Learn to improvise. 2003-2004. Lesson 03: fifth, third, triad, key of C.
When two tones sound together, extra combination tones sound also which cause
a complex pattern of waves, dependent on the distance (interval) between the
Important intervals are:
(The names octave, fifth, etc are originated from our Western scale).
- octave: two tones 12 keysteps apart, e.g. c4-c5.
- fifth: more complex pattern of waves: obtained by 7 keysteps,
- major third: a bit more complex than the fifth: 4 keysteps, e.g. c-e.
- minor third: made by 3 keysteps, e.g. e-g.
A stack of two intervals makes a triad:
A major third and a minor third makes a 'major triad',
e.g. the chord C = c-e-g.
A minor third and a major third makes a 'minor triad',
e.g. the chord Am = a-c-e.
(If the character m, which stands for 'minor', is left out in the name of the chord,
it always is a major triad.)
A stack of two minor thirds makes a 'diminished triad',
e.g. the chord Cdim = c-eb-gb.
A stack of two major triads makes an 'augmented triad',
e.g. the chord Caug = c-e-g#.
(We will use the latter two chords only after we have mastered the world of the
major and minor chords)
Remark: though the word 'triad' points to three, a triad may have more notes by
Fast procedure to make chords by counting keysteps:
The fastest procedure to make a chord, e.g. a major triad, is by counting of the
keysteps (half steps or semitones are the common ways to put it, but the real
things you are to deal with are keys).
If you want to make e.g. the chord G, you take the tone g (called the root) and
add to it the tone 4 keysteps to the right (b), and another 3 keysteps (d). In less
than a second you can create a major triad. In this case the chord G = g-b-d.
To make a major triad count 4+3 keysteps.
To make a minor triad count 3+4 keysteps.
To make a dim. triad count 3+3 keysteps.
To make an aug. triad count 4+4 keysteps.
The chords we make this way are in the root position, as the root is the bottom
note. For the sake of fingering and sound we often modify it to an inversion,
which means that another of the three notes of the triad are at the bottom, e.g.
C = c-e-g is in the root position,
C = e-g-c is in the 1st inversion,
C = g-c-e is in the 2nd inversion.
A key has an accompaniment with 3 chords, a fifth apart:
The fifth is the most important interval. It not only plays a part in the tuning of
instruments but also in the relationship between chords.
Notably, three chords, a fifth apart, form a so called 'key' (the thing you hit on
the piano is also called a key, but that's not we are talking about). As long as the
accompaniment is restricted to these three chords, the music has a particular air.
This structure is called a key.
The key of C:
For didactical reasons we will explain as much as possible with the key of C.
This key is determined by the tree chords C, F and G. These chords are a fifth
apart, which you can see when you write them in the order: F-C-G.
A song, accompanied by these three chords is made in the key of C.
It is a major key as all three chords are major triads.
1) Practice in making chords (C, C#, D, etc) by counting keysteps. Do this in two
-make the chord in the root position,
-arrange the notes in a practical position (e.g. an inversion).
2) Play in the key of C.
The accompaniment doesn't hit any black keys as it only plays notes from the
chords C, F and G.
The melody however (the right hand) is allowed to hit any key,
so also the black ones.
(If you sing, the melody can even use notes the piano doesn't have).
In spite if the restriction to the key of C, you must try to make acceptable music
by variations in tempo, time, measure, rhythm, touch, etc. Play playfully.
Click here to here what I mean (MIDI, time 7:37).
The point is that you have to learn what a key implies. You can hear in the
example the musical effect of the restriction to one key: how much I do my very
best to make lively music, this restriction hinders the expression. Later on we
will change keys during playing, but I can't explain then, how to do that,
if you don't even know what the air of a key is. That's why it is important
to exercise in the key of C only until you know all the aspects of it.
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