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).
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.
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.
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.
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!