• You Too Can Add That “Chromatic Twist” To Those Scale-Tone Chords (Part 1 Of 3)

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

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    If you’re interested in adding that chromatic twist to those scale-tone chords, then you’re on the right page.

    We all find ourselves in that occasion where we’re looking for an exotic sounding, harmonically sophisticated, and neck-turning chord that will spice up chord progressions and playing regular scale-tone chords will definitely sound regular.

    As a piano player with decades of experience, I’ve been in that situation where there’s need to chromatically twist regular sounding chords so they could go literally turn heads when played.

    I’m here to show you the basic approach to adding a chromatic twist to regular scale tone chords.

    Attention: All examples will be given in the key of C major and when you understand and master it, you can transpose to any other key of your choice.

    Before we get started, let’s refresh our minds on scale-tone chords.

    A Short Note On Scale-Tone Chords

    One of the easiest way scale tone chords can be defined is this:

    Scale-tone chords are the chords that are formed by the notes of the major scale in the major key (or the minor scale in the minor key.

    So, scale-tone chords are the chords of a prevalent key. For example, in the key of C major:

    …chords that are made up of the tones of the C major scale:

    …are classified as scale tone chords and their chord tones are scale tones of the major scale of the prevalent key.

    In the key of C major:

    …here are the scale-tone seventh chords:

    The C major seventh chord:

    The D minor seventh chord:

    The E minor seventh chord:

    The F major seventh chord:

    The G dominant seventh chord:

    The A minor seventh chord:

    The B half-diminished seventh chord:

    Now that we’ve refreshed our minds

    How To Add A Chromatic Twist To Scale Tone Chords

    You can modify the chord tones of any scale tone chord (apart from the root note) to produce a chromatic chord that will turn heads when played.

    So, the following chord tones can be twisted:

    The third tone

    The fifth tone

    The seventh tone

    …and in the case of an extended chord, its extensions (like the ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth) can also be twisted. However, we’ll get started in this introductory lesson with the third chord tone.

    “Here’s How To Derive Chromatic Chords By Modifying The Third Tone”

    The interval between the root and the third in tertian chords is either a major third or a minor third. In the case of the C major seventh chord:

    …the interval between its root and third tone (which are C and E respectively):

    …is a major third interval. While in the C minor seventh chord:

    …the interval between its root and third tone (which are C and Eb respectively):

    …is  minor third interval.

    In the C major seventh chord:

    …where the third tone (which is E):

    …is a major third above the root note (which is C):

    Lowering E:

    …by a half-step (to Eb):

    …produces the C minor major seventh chord:

    It is the modification of the third tone of the C major seventh chord:

    …that produced the C minor major seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The third tone of a chord can be chromatically modified from being a major third above the root note to being a minor third above the root note or vice-versa.

    “Scale-Tone Chords In The Key Of C Major With A Chromatic Twist On The Third Tone…”

    The C minor major seventh chord:

    The modification (lowering by a half step) of the third tone of the C major seventh chord (the 1-chord):

    …which is E:

    …to Eb:

    …produces the C minor major seventh chord:

    The D dominant seventh chord:

    The modification (raising by a half step) of the third tone of the D minor seventh chord (the 2-chord):

    …which is F:

    …to F#:

    …produces the D dominant seventh chord:

    The E dominant seventh chord:

    If we modify the third tone of the E minor seventh chord  (the 3-chord):

    …by raising its third tone (which is G):

    …by a half-step (to G#):

    …we’ll come up with the E dominant seventh chord:

    The F minor major seventh chord:

    The modification (lowering by a half step) of the third tone of the F major seventh chord (the 4-chord):

    …which is A:

    …to Ab:

    …produces the F minor major seventh chord:

    The G minor seventh chord:

    …is derived from the chromatic twist of the third tone of the G dominant seventh chord (the 5-chord):

    …which is B:

    Lowering B to Bb:

    …produces the G minor seventh chord:

    The A dominant seventh chord:

    The modification (raising by a half step) of the third tone of the A minor seventh chord (the 6-chord):

    …which is C:

    …to C#:

    …produces the A dominant seventh chord:

    The B dominant seventh [flat five] chord:

    If we modify the third tone of the B half-diminished seventh chord  (the 7-chord):

    …by raising its third tone (which is D):

    …by a half-step (to D#):

    …we’ll come up with the B dominant seventh [flat five] chord:

    Following the same procedure, you can chromatically twist any scale-tone chord in any key.

    Final Words

    This is just the first part of this lesson and I’ll let you practice and listen to these chromatic chords before we continue with the second part of this blog lesson.

    Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcomed. So, feel free to post them in the comment section.

    All the best!

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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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