~ Four ~ 4 ~ perfect 4th ~

~ the subdominant ~ Lydian mode ~

~ motion to Four ~ a plagel cadence ~

'a rising of spirits in our Americana gospel'

working on the railroad

In a nutshell. The interval of a perfect fourth is said to be 'perfect' in that its musical sound has a higher degree of aural purity when sounded with its tonic pitch. Together with the ocatve and perfect 5th intervals, this aural perfection of sound is the founding basis of our entire system of music theory. We can trace this aural purity / theory foundation all the way back in our recorded antiquity, for its simple ratio of numbers and relationship to the natural overtone series have long long been with us to admire, ponder and explore.

"Blue Skies." A 'three chords and the truth' Americana classic, "Blue Sky" is nearly all about motion between One and Four and Four back to One. Just a great folk, country, Southern rock story with some solid guitar.

wiki ~ Blue Sky song

Theorywise, there's three key aspects of energizing the discussion of Four. The first examines Four as a pitch within the diatonic scale; so melody and harmony concepts. The second is how closely Four resembles One in sound quality, colors and function in both major and minor within a key center. This is the basis for the third aspect of this discussion often termed 'motion to Four'; that in most of our Americana musics we are either somehow moving towards Four or are at Four, and working our way back to the tonic One.

The subdominant pitch Four in melodies. These next pure Americana musical examples are based in C major. So, the pitch C is One, making the pitch F number Four. Locating the Four in a few lines here, can you 'name that tune' from just these fragments? This first one just might go way back into your memories. Example 1.

wiki ~ Name That Tune
play by ear

Here's a few more to work out with.

'And the home ... of the ... brave ...'

'You were lost and gone forever ... '
Ah ... mazing ... grace ...

Know these songs from these bits of melody? Learn the melody from a full leadsheet by clicking the lyric links.

The 4-3 suspension. A most common and essential motion with Four is to hold it over a bit, creating that sense of suspension, before resolving to Three, thus its numerical name, a 4-3 suspension. We can locate it in most of our styles somewhere both major and minor, often used to dramatic effect. Here's the 4-3 theory basics in chord voicings. Example 1c.

Theory names and where in the music. And why termed perfect 4th? Simply 'perfect' in that in the quality of its sound is of the highest standard of purity when sounded with its tonic pitch. That when compared with our other intervals, its just sounds nicer. That we flip or invert the perfect fourth (p.4) into a perfect fifth (p.5) / interval shows it close position to the tonic also. No surprise we find Four in songs of all the styles, tempos, musical forms and genres we dig.

inverting intervals

Musical motion to the subdominant is as spiritually uplifting as we might ever get. Essential to the gospel sounds, it's also a central component of the 12 bar blues form. That Four provides a somewhat similar diatonic sense of rest as the tonic / One, we gain a second resting point while remaining within our original diatonic realm or key center. This similarity holds true in both major and minor and as we ascend through their color tones.

Our Lydian mode built on Four of the diatonic scale is a jazzer's dream as it provides a solid launch pad to blast off towards polytonality, that lovely sphere of the misty aural arts where the sense of tonal gravity and aural predictability further soften, allowing for two or more tonal centers to blend simultaneously together while moving right along through musical time.

So powerful is the Lydian color that it has its own book. Titled, The Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization, by George Russell, this work examines in depth the theory of and use of the Lydian group in American jazz from the 1950's onward.

Americana gospel magic. The idea of gospel magic is simply that the melodic and harmonic motion to Four creates a depth of emotion like no other moves we have. In every music we have here at home as well as abroad, every culture and style can and often does have this same pitch motion and its effect. We just happen to call it gospel here in America.

The gospel motion to Four. An essential core of all that is Americana music, the Gospel sounds reconnect us with our natural roots for freedom and worship of the spirit of truth within us all. In this next song, once we establish our tonic, we swiftly move to Four and start the journey back to find a place to rest. In F major, moving to Four / Bb then back stepwise to our tonic F. Ex. 2.

wiki ~ gospel music

Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Does it get any more gospel Americana than this lovely melody? The subdominant Bb 6/9 in the second bar is as deep, rich and loving as it might ever get for us wee mere guitar playing mortals. This chord melody is of course a bit on the blockier side of things but might be a good place to start for getting into this style of playing. Click the Swing Low link for the whole chord melody arrangement.

The 'fast Four'. In nearly all of our Americana blues, the Four chord plays a super important role. There are two common ways this happens. The first and probably more common motion is to move from One to Four to begin the second four bar phrase of a 12 bar blues form.The second motion is what we generally term the 'fast four', whereby we quickly move to Four in the second bar of our 12 bar blues form then back to One for the remainder of the phrase. Jazz players tend to do this, especially in the blowing sections. Here is the 'fast Four' motion. Example 2a.

Tonic to subdominant vamps. Back in the day there were songs such as "Feelin' Alright" by guitarist Dave Mason, which is simply a cool vocal hook over a tonic / sub-dominant back and forth vamp. While there are many variations, this One to Four motion is something we'll find in most of the improvisational American musical styles.

wiki ~ "Feelin' Alright"
wiki ~ Dave Mason

In this next idea we vamp back and forth using dominant chords for both One and Four. Do make up your own melody line. These types of vamps lend themselves well to the jam sessions we all love to partake in. Ex. 2b.

Find the line. Cool with these changes? Barre chords can yield us a lot of music. Find the guide tone line within the vamp? These types of lines help us keep track of where we are in the music; major third of G7 going to the blue third of C7.

Plagel cadence. While the chord built on Four does not get to have its own chord type designation, it does have its own chord cadence. Recognize the following motion in F using two core barre chord shapes? Example 3.

Termed 'plagel', the motion is simply any Four chord to really any One type chord. We'll find this basic back and forth harmonic motion in every style we might imagine. Very popular as a reggae vamp, there's that sense of 'uplift' in the plagel cadence that will generate its own energy to continue forward. Find the following plagel cadences / vamps by ear on your gits. Example 3a.

minor reggae
bossa
blues
minor samba

Cool? Hearing the major / minor? Can you find the chord shapes? Without the visual we've got to do it by ear, which not only creates real strength in developing all our faculties but can become a super source for new ideas simply through listening to the music we love.

A perfect authentic cadence. The essential idea that we Westerners have in establishing one pitch as our tonal center is in part secured by creating a sense of tension and its resolution towards one pitch and its related pitches within a key center.

At the core of creating this tension / resolution / tonal center is the perfect authentic cadence, of which our Four chord plays a role in setting up. Again our 'perfect' creating the highest standard of finality in resolution. Examine this chord cadence. Example 16.

Easy to sense the motion to resolution. What we theorists are often interested in is what creates the degree of aural and emotional confidence in the resolution. Root position chords help. Motion between core diatonic components Four / Five and One helps. That our tonic pitch is the top and bottom note of the last chord voicing helps. All of these contribute to our sense of coming home to a sense of being at rest.

~ stgc / two common resting points within ~

One and Four / major and minor. So thanks to the way we've tuned up our pitches over the last 500 years or so, we get fully functioning One and Four chords in both the relative major and minor tonalities all within one key center. Let's examine the pitches and spell out the triads for the One and Four chords, here presented in the relative keys of G major and E minor. Example 4.

G major scale
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
G major arpeggio
G
B
D
F#
A
C
E
G
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
One / G major triad
G
B
D
.
.
.
.
.
Four / C major triad
.
.
.
.
.
C
E
G
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
E minor scale
E
F#
G
A
B
C
D
E
E minor arpeggio
E
G
B
D
F#
A
C
E
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
One / E minor triad
E
G
B
.
.
.
.
.
Four / A minor triad
.
.
.
.
.
A
C
E

Major and minor One to Four. So from the above charting of the pitches we can see the One and Four chords emerge in both the major and minor tonalities. This in and of itself gives us a lot to work with. Let's create a few of the common chord motions between One and Four, keeping track of musical style, major / minor and using our number of pitches philosophy to define musical style.

Triads. These next motions using the open triad chords are surely more common throughout the spectrum of styles from children's songs, folk and on into rock and pop. Example 4a.

Ah, the essential motion of One to Four creates so much of the music we love. The core motion of the gospel sounds, easy intros and outs, endless varieties of vamps, probably could rap over these changes, major, minor, bluesy, bossa or jazz, the One to Four motion is not only deep in our collective history but great for dancing too :)

Add a 7th / minor. We can evolve our triad motion as shown just above by adding a 7th to our chords. In doing so we can add in a bit of the blues hue. Here the theory gets a bit tricky in that we need our 7th to be a blue or minor 7th from our root pitch. Easy do for sure as our pitches are all diatonic. Examine the spelling of the triad pitches with their diatonic 7th. Example 5.

E minor
E
F#
G
A
B
C
D
E
.
arpeggio
E
G
B
D
F#
A
C
E
G
                 
.
One / E minor
E
G
B
D
.
.
.
.
.
Four / A minor
.
.
.
.
.
A
C
E
G

Using our two essential barre chord shapes, here is the realization of adding the 7th to One and Four in the minor tonality. Example 5a.

Add a 7th / major. In getting to the blue 7th, we should also look at the diatonic major 7th that our paired relative key centers provide. Cats call this color a 'major 7' chord and while they are found in a more 60's and 70's style pop sounds, moving beyond into bossa and jazz stylings they become simply essential. Examine the evolution of the triad pitches of One and Four by adding their diatonic 7th's. Example 6.

G major
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
.
arpeggio
G
B
D
F#
A
C
E
G
B
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
One / G major
G
B
D
F#
.
.
.
.
.
Four / C major
.
.
.
.
.
C
E
G
B

Using essential bossa / jazz chord shapes, dig the motion of One to Four now with colortones. Example 6a.

Surely more of a stiffer 70's pop sound than anything too bossa or jazz. The notation and its playback does have challenges. Click the pic for a better rendition.

'Proper' motion to Four. In this next bit of theory we examine the motion of One moving to Four using the two pitch tritone within V7. In sounding such pitches we are just creating a greater sense of direction of getting to Four. For anytime V7 is involved, we've the potential to direct our musical traffic to resolve to targeted pitches.

What do we need? So what do we need to properly get to Four? Proper here implies some sort of tension / resolution within a chord. So a tritone? Yep. A tritone. And what better way to diatonically incapsulate this tension that by placing it within V7. So instead of just chomping from One to Four as in the above ideas, we'll now treat the subdominant as a new key center.

We can temporarily modulate or change keys when moving from One to Four. In doing this we make available a wide range of possibilities. We do this by adding a new pitch on our palette, a borrowed one from the key we're going to. F major? Yep. Compare the pitches and sounds of . Example 7.

scale degree
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
F major
F
G
A
Bb
C
D
E
F

Hmmm ... so our B natural becomes Bb in the key of F major. And if we respell our C chord with added 7th to include the Bb of F major, then our tonic chord becomes a dominant V7 chord. We use its tension to set up the need to find resolution. Which according these pitches takes us to the key of F major. Examine these pitches, evolution, sounds and V7 motion to Four. Example 7a.

Cool? This last idea is the 'proper' way we might in theory go to Four. Does 'proper' = using a V7 chord to get there? Yep. Seems like a lot just to get there. Well it is and that's the theory of it. Which once we're in the know, we're in the know :)

Let's extend this last idea by looking at the transition of the melody pitches and a bit more proper cadential motion by using the Two / Five progression to move to Four. Using a pop style melody line, the pitches of the melody clearly hug the pitches of the chords. The chromatic B to Bb signals the transition keywise from C to F, with octave doubling to add some hip. Example 7b.

The melody transition in the above idea is a keeper. One of five, these 'transitions' type licks help to clearly direct where the music is going. For in each of the five pitch transitions we generate a tritone bearing V7 chord to direct the music. Here's the above chords in shapes and sounds. For newly emerging jazz cats, these chord shapes together are total butter. Using the Two / Five cadential motion to move from One to Four. Ex. 7c.

V7 / blues motion to Four. In getting back to the blues and the tonic to subdominant motion in this style, we need V7 chords to make it happen. As we transitioned above keywise from C to F we found C9 and its two pitch tritone interval (maj 3rd and b7) to further energize the sense of forward motion to move. Well, these V7 chords and their need to move are the core basics of blues harmony. So while our root motion from One to Four is identical, our chords become all V7 / dominant chords. Example 7d.

The last chord shapes and motion are quite common in really any of the blues styles. And us such they make for solid jazz V7 chord shapes too.

Just the fifths. Dropping the middle pitch of the triads we get the core interval for all of our metallic, shred sounds. The One to Four motion is very common in many of these rock genres. Example 8.

No third, then no major minor distinction. So we loose the third of the triad and no longer get the major or minor distinction of the pitches. Oh well, we can add that with melody, bass, keys and vocals etc. Plain fifths just process better through the electronics of the gear.

The Two / Four evolution revolution. In an above idea we used the Two / Five motion to change key centers. Depending on our musical style and artistic directions, our Four chord in theory easily morphs into Two, becoming a minor 7th ( ii-7 ), with the addition of the one pitch. Examine the letter names of the diatonic triad built on Four becoming Two minor 7 in C major. Example 9.

F major triad
becomes
D - 7th chord
F
A
C
D
F
A
C

A stylistic / cadential evolution. As we evolve as players, when we start using Two instead of Four in our cadential motions we're just not in the same Kansas anymore. The sleeker Two chord not only handles the brighter tempos more adroitly but it's proximity to the tonic pitch opens up some wider possibilities for the improvising artist. Compare the two cadences. Example 12a.

Here the subtle difference between the two cadences? The barre chord voicings probably do not best illustrate the idea but are oftentimes a good place to start as their sound is very, very solid.

So why Two instead of Four? So if you're a jazz leaning theorist, there's no real explanation necessary here as you probably already know just how this cadential motion is so deeply woven in the jazz standards. When we get to the brighter tempos, say even 160 and beyond, and visit two or three different key centers within one song, we're glad we have the sleekness of Two. And for those so inclined to venture into our chord substitution possibilities in combination with brighter tempos and more modulation, Two / Five / One is king.

In any of our non-jazz styles, the Two chord is often a part of songs that use the cycle of fourths backpedaling root motions or the step wise more gospel sounds when 'stepping' from say One to Four. Pop artists often love the Two chord as it's a clear break from the 'three chords and the truth' of One / Four / Five of the blues / rock and roll essentials while still getting them to the same basic places. In evolving 145 into 251 the 3 chord truth rolls right over. Look no further than "Just My Imagination." Penned, recorded and released by 'The Temptations' in 1971.

Jazz evolution of Four. We can begin to see the evolutionary influence of transitioning from Four to Two in the American songbook towards the later 30's and into the bebop of the 40's and onward. Here, Two paired with Five become the catalyst to points beyond diatonic. So while Four has, is and always will be an essential of diatonic destinations, how we get and 'hint to get there' is a core evolutionary component of the bop styling.

From this mid 1940's period onward, jazz music is in general even more modulatory and the sleeker Two / Five root motion mostly predominates in the various types of modulations. At this point in history we've collectively started on our way to "Giant Steps."

Coltrane gets ahold of all this and his search begins. From the 50's onward, 2 / 5 motion to the subdominant is very common. Pop arrangers love it under countless singers for it helps telling their story go and settle right on a different pitch than the tonic, creating the 'oh ... we went somewhere in the story and the music.' All while remaining within the same key center. For indeed by chord, the diatonic One and Four are initially perfectly identical to one another.

Essential jazz standards such as "Misty" and "Here's That Rainy Day" from this 50's period follow this scheme. As these were the pop songs on American radio in their day. Must always remember that in every music globally; the folk, blues, rock and pop and endless their subgenres, the subdominant Four will always be an essential musical destination, a starter for the motor and the way to get gospel with a flick of the wrist.

wiki ~ "Misty"
wiki ~ "Here's That Rainy Day"

Passing diminished chord. Known here in Essentials as the great 'accelerator', in working with Two we immediately gain the possibility of slipping in a diminished chord between tonic and Two. While surely a jazz harmonic motion, historically it's important and there's some nice potential energy of these changes. Diminished acceleration 101. Example 12b.

Rhythm changes. These last four bars are one version of what we often call rhythm changes. They come from the 1930 hit song "I Got Rhythm" by George and Ira Gershwin. Simply a cycle of chords that when twice repeated, become the eight bar A section of our 32 bar song form. A mainstay for jazz improvisors, the passing diminished chord on the second half of the first bar, actually a substitute chord from the more traditional version, helps get things cookin.

"I Got Rhythm"

32 bar form

So is Four eliminated in this art? No, not at all. Even in the most advanced of the writing, motion to the subdominant Four can always retain its essential gospel, its secondary tonic appeal and create its glowing sense of gladness of heart and numero uno spirit lifter.

In between we'll often see the Two chord jet setting around the circle of fifths, setting up the dominant chord to traffic cop the direction of the music. It is really all good because in the American fabric of life and its music, all can find a spot to contribute, to be a part of a bigger thing, to help our stories get told.

Subdominant chord in the minor tonality. Our theory name for our diatonic fourth scale degree in both major and minor keys is of course subdominant. The diatonic core of our Four chord in the minor tonality is a minor triad. Defaulting to our root pitch of A and the diatonic natural minor grouping of pitches, examine the letter names as we extract its Four chord. Example 13.

scale degrees
root
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
minor scale formula
.
1
1 / 2
1
1
1 / 2
1
1
A minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
A minor arpeggio
A
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
minor triad / Four
.
.
.
.
.
D
F
A

By now easy do yes? OK with the spelling of chords? How our scales become arpeggios and arpeggios become chords? Cool. If not, I'll be honored to be the one to hip you to these changes ... follow these links :)

A too cool motion by far. While much has gone over to Four so far, this loop in the minor starts on Four and finds its way to back to One. Thinking A minor in a reggae feel, three chords and the truth. Example 13a.

One / Four / Five. This next idea is simply the chord progression One / Four / Five / One using diatonic triads in the key of A minor. Any three chord minor blues will be based along these changes. Classic Americana songs such as "Let My People Go" are based around these three chords. Jazz guitar wizard Mark Whitfield covered this a while back. What follows here are just straight, powerful 1960's styled barre chords. Example 13a.

The minor 9. One very powerful color is created by adding in the 9th to the minor 7 chord. When we use this color when moving to Four, good things can happen. The following voicings are very common in many styles of playing. Oh, and the minor nice shape used here is a very adaptable one to all sorts of Latin / bossa guitar. First we'll spell out the chords. Example 13a.

scale degrees
root
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
.
.
minor scale formula
.
1
1 / 2
1
1
1 / 2
1
1
.
.
A minor scale
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
A
B
arpeggio degrees
root
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
.
.
A minor arpeggio
A
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
E
A - 7
A
C
E
G
.
.
.
.
.
.
arpeggio degrees
.
.
.
.
.
1
3
5
7
9
D - 9
.
.
.
.
.
D
F
A
C
E

Try the above shapes as a vamp with your band. Just jam back and forth and see what shakes loose. It'll work in all sorts of grooves and styles, especially if you play for the dancers :) Very common in reggae.

Stacking perfect fourth intervals. The interval of a perfect fourth is said to be perfect in that its sound has a degree of purity not found in other intervals. In more modern times we still understand the ancient mathematics of this purity as a simplicity of a perfect interval's ratio of numbers and the relationship of this ratio to its placement in the overtone series.

Here we move by root motion from our tonic pitch up a perfect fourth to Four. Then up a whole step to Five. Then again a perfect fourth to our original tonic pitch, up one full octave from our stating point. Example 14.

 

Perfect fourths / Quartile harmony. The chord in the last measure above is a combination of one major 3rd and the stacked 4th's. Thirds of course are the building blocks of the way more common tertian harmony. Stacking fourth's we call quartile. And while nearly all of our American styles use tertian harmony, we'll find the quartile chords in some very consistent spots through all of the styles.

Perhaps the most common spot we'd find a quartile harmony would be as the final hold, perhaps more commonly known as the last chord of an arrangement. For us guitarists, their sound is very tight and bright. We'll hear it of course in jazz, but also country swing and some pop. Cat's like rockabilly monster Brian Setzer will often cap a swinging, bluesy rockin' 2 and 4 number with a quartile color. When we need a super bright, not too vanilla tonic chord color with the key center's tonic pitch in the lead, quartile voiced chords can win the day just about every time. Example 14a.

wiki ~ Brian Setzer

Two common endings. The two ideas above are perhaps as cliche an ending as we have in the American songbook. There's endless variations and capping the line with 6 / 9 ends the tune brightly. That half step lead in from above in the last measure above is often played as what we term a slur. Simply strike the chord and slide it down by half step.

Backpedaling. While we're stacking and thinking of cool musical things in fourths, we should examine our keyclock and discuss the idea of backpedaling. Of course we generally associate the term with riding our bicycles as we spin our pedals backwards. In our music studies we do the same thing as we backpedal our letter named pitches back towards the 12 o'clock position of our cycle of fifths. In these examples, the relatives C major and A natural minor top the chart. Example 15.

jacmuse AK ride

arranged by major keys

arranged by minor keys
clockwise = 5th's
counterclockwise = 4th's

Have to start somewhere. Of course the closed circle symbolically represents the unbreakable looping perfection of our pitches. We use the accidentals, the flats and sharps, to properly execute our diatonic scale formula. Which of these two we use is simply based on what will be easiest to notate thus read in rehearsal or performance.

So why are C major and A minor at the top of our key clocks? Because in our system of music, their groups of pitches contain no accidentals. The letter name at the top represents our starting point as its key signature and pitches use no sharps or flats, just the white keys on the piano. The letter name / pitch A at the top of the minor keys illustration becomes our starting point as the pitches of A natural minor are also just the white keys on the piano. Just another way to look at the major / minor or Yin / Yang of our musical resources.

Piano white keys. Here's an illustration of the white keys of our piano and their letter names. Do note the two / three repeating pattern of the black keys. And do also note where there is no black key in between two sets of white keys. For these are our 'built right in' naturally located half step intervals. Example 15a.

Natural half steps. In the above keyboard illustration we note that there is no black key between the two pitches E and F and between the two pitches B and C. For we guitarists, these are our half step / one fret intervals. Perhaps best to mention that historically, we had these pitches and half step locations long before we had keyboards.

Clockwise / 5th's. Thinking major keys, we move clockwise to the right and the intervals between our letter names is the perfect 5th. This puts us in the 'sharp keys' territory of our keyclock. With each clockwise hourly click, we pick up another sharp as we move through our keys. Thus from the illustration which follows, G major will have one sharp, D major will have two sharps and so forth. Example 15b.

the sharp keys are clockwise

Sharp key signatures. Here are the sharp key signatures for our major / relative minor key centers. Example 15c.

G major
D major
A major
E major
B major
F# major

E minor
B minor
F# minor
C# minor
G# minor
D# minor

Counterclockwise / 4th's. Reversing our direction to the left or counterclockwise, we encounter our 'flat keys.' Example 15d.

the flat keys are counterclockwise

Flat key signatures. Here are the flat key signatures for our major / relative minor key centers. Example 15e.

F major
Bb major
Eb major
Ab major
Db major
Gb major
D minor
B minor
F# minor
C# minor
G# minor
D# minor

Cool so far. A bit of a digression perhaps from the immediate topic at hand. But all of our theory roads do eventually lead to Rome.

Back to backpedaling. So with the above ideas in mind, all we're doing when we backpedal is simply working our way back towards a predetermined point within the cycle. In most cases when we find this in our songs, we're simply moving by perfect fourth back to our tonic pitch. Examine the incomplete circle of pitches which follows and its music, thinking diatonically in the key of C major. Example 15f.

Cool so far? So we can see and hear from the above illustrations how our chord cycle is backpedaling or moving counterclockwise to our tonic pitch C. Can you sense the direction of the motion of the chords? That's tonal gravity. And can you sense where it's going to land (resolve)? That's aural predictability.

While most of our American music uses less in regards to the number of pitches we backpedal, the last idea is not unheard of. Jazz cats do this all the time, often also adding color tones and substitutions along the way ... to as they say ... jazz things up a bit :)

Chord progressions. The above harmonic motion is of course a chord progression commonly termed a Three / Six / Two / Five / One. We simply backpedaled from Three by perfect fourths to get to One. This type of motion is a very common way to create a sequence, one of music's strongest foundational components.

Our earlier Baroque brethren always loved a good sequence. So not only is our circle of 4th's / 5th's a way to arrange our keys but it can also illustrate pathways back towards our starting point. It's a good way to organize our shedding and keep track of things, all depending of course on one's own art / resource needs.

The whole tamale. In completing this discussion of backpedaling for now, this next idea starts and ends on the pitch C. In between we rapidly visit all of our remaining eleven pitches via the counter - clockwise, backpedaling interval of our perfect 4th. Example 15g.

Off to Rodney. Wow, well that didn't take long did it. All we did was a mix'em-upian modal style octave transpositional approach to the backpedaling cycle of our 12 pitches, brighten the tempo a bit and the next thing Ya know ... we're just not in Kansas anymore. We simply moved from our diatonic 'inside' to 'outside' in a rather rapid way. Hey ... somebody harmonize this line!

So needless to say, the rather harmless look and nature of our cycle of 5th's illustration contains a bit more than potentially meets the eye as they say. I guess it's all about what we each bring to the conversation. And dig that three times and out! So is this a coda of sorts? For emerging jazz cats in the hunt for new tunes, Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are" is not only a solid standard song but a backpedaling extravaganza to boot

The 'sus 4' chord. Calling all pinball wizards ... start you're B sus chords! The sus 4 chord is a such solid component of so much rocking coolness. The reference above is to The Who's epic "Tommy." Their song "Pinball Wizard", "Help" by the Beatles, are two classic imports that all start strongly with sus 4 chord. West Coast legends Van Halen's "Jump" uses the sus colors to get the roar going.

wiki ~ The Who / Tommy
wiki ~ The Beatles
wiki ~ "Hard Day's Night"
wiki ~ Van Halen
wiki ~ "Jump"

This epic sound should find a home somewhere on everyone's palette as we can use it in nearly all of our styles somewhere. It's just too easy to create and rocks too hard not to. To create the sus 4, find the major or minor third in any chord and raise it to its diatonic fourth. Here are various common major chord shapes morphed into their sus 4. Example 16.

Recognize some of those sounds? Cat's in power trio formats like Eddie Van Halen, The Edge, Jimmy Page often use these sus colors as they not only can suspend the major / minor sound but also the sense of time in the music, giving a cat a chance to catch their breath so to speak before rocking on. These next few shapes work the sus 4 colors in the minor tonality. Example 16a.

Suss-ing our pitches. Here are the pitches of the above chords and their 'sus 4' morphing. Example 16b.

scale degrees
root
sus 4 to major 3rd
perfect 5th
E minor
E
A to G
B
A minor
A
D to C
E
B minor
B
E to D
F#

The 'sus 4' in open G. In the open G tuning, the earlier holdover of the four and five string banjo onto the six string guitar, the 'sus 4' color is right under the fingers as a one pitch addition to the index finger bar. For those readers who want to rock on out ... this color is surely a common and cool way to get there.

Barre chords. The changes used in the last idea are based on the core open E to movable barre shape. The idea that by learning one shape we get lots of chords of different roots, keys etc., simply by moving the same shape up and down the neck. Let's take a moment to project this core evolutionary concept in regards to putting our theory knowledge into practice.

One becomes many. The idea here is that one barre chord shape could become many different named chords simply by changing its root pitch. Cats call this a movable form. As this idea applies to other aspects of our theory as well this a perfect spot in the discussion to get hip. Example 17.

Easy enough eh? Surely run the shape as best you can and rote memorize the letter names of the root pitches on the low E string. Makes it all seem so easy n'est-ce pas?

Our chord progressions can be evolved from a series of letter names into numerals, facilitating their projection from each of our 12 pitches. So in a sense, any of our musical components can be projected from each of our twelve pitches, advancing our artistic resources.

Another way of understanding the resources is by categorizing like objects into groups that function in the same musical capacities. Understanding things in this way can accelerate our learning process by allowing us to group like functioning elements into definable sets or categories. Examples of this way of thinking would be understand our harmony by chord type, learning the musical form of the songs we play or understanding the subdivision of our rhythmic note values.

So as you go through the theory and discover these theoretical 'shorthand' possibilities, reflect a moment on them and decide how important they might be to the music you dream to create. And if there is some potential there, then by all means dig in, master the principle and run it up and down the neck.

For so much of creating well crafted art can be about perspective. And perspective can include a reordering of our resources based on the core commonality of the elements. For oftentimes we can modernize our own work simply by the re-juxtoposition of elements.

So by understanding the core theory commonalities of like functioning elements, new combinations, patterns and our ability to balance them into new and potentially exciting art can evolve by our own creative process. This is the empowerment potential of Essentials.

Lydian mode. Upon the fourth degree of our diatonic major / minor scale we can locate the Lydian mode, one of four original ancient Greek modes carried through our history evolution of the pitches. Essentially a diatonic major scale with an augmented or raised fourth scale degree, we'll find this distinctive color in the jazz styles as it becomes a portal to the polytonal and essential for correct evolution to #15.

Lydian's whole tone quality is created by its initial three whole steps in its interval formula and really is what makes it unique. These whole steps create a tritone interval ( three tones ) between root and the 4th as depicted in the chart. Examine the pitches as we extract F Lydian from its parent scale of C major. Example 18.

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

Transposing our pitches. Now that we have diatonically located our Lydian pitches from within our diatonic major / minor parent core, let's project or transpose it to our common theory root pitch of C Lydian, compare the pitches to C major and then examine the pitches. Example 18a.

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

All in the one pitch? Yep, the Lydian distinction all centers on it's raised 4th degree, which in its arpeggio form becomes the #11chordal colortone.

Lydian melody / harmony. Mostly a jazz color, the Lydian colors become yet another way to shape our tension / release dynamic. There are two reasonably common tonic function chords with Lydian characteristics. Example 18b.

# 4 / b 5. The F# in the first bar probably should be written as Gb, I just didn't want to confuse things here from the chart as the sound is of course the same. The tonic major 7 b5 simply creates a bit of tension that is released in bar two.

Same idea with the #11 chord in bar 3, here we've simply moved the #4 up an octave and filled in the diatonic tonic color tones underneath. In both cases there's a major 3rd in the chords and the #4 resolves to 5th of C major. So an upward resolving tension or suspension? Yep.

Rule of thumb. When numerically identifying our color tones, we should at least in theory include all of the pitches that 'properly' support it. Thus the #11 has its major triad and 7th and 9th underneath supporting. Ideally we would include them in our #11 voicings. Examine the pitches and numbers. Example 18c.

arpeggio degrees
root / 1
3
5
7
9
#11
13
15
C Lydian pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F#
A
C

So we notate things as best we can, learn our parts and hopefully get to rehearse the music in a professional manner. Things surely change under the lights and our ability to stay focused and concentrate is a big part of the performing success.

In this next trending Lydian melodic idea, we broadly support the line's #4 / #11 of bar 2 with C major 7/9. Example 18d.

Interesting quite modern Lydian sequence between our essential core major / minor tonal centers.

Polytonality. Another common spot for the Lydian #4 / #11 pitch is in creating a sense of two tonal key centers simultaneously, i.e., polytonality. In this next idea we simply create an open D major triad over part of a C major chord to support our melody line. Example 18e.

It's a fine line. Pretty rich sound yes? This chord shape makes for a nice bossa feel with the root / Five bass motion. In all of this Lydian analysis there's often a few ways to look at the pitches. Are they polytonal, a #11 chord, Five of Five in third inversion etc. Of course for us modernists, we need to strive to understand the sounds, eventually recognize them by ear them and label them accordingly. Thinking from the root can often help in keeping things sorted out.

Review. Well needless to say just how important Four is in the American sounds. I bet 8 out of 10 tunes in the American songbook are some kind of Four chord. In every style and genre, vamp and progression, Four or some derivation thereof is helping to create and work the magic. So next by half step to #4 yes?

"It is not so hard for me to jam."

attributed to (?)

MC Hammer

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