0006. Pentatonics as superimpositions – abilities and techniques, part 1

Let`s discuss pentatonics in role of superimpositions, what benefits they give and how we could control them.

First of all, pentatonic (of any kind), built entirely of vertically stable tones, allows us to use pentatonic-based melodic lick in different harmonic contexts, with no modifications. Only condition – avoid tones and chromatics (remaining 7 tones of 12) should be rhythmically passive, unemphasized.

Let`s hear an example.

I think such feature is encouraging (because there`s no chance to fail). Moreover, ear and sense of phrasing are very positively provoked, when one exactly knows what notes are reliable for sure.

And if you are conscious about modal context, when playing pentatonics, they will help you to find the right fingering of modes (because only two modal tones still missing).

Pentatonics are even more powerful and interesting as a vertical structure, chord.

If we organize sounds of pentatonic not in a row, but skip every other one, we would get quite even intervalic pattern where fourths heavily prevail. (Such deployment is perfectly convenient for guitar players, for whom I have special fingering course.)

For example: A C D E G A C D E G A and so on. Bold notes are separated by such intervals: p4, p4, p4, M3, p4.

Wide deployment of pentatonics causes heavy quartal sound. 1 4 b7 b3 5 1 instead of 1 3b 4 5 b7 1.

(to be continued)

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0005. Types of chords vs types of pentatonics

Everybody knows that minor pentatonic reflects features of most minor chords, scales or modes (must be with b7 and 4), because of it`s evident structure: 1 b3 4 5 b7.

Measured from b3 (considered as new root), the same tones give structure of major pentatonic: b3 4 5 b7 1 = 1 2 3 5 6. It covers qualities of many major chords, scales or modes.

Following explanation is written with particular letters, to emphasize close relation between pairs of relative pentatonics, which in fact are the same thing.

  1. Minor pentatonic equaly reflects features of m7, maj7 and similar chords:

Am7 fits Cmaj7 as 1 b3 4 5 b7 (A C D E G) fits 1 2 3 5 6 (C D E G A)

Let`s discuss remaining asymmetric seventh chord types: dom7, 7alt, m7b5, m maj7, maj7#5.

  1. Features of dominant seventh chords are well reflected by minor pentatonic with major third (M3). Measured from 3rd degree it also perfectly fits with 7alt (enharmonically = m7b5).

A7 fits C#7alt (= C#m7b5) as 1 3 4 5 b7 (A C# D E G) fits 1 b2 #2(b3) b5 #5(b6) (C# D E G A)

  1. m maj7 features are reflected by minor pentatonic with major seventh (M7). Measured from b3rd degree it also covers maj7#5.

Am maj7 fits Cmaj7#5 as 1 b3 4 5 7 (A C D E G#) fits 1 2 3 #5 6 (A C D E G#)

Newly introduced types of pentatonic contain not only plenty of missing m2, M7 and tritone intervals, but also all four possible kinds of triad: major, minor, diminished and augmented. I dare to state, that three types of pentatonics, shown above, are various and versatile enough to act properly in whole range of musical situations.

That also could be proved by mathematical research, which shows us where pentatonics could be used as superimpositions (five-voiced chords).

pentatonics as superimpositions

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0003. List of superimpositions. Modal control

Mathematical research of superimpositions took a great deal of time. 8 basic types of seventh chord were combined with each other, one of them – static (basic chord), another – varying trough chromatic scale (possible superimposition). In total 768 pairs. Great part of them misfit, some results were rejected because they contained avoid tones.

Here you could see and test a part of final list I`ve got. For full version contact me directly advancedharmonyblog@gmail.com

partial list of superimpositions of 7h chords

Any basic chord could fit with several scales and modes at once, whose have identical 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th`s. Further list shows what scales / modes and seventh chords have common degrees.

how 7th chords fit with modes

Because superimpositions add modal 2nd`s, 4th`s and 6th`s to arpeggio of basic chord, they could be interpreted as modal. We could list and use them in groups – each group for each mode, with root of basic chord.

For instance, we could define what superimpositions update Cm7 chord up to C dorian #4 mode (add 2, #4 and 6 to basic arpeggio). Let`s see and hear it.

Next is the partial list of superimpositions organized mode by mode. Because some modes have plenty of avoid tones, they are not represented there at all.

If basic chord could not be extended vertically, it may be used in pair with other diatonic chord, which contains missing modal tones. Such one could not be considered as a superimposition.

For instance, Cm7 (C, Eb, G, Bb) has only one stable vertical tension in C phrygian context: it`s 4th (F). Unstable tones (Db and Ab) could be successfully represented by Dbmaj7 chord (Db, F, Ab, C), but this is subject of another study.

Notice that superimpositions also could be extended, according to modal context they belong. Next to each available superimposition, brackets contain the name of diatonically correct mode for it and numbers of degrees – what tones in basic chord are actually hit.

some superimpositions in modal context

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0002. Superimpositions – avoid tones avoided

If we are able to define what chord substitutions do not contain avoid tones (modal, but vertically unstable) or chromatics, we could get a great list of harmonic substitutes surely suitable for vertical use. Let`s call them superimpositions.

Superimpositions also should not provoke arpeggio conflicts with basic chords. For instance, there is no place for 7 and b7 or 5 and #5 together (also check alternate spellings).

Every tone of superimposition whether duplicates arpeggio of basic chord, whether works as colorful and stable modal feature – so called tension (2 or 9th, 4 or 11th, 6 or 13th).

Just to be sure: avoid tones are modal upper structures – 9, 11 and 13th`s, – working only as passing or chromatic notes, because of their harmonic instability.

For instance, upper structures of ionian mode are 2, 4, 6; but only 4th (11th) is harmonically unstable. It`s avoid tone. Upper structures of lydian mode are 2, #4, 6; all of them stable, so there`s no avoid tones in lydian mode at all.

Let us hear and compare 4th and #4th vs maj7 chord. Avoids tend to be immediately resolved, until then we feel kind of anxiety.

Most avoid tones meet one basic criteria: they are by minor second (including interval inversions and octave displacement) above the tones of triad (1, 3 and 5). But not always. Perception of harmonic stability is cultural and quite subjective question, therefore some of avoid tones are just recommendable.

There is my personal list of 28 asymmetric scales / modes (suitable for vertical use), with avoid tones marked grey. It will serve as basis for further construction.

avoid tones in 28 modes

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