• A Classical Perspective To The Resolution Of The Tritone

    in Blues music,Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Gospel music,Jazz music,Piano,Theory

    Post image for A Classical Perspective To The Resolution Of The Tritone

    If you want to learn how classical musicians resolve the tritone, then this lesson is for you.

    A vast majority of musicians want to learn about the tritone and its uses, but only a few of them really care about learning how it is resolved.

    “Did I Just Say ‘Resolved’?”

    Yes! The tritone is unstable and when played, it has the tendency to move to a more stable interval/chord. A tritone is said to have resolved when it moves to a more stable interval/chord.

    I’m excited to share with you on how classical musicians resolve the tritone in this lesson. Read on!

    “What Is A Tritone?”

    The tritone can literally mean one of these:

    • Three tones
    • Three whole tones
    • Three whole steps

    …because the words tone and whole tone and whole step can be used interchangeably to describe the distance between notes like C and D:

    …Eb and F:

    …B and C#:

    …etc.

    Attention: Kindly permit me to stick to the use of the term whole step instead of tone and whole tone.

    The tritone is a product of the division of the octave into two equal parts. Let’s use the octave of C:

    …to illustrate this. Within the compass of the octave of C:

    …are twelve half steps:

    C to C#:

    …is the first.

    C# to D:

    …is the second.

    D to D#:

    …is the third.

    D# to E:

    …is the fourth.

    E to F:

    …is the fifth.

    F to F#:

    …is the sixth.

    F# to G:

    …is the seventh.

    G to G#:

    …is the eighth.

    G# to A:

    …is the ninth.

    A to A#:

    …is the tenth.

    A# to B:

    …is the eleventh.

    B to C:

    …is the twelfth.

    Division of an octave (of twelve half steps) into two equal parts produces C to F#:

    ….encompassing six half steps, and Gb to C:

    …encompassing six half steps too.

    Let’s focus on one tritone – C-F#:

    …for now.

    Although the tritone:

    …encompasses six half steps, it can also be considered as three whole steps (aka – “tritone”.) Here are the three whole steps between C and F#:

    C-D:

    …is the first whole step.

    D-E:

    …is the second whole step.

    E-F#:

    …is the third whole step.

    Obviously, the name tritone is derived from the consideration of the six half steps in a tritone as three whole steps.

    The Intervallic Evaluation Of The Tritone

    Before we go ahead in this study, it’s important for us to take a closer look at the tritone.

    From the definition of an interval:

    An interval is the relationship between two notes in terms of the distance between them. (Jermaine Griggs)

    …the tritone is an interval. The tritone is considered an interval because it is also a product of the relationship between two notes.

    The tritone C-F#:

    …is bigger than C-F:

    …(a perfect fourth interval) by a half step.

    Therefore, making a perfect fourth interval bigger by a half step produces the tritone (an augmented fourth interval.) A study on perfect intervals has shown that they lose their stability when they are made bigger (augmented) or smaller (diminished.)

    The inversion of the tritone produces an inverted tritone. For example, the inversion of C-F# (a tritone):

    …produces F#-C (an inverted tritone):

    A tritone and an inverted tritone look identical because they encompass six half steps each, however, intervals change in size and quality when inverted. The tritone (C-F#):

    …is an augmented fourth interval, while the inverted tritone (F#-C):

    …is a diminished fifth interval.

    In a nutshell, the tritone has two intervallic structures – the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth structures. Also take note that augmented and diminished intervals are dissonant and the tritone (which is an augmented fourth/diminished fifth interval), is no exception.

    A Brief History On The Tritone

    The tritone was discovered in Medieval Ages (between 400 and 1400 AD), when most of the trained musicians were church men and the earliest tritone that was discovered on the piano was between F and B:

    In Medieval times, music was considered as a sacrifice unto God and was predominantly based on perfect fourth and fifth intervals.

    All the fourth intervals between white notes on the piano…

    A-D:

    …B-E:

    …C-F:

    …D-G:

    …E-A:

    …are perfect, except F and B:

    …which is a tritone (aka – “an augmented fourth interval”.) The tritone is harsh, unpleasant, unstable and had the tendency to move to stable intervals when played.

    While other perfect fourth intervals were used in church music, the tritone was attributed to the devil, hence its name diabolus in musica meaning the devil in music.

    Well, over the years, the devil’s interval has finally made it to church and has not only become the toast of gospel music but of jazz music as well.

    “Here’s the tritone in all twelve keys…”

    C and F#:

    Db and G:

    D and G#:

    Eb and A:

    E and A#:

    F and B:

    Gb and C:

    G and C#:

    Ab and D:

    A and D#:

    B and E#:

    The Resolution Of The Tritone To Major/Minor Chords

    Classical musicians have a unique way of resolving the tritone to major chords and I’ll be showing you that in this segment. However, take note that before you resolve a tritone, you must be able to know if it’s an augmented fourth or a diminished fifth.

    The resolution of the augmented fourth interval differs from that of diminished fifth intervals even though both are tritones.

    The Resolution Of The Augmented Fourth Interval

    The earliest augmented fourth interval to be discovered is the interval between F and B:

    Classical musicians have a unique way of resolving the augmented fourth interval.

    1. To a major chord by lowering the bottom note by a half step and raising the top note by a half step.
    2. To a minor chord by lowering the bottom note by a whole step and raising the top note by a half step.

    “It’s Simpler Than It Sounds…”

    The augmented fourth interval (F-B):

    …is resolved by lowering the bottom note (F):

    …by a half step (to E):

    …and raising the top note (B):

    …by a half step (to C):

    Altogether, F-B:

    …resolves to E-C:

    Conversely, the augmented fourth interval (F-B):

    …can be resolved by lowering the bottom note (F):

    …by a whole step (to Eb):

    …and raising the top note (B):

    …by a half step (to C):

    Altogether, F-B:

    …resolves to Eb-C:

    “The Implication Of These Resolutions Can Further Be Understood By The Addition Of Bass Notes To The Intervals…”

    Example #1 – Resolution To A Major Chord

    Playing F-B:

    …over G on the bass:

    …implies a Gdom7 chord:

    Playing E-C:

    …over C on the bass:

    …implies a C major triad:

    The resolution of the tritone from F-B:

    …to E-C:

    …implies a 5-1 chord progression in the key of C major:

    …from the Gdom7 chord:

    …to the C major triad:

    Example #1 – Resolution To A Minor Chord

    Playing F-B:

    …over G on the bass:

    …implies a Gdom7 chord:

    Playing Eb-C:

    …over C on the bass:

    …implies a C minor triad:

    The resolution of the tritone from F-B:

    …to Eb-C:

    …implies a 5-1 chord progression in the key of C minor:
    …from the Gdom7 chord:

    …to the C minor triad:

    Let’s also check out how classical musicians resolve diminished fifth intervals.

    The Resolution Of The Diminished Fifth Interval

    Although the diminished fifth interval is for all intents and purposes a tritone, it has a different resolution. Inverting F-B (an augmented fourth interval):

    …produces B-F:

    …a diminished fifth interval. Let’s round up by learning how classical musicians resolve the diminished fifth interval.

    In the resolution of the diminished fifth interval to a major chord, the bottom note is raised by a half step while the top note is lowered by a half step.

    “Check It Out…”

    The diminished interval (B-F):

    …is resolved by raising the bottom note (B):

    …by a half step (to C):

    …and lowering the top note (F):

    …by a half step (to E):

    Altogether, B-F:

    …resolves to C-E:

    Conversely, the diminished fifth interval (B-F):

    …can be resolved by raising the bottom note (B):

    …by a half step (to C):

    …and lowering the top note (F):

    …by a whole step (to Eb):

    Altogether, B-F:

    …resolves to C-Eb:

    “Let’s Add Bass Notes To The Intervals…”

    Example #1 – Resolution To A Major Chord

    Playing B-F:

    …over G on the bass:

    …implies a Gdom7 chord:

    Playing C-E:

    …over C on the bass:

    …implies a C major triad:

    The resolution of the tritone (from B-F):

    …to C-E:

    …implies a 5-1 chord progression in the key of C major:

    …from the Gdom7 chord:

    …to the C major triad:

    Example #1 – Resolution To A Minor Chord

    Playing B-F:

    …over G on the bass:

    …implies a Gdom7 chord:

    Playing C-Eb:

    …over C on the bass:

    …implies a C minor triad:

    The resolution of the tritone from B-F:

    …to C-Eb:
    …implies a 5-1 chord progression in the key of C minor:

    …from the Gdom7 chord:

    …to the C minor triad:

    Final Words

    Getting to this segment let’s me know that you’re serious about understanding the resolution of the tritone from a classical standpoint.

    I want to encourage that you learn the characteristic differences between the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth intervals because they resolve differently.

    Thank you for your time and see you in another lesson!

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

    songtutor600x314-3jpg



    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 zino

    great i love this one ….tritone

    Reply

    2 Benard

    I love this teaching on tritones but i want to still get to lnow more about it…

    Reply

    Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: