~ chord type ~

'... streamlining the process of learning our harmonic spectrum of colors with basic nuts and bolts theory and movable shapes ...'

~ tonic / supertonic / dominant ~

~ 3rd and 7th ~

~ chord quality ~

~ chord function ~

~ swap one for another ~

~ I maj 7 / ii -7 / V 7 ~

hearing the top
a two bar phrase
a four bar phrase
and eight bar phrase
groups of pitches
ta
blues melodies
improv
telling stories
taking it out

'... streamlining the process of learning our harmonic spectrum of colors with basic nuts and bolts theory and movable shapes ...'

 

 

function
tonic / One
Two
dominant / Five
3rd and 7th
z
quality

In a nutshell. Jazz minded players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For the jazz art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories; any chord is now one of three types. A song's dozen or so written chord changes now become one of three :)

examine 3rd and 7th

We do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees of any chord and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd is either major or minor. Same with its 7th. So we've dramatically reduced our combination of possibilities.

examine 3rd and 7th

Improv. When soloing over either of the three chord types we can initially follow two simple methods; finding the chord as a static harmony, so it's being used as a vamp. And things to consider if we find it in a chord progression.

 

In the following disucusiions do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees of any chord and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd is either major or minor. Same with its 7th. So we've dramatically reduced our combination of possibilities.

examine 3rd and 7th

 

Chord type. By developing an understanding that let's us think and shed by chord type, and let's not forget our movable chord shape forms, we can reduce this hundred's number to a dozen or so. Really? Just a dozen or so? Initially yes. A dozen movable chords times 12 frets makes well over 100 different chords ... surely that would be enough for the emerging Jazzer to play through the first core 25 compositions or so. Evolving Jazzers might remember how many tunes they could play with barre chords. Same will hold true here.

chord type
core 25 Jazz tunes
learning tunes

To those of us players who love to shed to strengthen our melody / improvisational playing, and especially so in performing American Jazz and its ever evolving harmonies, the ability to accurately spell out the letter names of the written changes is probably as crucial a component of knowing music theory as it ever might get.

shedding

For if nothing else and the "well happens to run dry", spelling the chord at least gives us the pitches of its arpeggio, and that mon ami's ... is always a solid place to start in generating melodic ideas. We might always do well to remember America's Arpeggio Kings and how their work helped to transform our Jazz music.

well is dry
mon ami
generating melodies

 

 

 

Overview perspective / major. Chord type becomes a way for us to have a 'shorthand' style understanding of the harmony. This runs parallel with a fuller diatonic understanding and sourcing for our harmonies. Chord type theory reflects the literature in that it is all based on the major diatonic key center. It reflects the idea that the majority of our Americana songbook is written in a major key.

the literature

No slight to minor, it's just the way it is when looking at the whole catalogue of our music. Surley some styles, genres and artists lean more to minor keys and such, the blues of course is in this direction, but for the most part major wins the day and thus the theory of chord type is developed from this perspective.

the blues

In a nutshell. Jazz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have three :)

With do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd will definitely define major and minor. The two available 7th's are not quite as easy to describe. So we've just four possibilities. .

Advanced theorist. For the advanced theorist reading here, there's really just one idea for the general topic of this page, groups of pitches. Simply that our 'groups of pitches' today are the perfectly closed loops of pitches from which we create our ideas; melody, harmony etc. Subbing for the term 'scale' to a certain extent, a 'group' includes the multifaceted properties that each pitch in a 'scale' brings to the conversation. Many solid properties including; modes, shades of major / minor, apeggios, colortones, 'parent scales' for phrases, intervals, sequences, soloing through and or over the changes. Our chosen group creates what is diatonic, thus establishing the boundaries of a select group of pitches. Surely a stabilizing perspective for venturing on.

melody

Tonic chord type / major. Jazz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have three :)

With do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd will definitely define major and minor. The two available 7th's are not quite as easy to describe. So we've just four possibilities.

Color tones; 6, maj 7, maj 9.

Tonic chord type / One and Four. Ja

zz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have

Tonic chord type / minor. Jazz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have three :)

With do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd will definitely define major and minor. The two available 7th's are not quite as easy to describe. So we've just four possibilities. .

Two chord type / major. Jazz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have three :)

With do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd will definitely define major and minor. The two available 7th's are not quite as easy to describe. So we've just four possibilities. .

Two chord type / minor. Jazz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have three :)

With do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd will definitely define major and minor. The two available 7th's are not quite as easy to describe. So we've just four possibilities. .

g7

The evolution of G7 ~ Five chord type / major. Jazz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have three :)

With do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd will definitely define major and minor. The two available 7th's are not quite as easy to describe. So we've just four possibilities. .

Dominant / Five / V7 chord type. As theorized above, from within our diatonic major scale we can diatonically create a vanilla, tritone bearing V7 chord. Here are a couple of open chord voicings of this essential chordal color. Example 4.

chord type
vanilla
Five chord type intervals
common V 7 / Five open chord voicings

Hear the bit of twang in each of these chord shapes? While these chords are surely in the Folk and Blues traditions, each clearly rings out the twang of the dominant 7th chord's sound and color. So what causes this bit of twang? Why the tritone interval within of course. So even as we advance down the road and get to the myriad of different dominant color tone possibilities, their softened sounds perhaps a bit less direct, because of the tritone interval within the chord, all will fall under the banner of dominant chord type.

color tones

So the idea of chord type is just a simply way to create a category of a unique and rather crucial musical element that we see over and over again in all of our musical styles. In this theory text, we have just the three different chord types; One, Two and Five, and for those so theoretically inclined, every chord in every tune in every songbook can be included in one of these three categories.

Chord type / where in the music. Based on our various ways of stacking major and minor third intervals, thinking chord type is really mostly a Jazz thing. As the vast majority of Folk, Blues and Rock, with all of their subgenres, simply do not or rarely modulate, i.e., to change keys, or substitute one chord for another, there's probably no need to complicate matters any further. And even in most American Jazz compositions, we're mostly sticking to the keys on the top half of the circle of fifths. Examine the wheel. Example 4a.

modulate
chord substitution

In the majority of jazz compositions, our tonic keys are generally the horn keys of C, F, Bb, Eb. Oftentimes the key center of the bridge or B section of a song jumps across the circle and then will cycle or backpedal by perfect 4th its way back to the original tonic. So with this in mind, just where does the idea of chord type play a part?

jazz compositions
tonic keys
horn keys
bridge / B section

Chord type / modulation. So while we can find modulation / key change somewhere in all of the American styles, even Folk music? Yes even Folk music. When Folk music does change keys, it is mostly up a step or two as the song ends, creating a nice sense of lifting the spirit as the performance of a song comes to a close. This type of key change, modulation at the end of the arrangement, happens in all of our musical styles.

chord substitution
parent scales
improvisation

It is in Jazz compositions where multiple key centers within a single composition is more the norm. So we gain additional cadential motions where the potential coolness of thinking chord type comes into play. Also and for sure, one essential difference that distinguishes our Jazz from our other American styles is that even within diatonic chord progressions, Jazz players oftentimes make the move between chords a bit more sophisticated in that a cadential chord ( V7 ) is often included in setting up the next chord change.

For example, dig this evolution of the core harmonic motion between One and Four in Folk, Blues, Pop and Jazz stylings. Example 4b.

Folk. Easy do here, just open chord major triads with tonic doubling moving from One to Four.

Blues. Tritone bearing dominant chord types for both One and Four creating a nice Blues color for proper testimony.

Pop. Tonic One chord chord shifts one pitch to become a tritone bearing dominant V7 chord type resolving to its diatonic One chord.

Jazz. Tonic major One chord creates the tonal center of C major followed by modulation to its subdominant via the very common Jazz motion of Two / Five / One, all of which are diatonic to the destination key of F major. Even if it only lasts two bars? Yep. Think of it as a temporary modulation. We Jazz players are not only pretty thorough but we tend to squeeze quite a bit into the spots we can. Granted, using this Two / Five motion to Four is very common in Jazz music. And written or not, absolutely nothing special at all.

tonic doubling
written or not

So why do it? Including more chords and chord types between even the most core of our harmonic motions simply creates more opportunities for the improvising artist in devising ways to get there. If you get a Two chord ( ii -7 ) between One and Four, there's new options for melodic ideas created by including this chord change because our core pitches have changed. For even a wee bit of a change can set off some interesting excursions for the modern guitarist. And of course we add harmonic options also as we can mix and match our chord voicings.

improvising artist
mix and match

Thus, when C7 becomes a V7 chord type, all of the associated theory potentialities of dominant harmony become possibilities. What oftentimes determines what we actually play depends on what we know and have shedded, how we as artists are interacting with the physical and artistic setting of the music we are performing and usually most importantly, the artistic and musical abilities of the Cats with whom we are creating this magic.

As modern as it gets. This core idea of using V7 to set up the next chord is an integral part of what is termed here in Essentials as the evolution of American harmony. The sound of the music produced can become, in a brighter tempos with advanced players, what I call the "chromatic buzz." At the far, modern end of our harmonic evolution, this level of performance is potentially as complex as it ever gets.

substitution

Chord type / chord substitution. One approach to understanding and performing Jazz music is in how the language allows for replacing one harmonic element in the music for another. And once the harmony changes, new parent scales for creating melodic ideas over the substitute chords opens up new improvisational ground.

chord substitution
parent scales
improvisation

Initially, a chord that substitutes for another has one or more of the same pitches or common tones as the written chord. Gradually this sharing of pitches can be reduced and in thoroughly modern performance, is oftentimes nearly eliminated, as the musical form of the song can replace the chord changes / bass line story in keeping things together. This can open up a whole new vista of artistic opportunity for the evolving artist.

common tones
bass line
evolving artist

Oftentimes the substitution is based on what the composer has originally written. The artist uses this written guideline to begin the substitution process. This could very well be the beginning of the process of what some players call "going outside." Which simply means taking the improvisations "outside" or away from the tonal center of the song.

written music
going outside

"Going outside" becomes a career long journey of artistic exploration whereby we begin to manipulate our tonal gravity and aural predictability, potentially evolving into masters of musical disguise. This evolution evolves as our ears get bigger and we accept new and potentially more complex colors substituting for the written changes. Understanding chord type can greatly facilitate this process. And of our three chord types, the dominant / V7 type harmony generally has the widest variety of colors and substitution potentials.

tonal gravity
aural predictability
master of disguise

The benefits of a chord type perspective? Simply in that we can group like elements into categories which reduces the amount of shedding while organizing and streamlining the substitution thought process. In this text, this learning process is tied into a traditional way of approaching the pitches, scale, arpeggio and chord shapes, which provide clear patterns to facilitate the learning.

shedding
V7 / musical styles

So while learning chord voicings or phrases for C7, G7+ and F7b9 for example, in thinking chord type these chords become V7, V7+ or V7b9 chord. The central idea is that if these chords mostly function in a similar theoretical manner, why not just group them all as part of the dominant family of chords?

So once we master V7, it applies to all V7 chords on any root pitch. Master the minor third / diminished properties of b9 and it applies to all V7b9 chords. Augmented / whole tone colors? Absolutely. Same process of applying its theory to whatever root pitch is needed, whether diatonic, written or as an artist's substitute chord.

The V7 chord type. Any chord that we can determine that has a major 3rd and minor 7th can become a dominant chord type. These two pitches combine to create the "traffic cop" musically directive tritone quality we love about V7. The dominant chord's theoretical substitution properties initially stem from this tritone pairing of pitches. Here is the same example from just above with perhaps a bit of a new meaning in regards to chord type. Example 4.

traffic cop
arpeggio degrees
root / 1
major 3rd
5
minor 7th
9
11
13
15
V 7 (G7) arpeggio
G
B
D
F
A
C
E
G

Evolution of dominant chord color. Returning to the core foundational idea of this text, we can easily correlate musical styles with which of dominant chord colortones we use in creating their music. And while certain chord voicings historically belong in certain styles, the modern guitarist, through diligent study, can become empowered to fully understand the select combinations of pitches that create each style. Thus energized, stunning examples of creative work in all of our various styles can become a source of inspiration and new directions for our own creative process as well as opening up new avenues of work for the gigging professional guitarist.

V7 / musical styles
a modern guitarist
a gigging professional

American blues and dominant 7th chord type / harmony. At the core of nearly all American Blues harmonies are the various colors we associate with dominant chord type harmony. For wee mere mortal theorists, understanding the theory of our American Blues is truly a labor of love indeed.

diatonic bolt up

For as much as we love things to diatonically bolt right up and mesh together pitch for pitch, which for the most part is our melody and chordal pitches, that not only doesn't happen in the Blues ... but it really can't. It turns out that we just don't have all the pitches to create our principle Blues chords, the One / Four and Five chords, in either the major or minor tonalities, from the pitches of the core blues scale. This I call the "Blues rub."

Blues rub / major key. Examine the pitches and sound of our core Blues scale and the potential absence of key pitches in creating the common Blues chords that support our Blues lines. Example 5.

Blues scale degrees
root / 1
?
b 3
4
#4
5
b7
8
C Blues scale
C
.
Eb
F
F#
G
Bb
C
arpeggio degrees
root / 1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C 7 chord
C
?
G
Bb
.
F#
.
G

What no third? Well there must be a name for chords without thirds. Do we really need a third? We kinda do as the third of the chord determines its major or minor-ness. Oh well no worries, for in American music we can simply borrow any pitch from anywhere at anytime, for all are welcome in our melting pot mix of musical arts.

American music

Where in the music. While I'm sure there are other pitch configurations of Blues scales out there with more pitches, additional pitches that would help build the chords we need. That said, the most devastating Blues guitar I've heard over the years most often relies on just the core pitches, Blues guitar phrasing nuance and time could care less where the pitches of the chords that back the line come from. This idea of a Blues rub is way more about the theory than the art. For in the art there is no rub, just the coolness of the clashing of pitches we commonly call the Blues :)

major blues scale
phrasing
time

Blues rub / minor key. Same theory process as above, but looking at the pitches and chords we use in the minor tonality and the core Blues scale pitches. Example 5a.

minor Blues chords
Blues scale degrees
root / 1
.
b 3
4
#4
5
b7
8
C Blues scale
C
.
Eb
F
F#
G
Bb
C
arpeggio degrees
root / 1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C min 7 chord
C
Eb
G
Bb
.
F
.
G

Solid minor tonic chord emerges. In the last pitches, we can see the emergence of the basic pitches we need to diatonically create a tonic chord in the minor tonality. While additional pitches are needed of course to create Four and Five, the ability to diatonically create a tonic chord from the core Blues scale should immediately tell us that our core Blues group is way closer to minor than major. Example 5b.

minor tonality

Advancing the rub. Thus, while Blues in the minor key is not uncommon, Blues in a major key is much more of what we hear each day. Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Rock Blues, Country Blues all mainly hang in major keys. So with melody pitches that are more inclined to minor keys and chords that are clearly major triads with an added minor 7th, creating the tritone between the 3rd and 7th, it is no wonder that the American Blues music is a musical art form like no other. And what of its motor thumping along on 2 and 4 ...?

Blues tunes
2 and 4

We simply dig the Blues rub and borrow. So in all of these theory inconsistencies is there any real concern? Nope, not at all. We simply borrow whatever additional pitches we need from our pool of 12 to build our chords and shape our melodies. Knowing the theory just might help us to develop a sense of how the Blue notes can in an instant of musical time, evoke so much emotional power.

For while the Blue pitches themselves are strong, placing them in musical spots to maximize the rub ... as described above, we surely can gain a sense of how the core Blue colors have influenced in some manner all of our American styles over the last 100 years or so.

Only in America. In all of the music from around the world that we might hear, which nowadays is way easier of course, there is really no music like our Blues. Originated by the merging of two unique cultures, their rather disparate musical systems melted together in a physical environment fraught with moral discrepancies. The emerging human musical sound has stunned the musical world time and time again. And as new and up and coming artists generationally emerge to embrace these olden colors, the strength of the Blue pitches and their rub continues to evolve this uniquely American artistic core.

Quick review, how it shakes, rattles and rolls. Sorry for the extended semi historical detour there but sometimes we just need to go with the flow in discovering where the theory meets the art.

The Blues rub is simply about creating melodies over harmonies that use some different pitches. Theoretically, we could call this difference non-diatonic. This disparity creates a unique musical sound we simply call the Blues that can influence all of the American music we love.

As American players, many want to play deep into the Blues for sure, and even for those not so inclined, knowing the core theory, here called the "Blues rub", creates a world famous musical spice we should all have in our American musical cookbooks.

Five chord type / minor. Jazz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have three :)

With do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd will definitely define major and minor. The two available 7th's are not quite as easy to describe. So we've just four possibilities. .

In a nutshell. Jazz players might benefit most from understanding the theories of chord type. For that art can demand a 12 tone potential which is a lot to manage at times. So the theory ideas which follow allow us to place any chord into one of three categories. Any chord is now one of three types. A song's with a dozenor so chord changes now can have three :)

With do this by examining the 3rd and 7th degrees and replacing the root letter name with one of three numbers; One, Two or Five. Any chord's 3rd will definitely define major and minor. The two available 7th's are not quite as easy to describe. So we've just four possibilities. .

families of musical color / chord type

Can we group chords simply by their intervalic structure? And by doing so, gain a deeper sense of their tonality, their function within a chord progression and thus their inate ability to create and sustain aural tension and / or stability? Well we can try n'est pas?

Families of musical colors? Chord type? Different terms for the same concept? Yes, pretty much. Hip to 7th chords? Extending the triad by the addition of the 7th chord degree? The following ideas and links examine the possibility of examining any chord by it's interval structure, to determine it's "type or family", then seeing where and how it commonly functions in both the major and minor tonalities within the various styles of American music. How many different chord types or families are there? Three, at least in this text. So any chord in our equal tempered harmonic universe can be basically viewed as being one of three different types of chords? Exactly, that is if you decide to view, understand and accept the theory of harmony in this manner.

So why would we want to do this? Well for a couple of what I think are good reasons. First, that this family of musical colors perspective simply provides another way into understanding the complex harmonic world of equal temperament and can be of solid benefit for the emerging theorist trying to get a sense of the whole harmonic system. Second, that by viewing chords by type helps to internalize the numerical magic of equal temper, which when mastered, potentially places the entire harmonic resource at our feet. Really? How? Well, we simply apply numerical values to the pitches and create three broad categories of chord color or families. This allows us to genericize any given chord so as to place it into one of the three families. Isn't this in a sense homogenizing the harmony? Yes and no. Yes in that in this perspective of the theory, chords are grouped on the sound of their numerical intervals and not by pitch or key center. And no, for in recreating the various styles of American music, it really does not matter what a chord is labeled as long as it provides the proper sound and degree of tonal gravity and as determined by the players. Third, that when venturing into the improvisational world of chord substitution, knowledge of chord type can be indispensable in sorting out the possibilities.

So how is chord type determined? Chord type is determined by the quality of the triad and it's 7th. Must there be a 7th in the chord to determine it's type and function? Yep, pretty much. For without the 7th in a chord there is really only the major and minor triads. Hip to these triad critters? Example 1.

major triad minor triad major triad minor triad
cf1.TIF (6182 bytes)

Sound familiar? Cool. The triad forms the basis for the vast majority of chords used in the creation of the various styles of American music.

So, what kinds of 7th's can we add? Well, there are simply two types of intervals associated with the 7th yes? Again, major or minor? Exactly. Let's add them to the above triads. Example 1a.

maj triad / maj 7th maj triad / min 7th min triad / min 7th min triad / maj 7th
cf2.TIF (6080 bytes)

So, thinking major tonality ...

major triad / major 7th is the basis of the major family of colors or a One type chord.
major triad / minor 7th creates a tritone interval between the 3rd and 7th and thus is the basis of the dominant chord family or a Five type chord.
minor triad / minor 7th is the basis of the minor family of chords or a Two chord type.
So, the three families of chords are differentiated from one another based on the quality of their third and seventh degrees? Is it all about the third and seventh? Using blocks to represent the intervals used to create chords, here are the three families of seventh chords illustrated with two sizes of rectangles, the larger representing the interval of a major third, the smaller block the minor third, the two intervals most often used to create our chords from within the equal temperament system. Ex. 2.

The basic idea is that any chord created can be placed into one of the three families. Here are the three families of chords presented in standard musical notation for aural comparison, using the pitch C as a common root for each of the three different families of chords. Example 2a.

tonic / major 7th

dominant 7th

two chord / minor 7th

cf3.TIF (7230 bytes)

Here the difference? A simple rearrangement of the above three chords creates the common harmonic cadential motion known as the Two / Five One chord progression. This basic resolving motion is used extensively in jazz standards and provides a cool and seamless way to modulate between tonal centers. Here is a basic realization of Two / Five / One in C major. Example 2b.

ii min 7

V 7

I maj 7

cf4.TIF (7756 bytes)

Sound vaguely familiar? Cool. So, of the 7 possible diatonic 7th chords created from the major scale, can we classify each of these chords as one of these three chord types? Exactly. Here is a chart illuminating this concept using the pitches of C major. Example 3.

scale degree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
chord C maj7 D - 7 E - 7 F maj7 G 7 A - 7 B -7b5 C maj7
chord type one two two one five two two one
So, two major 7th tonic type chords on the 1st and 4th scale degrees. Four "minor 7 / Two type chords" built on the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th scale degrees. One dominant 7 chord type built on the 5th scale degree. We just reduced seven chords basically down to one of three chord types. Let's chart the results. Example 3a.

chord type tonic / major 7 Two / minor 7 Five / dominant 7
from the scale degrees..
One Four
Two Three Six Seven
Five

With 12 major keys, that would basically be 84 different chords ( 7 x 12 = 84 ) or simply 3, by understanding chord type. Pros and cons to this approach? Always, but 84 chords is an awful lot of chords to learn. Not that we eventually don't have to learn them anyway right?

What about songs in the minor tonality? Well, the same principles basically apply, it is just that the placement of the various diatonic chord types within the natural minor scale "shift" numerical positions in regards to the major tonality, potentially creating a confusing situation when trying to explain and label the concepts of chord families. I struggled with this simple question of major or minor a lot. I mean no "dis" to the minor tonality, it's just that explaining the theory is easier for me from the perspective of the major tonality, which is the way I learned it. After examining the "Omni Book", the transcribed solos of Charlie Parker's ideas by Jamey Aebersold and Ken Slone, and seeing that only 4 out of the 55 compositions included in the text are written in a minor tonality I thought, "just go with how I know the theory the best, try to present the ideas clearly and not overly worry about biasing a readers perspective of the sounds they love in how the theory is presented, trusting that each of our own experimentations with the theory and the colors will determine which are ones are necessary and how they are arranged on our own artistic palettes.

With this in mind, explore the families of chord color by chord type from the following links.

major 7 chord family of colors
minor 7 chord family of colors
dominant family of colors
"I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don't need." Francois-Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), when asked how he managed to make his remarkable statues ...

Overview: By having examined the origins and organization of our 12 pitch melodic resource, we now have a solid foundation of pitch to advance our studies towards our chords or harmony. In between the evolution of our scales into chords live the arpeggios. And as we'll see in the following discussion, that while the process of evolving scales into their arpeggios is theoretically a rather elementary process, the vast artistic resource we gain is rather quite stunning.

music and math
equal temper
scales
numerical scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
two octave C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio degrees
1
.
3
.
5
.
7
.
9
.
11
.
.
.
15
C major arpeggio
C
.
E
.
G
.
B
.
D
.
F
.
.
.
C

'A half step above our tonic pitch.'

Theory names: This half step above the tonic is often simply referred to by its numerical designation. Generally we'll use the sharp (#) when ascending away from the tonic and the flat (b) designation when descending towards our tonic pitch. I also call this pitch a blue note, but I'm probably the only one that does.

half step
music notation

 

In a nutshell. The diminished color just seems to be able to find its way into every knook of the American chromatic. Each of the styles has probably at least one spot where we might hear something of this doubly even or tripley minor stack'o pitches.

Into the wayback to the mid 30's to Charlie Christian and his "Air Mail Special", the bridge of which is but also chromatic ...?

can be something diffcan be lots of unique things to lots of different players. .

the American chromatic
the wayback machine

In today's music, while it's near impossible to hear any difference in pitches or tunings, the duality of our pitches enables the blue melodic magic weave over stable, closely tuned chord pitches. Just how central this relationship might be is more about one's own art directions but surely lives at the stylistic heart of Americana guitar. The bend-able string / pitch ability over precisely tuned chords is the basis of our guitar arts.

blue notes
a wide array of chords

The explosive potenetial of the diminished color. As tempos accelerated in bop andits post incarnates, the diminished colors becomes the great accelerator of American jazz. Thanks to its symmetrically sequenced DNA of minor 3rds, two solid theories emerge.

First, simply that the diminished color can slip between two of any diatonic motions at the drop of a hat. Surely some are more awkward, but jazz cats often dig on the challenge of finding the balance and proper presentation based on style, tempo and feel.

The second theory helps creates the various double Two / Five motions. Based mostly on the b9 in V7b9, the fully diminshed 7th chord in this dominant's V7 trnsion encourages chord motion moved around by the minor third interval. We can find this motion in three very lovely jazz classics.

"Satin Doll." The essential wedding gig lovesong, this Strayhorn / Ellington / Mercer 1953 classic number is really built around the Two / Five motion. There's seven different pairings in the song. Bar's five and six of the eight bar A section have what we're looking for here; a double Two / Five a half step apart. Sort of like this. Example 1.

Two / Five
'A' section
half step motions

Strollin'. The idea of a 'silent architecture of music' refers to the structural nuts and bolts of the pitches we use to create our American musical sounds. Part art, part science and surely part magic of nature, understanding this architectural theory helps us project and filter any idea through a wider range of options. Knowing the basis empowers us to sort things out as each new pitch comes along. The idea is to build an intellectual theory structure within, so as the new ideas come along we have a framework to store, organize and recall our ideas.

"Moment'sNotice.". The idea of a 'silent architecture of music' refers to the structural nuts and bolts of the pitches we use to create our American musical sounds. Part art, part science and surely part magic of nature, understanding this architectural theory helps us project and filter any idea through a wider range of options. Knowing the basis empowers us to sort things out as each new pitch comes along. The idea is to build an intellectual theory structure within, so as the new ideas come along we have a framework to store, organize and recall our ideas.

Along the way of this discover process we need to explore some of the history and by necessity, the basics of natural sound, i.e., acoustics, and how we are thought to physically hear sound. This is our first topic of a few where music and math will meet. We combine these to create the precursor for understanding why we tune our instruments of today the way we do and what we gain by tuning the pitches in this manner.

And even though our story includes thousands of years of creative output, creating the rich and varied collection of music we enjoy today, this silent architectural structuring of our pitches has yet to vary very far from its origins. Founded on earthly natural sounds and as we'll soon see, its scientifically measurable acoustical properties, we've simply tweaked our tuning of this core a time or two over the millenia to arrive at today's pitch resource for the modern guitarist.

As guitarists. Turns out all we need to begin this discovery is of course built right into our instruments. We're simply going to use the pitches created by the guitar's natural string harmonics to recreate one way of how our pitches come to us. From the historical view of this, the whole theory tamale revolves around the two pitch octave interval, which lives on today in so many of our cherished American melodies.

string harmonics video

Our story begins at the blacksmith's shop. One source of our present day organization of music comes to us as part of a package deal often described under the broad heading of Western Civilization. We can trace this thread back through European history to the Romans and even further back through to the Greeks, whose philosopher Pythagoras and his people, dating from around 530 B.C.E. or so, laid the foundations for many of our present day ways of taking care of business.

"The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known."

Pete Seeger

Grout, Donald Jay. A History of Western Music, p. 10. W.W.Norton and Company Inc. New York, 1960.

 

Aebersold, James and Slone, Ken. Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978. I know this is a troubling stand to take but I felt I had to and as jazz player, I based it on Charlie Parker's compositions in the Omnibook. Find a copy, count the number of tunes, then compare the number of major key to minor key songs. Any real book of popular American song, by a mix of composers, will follow along similar lines in this regard.regard.

So why a perfect 11th? Simply in that this is the same pitch above our root as the perfect fourth, just now moved up an octave. Again we bump into the idea that with the colortones, the music theory of the natural diatonic 11th is usually more about chords than melody. Thus, having an 11th usually implies that we also have some sort of 9th in our chord. And having a 9th implies we've a 7th in the chord as well. 'The finger bone's connected to the hand bone, the hand bone's connected to the wrist bone' ... all in a perfectly closed loop. Ex. 1.

color tones
chords
melody
loops of pitches
numerical scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
two octave C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio degrees
1
.
3
.
5
.
7
.
9
.
11
.
.
.
15
C major arpeggio
C
.
E
.
G
.
B
.
D
.
F
.
.
.
C

'A half step above our tonic pitch.'

Theory names: This half step above the tonic is often simply referred to by its numerical designation. Generally we'll use the sharp (#) when ascending away from the tonic and the flat (b) designation when descending towards our tonic pitch. I also call this pitch a blue note, but I'm probably the only one that does.

half step
music notation