Change a Note Change a Chord


in Music Theory

I've just begun to read “The Music Lesson” by Victor Wooten award winning bassist. This book promises to be very insightful for musicians and students alike. It starts with a statement about “Boy do I have a lot to learn.”

This book explores more than learning notes and chords but about the spiritual search and growth through music. The beginnings chapter starts with the description of his new unasked for teacher and then explores the many elements and aspects of music and musicianship.

Life and Music Expressed Through Differences

Right of the bat, the book through me in a thought direction. Describing music as life, where expressing either is done through its differences and giving an example of you can't play a chord without different notes, and by changing just one note you change the chord.

The fallout of that is: learn to be conscious of your note choices and Life will respond in kind. The two are related.

Now this goes beyond the normal learning environment that we have in most of our student or classroom studies. I'm not going to even presume to be able to explain this connection. It's one of those you know it exists when you experience it.

Since this site and blog are about learning music principles and music theory. I will only expound on the idea of changing the note change a chord idea and give you a relationship to simple life concepts to see if we can get it into a frame of usability for the music student. Going into the deeper life aspect I hope to gleam some insight from Victor from my future reading.

Change a Note Change a Chord

four chord types in CWe will start with the basic premise that a base chord is made up of 3 notes. Each interval of the notes is a third apart, either a major third or a minor third. Therefore you have four chords that can be constructed with the three notes.

The four chord types are Major, Minor, Diminished, and Augmented

You can learn more detail at the lesson pages here on exact construction: Chords. For now I'll presume you understand chord structure and we'll discuss the differences. Of course you can subscribe and learn and get down cold all the principles at: Monthly Music Course

Typically we learn that the Major Chord is made up of a major and minor 3rd interval. It has a strong and happy sound. But changing just the middle note in the chord to a minor 3rd changes the orientation to a minor then major interval and creates a minor chord with a sad sound.

Just changing the one position has changed the sound, but we've also related this to life in the emotions of happy and sad. This starts to give us a clue to music expressing life idea.

Change Another Note

If we start with our minor chord (minor 3rd, major 3rd) and then again change one note so that we have to minor 3rd intervals we have a diminished chord. This has taken us from sad to a new sound which is the gloomy. It is the sound we hear often in horror movies with tension and anticipation of something scary.

Again we've been able to be more conscious of the change and express it in terms of emotion.

The Fourth Note Change

In the final note change we have to revert back to our major chord and change the 5th note up a half step so that our chord is two major thirds.

I'm not going to describe this one as an emotion. I'd like you to do that and report back to us what the expression of that chord is to you.

This will be a start on you finding your expression through your use of music. Let us know what you discover. There are no right or wrong answers, there are only your impressions.

Bob Reno May 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm

The augmented triad¬† is the chord that transports me into another world. I honestly don’t have a word for the emotion it produces. Its nebulous character is certainly something Debussy was fond of.¬† I love to use it to get to other major chords as well. Change C-E-G# to B-E-G#, or C-E-G# to C-Eb-Ab. A truly fascinating chord! Thanks for the thoughts, Brad.

Brad_C May 27, 2010 at 5:43 am

@Bob, It’s so interesting what changing one note can do. The augmented triad is one that is often overlooked and can elicit an emotional change. I’ve been auditioning both the augmented and diminished chord structures in my improvisation. Then adding 9ths and 13ths to get some really new sound. Now I’ve got to get it into a nice progression. I like how you describe being transported, I feel this often as well.

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