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Thread: The 4 chords that contain all 12 notes

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2004

    Cool The 4 chords that contain all 12 notes

    Just wanted to share something neat I found, it's possible to construct 4 "chords" out of only major and minor 3rds that contain all 12 notes of the chromatic scale. They are (using C as the root):

    1) C,D#,F#,A,C#,E,G,A#,D,F,G#,B - Has a diminished flavor
    2) C,E,G,A#,D,F,G#,B,D#,F#,A,C# - Minor-ish
    3) C,E,G,A#,D,F#,A,C#,F,G#,B,D# - Major-ish
    4) C,E,G#,B,D#,G,A#,D,F#,A,C#,F - Augmented flavor

    Might be useful to anyone wanting to jump into chromatic writing or improv. You can break any of them up into smaller chords and riff off of them.

    Just for an example, you could break (3) up into the smaller chords <C,E,G,A#> <A#,D,F#,A> <A,C#,F,G#> <G#,B,D> and riff off of those.

  2. #2
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    Join Date
    Mar 2017

    I was going to add that I've heard Yusef Lateef speak of the triple diminished, but then noticed you credited him in your score.

    I may be veering off-topic, but I understand these to be multi-octave scales, and while compositionally interesting, if one were to think of them as a medium for improvising then one would be inclined to simply collapse them into one octave, which would seemingly remove the structure, so I've always wondered whether they were a useful paradigm to adopt.

    I understand from a print interview with Kurt Rosenwinkel that he took particular interest in multi-octave forms such as these (not necessarily scales, and not 12-tone) from Stravinsky, the theory being that the effects of a particular register on timbre affects which combination of notes sound good - something Ken V would probably agree with.


  3. #3
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    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    @Tom R

    Well yes I don't believe in exactly equivalent octaves all the time, and tone/timbre can be very important. The actual perceived connections could possibly be in a tighter range.

    Unfortunately there's no description of what sounds/feelings for each note made by Cuallito. I do appreciate that there is an overall description. I do like that the "minorish" started with a "major" triad. I'd guess at b2 and b6 for the darkness, but I don't want to speak for anyone.


    So it's just connecting with a maj 3rd to get to the next dim. I'd like to know if the key is still valid, etc... from how he's hearing it.

    I think it's good that he's found some way of connecting all 12 notes. Of course it may be another couple of years till we hear back. Not that I have any room to talk.
    Last edited by Ken Valentino 2; 01-24-2018 at 07:59 AM.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Quote Originally Posted by motherlode View Post
    @Tom R

    What you're referring to are called spirals. That's the multi-octave structure contained within an octave.
    Last year, I posted an example here on this board showing the material in both forms appropriately named 'Spiral' by John Coltrane .

    I remember - I made some notes and will revisit them.

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