~ color tone pitches ~

'evolution of the harmony beyond the triad ...'

diatonic colortones of Five

diatonic colortones of Six

diatonic colortones of Seven

diatonic colortones of Eight

V7
folk music color tones
blues music color tones
country / rock music color tones
bossa nova music color tones
jazz music color tones
modern music color tones
major 6th
major 7th
major 9th
perfect 11th
perfect 13th
b9
#9
#11
b13
#15
evolution of color tones
color tones / style
tonic colortones / I
supertonic chord colortones / ii
dominant color tones / V7

~

.

In a nutshell. Searching for the 'lost' chord to complete the compositional puzzle you're creating? Maybe tired of the 'same old same old' harmony that's in your jams. Looking to branch out a bit, wondering why your jazzy musical rhythms just ain't quite so jazzy? Want to 'jazz up' the chords you're working with? Maybe get hip to 'the changes' as the saying goes, soloing through chord changes rather than over them? Well read on! For the color tones of our harmony might just be the direction to explore to open up a potentiall endlessly wide array of harmonic colors for the modern, evolving artist.

wiki ~ the 'lost' chord
read on = right on = explore

As our chords are supportive of our melodies, they often reflect the pitches and stylistic character of a melodic line. They'll give a melody more support and also a bit more wiggle room or flexibility if a melody's pitches go off to unusual or suprising and colorful places, like so many of modern singers love to do. For example, the bluesy and often melismatic character of an R&B vocalist's ideas are often supported by a triad with an added 'blue 7th', 9th or 13th.

Here in Essentials, the color tone pitches as so named as they 'color up' any type of triad. The color tones are the pitches we add to triads that create the different chords of our different styles of music. Children's songs and folk music is mostly created with the three notes of the triads. Blues influenced music loves and needs the blue 7th added to most if not all of the chords in a blues styled song. Country loves the major 6th and of course V7 for its cadential motions. While rock mostly hangs with power triads, and the 5th's of today's metalists, its blues influence often also looks for the blue 7th. Pop music of today finds us mostly back to the triads yet like jazz players, are often looking to the major 7th, major 9th and beyond to color harmonies on tonic and Two functioning chords. Here, all goes even further into the diatonic arpeggio's upper reaches for V7. In jazz stylings, and really from any historical era, all 12 pitches are in play to be included in any chord on any of the scale degrees of the whole tamale.

Numbers of pitches / style. Starting back at our core philosophy, that the actual number of pitches in a chord; the three notes of the triad plus added color tones, will often help determine where it's commonly found in our musics. As artists here, we simply look to examine the available resources to understand their organic origins, a basis for conjuring up new colors to express our ideas. As theorists, we look to understand how we diatonically generate additional pitches above the triads we term color tones. Thus empowered we've the knowledge basis to mix and match and alter as needed or discovered.

The upper colortones; 9, 11 and 13, are surely creating chords that lean to a blues and jazz direction stylistically, as we won't generally find these colors beyond these genres. For most of our most popular styles today are major / minor triad based. Folk, country, pop and hip hop, while each will have its own character colortones, are diatonically created and triad based.

That said, adding the 7th to any diatonic triad is really not all that uncommon today in any style really. And this simple addition often adds that extra bit of artistry that opens up new areas of our palette for explorations as we evole our art. Here's the 'Essentials coffee chart', that cores much of the chord theory of this work, adding the diatonic 7th of each of our seven triads. Example 1.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
Imaj7
ii-7
iii-7
IVmaj7
V7
vi-7
vii-7b5
VIII
diatonic 7th chords
CEGB
DFAC
EGBD
FACE
GBDF
ACEG
BDFA
CEGB

Understanding how this chart works and being able to sub in the letters of any of our key 12 key centers covers most of what is available chord wise for us. Throw in chord inversions and finding their solutions on our instruments should keep us busy. Then we need to make our music out of it, but that's the fun part. Oh, and is this the same chart for spelling the 7th chords for the natural minor key center? Sure is, we just reshuffle the letters of the relative keys of 'C' major into 'A' natural minor. Example 1a.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
A mior scale
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
A minor arpeggio
A
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
chord # / quality
i-7
vii-7b5
III
iv-7
v-7
VImaj7
VII7
i-7
diatonic 7th chords
ACEG
BDFA
CEGB
DFAC
EGBD
FACE
GBDF
ACEG

Diatonic color tones named by number. Like most of our understanding of the theory, starting with a purely diatonic basis feeds the bulldog correctly. Once internalized, there's really no end to the machinations or slang wording to identify the pitches. Our triads have favorite color tones based on the way we most often find them in the musics we each dig. As for their theory, it is for the most part set in stone; we simply assign them a numerical designation as to their point within a chord's parent scale / arpeggio. We include these numbers along with a letter name pitch for the root of the chord, as when we're talking about a chord or in a chord symbol as designated in written music. Here in Essentials we call this sort of thinking of music and math 'by the numbers.' So along these lines examine the diatonic scale, here built on the root pitch C, and its re-spelling by major and minor 3rd's into its arpeggio, both identified by their numerical representations. Example 1.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C

Cool so far? For building chords in our tertian harmony, we usually stack up various 3rd's to make our chords. And while any combination of pitches is possible, diatonic theory is the initial basis of the colortones and keeps it all fairly straight. So by simply applying the numbers to the letter names of the arpeggio, the following color tone designations evolve. From the root pitch 'C.' Example 1a.

arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
color tones
C
'C' is One, the root of the triad, so not a color tone
One
E
'E' is Three, the major 3rd of the triad, so not a color tone
Three
G
'G' is Five, the 5th of the triad, so not a color tone
Five
B
'B' is Seven, the 7th above the root, thus a colortone
Seven
D
'D' is Nine, an octave + maj 2nd above root, thus a color tone
Nine
F
'F' is Eleven, an octave + per. 4th above root, thus a color tone
Eleven
A
'A' is Thirteen, an octave + maj 6th above root, thus a color tone
Thirteen
C
'C' is One, two octaves above root, so not a color tone
Fifteen

Note capitol letters of the written number? Cool. In this work, a number spelled out in letters starting with a capitol letter will always denote its interval relation to its root pitch. Here are these pitches from the above chart. Example 1b.

And for minor? Same basic ideas and numbering system but all shaded to create the natural minor colors. From the root pitch 'A', the following theory evolves. Ex. 1c.

natural minor
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
A minor arpeggio
A
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
color tones
A
'A' is One, the root of the triad, so not a color tone
One
C
'C' is the minor 3rd of the triad, not a color tone
minor 3rd
E
'E' is Five, the 5th of the triad, so not a color tone
Five
G
'B' is Seven, the 7th above the root, thus a colortone
minor 7th
B
'B' is Seven, the 7th above the root, thus a colortone
Nine
D
'D' is Nine, an octave + maj 2nd above root, a color tone
Eleven
F
'F' is Eleven, an octave + per. 4th above root, a color tone
minor 13
A
'A' is Thirteen, an octave + maj 6th above root, a color tone
Fifteen

Here are the color tone pitches of the natural minor tonality. From the root pitch 'A.' Example 1d.

Rule of thumb. With the color tones, a general rule of thumb when first venturing in to the upper part of the arpeggio, is to include as best one can the pitches underneath that numerical level. For example, a C major 9 chord would include a major 7th, an '11' chord has a '7' and '9' in it, a '13th' chord has '7, 9, and 11.' This is really more 'in theory' than practice, as it is often downright impossible to get all the pitches into a functioning guitar voicing. Any worries here? Nope, we've tons of chords and voicings. Have a piano? Just step on the pedal and push the buttons :)

'If I only had sustain ... '

Common chord symbols. Well, here's a best guess as to what you might see in the written charts you're using. A basic rule of thumb here is if you just get a letter name such as 'C' for a chord symbol, think of it as a three note triad that's major. And just be flexible and sort it out as best as you can. There's a varience of symbols in the biz and we all make boo boo's. That's why many pro leaning cats have a pencil handy when working over their music. Here's a basic start point of chord symbols found in the many real books out there on the market today.

Color tone theory. Once we've our triads in place, the stage is set to add some extra coloring to our chords. Termed in this work as the colortones, and also known as or tensions or upper structure tensions or pitches in other theory systems of thought, we simply select additional pitches to add to the triads. Which pitches we add is usually determined by style.

Advancing artists might also consider viewing colotones in regards to a chord's 'type.' In this approach, a chord's function within the song and its progression helps to determine common color tones added to the triads. In thinking diatonically, songs in a major key follow along the above charting of the pitches, while in a minor key, we've the pitch variations of the harmonic and melodic minor to consider as color tones also.

All of our 12 pitches are available on any of the chords. Some just sound better than others depending on one's tastes and thus have found their enduring place within a musical styles. The following are general ideas along these lines; style and historical precedence in locating color tones on each of the seven diatonic triads.

Color tones of the seven diatonic triads. Easiest way just might be to go through each one of the seven diatonic notes of the relative major / minor scale and see just what color tones commonly shake out and what styles we'll commonly find them. Lots of variables here, but we're simply looking at this all with an eye towards understanding the color tones as well as where we might use one or two new ones in the music we are creating today.

One. In a song in a major key, the triad built on One is a major triad and the colortones pretty much follow as in the chart presented above. Here it is again followed by tonic / One chord color tones. Example 2.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C

Cool? Easy really as anything beyond the major 7th becomes a bit of pop but mostly leaning jazz. Notice how the 11th is raised by half step in the third bar to the non-diatonic #11? The C11 chord is probably nore of a 'sus' chord as there is no 3rd in the triad. So not really a solid, tonic function chord. Raised up by half step we avoid the 'E' to 'F' pairing and create some bi-tonal sounds character of the jazz modernes.

Bossa staple. The major 9th colortone on One is a bossa nova staple, simply a must have. The voicing in the above idea is a bossa keeper in that we get to alternate the One / Five / One essential bass motions of the bossa style with a rather handy chord solution. Ex. 2b.

wiki ~ bossa nova

There's a few of these alternating bass, bossa nova shapes for guitar. Do bossa-fy the rhythms as you see fit. And no blues chords on One? Can't be. Well, blues music is based on dominant, V7, harmony. The chord with the two pitch tritone? Exactly. We'll surely see it when we get to Five. That's one of the tricky theory 'rubs' with the blues. No worries if we source things diatonically and always try to think from the root of the chord or chords in play.

Two. In a song in a major key, the triad built on Two is a minor triad and its diatonic colortones are all in play. Measuring its colortone intervals from the root; its 7th is a minor or blue 7th, 9th is a major 9th, 11 is a perfect 4th up an octave, and 13th is a major 6th up an octave. All are cool and diatonic. We can find any of these in most of our styles excepting songs for kids and folk songs, whose chords are mostly triad based. Again the idea that open tunings change this with a couple of twists of the pegs. Examine the pitches. Example 3.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
Two / D minor arpeggio
D
F
A
C
E
G
B
D

Some interesting colors yes? And with five or so unique minor scale constructions, plus their modes, we've additional options to pursue. Or we can find the chords as we need them or discover them in the musics we play. Two is also a chord 'type', and as such becomes a bus stop for minor chords and theory. As the harmonic motion to Four is so predominant in our musics, when we evolve Four into Two, things can change in a hurry.

Too common a color to leave out. A very common coloring of Two comes from its diatonic role as Two in the minor tonality. Known as a 'minor 7th / flat 5', this chord is also the diatonic Seven 7th chord of any major key. So why here as part of Two? Well in the literature, we'll find this coolness on Two in both songs in major or minor. It adds a bit of a surprise spice to major while a true diatonic color of the minor key. Amazing how that works huh? Just part of the 'relatives' nature of the same group of pitches creating both major and minor key centers / tonalities? Yep. Examine the color tone pitches of Two again noting the altered 5th. Example 3a

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
Two / D minor arpeggio
D
F
Ab
C
E
G
B
D

Wow ... somebody say 'ah ... men.' So be it ! Sound like we've come to a resting point in the music? That's the idea :) Tension to resolution or not as the case might be. Do remember that this Two half diminished 7th is also the chord built on Seven in a major key. The half diminished 7th is just too common as Two in both major and minor jazz compositions not to mention here.

Three. In a song in a major key, the triad built on Three is a minor triad and most of the color tones work fine. We have a bit of a rub 9, as it creates the minor 9th or b9 interval from the root. Also 13, which is our tonic pitch, often leans the chord towards sounding as a first inversion collection of pitches. Seven is cool and perhaps the most popular of the colortones built on Three. Eleven is also common, creating a bit of a suspended or floating quality to the chord. Common as a stepping stone between Two and Four, the triad on Three is as essential as near any in folk, blues, rock and country styles. Examine the letter names of Three as created within the key center of 'C' major. Example 4.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
Three / E minor arpeggio
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
E

Here's the potential 'rub' between our root pitch 'E' and its diatonic 9th and 13th. Example 4a.

Here are some of the common colortones and chord shapes built on Three, thinking 'C' major. Example 4c.

See any you know? Without a 9th or 13th it gets pretty thin. As 'E' is the major 3rd of our tonic triad, it gets additional work there in 1st inversion tonic chords. Also as a passing chord between One and Four, going either way is fairly common. Example 4d.

Cool? So just smoothing out the motion to Four? Maybe but variety is also nice as is the case above with the 'lighter' tonic sound of 1st inversions. These inversion chords oftentimes come up in chord melody style playing and arrangements, when a song's storyline gets interpreted with what we term 'block' harmonies.

This block chord approach is often one pass through a song to clearly present the idea as the composer intended, followed by our 'theme and variations. The 3rd inversion Five chord, on beat three of the second measure two is also a keeper. It's quite a swing thing and your bass player might appreciate it too as you stay off their root notes pitches that tell their story :)

3grn1a.mus
scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
One arp. intervals
.
maj 3
min 3
maj 3
min 3
min 3
maj 3
min 3
One arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
Four arp. intervals
.
maj 3
min 3
maj 3
min 3
maj 3
min 3
min 3
Four arpeggio pitches
F
A
C
E
G
B
D
F

In bold type we see the shifting of the two minor 3rds to further up numerically in its arpeggio. This creates the similarity of sounds, colors and purpose between our tonic / One and subdominant / Four. Otherwise we'd just be building a major scale from 'F.' Examine the pitches. Example 5a.

One arp. intervals
.
maj 3
min 3
maj 3
min 3
min 3
maj 3
min 3
Four arpeggio pitches
F
A
C
E
G
Bb
D
F
The 'Bb', the natural 11th as measured from the root, is the one pitch that varies here to create the key center of 'F' major. Down an octave, the 11th becomes the 4th scale degree, and is the re-ocurring catalyst pitch we use when modulating around the cycle of 5th's.
The 'Bb', the natural 11th as measured from the root, is the one pitch that varies here to create the key center of 'F' major. Down an octave, the 11th becomes the 4th scale degree, and is the re-ocurring catalyst pitch we use when modulating around the cycle of 5th's.

So from the root pitch; our major 3rd, perfect 5th, major 7th, major 9th and major 13th color tones and intervals are all identical. Which colortone wise covers all of our styles including some of our Hollywood jazz chords. Just this slight shifting of the intervals between One and Four does diatonically build the #11 into Four's arepggio and chord.

This is also part of the organic interval source of the whole tone color within any of our key centers. Examine the pitches to locate the whole tone color building up the diatonic pitches from both One and Four. Example 5a.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
intervals
.
1
1
1
1/2
1
1
1/2
F Lydian
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F

So just like the major scale we have a leading tone 7th, half step below the tonic. We also see the 'F' to 'B' as 'three tones.' So a tritone ? Yep. Three whole steps or major 2nds. These consecutive whole steps, we could continue the whole step (1) symmetry and create a whole tone scale. Example 5c.

interval
.
1
1
1
1
1
.
F whole tone scale
F
G
A
B
C#
D# (Eb)
F

Why do this? Because we can and as theorists we simply may want to know the organic source of things. Never know when we might need that one chord to complete our artistic, compositional puzzle. So the wholetone scale is a perfectly closed loop? Sure is.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
Three / E minor arpeggio
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
E

Here's the potential 'rub' between our root pitch 'E' and its diatonic 9th and 13th. Example 4a.

Here are some of the common colortones and chord shapes built on Three, thinking 'C' major. Example 4c.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children's songs.

and folk songs. These are triad based musics. With the melodies of these styles mostly pentatonic, Color tones

chord type
array

Children's songs.

and folk songs. These are triad based musics. With the melodies of these styles mostly pentatonic, Color tones

chord type
array

As we've 12 to begin with and need three for making triads, the nine remaining pitches each have a special way alone or in combination to harmonize our ideas. It's a super vast array of harmony colors.

triads
array

The following presentation has selective attributes and links beyond for each of the colortone pitches. Arranged chromatically, the discussions go where they need to go and follow Essential's golden rule of music theory; that the number of pitches in a scale, arpeggio or chord helps us locate it on the wide spectrum of American styles.

triads
array

In a folk styling.

Here in Essen. Example 1.

triads

In a blues styling.

Here in Essen. Example 1.

triads

In a country and rock styling.

Here in Essen. Example 1.

triads

In a pop styling.

Here in Essen. Example 1.

triads

In a bossa styling.

Here in Essen. Example 1.

triads

In a jazz styling.

Here in Essen. Example 1.

triads

In a modern styling.

Quartile / #11's / polytonality

Essen. Example 1.

triads

One. One is not a colortone, it is the root pitch of a chord and its letter name designates the key center of a piece of music.

root
key center

Sharp One. While it sounds like it should be a colortone, #1 is more a stop along the way up to Two.

half step
music notation

Flat Two. While it sounds like it should be a colortone, bTwo is more a stop along the way down to One.

half step
music notation

Two. Two is not really a colortone. It is up the octave as the 9th. Some folk players have the 'add 2' chords. Here the third is lowered to diatonic Two. Lovely chord like this fully movable barre chord form. Example 2.

Nine
key center

Flat Three. Crazy I know but flat Three is a blue note. hile it sounds like it should be a colortone, bTwo is more a stop along the way down to One.

half step
music notation

Two. 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

One / tonic chord type. 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

Add nine. 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

minorsix. 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

Two chord type. 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

Five / Dominant chord type. 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
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

In the lead: 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

Common tone. 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

Inversions. This half s

 

tep 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