• Who Else Wants To Know What The Quadritone Is?

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    If you want to know what the quadritone is, you are on the right page.

    In the past, we’ve covered semitones (as half-steps), tones (as whole-steps), and we even went as far as learning about sesquitones.

    Suggested Reading: Introduction To Melodic Progressions: Semitones And Wholetones Defined.

    Today, we’re going the extra mile to learn another melodic progression called the quadritone and I know it sounds so big and intimidating.

    Imagine walking up to other musicians who don’t know it and say “Hey, we’re modulating by a quadritone!.”  I bet they’ll think you’re a professor of music at that moment. But! If they read up and know what it means, they’ll know it’s just a fancy way of saying a musical concept that I’m about to show you.

    I said that to say that the term quadritone is NOT as hard as it sounds. If you give me your undivided attention, in the next 4 to 5 minutes, I’ll walk you through the entire concept.

    Are you ready?

    “What Is A Quadritone?”

    When you hear quadritone and you let these other words come to mind:




    …then you should be thinking about the number four.

    But if you’ve not come across any of those quad-words, one thing you should know about the term quad is that it is associated with the number “four” in Latin.

    Quadritone — “Four Whole-steps”

    From any given tone, if you go up (or down), that’s a quadritone. Is it that simple? Yes!

    So, from C:

    …if we go up four whole-steps:

    C to D (is the first whole-step):

    D to E (is the second whole-step):

    E to F# (is the third whole-step):

    F# to G# (is the fourth whole-step):

    So, from C to G#:

    …is a quadritone and this is because of the four whole-steps between them.

    Attention: You can also say that from C to Ab is a quadritone.

    Now, here are some quadritones:





    …and now that you can clearly see what quadritones are and with examples, let me show you the theory behind the concept of the quadritone.

    The Equal Division Of Two Octaves Into Three Equal Parts

    The concept of the quadritone is based on the equal division of the octave (EDO.) But in the case of quadritone, we’re doing the equal division of two octaves into three equal parts.

    By now, you should know that an octave has twelve equal parts called semitones (or half-steps) and if we multiply that by two, we’ll have:

    2 octaves = 12 semitones x 2

    …and that’s 24 semitones or 24 half-steps.

    Now, if we go a step further to divide these two octaves (24 semitones) into three equal parts, we’ll have:

    24 semitones / 3 = 8 semitones

    So, in two octaves, there are three parts of 8 semitones or 8 half-steps each and these 8 half-steps are also 4 whole-steps:

    8 half-steps = 4 whole steps

    …and four whole-steps make one quadritone:

    4 whole steps = quadritone

    Submission: I don’t intend to bore you with mathematics and I’m not even a fan of the subject. But I promise you that this would be clearly understood if we look at it on the keyboard.

    “Now, Let’s Go To The Keyboard…”

    From C to C:

    …are two octaves and we already know that there are 24 semitones or half-steps in this C to C octave:

    …then each part has 8 half-steps (which is also 4 whole-steps). So, the first distance of 4 whole-steps (aka – “quadritone”) from C:

    …is Ab:

    …and another distance of 4 whole-steps (aka – “quadritone”) from Ab:

    …is E:

    …and the third distance of 4 whole-steps (aka – “quadritone”) from E:

    …is C:

    Altogether, in these two octaves (C to C):

    …there are three equal parts:

    …and each of them are a quadritone:

    C to Ab:

    Ab to E:

    E to C:

    Submission: If you do the same thing in any other octave, I guarantee that you’ll get the same result.

    Final Words

    In the next lesson, I’ll show you one of the ways gospel musicians apply the quadritone and I bet you that a lot of them do NOT even know that the interval they’re playing is a quadritone.

    Now you know the quadritone and can recognize it, let’s see what the next lesson on its application has in store for us.

    If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, please feel free to post them in the comment section and I’ll gladly respond to them accordingly.

    Special thanks to my mentor and role-model, Jermaine Griggs for this opportunity to share this concept with you.

    All the best and bye for now.

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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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