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View Full Version : Do power chords exist in other foms of music?


EADGBE
03-19-2012, 04:11 AM
Such as classical? I've read that if they occur in classical music they're called intervals. I'm not a musicologist. And I didn't study music theory. But I'm just curious. Some say Link Wray was one of the pioneers of power chords. But I'm wondering did they exist before then? Do you know of any classical music pieces that feature them?

octatonic
03-19-2012, 04:16 AM
Actually you want to avoid parallel 5th movement in classical music.
There are a bunch of rules centred around species counterpoint and this is one of them.

Prior to 1725 (when the rules were developed) there were a lot of examples of parallel 5ths in folk & medieval music.

Intervals are just a combination of two notes- not just 5ths.

JonR
03-19-2012, 04:21 AM
Power chords - as such - derived from the use of distortion on electric guitars. Distortion enhances all the overtones of the notes, many of which are out of tune with equal tempered pitches (the way we currently tune our instruments). The main clash is between the 5th harmonic of the root and octave harmonics of the 3rd. So the simple solution is to leave out the 3rd of the chord. Roots and 5ths alone sound pure and strong (hence "power"), and distortion means the sound is rich enough to be interesting without the 3rd.

However, you do sometimes get cadences in classical music to chords containing root and 5th only. AFAIK, it derives from modal practices. The earliest forms of harmony only admitted the so-called "perfect" intervals, so everything was in octaves, 4ths and 5ths. 3rds were considered a dissonance!
Check out "organum":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organum
You may be able to find some examples of Gregorian chant illustrating the concept, but I'm no expert.

As harmony developed, and 3rds became acceptable (and eventually almost obligatory), movement in "parallel 5ths" (one 5th interval moving to another) was outlawed: it sounded too stark. But of course that's just the sound that most rock guitarists like, as they move power chords up and down the neck.

vhollund
03-19-2012, 06:21 AM
Parralel 5ths has been used in classical music as an effect, like already said it breaks the rules of good voiceleading.
In Celtic folk music 5ths and also parallel, are a very common sound

Fred132
03-19-2012, 06:49 AM
Parts of "In the Mood" by The Glenn Miller Orchestra sounds a lot like a big band version of power chords to me.

statesm
03-20-2012, 03:40 AM
It was strange, coming from a rock/pop background when I was doing a lot of 4 part writing in college we were not allowed to have parallel movement in perfect 5ths. I could not really understand what the big deal was.

Then one day I was working on an assignment on my computer and had it play my progression back, and all of the sudden it clearly sounded like a voice had gone missing (poof). I looked carefully and there was the notorious parallel 5th. It wasn't that I hadn't made the mistake before, but that it leapt to my ear aurally first. Then I was able to understand why it was no bueno in that style.

JonR is right about Gregorian Chant and Organum being primarily Monophonic then harmonized in perfect interval, thirds were considered dissonant for a long time until Ars Nova or something. I didn't pay a lot of attention (as much as I should have) to music history...

rob2001
03-20-2012, 04:06 AM
As harmony developed, and 3rds became acceptable (and eventually almost obligatory), movement in "parallel 5ths" (one 5th interval moving to another) was outlawed: it sounded too stark. But of course that's just the sound that most rock guitarists like, as they move power chords up and down the neck.

Is that what was known as the devils triad or something?

Serious Poo
03-20-2012, 04:28 AM
Is that what was known as the devils triad or something?
No, I believe youre refering to a flat fifth aka tritone aka the devil's interval.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritone

rob2001
03-20-2012, 05:12 AM
No, I believe youre refering to a flat fifth aka tritone aka the devil's interval.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritone

Ya, thats it.....spooky!! :Devil

slyzspyz
03-20-2012, 05:38 AM
McCoy Tyner springs to mind

well he doesn't just bang away at them like a caveman, but he makes use of them in ways I consider 'powerful'

KRosser
03-20-2012, 07:56 AM
Actually you want to avoid parallel 5th movement in classical music.

That was only during the "common practice" period, and even then, in Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, etc., etc., over and over there's instances where that "rule" was broken. And of course, since Impressionism all bets are off

KRosser
03-20-2012, 07:57 AM
Such as classical? I've read that if they occur in classical music they're called intervals.

The relationship of any two tones is an interval, in any style of music.

EADGBE
03-20-2012, 01:20 PM
The relationship of any two tones is an interval, in any style of music.
OK. I understand.

I guess I should have asked do 5th chords exist in classical music? Or any other style of music besides rock?

GovernorSilver
03-20-2012, 01:43 PM
Mike Stern's version of "Nardis" uses power chords - clean though.

bxuUPYbQwAE

statesm
03-20-2012, 02:24 PM
The only really "acceptable" use of parallel 5ths motion that I learned (for classical-romantic) was in regards to the Swiss augmented 6th (or doubly augmented 4th) chord which as previously mentioned shows up in cadences.

I sometimes had a problem with some of the classical thinking regarding music theory. For example the chord/cadence I just mentioned has a parallel perfect fifth built into it, but when I first learned it the book called it a doubly augmented 4th chord, Why? So they could "hide" the fifths in the notation... BAH!

JonR
03-20-2012, 04:36 PM
I like the Beethoven story:

A tutor once pointed out to Beethoven a case of parallel fifths in this work, which were forbidden.
Beethoven replied 'So, who has forbidden them?'
His tutor detailed the relevant musical theorists. Beethoven defiantly declared 'Well now, I allow them!'

Which should probably be followed with a warning:
If you are not Beethoven, don't try this at home.

stevel
03-20-2012, 09:25 PM
"Power Chords" were, if you like, the first chords.

The very first polyphonic music was called Parallel Organum and it used parallel 5ths or 4ths within an octave.

However, as counterpoint evolved, parallel 5ths and chords without thirds in them became rare and astylistic.

Chopin was about the first composer to start using open 5ths in the left hand and move them in parallel "against the rules" but these would typically be just the lowest two notes in the chord (the upper notes would still be a full chord - so it's more like he's doing the full barre chord in parallel).

Probably not until Debussy (The Sunken Cathedral) do we start to see chords without 3rds moving in parallel that work sort-a-kind-a like power chords.

Sometimes pieces were made to evoke medieval music, or folk music, so you do see something similar. For example, many of the pieces written to emulate bagpipes or evoke scottish landscapes use an open 5th in the accompaniment (to emulate the drone pipes on bagpipes) and have a melody above. So these are sort of power chords, but typically it just stays on one harmony (so it's like the drone of the bagpipes).

Steve

stevel
03-20-2012, 09:29 PM
However, you do sometimes get cadences in classical music to chords containing root and 5th only.

In "classical" music of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods (CPP) you get final chords (of a piece, movement, or section) that contain Roots and a 3rd only, but never (to my knowledge) Roots and a 5th (without a third). This is even rare in the Renaissance (more common earlier). In the 1300s you might get final chords without a 3rd, or you see it in Fauxbourdon, etc.

Best,
Steve

stevel
03-20-2012, 09:41 PM
The only really "acceptable" use of parallel 5ths motion that I learned (for classical-romantic) was in regards to the Swiss augmented 6th (or doubly augmented 4th) chord which as previously mentioned shows up in cadences.

Actually, it's the German Augmented 6th moving to the V (or V7) chord where one typically encounters the parallel 5th movement "allowed". It is still comparatively rare though. In most cases, composers would either insert non chord tones, or a I6/4 in between the Ger+6 and the V, or do something like the oft quoted Mozart example where he arpeggiated the chords such that the 5ths moved at different times.

The so-called "Swiss" +6 is a Ger+6 that has been re-spelled so the "5th" of the +6 chord is spelled as #2 rather than b3 when the chord moves to a Major I6/4 chord. This is not necessary when the 6/4 chord is minor, or the +6 moves directly to V.

I sometimes had a problem with some of the classical thinking regarding music theory. For example the chord/cadence I just mentioned has a parallel perfect fifth built into it, but when I first learned it the book called it a doubly augmented 4th chord, Why? So they could "hide" the fifths in the notation... BAH!

Yeah, not quite the reason. It wasn't to avoid the 5ths. It was to provide correct chromatic spelling for the resolution to the 3rd of the I6/4 chord. So the note's going UP instead of down, so it wouldn't create parallels with the bass. The danger of parallels is only present when the +6 moves directly to V(7).

However, you do bring up a good point because this kind of trickery does happen in other ways. For example, there's a Palestrina work that begins with basically 3 chords in a row that are like C-Dm-Em. But the voices go:

G-A-B
E-D-G
C-F-E

By "jumping around" and crossing, parallel 5ths are avoided.

Best,
Steve

EADGBE
03-21-2012, 06:31 PM
Are these power chords/5th chords pretty accurate?

http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d188/picsyes/picsyes3/7efa8811.gif

stevel
03-21-2012, 08:39 PM
Looks ok to me on a quick glance.

Are these power chords/5th chords pretty accurate?

http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d188/picsyes/picsyes3/7efa8811.gif

snacker
03-21-2012, 09:22 PM
bartok's piano works are full of parallel 5ths

jazzphan89
03-21-2012, 09:25 PM
All they are is parallel 5ths, so I'm sure they did but weren't called "power chords." I myself prefer the 1-3-7 variety