings come most in handy when wanting to modulate to a key that’s not closely related to the one you are in. Let’s look at one of my favorite uses of enharmonic spelling, which is the German augmented 6th chord (Ger+6 for short).

A Ger+6 chord is spelled using these scale degrees: 1-b3-#4-b6. It Looks like this in C-major.
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Typically, a Ger+6 chord acts as a predominant chord (precedes the V chord in a progression) if you are staying within a key. This offers a different option for voice leading, which we’ll save for a different visit on my corner. As I said earlier, they work well as modulatory devices too.

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A Ger+6 chord in the key of D-minor (1 flat) is spelled D-F-G#-Bb. Now here is where the enharmonic spelling comes into play. If we were to resolve to V and use the predominant function of a Ger+6 chord, the resolution would look like the above example. Instead of that, let’s enharmonically spell one of the notes, specifically G#, which I’m choosing because in this scenario, it is a true accidental. The rest of the notes can be found naturally in the key of D-minor. So a G# can be enharmonically spelled to an Ab, which changes the game! So now we have D-F-Bb, and now Ab. Hopefully I have taught you well, and you recognize that as a dominant-seventh chord in first inversion.
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Which reminds me that I haven’t discussed how dominant chords of chords that are not the tonic do exist simply put, you can have a V of V marked V/V in roman numeral analysis, which in the key of C would be a D major chord since D is the V to G, which is the V to C, get it? No? Ok, next time then.

Where was I!? Oh yeah! If you did not recognize that, then you could restack the notes to a more recognizable chord.

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Bb-D-F-Ab is the root position of the chord, which is a Bb7 chord, or a V7 in the key of Eb (get it know? No? ok.). So this Ger+6 can be used to modulate to the key of Eb-major (3 flats which is fairly distant) or Eb-minor (6 flats which is really distant). Pretty wild stuff, huh?

Man! There is so much more to talk about. We touched on a couple things I have discussed, as mentioned earlier, but we will go deeper into those topics another time. You should take a moment and sign up for our e-mail list. I am doing some reviews of bands that I am listening that get put on the e-mail list, so if you wanna read that, then sign up! Of course I welcome you unload your music theory burden at my door. Comment, like, and share this with all your music friends, and as always, thanks for turning on my corner!

Johnny 5 is Alive!!!

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MCTC #5: Chord Circuit

 

Johnny Five is Alive!!! This is technically the 5th installment of my theory corner, not counting the introduction, hence the Short Circuit reference! What’s goin’ on theory enthusiasts! I hope your respective seasons have treated you well (for all my Southern Hemisphere readers). We are making quite a trail so far in this music theory forest, but there is much more to explore. So let’s punch some trees, make some paper, and get to some theory!

We talked about inversions last time, but if you didn’t join us, then hop in your TARDIS and correct that (or just read it, but if you know the Doctor, hit me up). So we can stack all these chords, we know how to invert them, and we even have a method for categorizing the chord qualities and what they are in the key, but these chords all play a role as well. A couple posts back I reference a song by Stewie from Family Guy, and talked about how he referenced a chord as being his home. We are going to start with a chord that is typically the first and last chord you hear in a piece of music, or song. This is the I (roman numeral) chord, or, a more forgiving name in the written medium, the tonic.

Yes, the tonic you don’t mix with your gin, if you’re of age. If you’re under 21, MCTC® does not condone the consumption of alcohol; go read a book about music theory.

Sorry. Ok, but the tonic is just a starting place. To preface, what I am about to present to you is merely the tendency of composers studied by theorists, and in no way is a strict set of rules for how to compose your music. This is for the composition of tonal music, but learning new things never hurt. So don’t fight it. Let’s go ahead and pick a key!

The dice roll video posted on Lindby’s instagram last week was to help us decide the key (wanna know how that works, hit me up), which it looks like we are going with the key of D-major. Two Sharps (pound sign/hashtag/tic-tac-toe board – ## <-those things) So the tonic chord is a D-major chord. Pretty straight forward like that. The beauty of the tonic chord is its’ ability to go to any chord without an unsettling amount of dissonance. A tonal partner to the tonic is the dominant chord, or the V chord. In the key of D-major, that would be an A-major chord. Before continuing further I have included the tonal chords in D-major to help with the discussion.

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One aspect about the dominant (V) chord in a key is that you will typically see the seventh of the chord being used as well. This is important because adding the seventh will create a sound of tension between the 3rd and 7th of the chord (C#-G in an A7 chord). This is interval, as we know, is a diminished fifth, or tritone. The tension naturally wants to resolve itself inwards, with C# ascending to D, and G descending to F#. So the tritone in a dominant-seventh chord wants resolve to the root and third of the tonic. As far as the roll of the dominant within the key, it is the chord that is most likely to appear before the tonic, again because of the tritone resolution that happens. There are plenty of instances where the chord following a dominant chord is not the tonic, but we are just covering basic tendencies. Here is an example of a V65 – I progression so you can see the motion I mentioned.

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The viio typically precedes the tonic chord, and that is because of the same tritone that you find in a V7 chord. The viio is also labeled as the leading tone, again because of its’ tendency to lead to the tonic. As you can see below, the viio chord is essentially a V7 chord, but the root of the V7 has been removed.

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There is another pair of notes that act similarly to each other. Those are going to be the chords you should expect to precede the V or viio chord. On occasion, the V-chord will progress to a vi chord, but that is used to deceive the ear from the intended V-I sound the listener expects. We will discuss this further when we talk about cadences, but to be brief, cadences are basically the period/punctuation to a musical sentence.

The ii-chord (supertonic) and IV-chord (predominant) are going to be the chords that you will hear before a V (dominant) or viio (leading-tone). If you have played any level of jazz music, you should be familiar with a ii-V-I turn around. Sometimes I feel like jazz songs are parks where people just litter ii-V-I progressions with reckless abandon, but I digress. Anyway, you will typically encounter the ii-chord in first inversion, which you can see why in the example below. These two chords will sometimes precede one another, depending on your needs, but they are both chords that aurally set up the dominant chord well.

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A ii6 chord is similar to a IV chord because of the shared notes between the two chords (similar to the V7 and viio relation). The IV-chord will also go to the I chord at cadential moments, mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, this is where those kind of relationships end. Granted, that does knock out 5 of the 7 chords we are going to talk about.

So the remaining chords are the vi-chord (submediant) and the iii-chord (mediant), which don’t get as much face-time as the rest, but still can offer great compositional possibilities! These chords also share notes, but they are not interchangeable in the sense of tonal music. The mediants (both chords) get some wicked use in 19th century composition when composers are writing more emotionally charge music, but we will talk about chromatic harmonies a little further down the road (or you can e-mail me). Here is a quick guide for harmonic progression in Major, and also in Minor.

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Minor

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I know I am not presenting a lot of things in minor keys, or discussing them a lot. I will be mixing things up in the future, but I want to make sure we have some solid ground before I start fracking around in minor. (frack fracking…) We have a lot of ground to cover still, and if there is anything specific you want me to focus on, I am more than happy to take some requests. Maybe you want me to talk about a specific song instead of just giving you this textbook style. By all means! Feel free to give me something to discuss. If it isn’t on a level that is ascertainable by all the readers, than maybe I can do a separate post about it. But yeah, let me know.

This post was brought to you by the sounds of The Butthole Surfers albums “Independent Worm Saloon”, and “Locust Abortion Technician”. Got an album I should listen to? Buy it for me and I might listen to it while making the next post and give a shout out about how you either changed my life, or shoved garbage in my ears! Thanks for turning on my corner.

 

Plugging In The Chord

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Welcome back, you theory enthusiasts! This time around, we are going to be talking about chords. These delightful, little triads have dominated the practice of music composition for centuries, despite many composers’ attempts to break away from what is called “tonality.” Tonal music has a home, and one of the best explanations of this comes from a lad who is way ahead of his age in understanding. Please take a moment and watch this.

In that song, he started with a G chord, which was his home, and also made the key of the song G-major. We are going to delve into tonality and how chords are used in a specific key, but first, let’s talk about building chords.

Remember when we talked about melodic and harmonic intervals? Well, chords are multiple harmonic intervals combined. Every chord has a root, third, and fifth. In the image below, the root note is G, the third of the chord is B, and the fifth is D.

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This is a major chord; one of four triads we are going to cover. The image below shows the intervals used to make the four different triads. There are two ways you can look at these: as a stacking of two different intervals of a third, or a combination of an interval of a third starting from the root and an interval of a fifth from the root.

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So how do you prefer to think of a major chord? A, or B?

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At the end of the day, every chord has a root, third, and fifth. However, there are chords that have a seventh, which is either adding a note a third above the fifth, or a seventh above the root. Again, both are correct.

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Wow! Look at all these new chords we have! Wait, you didn’t think you were just getting 4 different chord qualities, did you? Imagine if you added a third on top of the seventh… NO KYLE!!! They aren’t ready!! …Anyways, essentially what you have here are major, minor, or diminished triads, with either a major, or minor third stacked on the fifth of the chord. Building from the root of the triad, you are adding a M7, m7, or d7.

Listen to the differences in the chords in this video. I play four chords: (1) a major triad, (2) a major seventh chord, (3) a major triad again, and (4) a major-minor seventh chord. The visual difference between a major seventh chord and a major-minor seventh chord is small, but the difference you hear is substantial.

The minor seventh chord stands alone as the only minor triad based seventh chord. If you are wondering why I haven’t listed a minor triad with a major seventh, it is because that would actually create and augmented triad between the third, fifth, and seventh of the chord, which I don’t feel aurally holds the quality of a minor chord. It does have that wicked, James Bond sound to it though!

The half-diminished and fully-diminished seventh are easy to differentiate. One way or the other, you have a diminished triad. As far as the seventh of the chord, if there is M3 between the fifth and the seventh, it is a half-diminished seventh chord. A m3 between the fifth and the seventh is a fully-diminished seventh chord.

We are going to discuss diatonic functions, which is how these chord qualities are used in a key, but first we are going to go back to the diagram of the C-major scale. As I said earlier, you aren’t going to see an augmented triad in a key without adding accidentals (either by raising the fifth of a major triad, or lowering the root of a minor triad).

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To wrap up, we are going to learn some super shorthand terms that are going to hopefully allow us to speak with some brevity. In the practice of music theory, we use Roman Numerals to define a chords place in a key, and it’s quality. Using numbers I-VII, we are able to account for the basic triads in a key. Uppercase Roman Numerals define major triads, and lower case defines minor triads. Augmented and diminished triads are marked with a +, or a º, respectively. Half-diminished seventh chords will have a ø rather than a º. So here it is, what we’ve been working towards.

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Hopefully we have some good groundwork going on to where we can discuss chords in this fashion, and if I need to clear things up, comment/e-mail all your questions! Until next time, and thanks for turning on my corner!