~ b9 ~ flat Nine ~ minor 9th ~

~ diminished of V7b9 ~

~ parallel tonic resolutions ~

'just past the octave span an on into a whole new upper domain of aural colors ...'

 

 

Flat Nine nutshell. The flat nine interval is our most dissonant among them all. In aural sound and numerical ratio it just bristles. So finding our own way to using the b9 color in our music can be a giant step for each and every one of us when it happens. For in both chordal and single line playing, once we 'accept' the color as a functioning part of the V7 type tensions, a wide world of opportunities presents itself well beyond the one pitch.

Beyond the octave. As we move into our second octave above our tonic pitch, the lower octave 'simple' intervals give way to the upper 'compound' intervals. In this first chart we add our numerical designations into two full octaves of the C major scale. Example 2.

octaves
1st octave
2nd octave
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

Finding b9. So it just seems that whenever we can write out the pitches with corresponding numbers, it's amazing how quickly the pitch we need just pops right up. In the following chart we find diatonic nine in C major and lower it or 'flat' it by half step to flat Nine. Example 2a.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
b9
10
11
12
13
14
15
two octave C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
Db
E
F
G
A
B
C

Clear as mud? Cool I thought so. While b9's best pal in this is probably the #9 color of "Born To Be Wild" fame, and all over blues and rock, in all honesty if you're not a jazz player this b9 interval is probably not going to become a 'go to' color for Ya.

Looking to lose the gig? Working yourself out of a job? Want to get some revenge on the club owner? Then adding in the flat Nine color, into folk, pop and most blues and rock tunes and music just might do the trick.

 

Although ... the dissonance might work for just perfect for the metalists. From the inception of the genre back with bands like Deep Purple in the late 60's forward, they surely have embraced the dissonance / tritone interval and I'd not be a bit surprised if the flat Nine is not in ascendency or already landed for that matter, as this page is being written ( June 2016 ). Here's a punk type solution as we suspend tonic to b9 and resolve to 8.With some fuzz, example 2b in C.

So where is flat Nine the music. Almost exclusively a jazz color. The flat Nine color is nearly always associated with dominant harmony and is an altered dominant chord. While quite rare in written melody lines, many players spice up their improvised single note lines with flat Nine.

As part of our V7 family of chords, the flat Nine color finds its way into some interesting combinations with its color tone brethren, i.e., b5, #11, 13 etc. Hear the flat Nine sounds in action first, then we'll look at its theory. Thinking V7b9 to One in the key of C major. Example 3.

As a passing tone. Even without the V7b9 chordal color players will use the b9 color as a passing tone over V7. In this next idea we create a purely diatonic melody over the essential Two / Five / One cadential motion and by half step wiggle in b9 just prior to making our resolution. A very common jazz idea. Example 3a.

Flat Nine is one of 'the other five pitches', left over after using seven of our 12 total to build up the diatonic relative major / minor pairing. Yep, 7 + 5 = 12.

Some of the theory of V7b9. There are two fairly essential aspects of V7b9 chords to consider. The first is as a root position chord and how it works within a given key center. Nothing really heavy here, although having the core ability to spell chords is the great facilitator.

The second aspect of b9 theory revolves around the idea that within the V7b9 chord lives another chord; a fully diminished 7th chord. And that this chord's pitches can open up some solid traditional theory avenues for exploration for the modern guitarist.

Think from the root. 'Think from the root of the chord ol' boy and you'll never get lost.' That was Dr. Miller's quip when I'd be deciphering these chordal colors during my guitar lessons in college. There's just three easy steps to Doc's process and it works like a charm.

First we determine our key center and spell out its diatonic scale, then reconfigure the scale into its arpeggio. From the arpeggio we spell out the letter names of our chords and make any necessary alterations for the colortones. Examine the following evolution of these pitch configurations in the key of C major and dig out the pitches of our G9 chord. Example 4.

scale degree
root (1)
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio degree
root (1)
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C

The thought process. We start out looking for the Five chord in the key of C major. We know its root pitch is G. Locate that pitch in the arpeggio and spell out its third, fifth, seventh and ninth degrees. We do need a b9 though. So lowering our ninth, the A natural, by half step i.e., flat the Nine, that should feed the bulldog.

 

A simple trick. In all of this spelling of our chords using the above method, once we develop the ability to mentally slide our arpeggio numbers, the 1,3,5,7, etc., so that our root pitch / 1 is above the root of the chord we are spelling, we're golden, i.e., to think from the root. Here's this thought process in chart form. Example 4b.

scale degree
root (1)
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio degree
root (1)
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
arpeggio degree
.
.
1
3
5
7
b9
3
chord pitches
.
.
G
B
D
F
Ab
.

Cool? Do this enough and it can become second nature. Rote learning? Yep. Plus, do remember that there are only so many chords to spell. And while in theoretical possibilities that's probably a thousand or so chords, as you begin to play through standard tunes you'll often see the same chords again and again and again and again. And once we do we'll search for newness and variety.

Time / swing. Even getting even just one V7b9 chord shape / voicing super solid under our fingers enables us to begin to confidently use its b9 dissonance. So empowered, we can near instantly feel a new sense of depth with our swing.

Feeling this newness is for some artists a life changing event. For there are many other dissonances to explore; individually as pitches or in various combinations, each of which create their own unique sense and degree of swing. Here's one solid V7b9 guitar chord shape in motion followed by one piano solution for energizing a common jazz harmony loop. Example 1, thinking in C major.

voicings from Tom

Cool? Already hip to? Challenged a bit? Well we all are at times yet with a 'bowl of gumption in the mornin' ... :) Getting these last guitar shapes solid is all jazz guitar.

Some common flat 9 voicings. When first getting to b9, there are a couple of potentially essential V7b9 chord voicings for the emerging modern guitarist. In this next idea we slip these V7b9'ers between the Two and One chords creating a few sleek and movable cadential motions. Each are numbered and then theoretically examined sequentially. Thinking C major, the following ideas evolve. Example 5.

Two / Five / One. The above examples include the three chord types that we can use to classify chords. The idea of chord type simply groups together chords as based on their interval construction, thus tend to function the similar ways in the music. Similar form, similar function, similar theory. Let's examine each Two / Five / One grouping from the example just above.

# 1. This first grouping is probably the most common of these cadential motions. 100 % root position movable. Great shapes for both chomping a la Freddie Greene or comping. Example 5a.

# 2. A very cool voicing, probably the most advanced voicing of the three included here. A malleable shape that evolves a bit to other colors and easily moves up and down the neck. Removing the root pitch anchor of this shape frees it to move and morph. Example 5b.

malleable

# 3. Ya might leave the root pitch out of this voicing if you've got a bass player. If not, try fingering it as a barre chord. Sans the root pitch and the shape is very common, malleable and potentially very essential to the evolving guitarist. Do notice that we've a fully diminished 7th chord above the G root. Example 5c.

# 4. In this next idea, we evolve the Two and Five chord by creating chord inversions. Lightening the texture, thus, we then move our diminished chord up a minor third interval as a constant structure and resolve. Taking advantage of the diminished chord's symmetrical minor third construction / constant structure motions is a potential game changer for the jazz leaning, modern guitarist. Example 5d.

Why the game changer. For two essential reasons. First that advancing players will take advantage of the multiple leading tone properties of the fully diminished 7th chord that lives within V7b9to create additional cadential solutions. These four leading tones each direct us equally to their respective major or minor tonalities. This in itself opens up a wide artistic potential. These possibilities become 'legal' theoretical / artistic forces to shape our tonal journeys.

Second, that the perfect symmetrical construction of the diminished chord creates an ability to smoothly move the four note voicing by its core construction interval of the minor third. This parallel motion of the diminished 7th chord pitches, in minor thirds / three frets on our guitars, we just keep scrambling around these same four pitches. Scrambling? Well not quite like ham 'n eggs. Similar yet different as the saying goes. Examine the pitches.

Diminished / V7b9. First, let's extract and identify the pitches of our fully diminished 7th chord from within V7b9. Here is the chart from above expanded and now altered a bit to include our flat Nine colortone. Ex. 6.

scale degree
root (1)
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio degree
root (1)
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
arpeggio degree
.
.
1
3
5
7
b9
3
V 7b9 pitches
.
.
G
B
D
F
Ab
.
diminished chord pitches
.
.
.
B
D
F
Ab
.

Scramble 'em up. Having extracted the four pitches of our perfectly symmetrical, fully diminished chord from G7b9, we can then scramble them up using their interval motion of the minor third. Thinking B diminished 7th. Example 6a.

 
scale degree
root
-3
dim 5
dim 7
B diminished 7th
B
D
F
Ab
1st inversion
D
F
Ab
B
2nd inversion
F
Ab
B
D
3rd inversion
Ab
B
D
F
4th inversion
B
D
F
Ab

Four's a charm. The idea that the pitches of this chord perfectly invert into one another is of course the key to this magic highway. Do also notice we use the term inversions in the above chart. Four pitches in the chord allows for four inversions n'est-ce pas? First, second, third and fourth. Here are the above pitches, adjusted into two common diminished chord shapes, creating an ascending, resolving motion to C major. Example 6b.

A potential essential motion. Artists can get some mileage out of this minor third ascending motion. Descending too. Mastering the diminished chord's energy as presented above develops the core physical motion that can play huge for the modern jazz guitarist. With the minor third being a core American blues interval, it just comes up everywhere in the music.

Once the accuracy is mastered and the tension and release or tonal gravity of the line is clear, our ever evolving searching encourages us to soften up the colors and gradually slice up the minor third interval into slimmer and slimmer, chromatic windows. This allows us to search, find and understand the coolness within its basic boundaries. And of course, the intervals of the minor 3rd and perfect fourth all add up to the harmonic motion of Contra ne's Giant Steps.

Four leading tones / four V7b9 chords. In this next idea we simply resolve the same diminished chord to its four possible major key tonics. Dig into this a bit and root out the leading tone's and examine their resolutions. Notice that the key centers we resolve to are also spaced by the minor third interval.

Eventually we'll work our way back from the fully diminished 7th sounds to softer colors of half diminished, melodic minor and V7, while retaining the minor 3rd motion properties. In this text we call these possibilities our 'modern motions.' Example 6c.

So a couple of choices. So each pitch of the fully diminished 7th chord can be a leading tone pitch to its parent key; major and minor? Yep. Of course in the minor tonality we're borrowing this non-diatonic, raised 7th leading tone, a very common occurrence. Here the square pegs of the theory begin to fit nicely into the round holes of the music, which is way more forgiving.

This multiple leading tones becomes the catalyst for much of the evolution, in theory anyway, of American harmony, which of course helps to shape the composing and improvisations.

Review and forward. Conquering the flat Nine colortone is oftentimes a giant step forward for many players. It's a paradigm shift really. If this aural color is acceptable and becoming finding places in your music, chances are your heading in a jazz direction of the full 12 tone palette.

a 12 tone palette

Key components of flat Nine include its minor 3rd symmetry, moving by interval of minor 3rd, the multiple leading tones within the fully diminished 7th chord and the gradual softening of the diminished sounds while retaining its principles of minor 3rd motions.

 
"When you’re onstage or recording, you put yourself in those stories."
George Joneshttp://www.nytimes.com; 04/26/13
1
#1
b2
2
b3
3
4
#4
b5
5
#5
b6
6
b7
7
8
b9
9
#9
-10
10
11
#11
12
b13
13
b14
14
15
#15
Footnotes:

(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001

(1)Duffin, Ross W. How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony, p.32. USA W.W.Norton and Company, NY, New York. 2007.
(2)Aebersold, Jamey and Slone, Ken. The Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978.

Russell, George. The Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization. USA Concept Publishing Company, Cambridge, Mass. 1982