Lesson 20: Some ways to use the tension tones

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Master taught me that in the context of a particular chord, there are three groups of notes:

  1. The chord tones, e.g in Gmaj7, G B D F
  2. The colour tones – the upper extensions of the chord – the 9, 11, 13
  3. The tension tones – the b5, #5, b9, #9, i.e. notes from the chromatic scale that are not part of the chord or the vertical harmony – the ‘outside’ notes.

In last Saturday’s lesson, I started out by asking Master ‘So how and when do we use the diminished scale’ since we touched upon it slightly the prior lesson. To put this in context he said that we needed to spend some time thinking about the tension tones (group 3) individually first and how each one of them lies over the harmony and what it sounds like.

So, we took a basic ii V I in G (Am7 | D7 | Gmaj7) and we took each of the tension tones in turn and applied them over the V chord, i.e. altered the D7 to add more dissonance prior to resolving to the I. Below is a chart of the movement of the voices in the three chords and how each of the tension tones is integrated to give a chromatic line.

  ii Am7 V D7 (alt) I GM7
b9 – chromatic motion up E (3) Eb (b9) D (5)
b9 – chromatic motion down D (11) Eb (b9) E (13)
#9 – chromatic motion up E (5) F (#9) F# (M7)
#9 – chromatic motion down F# (13) F (#9) E (M13)
b5 – chromatic motion up A (1) Ab (b5) G (1)
b9 – chromatic motion down G (7) Ab (b5) A (M9)
#5 – chromatic motion up A (1) Bb (#5) B (3)
#5 – chromatic motion down B (3) Bb (#5) A (M9)

Chords for the first two look like:

1 and2

You can see the voice moving along the 2nd string.


One Response to “Lesson 20: Some ways to use the tension tones”

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