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#1896566 - 05/14/12 07:06 AM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: PianoStudent88]
Exalted Wombat Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 1197
Loc: London UK
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Actually, given that any set of three or four notes can't be that far from any other set of three or four notes, given that there are only 12 notes in an octave, maybe all chords are actually close to each other by small steps.


Yes, smooth voice-leading is certainly a factor in making one chord followed by another sound good.

Maybe you should forget harmony for a bit and go back to 2-part counterpoint. Write a melody that accompanies another melody. 2nds, 7ths and (particularly) tritones will have a feeling of tension, 3rds, 5ths and unisons one of resolution. Take a "tension" interval, add another tension interval to intensify it further, or add a neutral interval to pad it out. The interval has grown into a chord.

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#1896605 - 05/14/12 08:56 AM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
You are thinking about this:

C E Gb A# --> D F B (or B D F B)

That just sounds odd to me, and I mean the sound itself. Do you like that sound? Are you sure you are not pushing notes around, intellectually, without fully listening to what you are coming up with. Do you like the sound of B D F B, alone? If you have a diminished triad and then double the root, adding the octave, I think you are creating a very weak sound. Hmm...

OK, I confess to creating BDFB by pushing around letters. But now that I've listened to it, no, it doesn't sound particularly odd. What do you mean by a weak sound?

I like it this way: C7-5 Bdim C. But then I confess to really liking diminished chords.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The spelling bothers me even more because Gb to A# is a second, but since G--A is a major second, you have a doubly augmented 2nd.

Why would you want that?

Why not? If Bdim is to follow, then isnt Gb---A# the correct spelling to precede F---B? LadyChen mentioned the spelling with the doubly augmented fourth upthread for the German sixth; rare but happens. Couldn't this fall in the same camp?

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
There is a very good reason why we avoid things like this: Cb---G#. Again you have a doubly augmented interval, this time a 5th.

Wait, I don't see Cb---G# in what I wrote. Or do you just mean it as an example of a wierd interval? But if the voice leading suggests that spelling, why not? A doubly augmented fifth is the same as a major sixth, so it wouldn't sound odd, even if it might look odd, like Satie's double flats.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
If you run into something that odd, I would at least think you would be dealing with music that is WAY out of the realm of tonal music.

Uh-oh. Guilty as charged. I'm thinking about my combinatorial proposal as above, and the idea of going to anywhere from anywhere (albeit by smooth voice-leading), vs. the principles of common practice period harmony which I'm learning which cut out a lot of possibilities.

But really, C7-5 to Bdim does not sound angular to me in the way atonal music does. This may well go back to the fact that I don't think I hear harmony or intervals in music as clearly (or at least, as consciously) as other people do.

Exalted Wombat, thank you for the suggestion about 2 part counterpoint. I'll try it out.
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#1896674 - 05/14/12 11:10 AM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11679
Loc: Canada
I played Piano88's C E Gb A# => D F B
It sounds "edgy" to me. Everything is moving up: C to D, A# to B. I am picturing music that wants to keep moving up in an edgy way and then start losing the edginess (fully diminished with its two tritones) by turning into another kind of chord. I am also asking myself where it moves to. I also wonder whether, when E and Gb both resolve to F, if this gives the F any kind of significance which in turn is asking for a different chord?

I am also not a harmony-hearing person naturally. I may hear one thing and think "I like this" but miss something else that doesn't belong.

What about the question of where you want to end up as being the starting point of your thought? Does it belong here?

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#1896676 - 05/14/12 11:11 AM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Exalted Wombat]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11679
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Exalted Wombat

Maybe you should forget harmony for a bit and go back to 2-part counterpoint. Write a melody that accompanies another melody. 2nds, 7ths and (particularly) tritones will have a feeling of tension, 3rds, 5ths and unisons one of resolution. Take a "tension" interval, add another tension interval to intensify it further, or add a neutral interval to pad it out. The interval has grown into a chord.

I really like this way of seeing things as one angle.

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#1896710 - 05/14/12 12:25 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
keystring, thanks for trying out my chord! smile smile smile . What if you play it with the added B on the bottom: C E Gb A# --> B D F B? Does that change the sound?

I admit that I'm not fitting into either of what I think are Gary's desiderata, a) of going by ear and b) of going by what's been found in notation of actual pieces.

I'm wondering (I'm not sure this is apropos of augmented sixths, but it comes up for me here because this thread has me thinking a lot about harmony), if what would be really beneficial for me would be an ear and score course, in this sense: listen to music, state what it feels like, where there are noticeable things going on -- a sense of rest, a sense of sadness, a sense of joy, a sense of something unexpected happening. Then look at the score and see if those senses correlate to something particular that the composer is doing.

I have access to a music library with lots of scores and lots of CDs, so this would be a doable project for me.
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#1896766 - 05/14/12 03:19 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Just FYI - Pianostudent88's chord is the basis of the 9th Scriabin sonata. It's the sonority heard on the downbeats of the opening measures, the end of the sonata, and at various places throughout.

It's spelled C# F G B. Of note is that Scriabin notates the same music using different intervals at the beginning of the piece. The RH and LH play the exact same material, but with different spellings.

The sonority is structural. In the development, we find the same sound, transposed to E Ab Bb D. The original sonority returns in the recapitulation - a fascinating way of following traditional sonata form outside the conventions of tonal harmony. Rather than tonic-dominant-tonic, we get original-transposed-original. (And the usual thematic progressions as well - a clear first and second theme.)
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#1896772 - 05/14/12 03:31 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11679
Loc: Canada
Kreisler, are you saying that the chord in the Scriabin has the same movement? I.e:
Piano88's is: C E Gb A# to D F B
Therefore if Scriabin's chord is doing the same thing, we would have:
C# F G B going to D# F#(Gb?) C
if it is the same movement.

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#1896775 - 05/14/12 03:36 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Kreisler]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Just FYI - Pianostudent88's chord is the basis of the 9th Scriabin sonata. It's the sonority heard on the downbeats of the opening measures, the end of the sonata, and at various places throughout.

It's spelled C# F G B. Of note is that Scriabin notates the same music using different intervals at the beginning of the piece. The RH and LH play the exact same material, but with different spellings.

The sonority is structural. In the development, we find the same sound, transposed to E Ab Bb D. The original sonority returns in the recapitulation - a fascinating way of following traditional sonata form outside the conventions of tonal harmony. Rather than tonic-dominant-tonic, we get original-transposed-original. (And the usual thematic progressions as well - a clear first and second theme.)

Holy smokes Batman - the Scriabin 9th!!!

Maybe we should talk about the fact that Scriabin started out writing music much like Chopin's, so his foundation was 100% tonal.

E Ab Bb D immediately feels and sounds like an E7-5 chord to me. In other words, feeling and sound are visceral for me. The notation stimulates pushing down the right keys, mentally, and that stimulates the sound. Without going to the score, and later I'd like to do that, the first thing that hits me about the spelling is that this:

E Ab Bb D--->>>>Eb Ab Bb Db

is just one of the logical chromatic movements. Your spelling now makes perfect sense to me in such a situation because the chromatic movement is very clean. But I need to look at what Scriabin wrote. He may be doing something very different.

Let me see if I can find the score and link it. We would be going down a very interesting rabbit hole. Maybe a thread for this?
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#1896804 - 05/14/12 04:31 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Gary has started the new thread, but I'll mention here: keystring, no, it looks like it has the 7b5 chord, but not the movement to the diminished chord. Alas.
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#1896840 - 05/14/12 05:30 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
quote=Kreisler]Just FYI - Pianostudent88's chord is the basis of the 9th Scriabin sonata.
[/quote]
Kreisler,

Since we have no score here, and talking about such things out of context is just a tease, I started a new thread. wink
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#1896849 - 05/14/12 05:47 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring
Kreisler, are you saying that the chord in the Scriabin has the same movement? I.e:
Piano88's is: C E Gb A# to D F B
Therefore if Scriabin's chord is doing the same thing, we would have:
C# F G B going to D# F#(Gb?) C
if it is the same movement.

My conclusion: he is doing what I do, taking the chord's SOUND and linking it to interesting uses of it, regardless of spelling.

This is what makes it such a different approach to take the sound FIRST, listen to where it GOES to, and then you can figure out why a chord (or anything) is spelled as it is. Rules still are invaluable, and knowing this is always good. But in the end, there things that are outside of all rules that you find in any book, or even that any other musician can give you.

Which you know, of course. wink

Edit: Scriabin is not doing at all what PP88 had in mind, neither in spelling nor in where the chord is going to. smile


Edited by Gary D. (05/14/12 06:27 PM)
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#1896866 - 05/14/12 06:17 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Well, really I started out by trying to solve a spelling puzzle. But once written, yes, one would like to know what it sounds like. I think it sounds fine; Gary thinks it sounds weak, although presumably the 7b5 and diminished explorations in Scriabin's 9th Sonata are more interesting.
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#1896870 - 05/14/12 06:33 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11679
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Edit: Scriabin is not doing at all what PP88 had in mind, neither in spelling nor in where the chord is going to. smile


Thank you. For me this was the crucial question since the point - and what is being emphasized - is movement, and not just whether a chord exists. I can see the other point you made about the composer pursuing sound. That is interesting and I am glad that Kreisler pointed out the piece and the chord.

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#1896895 - 05/14/12 07:47 PM Re: Augmented 6th chords [Re: Gary D.]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Just to sum up my points. Then, if someone disagrees with me, at least I will know WHAT they disagree with.

Any chord has its own sound. It does not a function until it is context. That means:

1) If a chord starts a piece, we can't have any idea where it going without hearing or seeing the next chord. We know nothing for sure.

2) If a chord ENDs a piece, the spelling will be 100% standard in tonal music.

3) In any other normal circumstance, a chord will be following something and will preceed something. If there is an obvious relationship between a chord and the chord following it, the following chord will determine the spelling of the chord leading TO it.

4) Most spelling problems can be solved with rules, but the rules were not invented to DICTATE spelling but rather to EXPLAIN it to people who are learning. In unusual circumstances there are no rules to go by. At that point pure logic is the only guide.

5) There are at least three ways of notating or describing chords.

a) Figured bass. It does not say anything about function, but it does specify spelling.

b) RNs (Roman numerals). RNs are an attempt to describe the logic behind what chords do. Sometimes the work brillianty, other times the fail miserably. Chromaticism stretches the system to the limit. In Impressionism (and beyond) they don't work well because they were not made for such music.

c) Letter chords: they don't say anything about function, and they also do not specify spelling. They are as specific as possible about what we hear, at the moment, or the "sounds we should be creating", but everything else is left up to us.
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