~ groups of pitches ~

'simply an additive pitch by pitch discovery to create the groups of pitches (scales) from which we create our motifs, melodies, licks, riffs and ditties, the diatonic realm, arepggios and chords'

~ creating our melodic colors ~

~ the diatonic realm ~ the modes ~

~ a one pitch tritone ~ a two pitch tritone ~

~ 3 in 1 for minor ~

diatonic augmented triad

'the loops of pitches from which we create our melodic ideas ... '

 

 

 

 

In a nutshell, 'groups of pitches.' Just a fancy way to say 'a scale or mode?' Yea pretty much. The only caveat being that if we think of, and practice scales as scales, our melodic ideas when making music just might end up sounding like scales. And how musical are scales? You decide.

So learning wise, there's an artistic concern here. Easy fix. We flip the bit to think that scales are naturally occurring, selected 'groups of pitches.' Now today set in stone, our groups today are scales from ancient times.

While scales sound like scales, and their learning puts the pitches under our fingers, we create our melodies and improvised ideas from groups of pitches. For there's more to the shedding, as scale shapes blossom into art.

So, same critters really. These 'scales and groups.' Same spots, and stripes, and notes and symbols, same sounds and hues and arpeggios too, and even the chords jump right in too :) Groups, from which we create our ideas.

A definition of a scale. A succession of notes, normally either a whole tone or a half tone apart, arranged in ascending or descending order.

Americana pitches. In creating the necessary pitches to make the various Americana musics, we really need two sets of pitches; one set of very finely tuned pitches to make the chords. And one not so fine tuned set to make the blue note hues in the melodies. And while we can measure and label these blue notes in regular terms, we can also alter them past their regular limits and in doing so, create the blue's rub; that purely original Americana magic that sounds out loud and clear when we purposely rub these uniquely tuned sets of pitches together.

So in the following discussions we extract our core melodic loops from the 12 pitch chromatic scale. To build up the basic groups of pitches, the various scales and modes, from which we create our melodies. These groups will then become the arpeggios, some of which we then stack up and sound together making the chords.

Three main elements + time. We theorists form our pitches into the scales, arpeggios and chords that we motorize through time to make our music. This book's core discussion of the Americana scales follows below. Click off for the arpeggios, chords and time discussions.

An additive evolution of melody. Woven through all of our discussions is the theoretical and philosophical basis of a simple numbering of elements. That any given topic or component can be initially defined stylistically by its number of actual pitches. Further, that by adding or removing pitches from our full, 12 pitch creative palette, we can sense and trend an evolution of musical style.

With grouping pitches for creating melodies for songs, we start with five pitches for making major, happy melodies our kids. We then flip these to minor and add one pitch for Americana blues melodies. Then flip it back over to major and add a pitch or two for gospel and folk styled melodies. At seven pitches our group kabooms in multiple ways. And from there? Just adding new pitches one by one up to 12, for making country, rock and pop melody lines and jazzing them all up.

Number of and location of the half steps. Locating where the half steps live in any group of pitches just might be the easiest way to capture each group's unique character. And does the number of half steps in a group, usually there's two, help shape and tell of its tonal gravity? It surely can. And is the tonal gravity pull between pitches a half step apart like the pull in the timing of swing ? Read on and discover :)

Advancing theorist. For the advancing theorist reading here, that knows about scales, there's really just the one idea for 'groups of pitches.'

Simply that our 'groups of pitches' today are the perfectly closed loops of pitches from which we create our melodic ideas; melody, harmony, improvisations etc. Experienced players know the sounds of scales. Creating an idea from a 'group', while simply rhetoric for some, becomes perspective for another, that reshapes lines to sound 'less scale like' and more 'storyline melodies.'

Subbing for the term 'scale' to a certain extent, a 'group' also includes the multifaceted, diatonic properties that each pitch in a 'scale' brings to the conversation of the group as a whole. Their modes? Yep.

Many solid properties including; modes, shades of major / minor, arpeggios, colortones, 'parent scales' for phrases, intervals, sequences, soloing through and or over the changes, revolve around this 'group' idea. Our chosen group creates what is diatonic, thus establishing the initial boundaries of a select group of pitches. Surely a stabilizing perspective for venturing on.

History ~ theory overview. We modernés of today know of the ancient music potentials by way of that cave bear flute found back in 1995 in Slovenia. What we do not know of course is what melodies got played. Oh well, can't know everything. We can know our Americana roots, the pitches used and the general idea of the music being created. And once we get to post 'Edison' days, we're really kind of good to go in knowing of the music through audio recordings.

Overview: Having created an overview of our 12 pitch musical resource in the silent architecture of music and then examined the interval loops, then added the Yin / Yang balance of major and minor, all with a dash of historical spice, mathematics and whatever else came to mind, we can begin to perhaps more logically comb out the more defined groups of pitches from which we create the Americana sounds we love. So as with our loops study, where we started with our smallest intervals, we'll create and sequence our melodic groups here by starting small and evolving pitch by pitch.

Of course it is no coincidence that our smallest grouping of musical pitches may also live at the historical core of all our music. And while there are other possible groups, using additional intervals in the mix, it turns out that in our everyday musical lives just one interval grouping or formula has created the bulk of our melodic material. This of course is the seven pitch diatonic major scale / Ionian mode / natural minor / Aeolian mode partnership. For me, this group provides half the Yin / Yang balance and basis of our local musical universal. The other half? Why the blues and its blue notes of course :)

Tuning magic. And while the melodic importance of the aforementioned seven pitch major scale / grouping in our AmerEuro music might never be overstated, we should add into the mix now about how we modernists tune these pitches today. That our modern tuning system is what creates what becomes our entire pitch resource.

For in today's modern system, all of our groups / scales, their modes, arpeggios and chords, are equally project-able from each of the 12 pitches, thanks to the mathematics of equal temper tuning. Without which, much of the intune chords and borrowing of interesting puzzle pieces, from multiple if not all of our key centers, begins to go away.

Even rhythms? Of course, rhythms too. Everything from any pitch ( or anything from anywhere ). Crazy I know and all of it originally based on the nearly now 2500 year old Pythagorean cycle of pitches and its eventual equal temper tuning, firmly established in the 18th century.

So if we get all of our melody and all of our chords from these ancient groups, no wonder they are still around eh? What about the blues? I knew you'd ask that. As we'll soon see, the blue notes / melodies are pure core Americana pitches too. That we find the blue colors woven into nearly every nook and cranny of our myriad of different styles and sounds makes them all the more difficult to theorize about.

We'll theoretically find them in the following discussion sandwiched in between the organic evolution of our five note group into a six for the blues before adding one more for our grouping of seven. Sort of a missing link? Maybe. Do read on and discover their theory and then just decide for yourself where to place them in your own understanding of the musics.

~ with five ancient pitches arranged by the Mother, a place to start ~

Groups: A five note grouping of pitches. At the historical and theoretical core of the Americana melodic sounds we find the five pitch grouping commonly referred to as the pentatonic scale. Found by musicologists in many indigenous cultures, our own Native Americans own this group of pitches. Turns out that all improvising musicians love these pentatonic groupings in that there are really no 'bad' pitches in the bunch, when used for improv over appropriate changes.

Initially we've two basic varieties of this grouping of five; major and minor, can you hear the difference between the two? Major and minor? This first idea is in the major tonality. Remember this ditty from way back when? Thinking from the root pitch C. Example 1.

"Shortnin' Bread." "Mama's little baby loves shortnin' shortnin' ..." Know this melody? The carefree, whimsical nature of this melody embodies one of the essential emotional character qualities of the major pentatonic group of pitches. When we hear melodies that create this sense of jaunty-ness and joy, good chance they too are pentatonic lines.

wiki ~ "Shortnin' Bread"

With its handful of pitches and joyous nature it is no surprise that we find this major pentatonic color creating musical tones for children, world music, rock, reggae and the pop styles. Why even those garden wind chimes, that bless us with their melodic strains, as freely wrought as the breeze that stirs them to life, are often the five notes of the pentatonic major group of pitches.

Historically an essential grouping of pitches, we'll find pentatonic melodies in the early music cultures of China, Africa, our own Native American Indian cultures and that of the Celts and Scots of the British Isles. So its pitches surely have been with us for a very long time.

wiki ~ Native American music

Extracting the pitches. Thinking of the "Shortnin" melody just above, now that we have a wee bit of real art to examine, let's become the scientist and figure out what pitches and intervals the composer used, look for patterns and generate new avenues to explore based on the theory of just this group of five ancient pitches.

Music / math. We can do this by simply extracting the five different pitches of our melody from the twelve pitches of the chromatic scale. We then examine the distance between the pitches, their intervals, to create our pentatonic scale formula. Thinking major, from the root / tonic pitch 'C.' Example 1a.

chromatic scale
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#
A
A#
B
C
pentatonic scale
C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
A
.
.
C
intervals
whole step
whole step
minor third
whole step
minor third
C to D
major 2nd
.
C to E
major 3rd
.
C to G
perfect fifth
.
C to A
major sixth
.
C to C
perfect octave
formula
whole step
whole step
minor third
whole step
minor third

Examine the intervals. Thinking from our root pitch 'C', the major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 5th and 6th intervals combine to create the overall coloring of the major pentatonic group of pitches. Easy enough huh?

Also, in measuring the intervals between the pitches, we find two minor third intervals within the octave span. Hmm, what might that imply? And note also that there are no half steps in the formula yet, the basis interval of our chromatic scale.

Major pentatonic melodies. So what style of music can we create with these five core pitches? What triads or chords if any? The melodies would be along the lines of "Shortnin' above, so mostly jaunty songs for kids to sing along with easily. Surely some folk and gospel tunes.

Want triads with these pitches? Working diatonically, so with just the five pitches, we get two triads; one major one minor. And these are the relative major and minor triads? Yes they are. Thinking from 'C' again, we get the 'C major and 'A' minor triads. The core of it all? Yep, white keys on the piano, so at least through the styles up to when the blues comes along. Chords happen real nice with the seven pitch diatonic scale. We'll get there soon enough adding one pitch at a time.

A Yin for every Yang Within the intervals in the major pentatonic scale scale formula we quickly discover the seeds for also the minor tonality. The minor third interval from A to C is the key. Here are the pitches, this time using the 'flat' accidentals in making up the chromatic group, of the C major pentatonic group of pitches now morphing into its relative minor, the A minor pentatonic group. Super theory game changer here? Example 2.

chromatic scale
A
Bb
B
C
Db
D
Eb
E
F
Gb
G
Ab
A
pentatonic scale
A
.
.
C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
A
intervals
minor third
whole step
whole step
minor third
whole step
A to C
minor 3rd
.
A to D
perfect 4th
.
A to E
perfect fifth
.
A to G
minor seventh
.
A to A
perfect octave
formula
minor third
whole step
whole step
minor third
whole step

Examine the intervals. The first leap of the minor third from our root pitch 'A' up to the minor 3rd 'C' gives away the tonality.

Any group of pitches, arpeggios or chords that uses this root / minor third interval basis is minor.

Conversely, root / major 3rd is always major yes?

So we can see the exact same pitches creating our two distinct tonalities. While we lose the 6th from the major group, we do gain a 7th in minor, which here is a whole step below or octave root note. This is the essential minor or blue 7th of the musics we call the blues and anywhere through Americana where the blues has an influence to any greater or lessor degree.

A place to start. For many of us a guitar players, the minor pentatonic grouping of pitches is where we started our journey into the world of creating the sounds of Americana music. This next idea is the somewhat ancient European melody that becomes in 1800's America the newer "House Of The Rising Sun." Way later it becomes a #1 pop hit for The Animals in the 1960. Find these pitches and express some built right-in core essential minor key coolness. Think 'A' minor and same scale shape as above. Here's what we can get with five pitches or so. Example 2a.

wiki ~ Rising Sun
wiki ~ The Animals

Classic line yes? Maybe play it real simple at first. Sing along with your guitar notes and feel and find their power for you. Combine and strengthen up knowing exactly where to find the pitch you're hearing, then lean hard on these pitches with practiced confidence. Jazz it up by adding your own voice inflections on the pitches. Then find these inflections on the strings. Learn or write some new words and testify they from the heart. All a very simply process, just 'sing the line, play the line.' Over and over till rote memorized and it becomes second nature, and we begin to think ahead.

These melody notes of the minor pentatonic are the essential basis of our blues music and the blues scale, whose theory follows next. Strengthen up to be able to count it off and weave and string these five pitches through a few choruses of 12 bar blues and a true cornerstone is laid in your musical foundation. One that shapes memorable music over our recorded history.

audio / vid of the process /

Original forms of minor pentatonic music. One key aspect of creating minor pentatonic / Native American melodies to remember is that a large number of voices usually sang the same melody line together, in unison. And while they probably strove to be in tune (?) or not as the case maybe, recordings and 'ear witness' accounts tell a different story.

That the 'in and out' of tune quality of multiple voices can be the spice to get the minor pentatonic pitches to resonate together, increasing their powers. As guitarists, we often 'push the pitches around,' be bending and vibrato. And as soon as we do, we feel these pitches charge up as we bump right into the power of the blue notes and the blues flavor in Americana melodic lines.

This multiple voice / multiple pitch quality is also found in through the early Americana gospel, early revival blues singing. That this slightly 'out of tune' quality of pitch and intonation, created by many voices raised together in song, just might be an integral component of the spiritual allure and magic we seek when presenting this historic music today.

Any triads / chords from these five pitches? Just the same two as from the major pentatonic group; a mostly 'A' minor 7th, with a sus 4 / 11. And a 'C' major 6 and 9 styled color. Example 2b.

~ six pitches minor ~ super theory game changer ~

5 + 1 = 6. Our next group evolution evolves by adding one additional pitch to the five notes of the minor pentatonic color. Turns out that the pitch we need is the one that lives at the midpoint of our perfect octave span. Examine the pitches. Example 3.

chromatic scale
A
Bb
B
C
Db
D
E
E
F
Gb
G
Ab
A
octave midpoint
A
.
.
.
.
.
Eb
.
.
.
.
.
A
A to Eb
augmented 4th / 5th
tritone
A to A
perfect octave span
blues scale pitches
A
.
.
C
.
D
Eb
E
.
.
G
.
A

Minor pentatonic five + one tritone = blues scale. By adding in this octave mid point pitch, also named an augmented 4th, diminished 5th or the tritone, the all important core blues scale, or grouping of pitches :) emerges. As the term itself implies, the tritone interval encompasses 'three tones,' or three whole steps. So six frets on one string? Yep, six frets.

Purely chromatic. With this tritone insertion we also gain a bit of purely chromatic color into what was a half step free zone of the minor pentatonic group. Work these pitches over an A minor or A7 chord vamp or a 12 bar blues track and search for the coolness within. Here's the basic shape in 'A.' Example 3a.

If there was ever a historical home for the Americana sounds, surely this grouping of pitches would live there. We can easily research and find documentation of these default Americana blues colors in Ragtime (1890's), early jass (1900's), the blues (1910), Louis Armstrong's jazz (1920's onward), swing jazz (1930's), bebop (1940's) rock n' roll (1950's), blues / acid rock (1960's), electric blues and rock (1970's), disco (1980's ... well maybe not disco) but surely in James Brown's 1980's funk, Stevie Ray Vaughn blues (1990's) and even today in the _________ style (s) of this new millennia. And surely this essential color existed prior to our known written records. How far back is everyone's guess. Is there any real blues-less Americana musical era?

wiki ~ Louis Armstrong
wiki ~ James Brown
wiki ~ S.R.Vaughn
wiki ~ Blues research

Adding the tritone. This next idea simply bluesifies the minor pentatonic idea included just above. We blusify by slipping in the tritone into the line. Example 3a.

So very common. This tritone additive is very, very common in any of the blues infused rock and beyond American musical styles. Metalists might surely recognize this rip off from what today has become a metal anthem originally done by British rockers back in '72.' Simply a timeless minor pentatonic idea with a dash of the tritone spice.

wiki ~ heavy metal anthems
wiki ~ British rockers

A big tritone vamp. Getting momentarily away from things a bit but in this next idea, we give the tritone color a bit more of the spotlight. Here is a very simple yet potentially essential vamp based the interval of a tritone. Something we might hear as a head arrangement, a vamp behind a soloist or an entrance of a intriguing type yet perhaps comical character in theatrical spoofs. Count Basie and the Kansas City sounds of the late 30's and forward grooved hard on this sort of energy. Ex. 3b.

Got a spot for this line ? Big tritone vamp.

A key theory element. Do you remember the interval formula for the pentatonic scale? And if there were any half step intervals in the formula? Well, there are none and the addition of the one pitch tritone here adds the half step interval to our blues group. Actually two, as we now have chromatically filled in the whole step interval span between the 4th and 5th scale degrees. Hold onto this half step key as we're going to need it momentarily.

Back to the Blues. The blue notes go way deep of course in the American sounds. As such we can use these roots to great advantage in our music. One absolutely cool thing about the blues scale (notes) in nearly any situation is that they can be used as an 'anchor' to ground even the zaniest improvisations. That no matter how far out we go, a honking blue note can and will bring us quickly home. (That is if everyone in the band hears it :)

With roots so deep in our music, the blue notes also gives the listeners of your music, from all walks of life, something familiar to identify with and dig their ears into. And chances are that a hint of the blue color outside its traditional setting will so often bring a smile to those ears it finds to grace.

~ six pitches major ~ super theory game changer ~

5 + 1 = 6 and motion to Four. As there has got to be a balance for all, our six note minor blues has a six note major version, also with the addition of the one pitch. In this group we add in the diatonic fourth scale degree, not 'sharp Four / #4' as we did in minor, but a perfect 4th above our root pitch, to the original five of the major pentatonic grouping.

I call this grouping the 'Americana gospel' group, as it has that 'no bad notes' quality yet a full on subdominant quality. Examine the letter name pitches and scale degrees as extracted from the 12 tones of the chromatic scale. Thinking in C major, example 4.

chromatic scale
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#
A
A#
B
C
pentatonic scale
C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
A
.
.
C

gospel scale

C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
.
C

scale degree

1
.
2
.
3
4
.
5
.
6
.
.
8

A pure Americana melody. With the inclusion of what becomes the diatonic Four to our group, we now have the melody, thus triad pitches, for true 'official' motion to Four. No 'borrowing' needed as both the pitch and its major triad, appear on our palettes. We hear this theory in action in the classic "Oh Susanna." Here written in C, in 2/4, in an AAB form. Example 4a.

Got this melody under your fingers? Big hit for many stars over the decades. Simply the five pitches of the major pentatonic group plus the diatonic Four pitch. Chord wise, we get the IV major 7, ii -7, and vi -7. Examine the letter pitches and sounds. Thinking in 'C' major. Example 4b.

Roman numerals
scale numerical degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
.
8
C major scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
.
C
Arpeggio numerical degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
.
15
C major arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
.
C
chord quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
.
VIII
triads
CEGA
DFAC
.
FACE
.
ACEG
.
CEG

Cool. See the nice and clear relationship between the Two and Four chords ? With a new root pitch, 'F' maj 7 becomes 'D' min 9. Understanding this basic evolution will be a game changer for some. For chords tend to fascinate certain styles of intellects, and for the jazz leaning stylist, there's simply no end to the wonderful machinations of the 12 pitches. Examine and compare their pitches. Example 4c.

scale numerical degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
.
8
C major scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
.
C
chord quality
.
ii
.
IV
.
.
.
.
triads
.
DFACE
.
FACE
.
.
.
.

One chord built right within another. These two play a large role in evolving this towards the jazzier stylings. Two is just a sleeker version of Four. This allows it to move faster. So our overall tempos increase. It pairs with Five to make the 'Two / Five' cadential motion.

~ 7 pitches ~ a super super theory game changer ~

5 + 2 = 7. Well, for every Yin there's a Yang, so there must be a way to add a tritone color into the major pentatonic color. And of course there is. Same concept, new additive process, super nova complete game changer, yet a totally organic evolution of our resource. (Please to remember that we're music theorists here, we get 12 pitches and our math tops out at 15 or so, so it really doesn't take a whole lot to elevate our game to the super super nova level :)

One pitch two pitch. Turns out to create super nova level theory evolution we need to double up our tritone color. Use two pitches then? Yep. So while the added 'one pitch tritone / octave split' made the blues, here we need a 'two pitch tritone.' With two pitches, the tritone color we are adding becomes the interval span between the two new notes. Right on and read on:)

And from somewhere out of the chromatic ... In examining the remaining pitches of the chromatic scale, once the major pentatonic group is extracted, there's only one combination of the remaining pitches that solves this two pitch tritone interval requirement, these will become the 4th and 7th scale degrees of the major scale. Examine the letter names. Example 5.

chromatic scale
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#
A
A#
B
C
pentatonic scale
C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
A
.
.
C

major scale

C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
B
C

scale degree

1
.
2
.
3
4
.
5
.
6
.
7
8

So to evolve our five note major pentatonic color by addition of the tritone color, we'll add two new pitches whose interval span is a tritone interval. Two notes, three whole steps apart, that when sounded together, create musical tritone tension. The additive results create a group of seven pitches whose capabilities, now both melodic and also harmonic, have all been rather just stunning for the last 40 millennia or so. Compare the two major groups. Example 5a.

Stunning? Well yes. How so? By adding the two pitch tritone, designated by the x's in the scale grid above the notation, we've added in two half steps into our grouping and now create the major scale or Ionian mode grouping of pitches. These two groups, major scale and Ionian mode, have the exact same of everything, just different labels based on their histories. Most of the theory discussions in this work create the view from the major scale, Ionian perspective of things.

This seven pitch, Ionian / major scale is the primary melodic resource for creating our AmerEuro collection of songs. By far and away. When these pitches are equal temper tuned, this seven note group provides the pitch resource to create all of our chords of functional harmony. Arpeggios too? Of course? Modes? Yep.

The minor within. Just as with our pentatonic major and minor groups, our seven pitch scale has the same pairing of tonalities. In chart form, evolving the minor penta five into natural minor seven from the chromatic grouping starting on the pitch 'A'. Example 5b.

chromatic scale
A
B
B
C
Db
D
Eb
E
F
Gb
G
Ab
A
pentatonic scale
A
.
.
C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
A

minor scale

A
.
B
C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A

scale degree

1
.
2
-3
.
4
.
5
-6
.
-7
.
8

The natural minor. Our minor keyed balance to major is often termed the natural minor, Aeolian or relative minor, depending on where we find the loop. Relative to what? Well, major. Exact same pitches, just a different whole step / half step interval formula. This essential pairing can become, and very often does become, the basis of all one's thinking.

Relative major = relative minor = Ionian = Aeolian. So do all of these groups have the same pitches? Indeed they do. Is there a way to theoretically take advantage of all this 'pitch sameness' in the music we create? Indeed there is. Let's start the sorting process of these four 'unique groupings with the same pitches', by simply extracting and comparing them to the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. Example 6.

chromatic scale
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#
A
A#
B
C
major
C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
A
.
.
C

relative minor

A
.
B
C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A

Ionian mode

C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
B
C

Aeolian mode

A
.
B
C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A

So four uniquely labeled groups of pitches all with the exact same letter names. Crazy huh? Well it is what it is. So each of these four groups have the exact same pitches? Indeed they do. 'Relative' is a term that rises to prominence after equal temper tuning comes into vogue and key centers become the currency of composers. The Aeolian, Ionian and soon to be added Locrian, are the ancient labels drawn from and added to the original Greek modes of antiquity.

Two modes, same pitches. Are there any other ways we name this particular loop of pitches by using different starting points? Yes there is. In today's modern ways, we can easily create loops within a loop from each pitch, each becoming unique by the location of our two, set in stone half steps. Locate the set in stone half steps with the piano keys. Example 6a.

And these set in stone pitch locations live on our guitars too? Surely do. Find and examine the guitar's 'E / F' and 'B / C' half steps right out of the gate. Example 6b.

letter name pitches

In a major key, the two natural half steps create two ascending leading tones within the same relative group of pitches. One's a bit stronger in tonal gravity than the other. One becomes an ascending half step to our tonic pitch, 'B to C', and one 'leads us up' to Four, 'E to F.'

In minor keys, one way to think of these half steps is the flip side balance, we descend to Five by half step and descend by half step to Two. Two is the ultimate suspension above the tonic, for really creates the 'pull' to direct our tonic pitch resolution. 'Longing on Two.' We hear this '3 / 2' half step an awful lot in the plainchant style of the later Medieval into the Renaissance eras.

wiki ~ Medieval music
wiki ~ Renaissance music

The b6 down to 5, 'F to E', is as poignant a lick as we might ever get, especially with the subdominant Four chord in a minor key. In 'A' minor. Example 6c.

Feel the pull downward? Sing the pitches to internalize the magics.

Quick review. If we can visualize and recreate these same whole step / half step positions from each of our 12 pitches, we create the whole tamale. This Amigo holds the complete 'understanding of closure' we seek.

Gains in a major key with these seven pitches. There's initially three super key theory things now possible with this seven note grouping of pitches. First, we add two half step intervals into our mix which become the fourth and seventh scale degrees. The second key is a fully functioning system of modes. And third, now fully empowered with our seven pitch scale, we're ready to create the diatonic arpeggios and chords.

A half step into Four. We use the first of our two new pitches to create the fourth scale degree. We commonly call this Four, as in motion to Four, when talking chords. This forms the first of our two tetra chords in C major. Here we focus on the half step from E to F. Example 6d.

first tetra chord
C
D
E
F

Here the stepwise direction and intent of 'arriving' at Four? Known in theory as the subdominant, its role in our music, over a wide spectrum of styles, is rather vast. Towards the top of this list is this pitch's / chord's position to create a second 'resting place' within our chosen key center. Four is also very often the 'go to' pitch and chord for adding a gospel spice to the music. (Note Roman numerals to designate chords by their numerical scale degree.)

A half step into One. The second half of our two pitch tritone becomes the leading tone of any major key. Often as the penultimate pitch in melodic lines, the resolution or seeking to rest, often happens as Seven gets pulled up to One, by the sheer tonal gravity between the pitches. Here we focus on the natural half step between the pitches B to C. Example 6e.

second tetra chord
G
A
B
C

What we gain from the leading tone is the sense of impending resolution to a destination thus a release of aural tension. We often encapsulate this leading tone with its tritone partner in our vanilla dominant seventh chords, V7, as shown in the last example. This Five (V7) chord is not only the key to directing our local harmonic traffic universe but becomes a catalyst and portal to all points beyond.

Interesting also that in the addition of our two new pitches, one provides respite (Four) and one provides momentum (Seven). So again the balance eh ? And super crucial to all of the AmerEuro musical sounds we love.

With 7 pitches we gain the arpeggios and chords. Another super colossal advantage to the seven note groups is their ability to create chords. With the seven pitches, we can now build a triad (and way beyond) on each of the seven scale degrees within the groups. Are all these chords the same? Well, yes and no. Obviously the major scale and Ionian mode pitches are exactly the same so their chords are identical. Similar with the natural minor and Aeolian modes? Yep. And if all of these groups have the same pitches then their chords are identical? Well in theory yes.

The no part of this 'sameness' involves the mood of the music we are creating, and that mood is based in its key center. And while the pitches, thus chords are the same, which pitch is the center (tonal) becomes the key to opening that particular universe of musical color.

For from that one pitch we will measure our interval distances to its diatonic and non-diatonic brethren pitches, these 'intervals between' determine the moods and character of the sounds we shape to tell our tales. For while each key is built up from the same theory, they sound different from one another, and each has it's own emotional magics to be discovered.

The following chart spells out the major scale and evolves its pitches into its arpeggio, which is then segmented into the seven diatonic triads. Thinking in 'C' major, the chart becomes thus. Example 7.

scale numerical degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio numerical degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii
VIII
triads
CEG
DFA
EGB
FAC
GBD
ACE
BDF
CEG

This last chart is probably worth the price of admission into this Essentials world. All depending of course, but the ability to rote learn to spell any chord that comes along accurately, and eventually in a split second, is super giant leap for the emerging theorist. For it gives us access to the pitches of the harmony, giving us a basis to create something to add into the mix.

The half steps emerge. This next chart of pitches is all about locating the two minor 3rd intervals within the five pitch pentatonic group, and how each is now divided into its component pieces for creating the major scale. We use a whole step designated by the number one, (1) and the fraction one half, (1/2) for the half step interval. We'll use these symbols in describing all of our various scale formulas from here on out. Example 7a.

chromatic scale
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#
A
A#
B
C
pentatonic scale degrees
1
.
2
.
3
.
.
5
.
6
.
.
8
pentatonic scale pitches
C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
A
.
.
C
pentatonic scale intervals
1
1
minor 3rd
1
minor 3rd
major scale degrees
1
.
2
.
3
4
.
5
.
6
.
7
8
major scale pitches
C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
B
F
major scale intervals
1
1
1 / 2
1
1
1
1 / 2

Minor 3rd holds the half steps. From the chart above we can see that the two minor third intervals of the pentatonic group are broken up into a whole step and half step. Our first half step is between Three and Four, then a whole step between Four and Five. The second between Seven and Eight.

It is this half step motion, along with Four being the same tonic chord type as One, that help to create the sense of 'restfulness' of the subdominant's position within a major scale key center. The half step between Seven to Eight is the tonic closure and coming to rest provided by our system of key centers.

In this next idea we get a wee bit ahead of ourselves and jazz things up a bit by simply adding the 7th to each of our triads / chords in the following progression. This idea simply moves stepwise from our tonic One to Two to Three and then by half step to Four. Example 7b.

New sounds here, maybe a new voicing or two for you? The major 7th chord does seem to be making a bit of a comeback in pop music these days. As we'll see in the following discussions, it is where these half steps reside in each of our various groupings of pitches formulas that plays the key role in determining their aural color.

The leading tone. The second minor third interval of the major pentatonic group lives between Six and Eight. This time we flip the split into first a whole step from 6 to 7, then the half step 7 to 8. This last 'half step lead in' creates the leading tone built on the 7th scale degree.

This is the second pitch of our two pitch 'tritone within', creating the essential diatonic aural tension of the major scale. Here's two ways of resolving the F / B tritone tension by contrary motion of its pitches to their tonic resting points (4 and 7 to 1 and 3). Think in 'C' major. Example 7c.

Encapsulate the tritone within V7. Perhaps the most common of places we'll find this tritone tension is within a vanilla V7 chord. For from children's songs to folk, to the blues and into rock, pop, country and jazz, the tritone within V7, properly adorned, is never really out of place. In this next idea we use an open chord form of V7 resolving to its diatonic One chord, here voiced as a 'solid C', with the G bass held over as a common tone between the two chords, creating a second inversion tonic chord. For clarity, the tritone within and its resolution are bared. Again, thinking in 'C' major. Example 7d.

Cool? V7 to I is our most common cadential motion, which brings us to a sense of rest in the music.

A common jazz way. In this next idea we take the same two pitch tritone and jazz it up with the color tones, creating more of a jazz styling for the essential Five / One cadential motion in 'C.' Example 7e.

This last idea uses common jazz chord shapes to create the cadential motion. We would often find a Two chord before Five, creating the Two / Five 'cell', that opens up harmonic new ground for the evolving guitarist.

The art of ... In using our tritone bearing dominant V7 chord, we can legitimately cruise to any of our 24 key centers, 12 major and 12 minor. By simply sounding the V7 chord of any key center, we set up the 'possibility' of going there to find some rest and resolution.

While the raw dissonance of the tritone is often too overpowering of a color in some musical styles, used artistically it can, and surely has over the last 500 years or so, been a crucial artistic catalyst, whose resolving properties have enabled us to evolve the harmony, thus expanding the harmonic basis of melody, both written and improvised.

Composers often use these half steps as the lead tone to create the artistic sense of direction, what I term in this work as tonal gravity and aural predictability, basically creating the sensation of tension and its release in our music. The idea of controlling this powerful dynamic, especially for improvising musicians, is termed here the strength of the player.

The idea of V7 / tritone being the traffic cop, as mentioned above, is all about the tritone color that lives within a dominant 7th chord, which creates and directs the tension to energize the sense of moving towards a resolution, or not as the case may be.

The blues :) This tritone dominant chord tension lives at the core of the American blues musical style both in melody and chords. The One or tonic chord in a blues tune is near always a dominant type chord (root, major 3rd, perfect 5th and minor 7th), unless the tune is in a minor key. Thus, the encapsulating tritone tension between 3 and 7 is one half of the 'blues rub' and the basis of blues harmony.

The other half of the 'rub' is created by the melody pitches we so often play over the dominant V7 blues chord changes. The blue notes are usually part of the minor pentatonic color, with or without a one pitch tritone as discussed earlier. Minor pentatonic means a minor 3rd, which in our Americana blues, gets rubbed all the time up against the major 3rd of V7. The blues rub :) Are there other 'rub' spots? Yep, but none like this one. Thinking 'blues in G', here's the rub. Careful with the finger stretch. Example 8.

This is the pitch / chord combo that can make our hair stand up? Yep, it surely can. Bring tears of joy to grown folk's eyes? Indeed. Theorywise, we scientists love a perfect diatonic world of a clear melody / chord pitch relationship, but as those in the know often know, 'it ain't necessarily so', and this amigos is the Americana blues.

Quick review, half step truth in black and white. Adjacent white keys with no black key in between? 'B to C and E to F', simply the natural half steps that are permanently built right into their location of our conventional pianos. These two half steps make for C major / A minor key centers. Remember, there's half steps all over this critter, any two adjacent keys.

Please do examine the keys the next time your near a piano as these are set in stone so to speak, thus the same on any piano, providing a solid 1000 year foundation for our theoretical musings. Example 9.

 

It must be. Of course it is. If there is an A minor pentatonic scale made with the same pitches as the C major pentatonic scale, then surely is there an A natural minor scale that shares the same pitches as the C major scale? Absolutely. Locate the pitches on the keyboard illustration above. Here are the pitches on guitar in mp3 action. Example 9a.

Same pitches / different intervals. As we can see from the chord diagram above the notation that we're using the same pitches to get both the major and minor environments. So as discussed above, it is the intervals between the pitches which create the two tonalities which we conveyed in just four bars. Pretty handy for sure and a simple beginning for a 'sky's the limit' pitch perspective of our creative potential.

Same pitches create other groupings? Absolutely. So if we can work these same pitches from 'C to C' and create the 'C' major scale and 'A to A' for the 'A' natural minor scale, why not create a looping group from each of the different pitches within this loop?

Well, we absolutely can and depending on musical styles, we so often do just that. What shakes loose, from this different grouping approach of the same pitches, we today commonly term the modes.

These 'mode groups' go way back in history, having origins in ancient Greece. As we move forward in history, we can clearly hear modal sounds in various cultural and ethnic stylings. In today's cornucopia of musical sounds it is not uncommon to associate the Mixolydian grouping with Celtic music, or the Phrygian color with the flamenco sounds of the Iberian peninsula.

wiki ~ Celtic music
wiki ~ Iberian Peninsula

Most of today's modal system comes to us from this cat Glareanus, who nearly finalized our modern system of modes by adding in Ionian and Aeolian, thought to be the most popular 'tavern' modes of his day i.e., 1550's. The next evolutionary theory step will be to equal temper tune the pitches and build all this into a 'piano forte', so named by its soft and loud capability, creating the 'anything from anywhere' abilities we've enjoyed for the last 300 years or so or ever since.

Thus empowered with equal tempered tuned pitches, all our melodies, arpeggios and chords, in any and every combination, project from any of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. Since the 1500's or so, the 'rule of 18' spaced the frets to equal temper pitches for such folks as Vincenzo Galilei, master lutenist and composer, whose written work describing the 'rules of the day' we have today. Familiar name yes? Sure is, Vincenzio is the father of astronomer Galileo, who also had some new ideas.

wiki ~ the piano forte
wiki ~ Vincenzo Galilei
wiki ~ Galileo
~ stgc ~ three in one minor groups ~

Advancing the minor tonal environment. By defining our groups of pitches spectrum with the relative major and minor groups as bookends, we could view the groups in the middle, the modes discussed above and groupings which follow here, as colors that lean towards one end or the other, providing a progression of gradually differing hues of color towards each endpoint.

The following evolution of minor groupings are in one sense just borrowing pitches to lean towards the major color end of the spectrum, to spice up and cadentially strengthen our natural minor grouping of pitches. So from the natural minor we alter its pitches to gradually bring its sound back to its parallel major key center.

Evolving the natural minor Aeolian group. We initially have two historically common alterations of pitch and interval that we apply to the pitches of our natural minor scale. We can facilitate this evolution process by using our half scales, the tetrachord, which in the modern sense of today is any group of four pitches. In creating these next two groups, we'll simply alter the upper tetrachord of the natural minor scale. Examine the pitches of the natural minor scale's two tetrachords from our root pitch 'A.' Example 10.

Two tetrachords. Nothing fancy here, we simply divide our eight pitches (with octave closure), into two equal parts. In the following two groups, our lower tetrachord remains the same, providing the stability and essence of the minor tonality. We'll jazz up the upper tetrachord to open up our pitch options for melody and to create stronger, more directionally defined cadential motions.

Harmonic minor / altering one pitch. In our first evolution from natural minor, we raise the 7th up by half step to the leading tone position, in the same sense as with the major scale group. This arrangement, termed the harmonic minor scale, is a rare bird indeed. A one of a kind really, as there are three half steps in the one grouping within an octave span. Here are their respective pitches. Example 10a.

wiki ~ "Sunrise, Sunset"
scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
natural minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
3 ~ 1/2 steps
.
1/2
.
1/2
1/2
harmonic minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G#
A

What we gain with harmonic minor. Three half steps in the one group creates some interesting options in creating melodies. Even right out of the box the group sounds fairly ancient, especially when used over a minor triad.

In the harmony? A real influence is specifically with the Five chord. For with the addition of the leading tone we gain the two pitch tritone interval between the 4th and 7th scaled degrees. This translates into V7 and thus, all of the possibilities of the dominant chord type harmony. Examine the cadential motions in the following lines. Cool with the numbers? Upper and lower case Roman numerals? Five / One in 'A' minor. Ex. 10b.

The V7 is thought to be a more 'perfect' sounding resolution, thanks to the leading tone / half step to our tonic pitch 'A.' All debatable really. Any rootsy vibe organically wants to go with all minor chords. V7 on the last hold perhaps? Yet, there's now some blues hue in the V7 chord; its two pitch tritone within has the blue DNA.

Solid American roots. A nice example of the leading tone in a clear minor melody is "Go Down Moses", the 19th century gospel standard. Here in A minor and starting out with a nice leap of a minor 6th, the line clearly sounds the leading tone / half step resolution at its close. Example 10c.

wiki ~ Go Down Moses

Know this melody yet? I first learned it in elementary school, imagine that. Learn it here if need be.

Diminished 7th arpeggio ~ diatonic source. Taking full advantage of the major seventh leading tone of the harmonic minor grouping, we discover the only organic, non-symmetrical source (soon to follow just below in this discussion) of fully diminished seventh arpeggio and resulting chord. Example 11.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
natural minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
harmonic minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G#
A
diminished 7th
.
B
.
D
.
F
G#
.

This is really the only true organically grown morph of the pitches, a scale ~ arpeggio ~ chord evolution for the double tritone interval, fully diminished 7th colors. Really? Seems so. Just the one spot in the theory where this rare arrangement of four pitches calls home sweet home. Mostly a jazz thing, its double tritone nears the top of our evolutions, becoming the 'b9' portal running on V7 juice, that energizes our travels to multiple key center points. Thus providing a neat way to new key centers beyond the diatonic realm.

While we've had the three note diminished triad since our evolution to the seven pitch major / minor group, in diatonically adding the seventh we create the fully diminished seventh chord, which in theory and practice becomes a core catalyst to the historical evolution of our American harmony. Examine the distillation of these pitches from 'A' harmonic minor. Example 11a.

Cool? Need some diminished 7th chord voicings ?

Augmented triad ~ diatonic source. Also from harmonic minor, with its leading tone 7th, we've an organic source for the augmented triad. While a rarely used component throughout our Americana musics, there are some super key spots where this 'augmented' color becomes the perfect puzzle piece. Not uncommon in blues and common in jazz, the occasional augmented chord in pop is refreshing and can become a key part of a song's hook. Examine the pitches from the root pitch 'A' and the basic sound evolutions of the color. Ex. 12.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
natural minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
harmonic minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G#
A

As with the diminished colors, there's that perfect symmetry of interval in this whole tone triad. With its two major 3rd intervals, any of the three pitches in the triad can be the root pitch of the chord. So a 'three for one' deal, giving us some compositional options when composing beyond the diatonic or borrowing bits of color from other key centers to sparkle things up a bit. Examine the three sets of pitches. Example 12a.

C augmented triad / arpeggio
C
E
G#
E augmented triad / arpeggio
E
G#
C
G# augmented triad / arpeggio
G#
C
E

This basic symmetry of the whole tone / augmented colors becomes the basis of an evolution in jazz that created a whole new pathway to explore. Pioneered by John Coltrane, many who have come after have explored along this pathway. We come back full circle to our pentatonic colors, with their 'no bad pitches' improv abilities, at a heightened position through this evolution.

Klezmer colors, an exotic 'modal minor' group. We can also dig into the harmonic group and create an important 'mode within a mode' that becomes one of the core group of pitches used in creating the popular Klezmer style of music. Known for its twisty half steps and toe tapping tempos, Klezmer melody and improvised lines often rely on the cluster of pitches in its lower tetrachord to create its character sound.

wiki ~ Klezmer

We create this group from within the harmonic minor by thinking from a fourth below the root to a fifth above. Fourth below to fifth above. Examine the pitches and a melody. In 'A.' Example 13.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
natural minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
harmonic minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G#
A
Klezmer pitches
E
F
G#
A
B
C
D
E

Interesting sound yes? The half steps between tonic and Two, as in Phrygian and Locrian, and then again between Three and Four, as in the major scale, creating the core uniqueness of this grouping. For it surely is a one of a kind.

A second evolution of natural minor. In our next evolution of the natural minor group, we'll again alter another pitch of the upper tetrachord. Needing our tonic and 5th scale degrees intact to maintain our tonal center, and that the 7th has already been altered, we are left with the 6th scale degree, which we now also raise by half step to create our melodic minor grouping of pitches. Compare the three groups. In 'A.' Example 14.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
natural minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
harmonic minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G#
A
melodic minor
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G#
A

Almost ... but not quite. From the pitches above, those in the know will see we've only a one pitch difference now between the groups of 'A' melodic minor and the diatonic 'A' major group of pitches. Examine their letter named pitches. Example 14a.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
natural minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
harmonic minor
A
B
C
D
E
F
G#
A
melodic minor
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G#
A
A major pitches
A
B
C#
D
E
F#
G#
A

A 'tidal' motion. The gradual addition of pitches to the minor groups in a sense is a motion back towards the major scale. We again get this 'tidal' motion pull between major and minor with the #15 arpeggios. Compare the sounds of the letter name pitches from the chart just above. Example 14b.

A classical approach. While not something at all common in the Americana musical sounds, there is a pure theory of the classical cats that stipulates that in using the melodic minor grouping, we use different pitches depending on the direction of the melodic line. Ascending we want the major 6th and 7th, descending is natural minor. Example 14c.

"Greensleeves." Might melodic minor be the best of both major and minor worlds combined into one grouping of pitches? This surely seems to be the case for the well crafted 16th century melody "Greensleeves." So again into the wayback we go this time to find a melody line that uses aspects of each of our three minor group variations discussed just above plus a hint of major into one gorgeous tune. Know this melody? Perhaps begin to learn it now if needed. Thinking in 'A' minor. Ex. 14d.

wiki ~ "Greensleeves"

60's guitar master Wes Montgomery had a nice hit with "Greensleeves." Sounded in octaves, the line swings just fine 400 years or so later in a more jazz setting.

wiki ~ Wes Montgomery

An important jazz color. The melodic minor group can be a key color player for the evolving jazz artist. Many modern leaning players might also call these pitches Lydian b7, simply a Lydian mode with a dominant blue 7th, which is a key mode found within this melodic minor grouping.

Long story short for this discussion here, is that in jazz we often substitute one element for another. This is primarily done with chords of the songs we play. Once the chords are subbed out, our melodic, single note improvisations have these 'subbed' out changes, creating new pathways to explore.

Soloing over and through a song's written changes, and then finding additional substitution chords to spice things up and evolve the music, all have been a traditional part of the Americana blues and jazz art form since its inception back in the 1880's or so. Probably stemming all the way back to the age old format of theme and variations, the harmony, sounded by single line notes through arpeggios, continues to the rule the day and is the basis of our evolutions over generations.

So if you venture far enough on the jazz path you should eventually bump into the V7b9 chord. Its arpeggio pitches from the 3rd through to b9 builds the fully diminished chord. We'll base many of our chord substitution choices initially on V7, then into the fully diminished chord's properties found in V7b9.

So what many players do is use the melodic minor grouping as they might use the diminished scale, to create lines over similar harmonic structures, tensions and motions. As we'll see just below, the symmetrical diminished color is a very bold and recognizable character. Which down the road, might gradually wear thinner on the ears and art for the advancing artist.

Melodic minor, with its closeness to the major scale interval formula and sound, becomes what I often term a 'softened' substitution choice of the diminished sounds, that when carefully applied can retain much of the diminished colors cool essential colortone tensions, without invoking its symmetrical rigidness of character and sound.

Thus, melodic minor is just more of a naturally melodic sounding group for substitution that hones closer to the select groups of a particular chords colortones. Here back in the key of 'C' major, in this next idea we grab a snip of the 'C' melodic minor color over V7+5 and resolve to 'C' major. Example 15.

Cool with the above motion? While we're not really in Kansas anymore, we can begin to see how the theory generates ways to get out there a bit and back home.

Beyond groups of seven pitches. Numerically getting past this seven pitch group finds us very near the edge of our Americana tonal limits. While there's a couple of interesting ways to go theorywise beyond this point, the music generally created and the ways it is crafted, are not something we would ever really hear on the radio, thus beyond our immediate discussions here.

Way beyond. That said, two modern theory methods for 'interesting compositional techniques', that move beyond using our core seven pitches, are often termed '12 tone' and 'serialism.' And while jazz cats will find and use all 12 pitches on a fairly regular basis, the compositional properties of 12 tone and serialism is just a whole different way to get there. For in this approach to the pitches, we lose our sense of the diatonic and its related tonal center and tonality; the loyalty to a tonic pitch, This essentially bases all our Americana musics and without it, gets marginal play over the airwaves.

~ symmetrical groups of pitches ~

Symmetrical groups of pitches. In our symmetrical groupings; the chromatic, whole tone and diminished groups, we create our scales based on symmetrical patterns of the two core scale building blocks; the half step and whole step. Not generally used as the parent scale in composing, an awareness of each of these three core symmetrical groups is helpful in completing our melodic palettes.

While rarely if ever in children's songs or even folk music and its near brethren; in pop, blues and jazz, these three colors often create a bit of color for the perfect line or a single chord to complete our musical puzzles. Survey the Stevie Wonder or Beatles song book and you'll discover bits of these three colors deftly woven into many of pop music's most well recognized, crafted, and loved songs of the last couple of generations.

wiki ~ Stevie Wonder
wiki ~ The Beatles

Parallel motion / constant structure. A rather neat feature of really anything 'symmetrically structured' is its ability to smoothly move up and down the neck by its core interval, while retaining its 'theoretical' basis and key center relationships. Adding this theory with the built in, linear layout of fretted stringed instruments, and there's some real coolness just waiting to be explored.

Symmetrical scale; half steps only. Those that worked through the first two chapters of this section are already well acquainted with the chromatic scale. Constructed exclusively by the half step interval, we rarely see any more than bits of this color within compositions.

What we so often do as guitarists is to use chromatic passages or a half step (chromatic) lead in to an important note or chord in the music we're playing. Blues and jazz cats do this an awful lot. With good timing and rhythm, using the half step lead in with a chunk of harmony is one super powerful component in getting things to swing. Examine the pitches. Ex. 16.

chromatic scale formula
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
1/2
letter pitches
C
C#/Db
D
D#/Eb
E
F
F#/Gb
G
G#/Ab
A
A#/Bb
B
C

Ain't that a beauty. Well that's all of our pitches folks, well, one octave's worth anyway, our theory granddaddy of em' all, enharmonic equivalents included at no extra charge :) We can not only extract all of our musical elements from this group but we can create all of our musical elements from each of the 12 pitches. Is this the 'anything from anywhere' idea? Yep. Here is the sound, do sing along to check your vocal intonation. Ex. 16a.

How are your pitches as you sing along? It might take a couple of tries but it'll surely happen. Down the road, do strive to sing this group from just a starting pitch. No better way to dial in our stereo radar than strengthening to deliver an accurate accapella vocal rendition of the chromatic scale pitches.

Chromatic scale melodies. Notable written melodies created with the chromatic scale are rather rare in our American literature. From 1880's Europe we get the clearly chromatic constructed melody line titled "Entrance Of The Gladiators." Example 16b.

Remember this line? A fairly easy line to quote due to its chromatic nature yes? Pretty much start on any pitch and just move lower while adding in the rhythm.

Chromatic motion. As the name implies, our symmetrical motion will be by half step. So depending on all things considered, up or down the fingerboard and any pitch, lick, ditty, arpeggio, chord or doohickey can be 'chromatically enhanced.' This next chromatic idea finds the melodic 'Coltrane's motiv' ascending by four half steps which evolves into a 'C' major bar chord, which continues our ascent before finally resolving in the key of center 'Eb' major. Example 16c.

Did we just span seven major keys in four bars? A to Eb is a tritone yes? Six half or three whole steps? Yep. Sense what moving one melody lick or chord shape by half step might do for us? There's bits of this chromatic motion all over the Americana sounds.

Tops on this list is probably the half step lead in, that quick slip of the fingers to enhance where we land, that we can use somewhere, somehow nearly in every style. Way essential in blues and jazz, this half step lead in might be the 'easiest trick in the book.' Also for those 'chromatically' inclined, there's of course a safety helmet available for adventurous jammings.

~ the symmetrical whole tone color / augmented colors ~

Symmetrical scale: whole step / whole step. We create the whole tone symmetrical grouping of pitches by exclusively employing the whole step interval. Often termed a whole tone scale, we generally associate this melodic group with any of the triads with an altered 5th (b5 / #5). Its character of sound is quite distinct and somewhat hard to tame at times, so just not a commonly used color overall in our Americana songbook.

When we do hear it in well crafted songs, the whole tone color will often create the perfect set-up chord for what is to come. Heard a bit in pop, blues and jazz, whole tone is cool in both the natural major and minor tonal centers. Examine the pitches from the root pitch C. Example 17.

scale degrees
1
2
3
#4
#5
b7
8
whole step formula
.
1
1
1
1
1
1
whole tone pitches
C
D
E
F#/Gb
G#/Ab
Bb
C

Simple but rather potent. While our interval configuration is quite elementary, its resulting sound and color are anything but. Here are the pitches and a common scale shape for sounding them. Example 17a.

 

In practice. While often handled carefully by composers, improvising composers often come to love the poignancy of the whole tone color in some key spots in the music. In perhaps its most common chord position, here we use the whole tone color over V7+5, in the key of F minor. Example 17b.

Interesting? A new musical color for you ? Read on !

Whole tone chords. With the harmony, the whole tone color is probably more common in the minor keys, as the augmented 5th of V7 also being a common tone minor 3rd of the tonic chord key. It also teams up well with the b9, natural 9 and sharp 9, common dominant chord color tones in blues and jazz. In a major key, a most common spot is between One moving to Four. Example 17c.

Cool? The pure theory gets a bit in the way with the enharmonic spelling of the pitches between the chords but surely the 'D#' of one equals the 'Eb' of the other in minor. The motion for augmented 5th in last two bars is chromatic and lifted right out of the pop song "Because" by the Dave Clark Five, which got to #3 on the charts back in '65.' Great wedding tune, nice payday.

wiki ~ "Because" song
~ the symmetrical diminished color ~

Symmetrical scale: whole step / half step. This pairing of steps combine to create the minor third interval, which we can divide two ways. Commonly known as a diminished or whole tone / half tone scale, its exclusive reliance on the minor 3rd interval places this color towards the edge of our minor hued colors.

Diminished scale formula. Looking to the following chart of letter name pitches, we see the reoccurring interval pattern whole step (1) then half step (1/2) creating the minor 3rd cell. Repeated four times, the formula closes the loop back to its starting pitch. This repeating pattern is the symmetrical basis of the group. Examine the pitch letter names from C. Example 18.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
b5
b6
6
7
8
diminished scale formula
1
1 / 2
1
1 / 2
1
1 / 2
1
1 / 2
letter pitches
C
D
Eb
F
Gb
Ab
A
B
C

And a scale shape. This whole step / half step configuration grouping works fine for creating diminished color melodies over anything diminished. In the brighter tempos of some jazz music, it's often beneficial to have a movable scale shape that naturally lives right under our fingers.

Interesting perhaps is that the symmetrical and theoretical qualities of the diminished group also provides a symmetrical fingering shape, even with the guitar's traditional, unsymmetrical perfect 4th / major 3rd sequence of it's 'concert' tuning scheme. Dig the symmetrical diminished scale shape. Thinking 'A' diminished. Example 18a.

Find the symmetry in the scale shape? It surely can follow the four finger / four fret potential for our fretboard hand, thus potentially blaze-o-matic, with the three pitches per string thing too.

Symmetrical scale: half step / whole step. In this pairing of whole and half steps steps we can flip the above symmetry to create half to whole, our second division of the minor 3rd interval. Examine the pitches building from the root pitch 'C.' Example 18b.

scale degrees
1
b2
b3
4
b5
b6
6
7
8
whole step / half step
1/ 2
1
1 / 2
1
1/ 2
1
1 / 2
1
letter name pitches
C
Db
Eb
E
Gb
G
A
Bb
C

The half / whole symmetry group quickly highlights three colotones associated with any V7, a Five chord type. Here thinking 'C'7;

Db = b9 / passing tone / chord color

Eb = #9 / blue note / chord tone

Gb = b5 / blue and jazz note / chord tone

Using the same diminished shape just included above, here is a 2 / 5 / 1 lick featuring this diminished scale shape 5th position, a full run of all the available pitches while resolving towards 'F' major. Example 18c.

Compare the two. These two divisions of the minor 3rd interval create two groups of pitches. Examine the letter name pitches. Example 18d.

whole / half step pitches
C
D
Eb
F
Gb
Ab
A
B
C
half / whole step pitches
C
Db
Eb
E
Gb
G
A
Bb
C

Shared pitches. From the above chart we can see the shared pitches between these two symmetrical groups. Highlighted in blue, these pitches spell our fully diminished 7th arpeggio and chord, from the root pitch 'C.' So what about the other pitches in the above chart?

The first group is whole step / half step. The second is the half step / whole step construction. These are the two other fully diminished 7th arpeggios. These are built from the roots 'Db and D.' Combining the pitches creates ... ?

Three's a charm. In this next chart, we simply extract the three possible combinations that create our fully diminished 7th arpeggios, which we could stack and sound together to create the fully diminished 7th chords. Note that our pitch 'A' natural is enharmonically entered as 'Bbb', the proper fully diminished 7th interval pitch or letter name from the root pitch 'C.' Example 18e.

C diminished 7th arpeggio
C
Eb
Gb
Bbb (A)
Db diminished 7th arpeggio
Db
E
G
Bb
D diminished 7th arpeggio
D
F
Ab
B

Numerically we can add all these pitches up and be right back to our ' # of eggs in a dozen', #'s on a clock, pitches of the chromatic scale, i.e., 12. Imagine that, yet again that perfect closure of the pitches :)

Further, that due to the perfect symmetry of the diminished colors minor 3rd intervals, that in each four note group, each pitch can be the root pitch for the group.

And while these arpeggios could be viewed, and are true chord inversions, they also function as root position chords within a any song storyline. So we get the best of both. Root position chords, that perfectly invert themselves every three frets. Examine the pitches and chords within a 'C' diminished 7th chord rearranged to create the four possibilities. Example 18f.

C diminished 7th arpeggio
C
Eb
Gb
A
Eb diminished 7th arpeggio
Eb
Gb
A
C
Gb diminished 7th arpeggio
Gb
A
C
Eb
A diminished 7th arpeggio
A
C
Eb
Gb

Cool huh? Read left to right or up or down, same results. Same theory for our other two arpeggios from the roots 'Db and D?' Yes absolutely. Examine the pitches, 18g.

Db diminished 7th arpeggio
Db
E
G
Bb
E diminished 7th arpeggio
E
G
Bb
Db
G diminished 7th arpeggio
G
Bb
Db
E
Bb diminished 7th arpeggio
Bb
Db
E
G
D diminished 7th arpeggio
D
F
Ab
B
F diminished 7th arpeggio
F
Ab
B
D
Ab diminished 7th arpeggio
Ab
B
D
F
B diminished 7th arpeggio
B
D
F
Ab

Well probably no surprise we went a bit beyond 'groups' and were heading yet again for that whole tamale. That's the coolness of our theory; its own perfect closure of loop creates and endless number of ways to slice and dice the pitches and still end up with whole tamale. And the more of the tamale that turns purple, the more we understand n'est-ce pas? Click the link for full on, dedicated diminished studies discussions.

Other groupings of pitches? There is a major scale / flat 6 group and its minor Four triad to consider. There's a hybrid blues and the Bebop scale. Lydian flat 7 is a mode of melodic minor and is popular in some circles. If or when our tuning evolves to include quarter tones new groupings will emerge. There's the 'make-your-ownian' mode with any number and intervals of 12 tones.

Also, we might look to the Near East to explore a music whose pitch theory and tuning retain our earlier, Western tunings of equal temperament. These Eastern traditions 'group' pitches as ragas, as well as rhythms into 'modes.' There's the global 'folk' community of local music of a thousand cultures to explore. The internet or 'cable' music is packed with variety. Suffice to say that there's tons of cool to explore for those so inclined.

That's all for this third chapter folks. OK with the idea of groups of pitches? And how they can all be extracted from the chromatic scale? In terms of creating the written and improvised Americana melodies, we surely rely mostly on our two main groupings, the blues and diatonic major / relative minor. Modal and slight pitch variations of these groups, plus our symmetrical scales, round out a common pitch resource we've now used for a couple of thousand years, if not more.

Now that we have established this idea of groups of pitches, we'll use this concept in a couple of ways throughout this text; examining improvisation and creating lines over and through chord changes. Also, in discussing the idea of parent scales, which in reality are simply our 'groups of pitches to create melodic ideas from', with any given chord or harmony.

The idea of groups of pitches will also play a role in our more complex musical techniques such as sequencing, parallel motion, plane-ing or constant structure ideas, all of which also involve pitches and intervals. We'll also use the concept of groups of pitches in more general terms when the idea of a set group of pitches, which forms a perfectly closed and balanced loop, is simply the best way to describe the relationship between the theory and the art we create with it.

So what's next? Now that we have begun to define the exact sets of intervals / pitches we use in crafting Americana musics, our next theory step will be to transform our scale groups into their arpeggios. This becomes the intermediate point between groups and chords, our two main compositional components that energize our musical stories.

"If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Footnotes:
Appel, Willie and Ralph T. Daniel. The Harvard Brief Dictionary Of Music, p. 221. New York: Pocket Books, a Simon and Schuster Division of Gulf and Western, 1960.
Appel, Willie and Ralph T. Daniel. The Harvard Brief Dictionary Of Music, p. 221. New York: Pocket Books, a Simon and Schuster Division of Gulf and Western, 1960.

(1) Ottman, Robert. Elementary Harmony, First Edition, p. 4. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970.

(2) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle. U.S.A. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001. The theme of this wonderful book explores the historical struggle to conquer the process and implementation of equal temper tuning within European society. For those that need to get to the historical core of the evolution of our tuning, "Temperament" weaves a fun, fascinating and researched historical perspective.

(1) Appel, Willie and Ralph T. Daniel. The Harvard Brief Dictionary Of Music, p. 221. New York: Pocket Books, a Simon and Schuster Division of Gulf and Western, 1960.

Aebersold, James and Slone, Ken. Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978. I know this is a troubling stand to take but I felt I had to and as jazz player, I based it on Charlie Parker's compositions in the Omnibook. Find a copy, count the number of tunes, then compare the number of major key to minor key songs. Any real book of popular American song, by a mix of composers, will follow along similar lines in this regard.