Music Theory Question

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clayton.dickmann
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Music Theory Question

Post by clayton.dickmann » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:52 am

Calling all music theory people out there! Question on chord structures (Full disclosure: I am self taught in music theory, so this may be dumb question):

Say I have a C major chord (triad C E G). If I add say a 7th, 9th, 11th etc., can I take out other notes and still be "compliant" with the chord and scale? I.e. if my C major is a triad of CEG, and I add a 7th - B - can I then remove say the C and have my chord consist of BEG? Im pretty sure this no longer makes it a C chord though....

Basically, I am trying to get more advanced chord structures and more voicing by adding 7ths, 9ths and 11ths, but in doing so you end up with notes that are right next to each other and sound dissonant (like the C MAJ 7th - you end up with a B and C next to each other).

Thanks for the help!

Stromkraft
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Re: Music Theory Question

Post by Stromkraft » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:47 am

clayton.dickmann wrote: if my C major is a triad of CEG, and I add a 7th - B - can I then remove say the C and have my chord consist of BEG? Im pretty sure this no longer makes it a C chord though....
Well, do you only have one instrument? Whatever is playing at the moment is adding to the actual chord build. If you drop the root in a four note chord, built with triads, then you do have a new chord. That's fine, right? It's music after all.
clayton.dickmann wrote: Basically, I am trying to get more advanced chord structures and more voicing by adding 7ths, 9ths and 11ths, but in doing so you end up with notes that are right next to each other and sound dissonant (like the C MAJ 7th - you end up with a B and C next to each other).!
Dissonance is the point of these chords. What do you do with such tension? You release it, right? Or not.
Last edited by Stromkraft on Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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scotty_perey
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Re: Music Theory Question

Post by scotty_perey » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:50 am

Hi Clayton!

First of all, you kinda do need the C in there somewhere to make it a "C something" chord. Typically at least in the bass if nowhere else. This could be your left hand if you are playing solo, or you can let the bass player cover it if you are in an ensemble.

For the right hand then, the root is the most expendable --- because you've already got it ringing down below --- and then especially when you start blending 7ths and perhaps even 9ths and 13ths in there, the 5ths are the next to go. The way harmonics resonate, you will have the root's 2nd overtone ringing out some of the the 5th in there, so it is heard in there enough especially if you're squeezing in a bunch of those other jazz tones.

But regardless of how much sense that might make at this late hour that I'm writing it, ha ha, here's a pretty reliable starting point for revoicing these chords you are talking about.

Maj. 7--> RH = root // LH = 7 - 3 - 5
7-------> RH = root // LH = flat7 - 3 - 5
Min7---> RH = root // LH = flat7 - flat 3 - 5

OR this voicing is kinda nice too:

Maj. 7--> RH = root // LH = 5 - 7 - 3
7-------> RH = root // LH = 5 - flat 7 - 3
Min7---> RH = root // LH = 5 - flat 7 - flat 3

WHICH IS BETTER? Well, it depends on what key you are playing that chord in (not the key of the song, I mean, but the root note of the chord at hand). The richest and best "default" place to play chords in the pocket, as it were --- that is, not to low and rumbly and not too high and brightly standing out --- is situated where the notes of the RH voicing are sort of straddling middle C as best as possible. So for instance, if I were making a G7, I'd go for voicing #1 above (flat7-3-5 / F-B-D) but for C7 maybe voicing #2 would be more in that pocket (5-flat7-3 / G-Bflat-E). But it's not that the first voicing wouldn't sound bad, as long as it was close to middle C. Some keys work pretty well with either voicing, and some tend to favor one over the other. Let your ear be the judge. And it's not like you can't have the voicings go higher up from Middle C, just be aware that they will stand out more. I'm just talking about the best place for "comping" (providing harmony and rhythm in a supportive role without drawing too much attention to the keyboard)

If you want to turn any of those 7ths above into 9ths, I'd say just add the "9" in there with the rest of them, but that works better with voicing #1:

Maj. 9--> RH = root // LH = 7 - 9 - 3 - 5
9-------> RH = root // LH = flat7 - 9 - 3 - 5
Min9---> RH = root // LH = flat7 - 9 - flat 3 - 5

That last voicing, of the min9th, is a particularly beautiful use of half-step dissonance, between the 9 and flat 3)

For an alternative voicing, it's not as practical to just throw the 9 in there with the Voicing # 2 of the 7th chords above. Rather, this is one instance in which is sounds pretty sweet to just stack the thirds. As with all the others, make sure you've got the root either in the L.H . or with a bass player and try this:

Maj. 9--> RH = root // LH = 3 - 5 - 7 - 9
9-------> RH = root // LH = 3 - 5 - flat7 - 9
Min9---> RH = root // LH = flat 3 - 5 - flat7 - 9

Finally, if you want to have a good starting point for voicing a 13th chord, try what I call the "Lounge Lizard" voicing. Although there are endless variations and additions and alterations that can be applied, it is sort of a good generic building block that is sort of the bread and butter of traditional jazz voicing. It's also a good example of how we don't really need the 5th in there when we've got so much else going on:

13th (Inversion #1)---> RH = root // LH = 3 - 13 - flat7 - 9
13th (Inversion #2)---> RH = root // LH = flat7 - 9 - 3 - 13

Again, although some keys will sound good with either inversion, some will be more at home in the aforementioned "Middle C Pocket" with one inversion than the other.

I hope this longwinded explanation is of some use. Remember that nothing is set in stone, and that this is all just based on my own experience and preferences, and that in the end you gotta just let your ear be your final guide. And there is always room for more experimentation and innovation as you come up with your own original ideas. But I think this'll at least give you some good stuff to chew on to get you started.

Have fun!

Cheers,

Scotty Perey
Eugene, Oregon, USA

ark
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Re: Music Theory Question

Post by ark » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:12 pm

In general, chords with more than three notes have more than one name. For example, let's look at that C-E-G-B chord of your. You can think of it as a C maj7 chord or as an Em6 chord. If you remove the C, that removes the possibility of it being a C chord, and also removes the 6 from the Em chord, so what you're left with is an Em chord.

Stromkraft
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Re: Music Theory Question

Post by Stromkraft » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:49 pm

ark wrote:In general, chords with more than three notes have more than one name. For example, let's look at that C-E-G-B chord of your. You can think of it as a C maj7 chord or as an Em6 chord. If you remove the C, that removes the possibility of it being a C chord, and also removes the 6 from the Em chord, so what you're left with is an Em chord.
And to make this more interesting one can also contemplate the instrument itself that might have prominent overtones that actually add to the chord voicing in a more significant way than expected; not always obviously so.
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Martin Gifford
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Re: Music Theory Question

Post by Martin Gifford » Wed Jul 11, 2018 12:27 pm

ark wrote:For example, let's look at that C-E-G-B chord of your. You can think of it as a C maj7 chord or as an Em6 chord.
No, you need the C to be C# to call it a Em6 chord.

For the OP, as long as some instruments are playing C-E-G notes in the key of C, then it is almost certainly a C chord. But there are some exceptions. For example, if A is being played by a bass instrument, then it would be Am7 (A-C-E-G).

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