In today’s lesson, we’ll be learning about 6-4-3 chords.
For a vast majority of musicians who play by the ear, figures like 6-4-3 are used to depict chord progressions. For example, a 6-4-3 root progression in the key of C major:
…entails a root movement from the sixth degree (which is A):
…to the fourth degree (which is F):
…then to the third degree (which is E):
Well, that’s not our focus in this lesson. We’re learning about 6-4-3 chords – an important perspective to chords that every serious musician should known something about.
But before we go into 6-4-3 chords, let’s invest the next few minutes in a review on the concept of the figured bass.
A Quick Review On The Concept Of The Figured Bass Notation
The figured bass notation is a system of chord notation where figures are added to bass lines to indicate the intended chord that a musician should harmonize a bass note with.
For example, given D:
…as a bass note in the key of C natural major:
…does not always imply a D minor triad:
The G major triad:
…can also be implied, and this is because the G major triad:
…as its fifth tone.
So the use of the figured bass notation is to precisely state the intended harmony of a given bass note.
How The Figures Are Derived
The figures used in the figured bass concept are derived from the intervals between successive chord tones in the intended harmony.
“Let’s Use The D Bass Note As A Case Study…”
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The D note:
…can be used as the bass note for the D minor triad:
…and the G major triad:
“Let’s Derive The Figured Bass Notation For The D Minor Triad…”
In the D minor triad:
…the interval from D to A:
…is a fifth (written as 5), while the interval from D to F:
…is a third (written as 3.)
So, the figured bass notation that indicates that the D minor triad is the intended harmony when D is on the bass, is:
A fifth and a third from the bass note realizes other chord tones in the intended harmony. A fifth from D (which is the bass note):
…and a third from D:
Altogether, D, F, and A:
…produces the D minor triad (which is the intended harmony.)
“Let’s Derive The Figured Bass Notation For The G Major Triad…”
In the G major triad:
…the interval from D to B:
…is a sixth (written as 6), while the interval from D to G:
…is a fourth (written as 4.)
So, the figured bass notation that indicates that the G major triad is the intended harmony when D is on the bass, is:
A sixth and a fourth from the bass note realizes other chord tones in the intended harmony. A sixth from D (which is the bass note):
…and a fourth from D:
Altogether, D, G, and B:
…produces the G major triad (which is the intended harmony.)
“What Is A 6-4-3 Chord?”
The figuration below:
…is used to describe a chord with chord tones that are a sixth, a fourth, and a third interval above the bass note.
Starting from any given note (let’s say C):
…which is the bass note, every other chord tone can be derived using the 6-4-3 figuration.
“Let’s Check It Out…”
Using the C natural major scale:
…as a reference…
A sixth above C:
A fourth above C:
A third above C:
Altogether, we have C (which is the bass note):
…and A (which is the sixth):
…and F (which is the fourth):
…and E (which is the third):
The chord formed is the second inversion:
…of the F major seventh chord:
In a nutshell, 6-4-3 chords are basically the second inversion of seventh chords and we’ve just covered the basics in this introductory lesson.
We’ll continue our discussion on 6-4-3 chords where we’ll cover various classes of 6-4-3 chords and how they can be used in playing cyclical chord progressions as well.
See you then!