• PHATness 101: Introduction To The School of PHATness

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano

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    Welcome to the school of phatness!

    If you’re an intermediate piano player who has gone beyond triads to master seventh and extended chords and is interested in learning how to play bigger and full-sounding chords, this lesson is for you.

    Irrespective of style or level, the basic role of a pianist in a band is to provide accompaniment to melodies. That’s why every serious pianist must sophisticate his chordal vocabulary not only with chords, but with subtle ways to play them.

    In today’s lesson, you’ll be learning tons of chords, but before we proceed, it is important for us to briefly discuss the concept of phatness.

    “What Is PHATness?”

    The term phat means different things to different people. Although the origin of this word is not known yet, it’s commonly used among musicians in the church circle.

    Within the premises of this lesson, the word phat is an acronym for Pretty Hot And Titanic and is used to describe some advanced chords and chord voicings.

    Here are some frequently asked questions:

    Can a chord be pretty?

    Can a chord be hot?

    Can a chord be titanic?

    Believe it or not, all chords are pretty, what makes a chord hot is its application, and yes! a chord can be described as being titanic when it encompasses or consists of compound intervals like ninths, elevenths and thirteenths.

    When a chord is said to be pretty, hot, and titanic, or PHAT in one word, that’s just another way of saying that the chord has advanced harmonic features, which can be seen in its width, voicing, and so on.

    In the next segment, we’ll be learning some PHAT scale degree chords in the key of C major.

    Phat Scale Degree Chords In The Key Of C Major

    The Preliminaries

    Every key (whether major or minor) has eight degrees. Due to the fact that these eight degrees can be seen on traditional scale of that key, they are commonly referred to as scale degrees.

    In the key of C major:

    C is the first degree

    D is the second degree

    E is the third degree

    F is the fourth degree

    G is the fifth degree

    A is the sixth degree

    B is the seventh degree

    C is the eighth degree

    The chords that are formed on the various degrees of the scale are generally referred to as scale degree chords.

    PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The First Degree

    C:

    …is the first scale degree.

    “Here Are Some PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The First Degree Of The Scale…”

    The C major thirteenth chord

    The C 6/9

    Phat Chord #1 – The C Major Thirteenth Chord

    The C major thirteenth chord:

    The phat voicing above is a product of the fourth voicing concept and rootless voicing concept. The former explains why the interval between E and A:

    …A and D:

    …D and G:

    …are fourth intervals.

    The latter explains why the root of the chord (which is C):

    …is missing.

    Phat Chord #2 – The C 6/9

    The phat voicing of the C 6/9 chord:

    …is a product of the fourth voicing concept and rootless voicing concept. The former explains why the interval between E and A:

    …A and D:

    …D and G:

    …are fourth intervals.

    The latter explains why the root of the chord (which is C):

    …is missing.

    PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Second Degree

    D:

    …is the second scale degree.

    “Here Are Some PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Second Scale Degree…”

    The D minor ninth

    The D minor eleventh

    Phat Chord #3 – The D Minor Ninth Chord

    The D minor ninth chord:

    Playing the first inversion of the A minor triad:

    …over D minor tenth interval (on the bass):

    …produces the phat voicing above.

    Phat Chord #4 – The D Minor Eleventh Chord

    The phat voicing of the D minor eleventh chord:

    …above consists of fifth intervals and encompasses almost three octaves.

    PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Third Degree

    E:

    …is the third scale degree.

    “Here Are Some PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Third Scale Degree…”

    The E “so what” chord

    The E minor eleventh

    Phat Chord #5 – The E “so what” Chord

    The E “so what” chord:

    is basically an E minor eleventh chord. The name so what is associated with the voicing formula used in rearranging the notes of the chord.

    Phat Chord #6 – The E Minor Eleventh Chord

    The phat voicing of the E minor eleventh chord:

    …above consists of fifth intervals and encompasses almost three octaves.

    PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Fourth Degree

    F:

    …is the fourth scale degree.

    “Here Are Some PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Fourth Degree Of The Scale…”

    The F major ninth chord

    The F major thirteenth chord

    Phat Chord #7 – The F Major Ninth Chord

    The F major ninth chord:

    In the phat voicing above, adjacent notes are used in chord formation, and the this produced a clustered voicing. F-G-A:

    …and G-A:

    …are clusters.

    Phat Chord #8 – The F Major Thirteenth Chord

    The phat voicing of the F major thirteenth chord:

    PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Fifth Degree

    G:

    …is the fifth scale degree.

    “Here Are Some PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Fifth Degree Of The Scale…”

    The G dominant thirteenth chord

    The G dominant thirteenth [sharp eleventh] chord

    Phat Chord #9 – The G Dominant Thirteenth Chord

    The G dominant thirteenth chord:

    Phat Chord #10 – The G Dominant Thirteenth [Sharp Eleventh] Chord

    The phat voicing of the G dominant thirteenth [sharp eleventh] chord:

    PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Sixth Degree

    A:

    …is the sixth scale degree.

    “Here Are Some PHAT Scale Degree Chords For The Sixth Scale Degree…”

    The A minor eleventh

    The A minor thirteenth

    Phat Chord #11 – The D Minor Ninth Chord

    The A minor eleventh chord:

    Playing the first inversion of the C sus2 triad:

    …over the E sus4 triad:

    …produces the phat voicing above.

    Phat Chord #12 – The A Minor Thirteenth Chord

    The phat voicing of the A minor thirteenth chord:

    Final Words

    Congratulations! You just learned 12 PHAT chords, and that’s pretty much a dozen.

    Now that we’re done with the formation of these scale-degree chords in the key of C major, it is incumbent on you to practice it in other major keys.

    We’re just getting started with the school of PHATness and there’s a lot more to learn about passing chords and most especially the application of these chords. We’ll cover all that in subsequent lessons.

    See you in the next lesson!

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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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