• Explained: The Relationship Between The #4 And The b5 Tones In The Major Key

    in Piano

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    Can you invest the next 10 minutes in understanding the relationship between the #4 and b5 tones in the major key?

    Well, if you can, let’s get started by taking a look at the diatonic and chromatic tones in the major key and then we narrow it down to the #4 and b5 tones, before proceeding to the explanation of the relationship between the #4 and b5 tones.

    Are you ready?

    A Short Note On The Diatonic And Chromatic Tones In The Major Key

    Every major key diatonic and chromatic tones.

    Yes! Diatonic and chromatic may sound like big words, however, they are simpler (in meaning) than they sound and I’m sure you won’t find it difficult to understand what these terms mean.

    Let’s go straight into the term “diatonic.”

    “What Are Diatonic Tones?”

    Diatonic tones are the tones that are native to the prevalent key. In other words, the diatonic tones are the tones of the major scale — seven of them.

    In the key of C major, the diatonic tones are C, D, E, F, G, A, and B:

    …and they are basically the tones of the C major scale:

    …and are native to the key of C major:

    Diatonic tones in the key of Db major are the tones of the Db major scale:

    …and they are as follows: Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, and C.

    A Quick Review On Chromatic Tones

    The chromatic tones in a key are the tones that are outside the prevalent key and they are said to be foreign to the prevalent key.

    In the key of C major:

    …you don’t need to be told that the following tones are foreign to the key:

    C#:

    Eb:

    F#:

    Gb:

    …and are chromatic.

    The term chromatic literally means colorful and the reason why foreign tones are said to be colorful or chromatic is because if we limit chords, progressions, and songs to the diatonic tones, we’ll have a bunch of boring stuff.

    Now, the addition of foreign tones to the “boring” diatonic chords, progressions, and songs will add a lot of color and that’s why tones that are foreign to the major key are said to be colorful or chromatic.

    “What Are The #4 And b5 Tones In The Major Key?”

    The #4 and b5 tones are chromatic tones and are basically a raised fourth tone and a lowered fifth tone of the scale.

    “Let’s Start With The #4 Tone…”

    Raising the fourth tone of the scale by a half-step produces the #4 tone. For example, in the key of C major:

    …where the fourth tone of the scale is F:

    …raising the fourth tone (which is F) by a half-step, produces F#:

    …which is the #4.

    So, the #4 in the key of C major:

    …is F#:

    “Then Let’s Talk About The b5…”

    I’m sure you already have a fair knowledge of what the b5 tone is. However, let’s go ahead and talk about it.

    Lowering the fifth tone of the scale by a half-step produces the b5 tone and in the key of C major:

    …where the fifth tone of the scale is G:

    Lowering G by a half-step (to Gb):

    …produces the b5 tone.

    So, Gb:

    …is the b5 tone in the key of C major:

    The #4 Vs The b5 Tone

    Let’s take a look at the #4 and b5 tones in the key of C major:

    F# (the #4):

    Gb (the b5):

    I’m very certain that you can see that there’s some relationship between the #4 and the b5 tone and in line with the goal of this lesson, we’re going to talk about the similarities between the #4 and the b5.

    See you in the next segment.

    The Relationship Between The #4 And b5 In The Major Key

    In this segment, I’ll need your undivided attention as we’ll be taking a closer look at these two chromatic tones and the relationship between them.

    Let’s start off with their similarities before proceeding to their differences.

    The Similarities Between The #4 And The b5 Tones

    If you depress the #4 tone and the b5 tone on the piano, I’m very certain that by now you should know that both notes will produce identical sounds.

    F#:

    …sounds equivalent to Gb:

    …and that makes the #4 and b5 equivalent and if you were taking a music theory test, this equivalence is known as enharmonic equivalence.

    The enharmonic equivalence between F# and Gb is one key similarity between both notes and the reason why a vast majority of musicians use the #4 and the b5 interchangeably.

    Attention: In the next part of this segment, I’ll tell you why these notes are different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

    It would also interest you to know that both notes are all six half-steps from the key note (which is C):

    …and in all directions.

    From C:

    …to F# in ascending or descending direction:

    F# in ascending direction:

    F# in descending direction:

    …is six half-steps and so is Gb in ascending or descending direction:

    Gb in ascending direction:

    Gb in descending direction:

    Alright! Now that you’ve seen the similarities between the #4 and the #5 tones, let’s look at their differences.

    Final Words

    In subsequent lessons, we’ll explore the relationship between other chromatic tones of the scale and the right hand chords associated with each of them.

    Until then, keep practicing, improving, and making the most of the resources at your disposal.

    Very special thanks to my mentor and teacher, Jermaine Griggs, for the opportunity to share these helpful insights with you. I’m looking out for your contributions, questions, and suggestions in the comment section.

    Thanks for reading and see you in the next 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 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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    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 John Barnes

    Thanks for this. However at some point it would be a good idea (I think) to point out that that #F and bG are only equivalent if your instrument is tuned to the Equi-tempered scale. Instruments such as the violin and certain wind instruments that can ‘pull’ the tone sufficiently, and the human voice of course, can produce the correct frequency difference between, for example, #G and bA.

    Reply

    2 Chuku Onyemachi

    Thank you for your observation and I appreciate it so much.

    Enharmonic equivalence is only possible in the Equal temperament. Before the advent of the equal temperament, the Pythagorean, Mean-tone, and Just intonation tuning systems still produce pure F# and Gb pitches.

    Saying that there’s enharmonic equivalence between F# and Gb presupposes that reference is made to the 12 tone temperament (aka – “equal temperament”.)

    Thanks again.

    Dr. Pokey.

    Reply

    3 Kuete Yanick Tamou

    Please I wish to know what a flat 2 chord (2b chord) is… Including 7b, 5b etc and how to form them. I have heard that they are passing chords, but I don’t know how they look like or how to form them. Please I need help.

    Reply

    4 Chuku Onyemachi

    Thank you for your response.

    Kindly keep an eye on the blog because in a few days we’ll be out with a lesson on how to form the right hand chords of those bass notes.

    All the best,
    Dr. Pokey.

    Reply

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