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How does one use the minor 6 chord, and the minor 7 b5 chord?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by dead of night, Jul 3, 2019.

  1. JonR

    JonR Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    No problem with that.
    That's the issue. Can a "tonic" be dissonant and still have a tonic function? Certainly we've learned to accept maj7 chords (classical dissonances) as tonics. I think that's a good argument.
    I wouldn't argue with that. It's only the use of the word "tonic" I have a problem with.
    Yes. No disagreement there.
    I know I'm being a pain here, but I'm trying to preserve some consistency in the definition of terms so we can all know what we're talking about.
    The word "tonic" has a narrower meaning than just a "nice chord to end a song on". "Tonic" means "I" or "i".
    We can end a song on a IV or V, if we want, anything but I - it can definitely sound as cool as ending on a m7b5. Ending on IV doesn't mean it thereby becomes I. Subdominant and tonic mean different things.
    Absolutely not. The "rules" are not about what you can and can't do. I've never suggested any such thing. I said "common practice, not laws."
    The rules are just what you call whatever you do, so we all know what we're talking about. Terminology has to be consistent, or there's no point in using it. The more a word can be used to describe different things, the less use that word is.
    That's great. That's what we all do with music - as much or as little as we want. But don't treat terminology the same way. Do whatever you like, Just call it by the right name when you do. Or - if music theory doesn't yet have a name for it, invent one. In this case, there is no need for a new term, and no need to misuse an existing term. A m7b5 chord is a minor key supertonic, or possibly a major key vii (leading tone chord). It's not a "tonic", even if you end on it and hear it as stable.

    If, OTOH, as I think we were talking about here, you use certain extensions on a major tonic so that it resembles an inverted m7b5 (Bm7b5/F in key of F major), then it's a type of lydian chord. F6#11, if you like.
    saltbird likes this.
  2. smj

    smj Member

    Nov 2, 2008
    Toronto, Ontario
    That’s a pretty dogmatic viewpoint the way you’ve stated it....lol In some cultures, playing/dancing in 13/8 or 5/8 is “home”. No different with harmony.

    If you hear it as a secondary chord to another tonic... it’s because that’s the only way you’ve ever heard it.

    I’ve written tunes in Locrian... some of my teachers have too... really not a big deal.

    To me I hear it as Phrygian with a b5.... so it’s not hard for my ears to adapt to the home chord with a little more hot sauce.

    Sean Meredith-Jones
    Ed DeGenaro likes this.
  3. JonR

    JonR Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    You seem to be missing my point.
    Just to re-state it: the rules are not about what we can and can't do. They're only about what we call whatever we do.
    To follow the point I think you might be making, 4/4 is known as "common time". Nobody would suggest that means that all music has to be in 4/4! :rolleyes:
    "No different with harmony", as you say.
    I.e., we don't listen to music in 13/8, and try and rename it as some kind of twisted or mistaken 4/4. We call it what it is. Harmony likewise has fixed terminology for specific sounds, and it's silly to borrow inappropriate ones if appropriate ones are available. [This is the "if" I'll come back to...]
    I'm not talking about how it's heard, I'm talking about what it's called.
    Again, that's not really my point. I know tunes can be written in locrian. I'm just asking whether it makes sense to call the locrian root chord a "tonic".

    In fact, I don't have a particular problem with that, because I think (many wouldn't) that it's an acceptable bending of the conventions, to name any chord designated as the "I" of a sequence a "tonic", even if it doesn't sound like "home" when you finish on it. The old modal system was only defined by a "finalis", an ending note, which (AFAIK) didn't require any sense of "home" or "resolution" (although it didn't use chords either, which may be significant).

    John Kirkpatrick's Dust to Dust is a fine locrian tune, starting and ending on B all the time. If it doesn't "sound finished" - and here I'd agree with you - that doesn't disqualify it, or mean we need to redefine it as "C major ending on the 7th" or something equally beside the point. I still wouldn't call B the "tonic" though. Final or finalis (if we want to get technical) is - er - fine. "Tonic" is simply an inappropriate word borrowed from a different kind of music. But I'd understand what someone meant when they used the word in that context. (I would assume they weren't referring to C. ;))
    Sure. As I say, in context, I'm OK with thinking of such a chord assuming a tonic role, or pseudo-tonic role. Mainly because there's not a great alternative AFAIK. The word "final" works nicely for the note, and obviously does for a chord in the sense that it's the last! But if we want to convey the sense that it is a proper aural conclusion - albeit an unconventional one - maybe "tonic" is the most suitable term.
    So I seem to be agreeing with you! Ha! :)

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