N-version 664.765.4342

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Welcome back my theory enthusiasts! I hope all us ‘Muricans enjoyed Independence Day, and I sincerely hope our international readers’ day was just as good! Mine went quite well, hence the lateness of this post. Lucky me that you don’t pay for this! Or maybe not lucky me… You can pay me if you want, but for now, let’s call it good.

Last time we talked about chords, specifically the types of triads and seventh chords, which are made of intervals and…well, go back and read it, if you haven’t. Remember that in a chord there is the root, 3rd, 5th, and sometimes 7th. There are times in music when a chord will not be in, what is called, “root position”.

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If a chord is not in root position, then it is in an “inversion.” The process of inverting is pretty simple over all, but I’m going to step back to a two-note harmony to explain this.

The most blunt way of explaining inversion is, one note must cross one or more notes in movement to the next octave like so:

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The reason for doing this is because it changes the sonority of the two notes. The above image shows an inversion from C-E, an interval of a M3, to E-C, an interval of a m6. You can also invert the other way, E-C to C-E, a m6 inverted to a M3. Here are a few examples of inverting intervals (I will not use an arrow going forward, just to let ya know, mangs).

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Regarding the new interval, there is a pattern to inverting notes and knowing what the new interval is.  I picked up a trick from the Tonal Harmony 5th Ed. by Stefan Kostka and the late Dorothy Payne.  The constant value of 9 is the method you can use to find the interval.  Essentially, start with 9 and subtract the current interval.

9 9 9 9 9 9
-2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7
=7 =6 =5 =4 =3 =2

 

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You may have noticed earlier that I changed the quality of the interval as well.  The major 3rd became a minor 6th upon inverting, which holds true when inverting a diminished interval.  They become augmented chords, and vice versa.  Perfect intervals are the exception.

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Old quality M m P + o
New quality m M P o +

 

So, them’s the basics of inverting intervals, which I feel we can talk about inverting triads and seventh chords now!

As I said earlier, inverting intervals changes the harmony, and this is used to create more interesting textures in compositions. Other than root position triads, there are also 1st, and 2nd inversion triads. Seventh chords are the same, but with a 3rd inversion, with the 7th acting as the root of the chord. If you want to, think of inverting a chord as moving a chord member, other than the root, to the bass position (lowest voice) of your composition.

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At the end of the last post, I started talking about Roman Numeral analysis. A quick guide to telling us what quality a chord is, and where it is in the key. To add to that, there are symbols that tell us what inversion the chord is in. Root position triads will have no marker. First inversion triads are marked with a 6, and second inversions are 6 over 4 (6/4). Check the Roman numeral markers in the image above. The marker 6 is in reference to the interval of a 6th between the 3rd of the chord and the root of the chord. The 2nd inversion triad has an interval of a 6th and a 4th above the acting root. For the seventh chords, I want to try something different. I want to see if any readers want to explain the markers for the seventh chords. Let’s omit the position for obvious reasons. If you already know this, I ask that you give those who don’t know a chance to mull it over. To help memorize the inversion symbols, I think of it as a phone number (665)-765-4342. I know we aren’t in an age of remembering phone numbers, but come on – you can do it!

As always, if you want to ask any questions, please leave a comment below, or e-mail me at the link below. Hit me up on Instagram (@boognishtheory) for anything music related! Know of a band I should hear? Then quit hording those tunes, and send them to me! Want to know the best beer for bratwurst? Then share this, and I’ll let you stuff my opinion down your face hole. Here is one last table giving you those inversion symbols, if you didn’t like my hand-drawn one.

Bass position Triad symbol Seventh chord symbol
Root position (none) 7
First inversion 6 6

5

Second inversion 6

4

4

3

Third inversion (none) 4

2   (or just 2)

As always, 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!