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#1140211 - 06/21/06 11:31 AM Alt Chords
DaWF Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/12/05
Posts: 233
Loc: Wisconsin
In jazz band we did a song this past year called 'You left this', which was sort of a piano feature and in the middle there is a long solo and a lot of the chords were Alt chords. Being completely unfamiliar with that, I just played them like they would be without the Alt after them. It went by ok but I really wanted to know what an Alt chord was so I finally motivated myself enough to look it up.

From my understanding a C7Alt would be spelt
C E G Bb Db Ab
or
C E G Bb Eb Ab

I played around with these chords a little and noticed them in "Take the 'A' Train" by ellington

I'm not super knowledgable in jazz to begin with. Could someone explain what an alt chord is and how to apply it?

Thanks

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#1140212 - 06/21/06 12:30 PM Re: Alt Chords
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
An alt chord is a dominant seventh chord with altered 5ths and/or 9ths.

For example, the chords you mention above have altered 5ths (the Ab is a #5) and altered 9ths (the Db is a b9, the Eb=D# or #9.)

Which notes are altered and how depends on the melody. Since there's a G# in "Take the 'A' Train", the chord usually contains a #5.

The slightly confusing thing about alt chords is that the designation applies to different chords. Calt7 could be C E G# Bb D# (#5#9), or it could be C E Gb Bb Db (b5b9). You just have to use your ear and listen to the melodic and harmonic context to figure out which to use.
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#1140213 - 06/21/06 06:19 PM Re: Alt Chords
ipgrunt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 419
Loc: Western US
That g# is actually the +11 of a D7+11 chord, and not involved with the C-alt.

Because an altered chord substitutes for a V7 (dominant 7), C-alt is not associate with the key of C-major, but the key of F-major (where C7 is the dominant seven chord).

Warning---scale theory follows. Ignore this until you've studied scale theory:

An altered chord is derived from the 7th mode of the melodic minor scale, which happens to be a 1/2 step below the root.

Now, forget this immediately and learn to substitute altered chords for V7.

A nice left hand voicing for G-alt is F-Bb-Eb (or F-Ab-Eb). Experiment, as altered chords can contain any combination of -9, +9, +11, or +5 along with a 3rd and/or b7th of the dominant seventh chord.

altered chords can also resolve up a half step or down a major third.
_________________________
-- ipgrunt
Amateur pianist, Son of a Pro

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#1140214 - 06/21/06 06:21 PM Re: Alt Chords
ipgrunt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 419
Loc: Western US
Oops. double post!
_________________________
-- ipgrunt
Amateur pianist, Son of a Pro

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#1140215 - 06/22/06 02:00 AM Re: Alt Chords
gregjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 316
Loc: CA
Don't confuse "alt chords" with chords that are altered. Chords that are altered just mean their 9th, 11th, or 13th are sharped or flatted.

Actual "alt chords" means that it has a b9, #9, #11, and b13. So C7(alt) is: C, E, G, Bb, Db, D#, F#, Ab. Obviously you probably won't play all of those notes at the same time, but that's your palette to choose voicing notes from. Also note that all the notes in the alt chord are the same notes in the alt scale, which is the 7th mode of melodic minor.

Hope this gives some insight and not confusion! \:\)
_________________________
Greg Schlaepfer
Orange Tree Samples
http://www.orangetreesamples.com

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#1140216 - 06/22/06 07:28 AM Re: Alt Chords
Les Koltvedt Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/05
Posts: 3195
Loc: Canton, MI
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#1140217 - 06/22/06 07:24 PM Re: Alt Chords
ipgrunt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 419
Loc: Western US
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monster M&H:
[/b]
OK, we went to far. I'll try to simplify.

In jazz playing, think of an alt chord as a substitute for a dominant seventh. So, when you see a chord progression that looks like:

dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7

try playing

dm7 - G-alt - Cmaj7

With me?

This medium is the worst for writing out voicings, but here's an example of this ii-V-I progression...

Chord : Left Hand | Right Hand

dm7 : D(3) | C(4) E F A

G-alt : G(2) F | B(4) Eb F Bb-->Ab

Cma7 : C(3) | B(4) D E A


If you can figure that out enough to play it, isnt that a nice resolution?

Let me explain a couple of things about this notation....

1. D(3) means the third D up the keyboard. Likewise, C(4) is the fourth C up the keyboard, ie, middle C.

2. On the G-alt chord, the notation in the right hand, Bb-->Ab, means let your pinky slide slowly from Bb to Ab. I would normally notate this with two eight notes, but alas, no eight notes in my ascii font! Keep the pedal down when you do this.

In this example, the alt chord is a technically a G7 -9, +9, +5, however, alt chords can come with either -9, +9 or both (or neither).

The more you play them, the less you worry about their exact makeup. (Usually, you are concerned with the music, ie, voice leading, for example).

Hope that added clarity.
_________________________
-- ipgrunt
Amateur pianist, Son of a Pro

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#1140218 - 06/23/06 02:09 AM Re: Alt Chords
gregjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 316
Loc: CA
Right, Ipgrunt, it's best to think of alt chords as a type of dominant 7 chord. Some substitutions of alt chords for dom 7 chords will work, and other times they will not work, because it really depends on their context. To me, an alt chord really wants to resolve to a minor chord (because of the b9, probably), though it can resolve to a major chord just fine, too.

Places where you wouldn't want to use an alt chord (unless you really really like the sound in these contexts) would include when the melody is playing on a chord degree that counterdicts the specific alterations of the alt chord.

I like your notation of the voicings, by the way. Octave numbers, something that I usually see only in the world of MIDI and sequencing, are quite useful in this kind of situation as well!!

As a side note with voicings, I usually try to keep the same number of notes in each voicing in a phrase. Well, maybe not the same number of notes, but at least the same density.
_________________________
Greg Schlaepfer
Orange Tree Samples
http://www.orangetreesamples.com

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#1140219 - 06/23/06 02:53 AM Re: Alt Chords
ipgrunt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 419
Loc: Western US
 Quote:
Originally posted by gregjazz:
Right, Ipgrunt, it's best to think of alt chords as a type of dominant 7 chord. Some substitutions of alt chords for dom 7 chords will work, and other times they will not work, because it really depends on their context. To me, an alt chord really wants to resolve to a minor chord (because of the b9, probably), though it can resolve to a major chord just fine, too.

Places where you wouldn't want to use an alt chord (unless you really really like the sound in these contexts) would include when the melody is playing on a chord degree that counterdicts the specific alterations of the alt chord.

I like your notation of the voicings, by the way. Octave numbers, something that I usually see only in the world of MIDI and sequencing, are quite useful in this kind of situation as well!!

As a side note with voicings, I usually try to keep the same number of notes in each voicing in a phrase. Well, maybe not the same number of notes, but at least the same density. [/b]
Yes, I agree.... an alt chord was made to resolve to a minor, being derived from the 7th mode of the melodic minor scale. It sounds especially good with a minor-major seventh.

There are other uses, however, as we have discussed.

As for textures, yes, it is pleasurable to write four and five part harmonies that tense and resolve in their respective lines. When I play chords, like the simple progression in the previous post, I'm usually breaking the chord in one or the other (or both) hands, rather than playing them all simultaneously.

It is something I feel and really depends on context, but I'll usually roll the G-F in the left hand, rather than play them together with the right. a small point.

I've been working with a lot of midi lately, so perhaps your nice comment on the notation was more insightful than you at first realized...

I need to go to bed.
_________________________
-- ipgrunt
Amateur pianist, Son of a Pro

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#1140220 - 06/25/06 08:25 AM Re: Alt Chords
hgiles Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 736
Loc: Charlottesville Virginia
 Quote:
Originally posted by gregjazz:
Don't confuse "alt chords" with chords that are altered. Chords that are altered just mean their 9th, 11th, or 13th are sharped or flatted.

Actual "alt chords" means that it has a b9, #9, #11, and b13. So C7(alt) is: C, E, G, Bb, Db, D#, F#, Ab... Also note that all the notes in the alt chord are the same notes in the alt scale, which is the 7th mode of melodic minor.

Hope this gives some insight and not confusion! \:\) [/b]
I think gregjazz made a mistake. C7 alt is:
C Db Eb E Gb Ab Bb. It does not have a perfect fifth (G).

The good voicing for it is:
LH- E-Bb
RH- Eb-Ab-C

It often functions as V7 and resolves up a fourth to F. It can also resolve like 'A TRAIN' to a minor 7th chord on it's own root (C-7). Mark Levine says it also can resolve to Db and Ab.
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#1140221 - 06/25/06 03:21 PM Re: Alt Chords
gregjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 316
Loc: CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by hgiles:
 Quote:
Originally posted by gregjazz:
Don't confuse "alt chords" with chords that are altered. Chords that are altered just mean their 9th, 11th, or 13th are sharped or flatted.

Actual "alt chords" means that it has a b9, #9, #11, and b13. So C7(alt) is: C, E, G, Bb, Db, D#, F#, Ab... Also note that all the notes in the alt chord are the same notes in the alt scale, which is the 7th mode of melodic minor.

Hope this gives some insight and not confusion! \:\) [/b]
I think gregjazz made a mistake. C7 alt is:
C Db Eb E Gb Ab Bb. It does not have a perfect fifth (G).

The good voicing for it is:
LH- E-Bb
RH- Eb-Ab-C

It often functions as V7 and resolves up a fourth to F. It can also resolve like 'A TRAIN' to a minor 7th chord on it's own root (C-7). Mark Levine says it also can resolve to Db and Ab. [/b]
Thank you for pointing that out!! That is a very important point about alt chords I had forgotten (it's been a long time since Jazz Theory II class ;\) ).
_________________________
Greg Schlaepfer
Orange Tree Samples
http://www.orangetreesamples.com

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