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Tonal Conditions
April 17, 2005 Lessons

Mikhal Caldwell2nd Installment!

This Installment: “Tonal Conditions Part 2”

Well here we go TONAL CONDITIONS PART 2. Hello, lets pick up where we left off. So far we’ve covered 3 tonalities: Major ,Minor, Dominant. Lets go to the next of the basic tonalities. We will still be working in the key C, and we will for now be viewing only the diatonic and chromatic (western or 12 tones) versions of this key. Let’s visit another close relative of the Major tonal family, the Augmented tonal condition.

The Augmented tonality contains a triad (not a quiad) that is mediated over by a natural 3rd however the Dominant (5th) is increasing it’s intervallic content by rising in pitch 1 half step, thereby changing the distance between the Major 3rd and the 5th from half step/whole step, to whole step/whole step which means that this tonal condition is a series of intervals that equal Major 3rds. This is also the reason I often giggle when I hear the term “perfect 5th”, because in order for the Diminished or Augmented tonalities to even exist ,the 5th has to change!!! I often think to myself that the only true “perfect” interval would have to be the ROOT( key center). The Augmented tonal condition looks like this : the triad form 1 3 #5 this is also a perfect time to mention that if you compare scale “tones” you will notice that the #5th tone of the Aug. tonality is exactly the same interval as the Minor 6 of the same key (you will also notice that this is consistent with EVERY key) which means that you can access Minor related tonalities inside a firmly Major rooted (Augmented) tonality, which will open up new worlds of possible ideas such as “polytonal pivoting, or harmonic regeneration etc,” more on those theories in upcoming lessons (which is the whole ball of wax, right?).

The Augmented scale is as such:

C D E F G# A B C.
(# means sharp)

You will also note that every note in the scale is consistent with the Major scale with the exception of the 5th interval being raised 1 half step.

Moving along let’s check out the Minor equalivent of the Augmented tonality, the Diminished tonal condition. For this example, we will shift to the key of A Minor (because we can work without sharps and flats in the basic Minor key of A). This is one of the most misunderstood of basic tonalities for several reasons:

1. It contains an uneven interval count. The true Diminished tonality contains an extra interval, because it is based on a symmetrical scale, a synthetic scale, not occurring from any natural inversion or mode altering, basically a man made innovation which is one of the reasons for the uneven (9note) interval count. The other reason for 9 notes as opposed to 8 is because the diminished tonality in similar fashion as it’s Major counterpart the Augmented, also forms a series of 3rds, in this case Minor 3rds.

2. It contains 2, 7ths: WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yep, it’s true! The Diminished tonality is the ONLY tonality that will EVER show 2 flats (bb) when its written (which makes it pretty easy to identify) it has 2, 7ths one which is a natural 7th (Major) and the tell tale double flat bb7 (Diminished) because of the interval count (Minor3rds) at resolves itself at the Major (natural) 7th. This again offers more opportunities to access other tonalities outside of the one that you may happen to be working in because of the Major 7th against the Minor 3rd and the flat 5th.

3. It contains a flat 5th interval: this is the result of the series of half step/whole step that forms the Minor 3rd repeated. This brings us to another misconception about the Diminished tonality, many people think that the triad form 1 b3 b5 (A C bE) is the formula for the diminished tonality however if we take into consideration that there is a extra interval ONLY in this tonality, it only makes sense that the extra interval would be included as part of it’s harmonic identity, which would make it look more like a quiad (a 4 note harmonic construction) and it would appear as such 1 b3 b5 bb7 or A C bE bbG .

Let’s look at the scale form A B C D bE F bbG #G. PLEASE DON’T FREAK OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even though it has an uneven interval count (and looks kinda scary) it is still diatonically correct! This opens you up to the dreaded “whole tone scale” ha ha ha!!!!! Many players commonly mistake the Locarin mode for the diminished scale.

I hope that this may clear up some questions you may have had about Diminished land. Well, I gotta go to the gym so I’ll see you next time with Part 3 on Tonal Conditions.

"1" Comment
  1. This lesson has several inaccuracies:

    The half/whole diminished scale is an 8 note (octatonic) scale, not 9 notes.

    Gbb is an enharmonic equivalent of F. The 7th note of the A diminished scale should be Gb/F#

    The augmented scale is hexatonic (C Eb E G G# B C), made from a pair of augmented triads (C E G# and D# G B)

    Finally, quiad is not a word. 4 note chords are tetrads.

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