Tension & Resolution with b5 and b9

Harmonic tension and resolution is important regardless of the style of music we play. Strong chord movements may get labeled as "Jazz" however we still find this sound in Latin, Progressive Rock, Soul and Blues.

Keep in mind that the principles of Western harmony apply to all styles of music from Mozart to Slayer. The important thing is we should never be wary of any style, but rather keep an open mind and open interest in all types of content.

The sound of the b5 and b9 resolution may come across as jazzy sounding, but there could be all kinds of applications for this sound. 

Example One, shows chord diagrams for a "G7(b5)" resolving into a "C" major triad in the open position. When the shapes feel good under your fingers, try plucking through the arpeggiated chord movement shown in Example Two. 



This sound is the effect of two ideas happening at once. The first effect is the important sound of the "V" to "I" resolution. This is the foundation of tension and resolution. When the "G" rooted chord resolves over to the "C" rooted chord we experience the effect of, "movement and rest."

the other aspect occurring here is that of the lowered fifth interval (the b5) in the "G7" harmony. This sound is known as the "altered" effect. Alterations are powerful sounds, but the flat-five is very strong since the interval design creates two dominant effects at once. 

Another interesting interval for altered tension effect is the sound of the "V7" to "I" with the use of the "b9."

Example three is showing the chords of "C7(b9)" and "F" major triad. Play each chord and allow your fretting hand to get used to their layout on the neck. 


In example four, I have another arpeggiated chord movement (similar to example two), of the two chords from example three flowing into each other. 
This effect is different from our first example. Although it is still an example of altered tension to resolution, this resolution occurs into the tonic family chord (F) by way of a dominant chord with an altered 9th. The lowered 9th interval has a very unique color to its sound. The resolution is sophisticated sounding and offers us a strong new sound for our cadence. Play through example four below.


The resolution of "V" to "I" is the basis for Western music. So, it really pays off to study all of the unique situations available to us for creating new chord sounds and new effects. 

The effects of  Tension and Resolution with b5 and b9 are only two interesting altered effects available to us. There are others, so stay tuned and have fun learning! For further study in this area, check out the related videos below.


Music Theory: Altered Chords - Part One

Music Theory: Altered Chords - Part Two


Post a Comment