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Adding Tensions

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by voodster, Feb 14, 2001.

  1. voodster


    Feb 14, 2001
    I'm confused about tensions. In the key of C I was told that if you keep adding triads and add a 9, 11 and 13 you could play D, F# and A on top of a C major chord. It seems like D, F, A should be the tension. I'm confused because F# isn't in the key of C so why would it work?
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Aren't we talking about Extensions here rather than tensions?

    CMinor13 would include F, but CMajor13(#11) would include F# - both are vaild chords with their own sound.

    I'll leave the rest to Mike to explain ;)
  3. voodster


    Feb 14, 2001
    I guess it might be EXtensions. It was something I saw at Activebass in a lesson by Chris Tarry called "Tensions". He named Cmaj with tensions as C E G B ( D F# A). I can see in a Cmin why there'd be a F in it, but why F# in a Cmaj13?
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I didn't want to steal Mike's thunder, but in a Major chord, the 4th (same note as 11th) is an "avoid" note as it is only a semi-tone away from the 3rd, but in a minor chord the 3rd is flattened, so the 4th isn't so dissonant.
  5. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Something else to consider in this situation (F# over a C major chord):

    The #11 (which F# is over C) is enharmonic with the b5 (which would be Gb over C). The #11 is most certainly a dissonant harmony, particularly over a major tonality, because of it's relation to both the 5th of the chord and the 3rd. Mind you, dissonance can be quite beautiful when used properly! :D

    Personally I love the sound of minor 2nd intervals in the inner voicings of chords (say a G 11, no 5 voiced: G F B C...I listened to WAY too much Allan Holdsworth growing up! :) ), but it's like cayenne pepper or garlic, to some it's impossible to use too much, to others merely being in the same kitchen with it is unbearable :eek:. Dissonance in music is certainly an acquired taste.

    Then of course there's the whole issue of suspensions (where the 4th or 2nd will replace the 3rd for a bit)....

    Maybe the Tarry article was in reference to the TENSIONS that can be caused by the EXTENSIONS? Music can be looked at as a series of tensions and resolutions created by the melody, rhythms, and harmony of a piece of music.

    Voodster, the chord you mentioned, which would be C 13,#11, no 7 would be a VERY tense chord (meaning not stable or that the harmony wants to resolve elsewhere), in this case most likely to a G major chord of some kind. The upper voices, particularly the F# and A, will tend to resolve to a G note as a tonic.

    In a sense, this chord can also be looked at in another way, as a D 11/C (not to be confused with Dmaj11 or Dmin11!!), which is the 5 chord in the key of G. The slash ( / ) after the chord indicates that a note other than the root is played in the bass, in this case C instead of D. In western harmony, the 5 or V (Roman numeral 5) chord will always want to resolve to the one in a key.

    Boy did I go on a wild goose chase! :) Hope some of this made sense.....:eek:
  6. voodster


    Feb 14, 2001
    Thanks, for all of the replies. It makes sense now.
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    OK, OK, now I'm confused!

    In reality, if we look at a triad - it is a chord, of three notes built up in thirds. The notes come from the key that we're in

    If we look at a 7th chord - it is a chord of four notes built in thirds. Again, the notes come from the key that we're in.

    What is to stop us from building chords with the 9th, 11th and 13th degree of the scale. It is often don and adds real flavor to the harmony. Again the appropriate note whether it is a b9, #11, etc depends on the key.

    To go one step further, the tensions really depend on the chord scale. Which gets into my thing with FUNCTIONAL HARMONY. Once you know how a chord functions and can assign a chord scale to that chord you can now build you 9th, 11th and 13th chords.

    Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" has a really in-depth look at functional harmony. I go into it as well in my book, The Chordal Approach, but I deal with mostly 7th chords.

    One thing - we should not confuse the 4th and the 11th, the 2nd and the 9th or the 6th and the 13th. The octave that seperates the notes is huge. For example a G11 chord played G,B,D,F,A,C works much better than G,A,B,C,D,F

  8. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    There are two explanations,

    1. You would use an F# rather than an F depending on the function of that C chord

    2. You could be into a polychordal playing where one triad is superimposed on top of another.

  9. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Also interesting is that the F# over a Cmaj chord sounds more "major". Jamie Abersold tells in his clinics that most non-musicians, if asked to sit at a piano and play up the scale (totally by ear), will pick out the lydian sound. For some reason (at least that I don't know) it sounds more right. Jamie believes that the major scale was written incorrectly all those years ago......

    Sure helps when improvising.