• Implied Harmony: Here’s How Perfect And Diminished Fifth Intervals Can Be Used As Chord Voicings

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

    Our focus in today’s lesson is on implied harmony and how fifth intervals can be used as chord voicings.

    Attention: This lesson is written with intermediate musicians in mind. So, I assume that you’re an intermediate player who has a basic knowledge of harmony and wants to learn more about implied harmony.

    Let’s get started right away by taking a look at these two fifth interval types:

    Perfect fifth intervals

    Diminished fifth intervals

    …before we go ahead and learn how they can be used as chord voicings.

    Quick Insights On Perfect And Diminished Fifth Intervals

    The goal of this segment is to refresh your mind on the fifth intervals we’ll be using as chord voicings in this lesson.

    Can you still remember the definition of an interval:

    An interval is a product of the relationship between two notes heard together or separately.

    From the definition of intervals, the perfect fifth interval and diminished fifth interval are basically a pair of notes that can be heard together (as harmonic intervals) or separately (as melodic intervals).

    We’ll be focusing on perfect and diminished fifth intervals heard together as harmonic intervals.

    The Perfect Fifth Interval — Explained

    The relationship between the first and fifth tones of the major scale produces the perfect fifth interval. In the key of C major:

    …where the first and fifth tones are C and G respectively:

    …playing C and G together produces a perfect fifth interval (C-G):

    Using the major scale as a reference, you can derive the perfect fifth interval starting from any note.

    “Check Out All The Perfect Fifth Intervals On The Keyboard…”

    C perfect fifth:

    Db perfect fifth:

    D perfect fifth:

    Eb perfect fifth:

    E perfect fifth:

    F perfect fifth:

    Gb perfect fifth:

    G perfect fifth:

    Ab perfect fifth:

    A perfect fifth:

    Bb perfect fifth:

    B perfect fifth:

    Let’s proceed to diminished fifth intervals.

    A Short Note On The Diminished Fifth Interval

    Diminished intervals are fifth intervals that are smaller than perfect fifth intervals by a half-step. For example, the interval between C and Gb:

    …is a diminished fifth interval.

    Side-by-side with the perfect fifth interval:

    C and G (the perfect fifth):

    C and Gb (the diminished fifth):

    …you can see that the diminished fifth interval is smaller by a half-step. Consequently, lowering a perfect interval by a half-step produces a diminished fifth interval.

    For example, lowering E and B (a perfect fifth interval):

    …by a half-step (produces E and Bb):

    …which is a diminished fifth interval.

    “Check Out All The Diminished Fifth Intervals On The Keyboard…”

    C diminished fifth:

    C diminished fifth:

    D diminished fifth:

    D# diminished fifth:

    E diminished fifth:

    F diminished fifth:

    F# diminished fifth:

    G diminished fifth:

    G# diminished fifth:

    A diminished fifth:

    Bb perfect fifth:

    B perfect fifth:

    Perfect And Diminished Fifth Intervals As Chord Voicings

    The perfect fifth and diminished fifth intervals can be used to imply seventh chord harmonies and I’ll be showing you how this works.

    Let’s get started with the implied major seventh harmony.

    Implied Major Seventh Harmony

    The major seventh chord consists of two perfect fifth intervals:

    1. Between the root and the fifth
    2. Between the third and the seventh

    In the C major seventh chord:

    …there are two perfect fifth intervals:



    The perfect fifth interval between the third and seventh tones (E and B):

    …can be used to imply the C major seventh harmony:

    Playing E-B (implied C major seventh harmony) over C on the bass:

    …produces the C major seventh chord.

    “So, What’s The Relationship Between The Root Note And The Perfect Fifth Interval?”

    Playing a perfect fifth interval that is a major third above any given root note produces an implied major seventh harmony.

    For example, if A is given as the root note:

    …playing a perfect fifth interval on the third tone of the A major scale:

    …which is C#:

    …would produce an implied A major seventh harmony.

    So, the C# perfect fifth:

    …is the implied A major seventh harmony and if you take a closer look at the A major seventh chord:

    …you’ll see that the tones of C# perfect fifth interval (C# and G#) are the third and seventh tones of the A major seventh chord.

    Implied Minor Seventh Harmony

    Playing a perfect fifth interval three half-steps above any given root note produces the minor seventh harmony.

    “It’s Simpler Than It Sounds…”

    Given G (as the root note):

    …the corresponding perfect fifth interval that produces an implied minor seventh harmony is three half-steps above G and that’s Bb:

    Three half-steps above G:

    …is Bb:

    So, the Bb perfect fifth interval:

    …is the implied minor seventh harmony and you can clearly see the tones of the Bb perfect fifth interval in the G minor seventh chord:

    Bb is the third:

    F is the seventh:

    Three half-steps above E:

    …is G:

    So, playing the G perfect fifth (G-D):

    …over E on the bass:

    …produces an implied E minor seventh harmony:

    Using the perfect fifth interval, the minor seventh harmony can be implied.

    Implied Dominant Seventh Harmony

    Playing the diminished fifth interval (aka – “tritone”) on the third tone of the scale implies a dominant seventh harmony.

    In the key of C major:

    …where E is the third tone:

    Playing the E diminished fifth interval (E-Bb):

    …over C on the bass:

    …produces the C implied dominant seventh harmony:

    Following the same procedure, the dominant seventh harmony can be implied on every given bass note.

    Final Words

    We’re just getting started with implied harmony.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll learn more about their broader application in terms of voicing, progressions, and most importantly how they can be used to play songs.

    Meanwhile, go ahead and master how dominant, major, and minor seventh harmonies can be implied. I guarantee that if you stick to the procedures given in this lesson, that you’ll get the same results.

    All the best and see you next time.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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