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Advanced Harmony

Theory Revision Summary  

 

 

Advanced Harmony Ideas

 

Advanced Harmony Ideas

 

Inversions

 

As you will know from previous lessons/handouts a triad is a three-note chord build on a root note, a note a third above and a note a fifth above. However the notes do not have to be in this order. You can play the same notes but with the third (first inversion) or the fifth (second inversion) as the lowest note. E.g. To play C Major you could hold down an E and a C and a G above it. This is a C Major 1st inversion.

 

Sevenths, Ninths, etc.

 

It is possible to add additional notes to a triad to make more complex chords. For example we can add a 7th (major or minor) above the root. If we add a Major 7th to a major chord we get a Major 7th (e.g. C, E, G, B). If we add a minor seventh to a major chord we get a dominant 7th (e.g. C, E, G, Bb). These are commonly used in key changes, as a dominant 7th naturally wants to resolve to the chord a fifth below its root. If we add a minor 7th to a minor chord we get a minor 7th (e.g. C, Eb, G, Bb).

 

We can also add 6ths, 9ths, 11ths and 13ths and combinations of those to create other chords. These chords can also be inverted and depending on the number of notes used can create third, fourth, etc., inversions.

 

Pedal Points

 

This is simply the act of sustaining a single repeated bass note (or sometimes a treble note instead) while changing the chords over (or under) it.

 

Modes

 

The system in use before modern major and minor scales were created. Starting on any white note and playing an ascending run of 8 consecutive white notes will give you a different mode (e.g. D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D = the Dorian mode). Using the same intervals these modes can also be transposed to start on different notes. See separate handout for more details on modes.

 

Other Scales

 

Whole Tone – a scale that contains no semitones and is a series of 6 tone intervals. Only two possible whole tone scales exist, as a whole tone scale starting on D contains exactly the same notes as the C whole tone scale starting at a different point.

 

12 Tone – a system invented by the composer Schoenberg whereby all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are used in a predetermined order. The composer decides which order he wants the notes to appear and then uses them in that order throughout the piece. Typically a number of different 12 tone scales would be used in a piece for variation.

 

Pentatonic –also known as the blues scale this is a scale which consists of only 5 notes using the intervals: minor 3rd, tone, tone, minor 3rd, tone.

 

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