• Revealed: How Jazz Musicians Resolve The Tritone

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

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    If you want to learn how jazz musicians resolve the tritone, then you’re lucky to have arrived at this page.

    In the past, we’ve made efforts to show you the resolution of the tritone starting from the lesson where we learned how classical musicians resolve the tritone to the lesson where we also learned how a tritone can be resolved either by pushing it in or pulling it out.

    In the next 15 minutes or so, I’ll be showing you step-by-step, the jazz musician’s approach to the resolution of the tritone. But before we get into all that, let’s do a review on the tritone.

    Quick Insights On The Tritone

    Attention: I’m getting you stared on this lesson assuming you don’t know anything about the tritone.

    A proper understanding of the tritone is incomplete without a reference to the octave. The interval of an eight is called an octave and is important for a variety of reasons. The interval between C:

    …and C:

    …is an octave and encompasses 12 half steps.

    “Check It Out”

    C to C# (the first half step):

    C# to D (the second half step):

    D to D# (the third half step):

    D# to E (the fourth half step):

    E to F (the fifth half step):

    F to F# (the sixth half step):

    F# to G (the seventh half step):

    G to G# (the eighth half step):

    G# to A (the ninth half step):

    A to A# (the tenth half step):

    A# to B (the eleventh half step):

    B to C (the twelfth half step):

    According to music scholars, the tritone is a product of the division of the octave into two equal parts. Therefore, dividing the octave (which consists of 12 half steps) into two parts produces 6 half steps.

    Within the octave of C:

    …the sixth half-step is either F#:

    …or Gb:

    Consequently, the relationship between C and F#:

    …or C and Gb:

    …produces a tritone.

    A Short Note On The Two Tritone Types

    There are two known types of tritone – the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth – and both can be derived from the perfect fourth and perfect fifth intervals respectively.

    The perfect fourth and perfect fifth intervals are a product of the relationship between the first tone of the natural major scale and the fourth and fifth tones of the natural major scale.

    In the key of C major:

    …the relationship between C and F:

    …(which are the first and fourth tones of the scale) produces a perfect fourth interval, while the relationship between C and G:

    …(which are the first and fifth tones of the scale) produces a perfect fifth interval.

    The augmented fourth interval can be formed by making the perfect fourth interval larger by a half step, while the diminished fifth interval can be formed by making the perfect fifth interval smaller by a half step.

    Making the perfect fourth interval (C-F):

    …larger by raising F:

    …by a half step (to F#):

    …produces C-F#:

    …an augmented fourth interval.

    “Conversely…”

    Making the perfect fifth interval (C-G):

    …smaller by lowering G:

    …by a half step (to Gb):

    …produces C-Gb:

    …a diminished fifth interval.

    Suggested Reading: Structural And Functional Differences Between The Augmented Fourth And Diminished Fifth Intervals.

    “In A Nutshell…”

    Although a tritone can either be an augmented fourth or a diminished fifth interval, it is important to note that the former is called the tritone while the latter is called the inverted tritone.

    Let’s go ahead and evaluate the intervallic nature of the tritone.

    The Intervallic Nature Of The Tritone

    The tritone can assume two forms – the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth intervals – which are arguably the most unpleasant intervals in music. Generally, augmented and diminished intervals sound harsh, consequently, they are classified as dissonant intervals.

    The tritone when played, sounds unstable and lacks a sense of repose that the perfect fourth and perfect fifth intervals have. Several centuries ago, it was labeled as the devil in music or the devil’s interval.

    Dissonant intervals like the tritone tend to move to stable intervals when played. A tritone resolves when it eventually moves to a stable interval.

    The Regular Resolution Of The Tritone

    The resolution of a tritone depends on its description – whether it’s an augmented fourth or a diminished fifth interval, and I’ll be showing you step-by-step how either of them can be resolved.

    “In The Resolution Of The Augmented Fourth Interval…”

    The tritone F-B (an augmented fourth interval):

    …can be resolved by raising B:

    …by a half step to C:

    …and lowering F:

    …either by a half step to E:

    …or a whole step to Eb:

    Therefore, the tritone F-B (an augmented fourth interval):

    …either resolves to E-C (a minor sixth interval):

    …or to Eb-C (a major sixth interval):

    “In The Resolution Of The Diminished Fifth Interval…”

    The tritone B-F (which is for all intents and purposes a diminished fifth interval):

    …can be resolved by raising F:

    …by a half step to F#:

    …and lowering B:

    …either by a half step to A#:

    …or a whole step to A:

    Therefore, the tritone B-F (a diminished fifth interval):

    …either resolves to A#-F# (a minor sixth interval):

    …or to A-F# (a major sixth interval):

    That’s the regular resolution of the tritone; let’s proceed to the jazz musician’s perspective to the resolution of the tritone.

    How Jazz Musicians Resolve The Tritone

    Jazz is America’s classical music and has advanced in in so many ways – from rhythm, to form, to harmony, melody, etc. With the evolution of harmony in jazz, there’s more harmonic freedom for the jazz musician.

    With the introduction of tritone equivalence into jazz harmony, there came an effervescence of other subtle ways to resolve the tritone.

    The Concept Of Tritone Equivalence

    Pursuant to the regular resolution of the tritone in classical music, the tritone B-F:

    …is considered as the third and seventh tones of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …consequently, it is resolved either to a C major triad:

    …or a C minor triad:

    …while its enharmonic interval F-Cb:

    …is considered as the third and seventh tones of the Db dominant seventh chord:

    …consequently, it is resolved either to the Gb major triad:

    In the concept of tritone equivalence, the following is obtainable:

    The augmented fourth interval and its inversion (the diminished fifth interval) are considered to be equivalent. Due to the fact that inversion of F-B (an augmented fourth interval) produces B-F (a diminished fifth interval), F-B and B-F are considered to be equivalent.

    All enharmonic tritones are considered to be equivalent. The tritone E-A# (an augmented fourth interval) and the tritone E-Bb (a diminished fifth interval) are enharmonic intervals, consequently, they’ll have the same resolution.

    “In Other Words…”

    Although B-F is traditional meant to resolve to the C major or C minor triad, it can also be resolved exactly the same way F-Cb (its enharmonic equivalent) is resolved.

    A jazz musician can resolve the tritone B-F:

    …in four different ways.

    “Check Them Out…”

    B-F:

    …can resolve to the following…

    The C major ninth chord:

    The C minor ninth chord:

    The F# major ninth chord:

    The F# minor ninth chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The jazz musician has the freedom to resolve the tritone in diverse ways using his knowledge of enharmonic intervals and the inversion of intervals.

    Final Words

    Having seen the multi-dimensional resolution of the tritone from the jazz musician’s standpoint, I do hope that you’ll make the most out of the tritone, especially in terms of using them to connect scale degree chords.

    Lest I forget, although this lesson focuses on the jazz musician’s perspective to the resolution of the tritone, musicians who play other related popular music styles like gospel, blues, etc., can apply the concept learned in their playing.

    I’m looking forward to our next discussion on the tritone.

    See you then!

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    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.

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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 dapo

    great job. sir. can a pianist resolve to any chord other than this?
    remain blessed

    Reply

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