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Altered?

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by hateater, Sep 14, 2005.


  1. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    How exactly does one spell an A7 alt. ? That is what it says on the chart... and I am just lost. How would you come to get that chord? Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    "Alt" or altered chords contain tones outside of their tonal center. Usually a combination of +5 b9 #9 #11 or b13 tones create an "alt" type chord. The Miles Davis tune "ESP" starts with an E alt. Try a voicing like E G# D F## (G) and C

    That's root, third, flat seventh, sharp ninth, flat thirteenth

    A chord with (+5 b7, b9) or (b7 b9 13) might also be considered altered, too, although b9s and 13s occur naturally in certain situations.

    For A alt, try

    A C# G C F

    or

    A G Bb C# F#

    Check the melody of the song and look for clues to the appropriate "altered" tones.

    I hope this was helpful.
     
  3. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    :hyper:

    It absolutely was! Cheers!
     
  4. nypiano

    nypiano

    Feb 10, 2003
    NYC
    My understand standing of alt is that is it refers to the altered dominant scale. Which is essentially 7th mode, melodic minor. It's is called altered because every tone apart from the dominant 1-3-7 is altered. b9,#9, b5,#5(or b13)

    I write alt, for example A7alt If I'm in a hurry and I want them to voice from that scale pallette (the A7alt dominant scale=Bbmel minor 7th mode). If I want to make doubly sure I will write the signature chord of altered dominant: A7#9b13(#5) This chord can't be mistaken for any other scale source. For ex. this is the signature chord of 1/2 whole diminished: A13b9. Same reason.

    Some people right E7alt when they mean E7+5. For me the latter means whole tone scale.
     
  5. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    nypiano,

    Your scale derived explanation may be more accurate than the one I gave. The first chord I think of as an "alt" is the same one you described -- the 7#9b13. Are you saying that a 7 b9 13 should not be called "alt"?

    It can get confusing when mixing traditional and "jazz" theory.
    For instance, in the modes you describe, can you have two tones of the same degree? i.e. both b9 and #9? Is b9 really an augmented octave if it follows the b7 in a mode? How do you name the tones of the "altered dominant scale"?

    Also, I've had theoretical arguments about things like b5 vs. #11. (or +5 vs. b13) In certain instances what we call a "7b5" , the natural five may be theoretically present even though rarely played and so it really is a #11 chord. In other instances, i.e. diminshed or half-diminished, you are clearly dealing with a flatted fifth.

    "Jazz" theory can get a little fuzzy sometimes. :meh:

    Thanks for the info!
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    FWIW, in the jazz theory classes I teach here at the U., we have a big discussion about the "inexactitude" of jazz nomenclature early on. We end up describing the "alt" designation as technically meaning 7#9#5, but beyond that we acknowledge that pianists and guitarists most often play whatever type of 9th alteration and extensions they are hearing in that moment, often altering many dominant chords that are simply marked "7" on the score. When I played piano, if I saw a dominant chord with "alt" or any 9th alteration whatsoever, I would simply season to taste. There are exceptions, of course, but I'm teaching my students to take the idea of specific dominant alterations as written in stone with a large grain of salt. YMMV.
     
  7. nypiano

    nypiano

    Feb 10, 2003
    NYC
    No, I wouldn't call a 13b9 altered. What you call something, #9,b9 doesn't necessarily reconcile to how you spell it. Generally the spelling convention for scales follow 2 tracks- having each note consecutive, or in the case of chromatic scales, sharps for ascending, flats for descending.

    There's no real practical way to resolve the spelling issues with the altered scale or the derived chords; that is to make the spelling work theory wise, while at the same time keeping the pitches as something not hopelessly complicated.

    The altered scale builds off the tritone relationship but it automatically accepts a respelling and enharmonic equivalence as a given.Leading to a b3, spelling wise being "accepted" as a #9. For example the G7#9. Do you really want to read A# just to stay in theory?But suppose you were really relating as a sub of a Db7 chord. Then Bb is correct as the 13th. But what about Cb, the 7th of the Db. But B is correct for G. What do you do respell the G as Abb?? You see how it gets ridiculous.

    What happens really is the 13th chord is usually "more harmonically" copasetic spelling-wise then it's tritone related bII chord. For example a Bb13#11 chord in key Eb is easier to handle than an E7#9. The Ab is really G#? But what's the G? FX?? Or is the Ab the third of Fb?? eek



    On #5 vs b13 and #11 vs b5. The original reason was just the octave placement of the altered note. Within the 8ve of the chord or above the 8ve. With inversions and sophisticated harmony it really does become meaningless. The only convention I follow is that when I use several extended tones and voice it that way I will tend to spell them upwards. For example G13#11 rather than G7b5. This is a voice thing 9-#11-13.
     
  8. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    nypiano,

    I'm still not sure -- what are the notes of the "altered dominant scale"? ( is it a 2-octave scale?) Can you spell them out for me, let's say in the key of C for simplicity's sake?

    Thanks!
     
  9. nypiano

    nypiano

    Feb 10, 2003
    NYC
    Well the C altered dominant isn't that easy. It's based on a C#melodic minor. But anyway

    The altered dominant is the 7th mode of the melodic minor scale. So take any melodic minor scale, drop back a half step to the 7th and start the scale:

    C# mel min= C#D#E F#G#A#B#!
    or done with enharmonic facilitation: Db Eb E Gb Ab Bb C Db
    (sort of like Db melodic minor without the curious Fb!)
    Calt dom= C Db Eb E Gb Ab Bb C

    The other names for it are the diminished whole tone scale and the Pomeroy Scale
     
  10. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Well, my first point of confusion would be due to the fact that a melodic minor scale has a different 7th degree depending on if you are ascending and descending. This "alt" mode is obviously based on the ascending melodic minor scale. Anyway..

    So this mode contains the b9,#9, #11, b13 in addition to the 3rd and b7. Is any 7th chord with the addition of one or more of these tones an "alt" chord then?

    I find it a bit strange to use modes of this sort as the basis for a harmonic system (maybe that's because I'm "old-school") :) Traditionally, these type of altered tones will resolve in a harmonic progression. Any extended dominant chord is still essentially dominant.

    But in our modern music language, (often derived from blues- based music) a I chord can be "stationary" and still have a dominant 7th. So.... why not any other tone as well?

    It's just that it doesn't jibe with traditional theory. :confused:
     
  11. nypiano

    nypiano

    Feb 10, 2003
    NYC
    Bobby:

    No. Only the chord voicing with extended tone combination unique to that dominant scale, in this case alt is V7#9 b13(#5). Which is what you said in the beginning. Any other combination may infer other possible scales. For example V7#9b5(#11) is found in both altered dominant and 1/2 W diminished.

    When you combine the 9th and 13th permutations and throw in the b5 you get the most common chord combos and dominant scales. The b5 is thrown in there to distinguish the lydian dominant chord. When you do a permutation box it helps map the unique combinations and associated scales.

    V7b9b13= 5th mode HM; alt dom
    V13b9=1/2W dim
    V9b13=WT
    V13 or V13sus=mixolydian
    V13(#11)=Lyd dom
    V7#9b13=Alt dom
    V13#9=1/2W dim

    The chord combos of interest are the ones unique to a particular scale, thereby inferring that scale.

    In the case of 1/2Wdim. It has two unique combos V7b913 and V7#913. The default for me is 13b9 because it's the more conservative of the two. The #913 combo would be written if you want that particular bite for the arrangement.

    The V7b9b13 for me is the signature chord for a minor cadence-which is why 5th mode Hmm is put first.

    Is this starting to make sense?
     
  12. nypiano

    nypiano

    Feb 10, 2003
    NYC
    Well yeah classical's descending version is natural minor. But that reflects the early solution to the minor tonality harmonic issue creating by putting in "major key" tones of melodic minor (nat 6 & 7). Melodic minor in it's modern context is not really concerned with that due to the abundance and acceptance of chromaticism and minor/major interchange

    I don't think we are discussing this. I think we're just discussing notation, ie alt and it's spelling rationale. The harmonic system is a separate subject from modes.

    I understand the point that "if there are so many exceptions and variations why bother to discuss modes that (seemingly) try to pin chords down to one sound or another". It's simply a translation tool though.I don't think any of this precludes discussing specific modes as they relate to chord symbols. You can change modes on the same chord. It's really an improvisational and voicing thing. A chord symbol is a kind of a signpost of a mode that puts the interpreter in the right ballpark when he is accompanying or improvising. It doesn't stop you from changing modes, substituting or even ignoring what's written-provided ofcourse you use an informed conception when you do so. Chord symbol writing is from the composer's perspective. From an improv perspective the interpreter can ignore certain things and use general broadstrokes principles of cadence in major and minor tonality. Modes (for or better or worse) provide an identiable pallette to work from with which you can deviate from. The converse to a certain extent reinvents the wheel.

    Not sure what you mean by this. Traditional theory according to which set of rules? If you mean classical theory which looked at the #9 and b9 as a supension to the octave and did not pin it down to the altered dominant scale, yeah but this is apples and oranges. Classical music did not traditionally concern itself about improvising over composed music that contained these types of sounds. Also conventional jazz improvising and chordal accompaniment(for better or worse) can very often be pinned down to these type of identifications and the sounds are separate and distinct from any other style. This is jazz's version of figured bass notation
     
  13. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Nypiano,

    I thought your original explanation for the meaning of an "alt" chord (above) was that it did in fact derive from the mode you described. That is why I raised the issue of using modes as a harmonic basis. But I think you essentially are talking about the relationship between certain modes and chords which contain common characteristic tones. This is certainly a valid approach and a tool for improvisation.

    When I talk about "traditional" harmony, I'm talking about the "classical" traditions (which were admittedly altered and extended by every worthwhile composer) that are essentially based on a diatonic system. Roughly beginning in the counterpoint of Renaissance music, codified in the figured bass of Bach, and stretched to the limit by the late 19th century (Brahms), nevertheless, this type of harmonic approach concerns itself with voice-leading and resolutions. A chord is not an isolated incident but the result of moving voices with functions and tendencies. By the Impressionist era (Debussy, Ravel) and in the music of late 19th century Russian composers, we begin to see the appearance of stationary 7th and 9th and other extended chord tones, this is not unique to jazz. Still these tended to be within the context of more advanced voice-leading systems.

    (BTW, a "7b9" is the naturally occuring dominant 9th of a harmonic minor scale. "Traditionally", a "7#9" would probably only occur as some form of "appoggiatura" where a chromatic tone is involved and will eventually resolve)

    Looking at chords as "islands" if you will, or tonal centers and then finding corresponding modes (or vice versa) for the purpose of improvisation is certainly valid. This is the type of thing you will find in what I call "jazz harmony". The problem is,
    jazz also uses "traditional harmony" concepts and the terminology eventually becomes confusing. But as you said, chord symbols are really only a kind of signpost and it's up to the player to ultimately make music from them.
     
  14. nypiano

    nypiano

    Feb 10, 2003
    NYC
    It does. That was the point.
    This is what I thought you meant. The point really was that you said that mode speak and chord identification as a description of the harmony and altered tones was somehow in conflict with traditional harmony and its descriptions (ie b9 suspensions, appogiaturas, etc). For me they don't conflict because they are not the same things.
    The traditional harmony aspect you refer to is the after the fact "analysis" process. This is different than chord symbol identifications and mode suggestions in jazz charts. I grant that sometimes jazz harmony analysis and discusson slip in and out of a traditional framework. But this is because the music is approached differently in terms of creation and to the extent that a traditional analysis would be cumbersome.
    Granted. But again this is apples and oranges. I move around my voices from natural 9th to #9 all the time as an aspect of voice leading. BUT in terms of chart writing, you can identify a chord symbol that infers a scale to the performer or leave it open and hope for the best. This is entirely up to the composer or leader of the band. The performer can voice the chord exactly, throw in a fill based on the implied mode or do his own thing entirely. It's really practical, to get the less experienced player to not play a V13 (because he likes that chord) when clearly V7alt is called for. Sometimes it's difficult to transmit the instruction and find a balance between a specific desired sound and paralyzing the performer. For example I have a chart where I could've written Esus13 moving to an E7#9b13 because I wanted that played specifically. I chose to write the moving voices sus4-3, 13-b13, 9-#9. It didn't help :rolleyes:

    Thanks but I'm already aware of this. See post prior to my last at bottom re: Harmonic minor or this post #4 on this thread/discussion
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=196058

    Well any terminology can be confusing and conflicting to the extent that different notational systems are created to better suit the type of music being identified and created. For example if you were to take a jazz piano solo and put it through traditional analysis and label all the tones- PTs, suspensions, especially chord figurations V43 with alterations etc..that would be much more complicated than scalar labeling identifications with chord symbols and some moving voice indications.
     
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I tend to see traditional harmony and jazz harmony as essentially the same except for the extensions, at least as applies to Tin Pan Alley songs. During the blowing, anything goes, but the whole "Chord X implies Scale X" approach really has ruined a lot of great moments for me when somebody plays a note that clashes with the melody because they were taught that "V7alt means diminished whole tone, absolutely". Take the beginning of "Alone Together", for example, second bar, where the melody rests on an E over what many people write as " EØ - V7alt" ...it drives me crazy when somebody recites an alt lick with that infernal D#in the "space" of the melody, or even worse, when they play a Locrian #2 lick over the "F" in the melody. ***??? That sounds like total ass in the hands of anyone but a master, and yet thousands of JAZZ THEORY GRADUATES still do this gig after gig after gig after gig after gig...

    Superimposing is one thing, but superimposing without a knowledge of what you're superimposing over is quite another.
     
  16. nypiano

    nypiano

    Feb 10, 2003
    NYC
    Well I guess this is part of the learning process for students. If they continue not to use their ears or to be in tune to note conflicts, then their contribution to music will be marginal anyway. For example in my first jazz workshop when I was 18, Don Friedman got pretty upset with me for playing my cute locrian #2 B-9b5 over the same change in I Remember April. It sounded like sh## and it had to be pointed out to me.

    Re: A7alt with E in melody. A real player will general futz around with voicing so that if they by chance play a conflicting chord-- they correct it with a follow up chord phrase or resolution. Similar to playing a bad note in a solo. You can also get away with half step conflicts if you change the placement of the register of the voice and the location within the bar. So for example if I never played the tune and played the F vs. E conflict right at the melody moment I'd hope my instinct would be to beg off the voicing and jump up to the voicing with the #9 C at the top, which conflicts less.

    The best symbol for that spot is A7b9 because of that F vs E minefield. Although again bad things can happen to good people:)
     
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    You nailed it there. :)
     
  18. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    Wow, you guys are soooo on! The prof. told me pretty much what you guys are saying, but you guys have given so many different views on this one subject!
     
  19. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    There seems to be a contradiction in these two answers.
    If the chord is derived from a mode, then why do you say that the harmonic system is a separate subject from modes? :meh:

    I think Chris Fitzgerald's point is a good one, i.e., where "jazz" harmony differs from "traditional" is in the handling of the extensions. They can exist as color tones and not necessarily resolve, while other chord tones may simultaneously perform "traditional" functions of voice leading. Certain modes may mirror the sound of the chord extensions and in that sense they may be useful improvisational tools, but that is not to say that the chord "derives" from the mode. Playing a standard using the hippest extensions does not negate the underlying progression and it's harmonic basis. As noted, improvising by merely associating certain scales with chords while losing sight of the essential voice-leading will sound like s**t.

    On the other hand, Chris distinguishes between "Tin Pan Alley" songs and other types of jazz. This is a good point. A "modern jazz" tune like ESP (and it's characteristic "alt" sound) does not concern itself much with dominant-tonic resolutions. You might argue that it's harmonic basis is derived from modes, but I'm sure you could analyze it in other ways, too.
     
  20. nypiano

    nypiano

    Feb 10, 2003
    NYC
    This is getting a little lengthy.:meh:


    Mode discussion or at least what we started with in this discussion: the spelling, use and derivation of the alt chord is a more temporal or isolated nature. It's really about taking a specific scalar or mode based appraisal and applying it to a measure for the purpose of improvising or accompanying. You can use it or you don't have to. That's that.

    The point of disagreement or confusion is when you introduced this point
    I find it a bit strange to use modes of this sort as the basis for a harmonic system


    I think the phrase harmonic system is the point of confusion.

    In terms of chords deriving from a mode. Yes it's not the be and end all. I am saying it's a tool. You learn a sound and milk it for what it's worth and then move to a more overall concept. It helps to get this sense of continuity. You can think of the chord as derived from a mode or not. And it also helps your fingers identify territories and points of interest in a cohesive manner.

    I'll give you a case in point. Listen to Bill Evans Spring is Here and the left hand accompaniment. The first part starts as diminished scale chords with the melody note playing the lead notes on a different diminished scale- on Abdim. The second part is locrian #2 chords on D-9b5 in scale tone chords followed by Db13#11 lydian scale tone chords. It's specific chord appraisals using modes. But the end result? Gorgeous music. Gorgeous enough for Gil Evans to make an orchestration of it for Miles in 1961

    In summary (I suppose you can bracket this point). I think the point you made "use modes of this sort as the basis for a harmonic system" you meant "use modes as the basis of a chord symbol notation". Again I'm saying I agree with you can but it isn't necessarily what is. But it's just a type of appraisal that is helpful in some situations. For example I discuss it with students who are trying to read chord charts. They see a chord symbol and they are freaked out about the specifics. For me I just tell him that the spelling of the chord points out their options in terms of subbing the flat9 for the written sharp9 or adding the flatted fifth. Identifying the mode, that is a good one for the harmonic situation (let's say alt dom for Vof II) helps them approach that measure conceptually. The symbol is transmitting intention and flow but not law.