• Top Secret: How To Resolve A Tritone By Pushing It In Or Pulling It Out

    in Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    So you want to find out how to resolve a tritone?

    “Well…”

    I believe you made the right decision because a vast majority of musicians usually DON’T go beyond learning what a tritone is and how it is used in chord formation and voicing.

    Although it’s good to know what a tritone is and how it is applied in the chord formation and voicing of dominant and diminished chords, it is equally important for every serious musician to learn and understand how the tritone is resolved.

    At the end of this lesson, you’ll be sure to have learned how to resolve the tritone either by pushing or pulling it.

    A Quick Review On The Tritone

    The tritone can literally mean any 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:

    …D and E:

    …E and F#:

    …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:

    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.

    “Here’s The Tritone In All Twelve Keys…”

    C tritone:

    Db tritone:

    D tritone:

    Eb tritone:

    E tritone:

    F tritone:

    Gb tritone:

    G tritone:

    Ab tritone:

    A tritone:

    Bb tritone:

    B tritone:

    Resolution Of The Tritone By Pulling It Out

    The tritone is a harsh and unstable interval that has the tendency to move to a more stable interval when played. When a tritone moves to a more stable interval, it is said to be resolved.

    We’re focusing on how to move the tritone to more stable intervals (aka – “the resolution of the tritone”) by pulling it.

    Pulling out the tritone can be done by moving the notes further apart from each other. Which literally looks like force is exerted on the notes and tearing them apart from each other.

    “Here’s How To Pull Out A Tritone…”

    The tritone F-B:

    …consists of the seventh and third tones of the G dominant seventh chord:

    The seventh is F while the third is B

    Consequently, playing F-B:

    …can harmonically imply the G dominant seventh chord.

    According to music scholars, dominant seventh chords are chords of the fifth degree and they resolve by moving to the chord of the first degree (aka – “the tonic chord“). This explains why the G dominant seventh chord:

    …resolves either to the C major seventh chord:

    …or the C minor seventh chord:

    Being aware of the way the dominant seventh chord resolves to the tonic chord, it’s easy to resolve the tritone F-B:

    …by pulling the notes apart to either imply a C major:

    …or C minor:

    …chord.

    Although E-C:

    …its not a C major chord, it is noteworthy that whenever it’s played, it implies a C major chord. In the same vein, Eb-C:

    …implies a C minor chord.

    Inversion of E-C:

    …produces C-E:

    …which is one of the most important intervals that make up the C major triad:

    …while the inversion of Eb-C:

    …produces C-Eb:

    …which is one of the most important intervals that make up the C minor triad:

    “Here’s The Resolution Of The Tritone In All Twelve Keys…”

    The C tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to a G major chord:

    …or a G minor chord:

    The Db tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the Ab major chord:

    …or G# minor chord:

    The D tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the A major chord:

    …or A minor chord:

    The Eb tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the Bb major chord:

    …or Bb minor chord:

    The E tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the B major chord:

    …or B minor chord:

    The F tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the C major chord:

    …or C minor chord:

    The Gb tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the Db major chord:

    …or C# minor chord:

    The G tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the D major chord:

    …or D minor chord:

    The Ab tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the Eb major chord:

    …or D# minor chord:

    The A tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the E major chord:

    …or E minor chord:

    The Bb tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the F major chord:

    …or F minor chord:

    The B tritone:

    …can either be pulled out to imply the F# major chord:

    …or F# minor chord:

    If you’re interested in learning how to resolve the tritone by pushing it in, then read on.

    Resolution Of The Tritone By Pushing It In

    There’s an alternate way to resolve the tritone, and that’s by pushing it in.

    Pushing in the tritone literally looks like exerting force on the notes and bringing them closer to each other.

    “It’s As Simple As The Previous Resolution. Check It Out…”

    Due to the fact that the third and seventh tones of the C# dominant seventh chord:

    …are E# and B:

    …(which is a tritone apart), the harmonic implication of playing E#-B:

    …is the C# dominant seventh chord:

    Attention: The C# dominant seventh chord:

    …resolves to the F# major seventh chord:

    …or the F# minor seventh chord:

    From the resolution of the C# dominant seventh chord to either the F# major seventh or F# minor seventh chords, we can see where the tritone can be pushed to.

    The notes of the tritone E#-B:

    …can be pushed in either imply an F# major:

    …or an F# minor chord:

    Although F#-A#:

    …its not an F# major chord. However, whenever it’s played, it implies an F# major chord. The same thing is obtainable in F#-A:

    …which implies an F# minor chord.

    The third intervals F#-A#:

    …and F#-A:

    …are vital in the formation of F# major and F# minor chords respectively.

    “Here’s The Resolution Of The Tritone In All Twelve Keys…”

    The C tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to a Db major chord:

    …or a Db minor chord:

    The C# tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply a D major chord:

    …or a D minor chord:

    The D tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply an Eb major chord:

    …or an Eb minor chord:

    The D# tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply an E major chord:

    …or an E minor chord:

    The E tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply an F major chord:

    …or an F minor chord:

    The E# tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply an F# major chord:

    …or an F# minor chord:

    The F# tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply a G major chord:

    …or a G minor chord:

    The G tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply an Ab major chord:

    …or an Ab minor chord:

    The G# tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply an A major chord:

    …or an A minor chord:

    The A tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply a Bb major chord:

    …or a Bb minor chord:

    The A# tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply a B major chord:

    …or a B minor chord:

    The B tritone:

    …can either be pushed in to imply a C major chord:

    …or a C minor chord:

    Final Words

    I’m sure you’ve learned something quite tangible on the resolution of the tritone in this lesson. However, it is recommended that you go ahead and learn the structural and functional differences between the two known tritone types – the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth interval.

    I’ll 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 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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