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Can there be a two-note chord?

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by Gingerfish727, Jun 28, 2001.

  1. Yes

    22 vote(s)
  2. No

    23 vote(s)
  3. I don't know

    2 vote(s)
  4. Leave me alone

    1 vote(s)
  5. What is a chord?

    0 vote(s)
  6. I don't even know where I am,and I think I like it!!!

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Could there possibly be a two-note chord?I believe you'd call that a Diad(thanx to the guy who brought that up in the other forum!!!).
  2. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    a chord, by definition, has 3 or more notes. i said a 2-note chord in the other thread purely to denote that both notes of the doublestop were played simultaneously, like a chord.
  3. Root and fifth.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Sorry Donne, but John is right.

    The DEFINITION of a chord is three unique notes.
  5. Just being a power chord wisenhiemer.
  6. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Time to change the definition then. Past time. And as one poster has noted, this has already occurred in some circles. Really no good reason to put two note harmony into some netherworld that is neither chord nor unison/octaves just because some pedantic wanker way back when decided that It Would Be Thus.

    I'm gonna go play some sliding thirds on my fretless now and leave out the fifth. Sure doesn't sound like anything else but a chord.

    <-- greenboy ---<<<<
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    Since this is MY forum, I'll change all the rules - sort of. A chord, by definition is three or more notes played at the same time. But there is a Psychoacoustic phenomona where your brain will fill in the missing notes of a chord. There are times that I will play two notes (AKA doublestop) that will sound like a chord as the ear fills in the missing note(s).

    It is one of the fundementals of my Chordal Approach tecniques.

  8. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    I remember being told this way back in the early days of my efforts to compose, but I don't recall what the reasoning was. I told myself, Well, I'll Play Along, since chording instruments are mainly uncomfortable playing two-note chords anyway.

    Later, power chords became a big part of some styles of music. In attempt to placate the ghodz of theory one would attempt to put a major or minor third in there, but it did not always serve the music well.

    Still later, I came of the opinion that media-deluged people had heard so much music, so much harmony, that really they already KNEW what notes were in the chords of a song by association with the melodies, changes between chords, and conventions of the styles of music. They didn't particularly need every chord literally presented in tertiary stacks (quartal harmony also was not too difficult, really). So why always voice horns or strings or ensembles (and now bass) to old outmoded RULES?

    Let voice-leading and common listening assumptions head toward harmolodic sensibilities if that was the way it was going to be: a chording instrument like guitar [with distortion for example] was often supplying texture more than NEEDED harmonic information... The logic of each "voice" going where it would within the music could create the tapestry without feeling the need to force a major third whenever a dominant 7th was present. I mean, by now it was pretty obvious stuff; those tendencies had been more than amply explored.

    I posit that this is not always a psychoacoustic phenomena where the brain thinks another note actually exists where there is none: that the brain through a lifetime of immersion in music has only so much need for a literal approach to music theory / harmony. it simply accepts that two or however many notes are being presented may imply or relate to other musical tendencies as presented in the body of music countless times before, and that compositions make use of melody and "changes" to imply much that not need be directly stated.

    And that composers and players may leverage that, or present on occasion surprises [tension / unexpected resolution] that make the listener say "Oh, that just took it up a notch! I see the beauty of that." Jazz players really have made an art of playing with and confounding that to great and pleasurable results. But even with all the substitutions, and rules for substitutions, a kind of shorthand may now be applied without throwing too many listeners or players...

    Of course it helps to know the rules so as to make sure you can break them better ; }

    {This was a meander through one layer of my warped topology and should not be construed as entirely topical -- or not. Let the ghods decide what it is when two notes are played -- I'll just play them when I see fit; }

    <-- greenboy ---<<<<
  9. AH-HA! There is such a thing as a two note chord.
    Or is there?
    I'll use whatever fits the music.
  10. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    I would say that the brain accepting, implying or relating from either immersion or any other reason is psychoacoustic principles in action.

    I was just reading through the curricula for my 2 week teaching stint at the National Summer Guitar Workshop. In David Overthrow's books he has a chapter called "5 Chords" based on 2 note chords containg just the root and 5th.

    However, I have been thinking about the 2 note chord ideas presented. I think the problem is that 2 notes just don't give enough information about what chord is actually being played. For example, take the F and B played as a double stop - what chord are you playing? It could be F dim, Fm7b5, Bdim, Bm7b5, F7#11, B7#11,C#7,G7 ...

    In context, it would be fairly easy to tell the notes, but in a solo context there is just too much latitute.

    Granted, you can have the same dilemma with 3 note chords, but obviously the variability is lessened and, most times, chord function can be determined.

  11. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    I guess I've always associated psychoacoustics with acoustical (sonic) phenomena and the listeners' perceptual inclinations, and not how minds may choose to make further assumptions based on learned materials...

    To the listener who does not study music as a player or composer, they simply hear chords and do not need to know what various naming conventions may be applied  ; }

    My main point earlier: Almost anyone living in non-deprived circumstances have heard many musics through the many media channels beginning with soundtracks and continuing through recorded and written and performed music from all periods of history and cultures. Those who actually care about harmonic nomenclature and functions have amassed and synthesised an incredible set of contextual near-certainties for analysis of anything that comes their way.

    Unless the music is totally unlike anything that has gone before, they can ascertain the function (remember Gordian's knot: of those chords, pick the simplest solution) and if argument is indicated between two educated theorists, it is likely that either apporach is valid -- or that it just doesn't matter in the first place.

    Listeners after all, understand the music in a more direct manner and do not need to know what nomenclature has been pressed into service; what theoretical dispositions the scholastics may favor and employ. They simply experience the effectiveness (or not) of the use of the stacked notes, experiencing the functionality and not the DESCRIPTION -- which is actually pretty arbitrary when you start talking about 2 notes in the same breath you mention stacks of maybe 6 different tones.

    I mean, why would the hypothetical two-note sounding need that complex of a name in the first place if two notes could do the job? Could not a suitable "substitute" name be found that fulfilled the theorists' seeming need for harmonic functionality when the performer/composer actually had made the music work just fine with a two-note chord?

    Again, from my experience, just about any person on the street who is not a musician would describe the simultaneous sounding of two non-unison/octave notes as a Chord. Maybe they have it right (return to innocence)  ; }

    I really don't see a dilemma. If it works, it works. Then people come in and attempt to label it. Sometimes the humble bumble bee can fly!

    Actually I am at times amused when trying to describe quartal harmony on the printed page when armed with only tools that were derived from triadic stacking rules. But I can not deny that I often find the SOUND ITSELF compelling, and so use it in spite of the fact that I must suffer when transcribing ; } Fortunately I have found a few tricks.

    <-- greenboy ---<<<<    probably about all i have time to say on the subject; we both have our opinions, neither of which will change how music may be made  : }
  12. sn0wblind


    Apr 20, 2000
    Ontario, Canada
    too many big words for me!!!!! :D
  13. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999

    you lobbying for your own forum ;)

    I would agree with you that the nomenclature means nothing except for need to name things (either for power of that thing i.e. "God" or to teach it). What is important, however is the way that chords function in relationship to each other. Granted in different cultures that relationship changes based on what your ear is accustomed to hearing. In Western music, chords have a certain function within the tune. Regardless of any name we might place on either the chords or the function, we still, in some way, identify with the function. Here is where the question arises, can 2 notes in a chord effectively present the function of a chord the listener. If you voice a tritone and and resolve it to inward to the R, 3rd of the next chord - I would say that those chords are absolutely there.

  14. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc

    It's great to see a set of forums here on TB allow one to go beyond recurring threads like "What Ye Aulde Amplifier|Bass Is The Bestest Ever, Dude!?!?". It's been a pleasure to discuss theory (and by implication, composition and orchestration) with you and others, and the philosophy of music with Dann and others next door.

    I'm probably not going to change my mind about two-note chords because I feel the functions of harmonic progressions are by cultural immersion are almost always self-evident nowdays anyway. When all is said and done, the flow of the music is either there or not, anyway...

    We really didn't touch on superimposed stacks, when individual instruments may be playing different chords simultaneously, dealing more in polyphony and harmolodic tendencies than simply playing portions of stacks of mixed thirds. In these cases, the harmonic structure is arrived at by each instrument possessing its own internal voice leading and logic, which can add its own quirks of course (which often may sound like hip versions of Charles Ives' marching bands doppler-shifting like passing funky locomotives).

    Anyway, to bring that back down to earth, what three notes can then be said to define what is/has occurred? Does it matter? Well, I think the clue lies in the development of walking bass. When jazz first started the bass lines were pretty simple; obvious -- as often as not executed by a piano player's left hand.

    As bassists began to expand the lexicon by walking (away from tired oom-pa tendencies;) it may have not been clear to others because of the dearth of volume they were saddled with, that bassists had an incredible power by each single note they chose, to redefine harmony! Substitutions by the guitarist or pianists where given still another dimension when the bass started walking through chromatic passing tones, supplying ostinatos under upper changes, substituting roots for the upper instruments' substitutions, etc.

    As recording technology advanced, especially in small combos, it became evident that bassists could be like tonal black holes -- gravitational forces that could harmonically change the perception of anything that went on above -- and not just supply "feel". Trying to harmonically dissect some of the great performances of the giants can really bend light!

    ...And here we are today, with good amplification, able to leverage this singular gravitational force that can both Make Groove and redefine the changes. Quite the responsibility, to remain true to styles we may be asked to play, and yet to innovate, expand, explore.

    Sometimes it is easier to just do Gear Talk Revisited!

    <-- greenboy ---<<<<    expect my book after i finish my cold fusion laboratory  ;  ]
  15. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Greenboy, never have I read so much and understood so little.

    Your mother wasn't frightened by a typewriter when you were still a fetus, was she?

    I'm only kidding. You speak very eloquently.:)

    I couldn't hold a candle for you guys when it comes to theory, but I thought the question was settled years ago by the old masters. Two notes played simultaneously, by all the definitions I've read, are simply a double stop. I don't understand how all the philosophy even figures in.

    Pkr2, running for cover.
  16. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    ...Sorry. Maybe it goes with the turf, or maybe I just haven't found a clearer way to say it.

    Yes, the world is flat ; )

    I don't feel the definition from hundreds of years ago is conclusive. And if there was some philosophizing earlier in the thread, tell me: where do definitions in the arts often come from in the first place? When psychoacoustics is mentioned one may be lead to a shadowy land.

    I really don't care whether others subscribe to my viewpoint. I was just interested in what the current state of thought was, and had done some thinking about it myself.

    <-- greenboy ---<<<<
  17. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    It seems that the only reason to "name" anything is to be able to exert power over it, to teach it, to explain it, to alleviate our own fear of it.

    I would certainly agree with you that flow of the music is really all that is important. But if we as educators cannot, somehow, teach the concepts in a logical and progressive manner we will create a world filled with the likes of John Tesch (I was going to say Kenny G. - but he hires bass players). Our music and culture will be diminished to the lowest common denominator ("The Weakest Link", "Big Brother 2", and of course "Survivor, the 783rd"). Although one might argue that we have already reached that point.

    Is it such a big deal that we "define" a chord as 3 or more notes played simultaneously for educational purposes? The lay person couldn't care what a chord is, all they care about is the visceral reaction that they achieve when they hear the music (as it should be). The musician, as they grow and mature, realize that a chord is just one tool used to create the aforementioned reaction in the listener and, hopefully, uses that chord for good not evil.

    I know that I have interspersed a bit of a flippant attitude in with what I truly believe. I hope no one takes offense (especially Kenny G.)

  18. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the fact that when two different notes are played simultaneously that a chord is the result even though a chord, in the strictest definition, is not being played. the resulting harmonic(s) constitutes the third, or more notes.

    The ear is not just perceiving the additional note(s). The extra notes are physically there. The old sum and difference thing.

    A double stop is still just a double stop because ONLY two notes were played.

    Sort of a play on words but as a new student to the theory side of music, I can see the need for strict definitions. It's complicated enough without having to deal with a set of definitions that are subject to that degree of interpretation.

    A rose is a rose etc.

    By the way, Mike, thanks for sharing your knowledge. You are appreciated.

  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Hey, Mike.

    The reason a two note voicing works is because either the prior collection of three and four note chords have established a key center so that hearing a B and G played together defines a V7 chord OR somebody else in the ensemble is supplying the missing voices. So sure, maybe the guitar player is only playing two notes, but you got the bass player OR piano player providing the fundamental and/or third and you got a melody instrument supplying tensions on top of that. That's more than two notes, dear.

    "We hold these (harmonic) truths to be self evident..." - very 4th of July of you. But outside of the standard repertoire and pop music, and ESPECIALLY with the global pollination taking place, that ain't the case for a lot of music. Especially in jazz, cats go for "ambiguous" voicings precisely BECAUSE they DON'T define key or chord function. NOT because they DO by way of "cultural immersion".
    I'm not sure I compeletely understand your history of the evolution of walking bass. From oompah to "tonal black hole" in three easy steps? Speaking specifically from a jazz perspective (we are after all talking about "walking bass"), ooompah and b9 pedals are kinda happening concurrently after the mid 40s. It all depends on what cats hear. If Arvell Shaw and Oscar Pettiford are both playing exactly what they hear, then they are both being creative, right? Now you might be able to make the argument that OP is hearing things on a deeper level than Arvell (and I might buy it), I'm just don't agree that it is because somebody hadn't made the "evolutionary" step.....

    But, all that aside, I still say that the ONLY reason you can sell the function of the two notes you played is because their context was FULLY defined before hand.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I can't believe that all this has been written (Interesting though it is) without mentioning a very simple reason for insisting on 3 notes for a chord, which is that this then allows us to classify it as major or minor which is one of the most important things in music and one which most "lay" people will be able to distinguish.

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