How to think of The Disco chord

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by jtwang, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. jtwang

    jtwang Member

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    I think of this chord as the Disco chord. It's just a major triad with 2nd on bottom and what's makes it Barry White, not gospel, is that it functions as the I in a minor tonality, not as the V in major. Think C/D with strings below D minor pentatonic wah licks and horn stabs. In this function it's a... well, that's my question. Is it minor dominant or suspended or something else? It's like a m11 without the 3rd. Or a sus chord with a dominant seventh. Minor9 sus4...? *confused*
     
  2. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I'm not up on my disco but what tunes would you find that in? I always heard octaves, lots of octaves. Or Nile Roger's funky double stops in Le'freak is pretty sweet I always liked that part. But disco still sucks.

    But it's always sparse chording, and what you describe is like what's in funk guitar. Fragments of a chord, so you don't want too many notes, so leave some out. So for me, it could be a Dm11 or whatever but that's just too much thinking for such a simple thing. I never heard of "minor dominant". It'd just be minor 7th, no?

    I was just more into Van Halen and Aerosmith back in the 70's!
     
  3. jtwang

    jtwang Member

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    I wasn't talking about guitar in particular, but the chords within the general arrangement, often string sections and/or horns. I can't think of any specific song from the top of my head right now, but I think it's pretty safe to say that it's very Isaac Hayes/Barry White-esque. Maybe more funk and r'n'b than disco, but I've always thought of it as a disco thing. I think even Village People (!) has some songs with this typical chord. I'll try to look that up some example songs.

    Yeah, m7th chord was what I meant, sorry about the terminology.
     
  4. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    Ah, gotchya. Yeah I don't think of those guys when I think of disco. But the Village People are the epitome of it.
     
  5. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    One of the cool things about this era of music is you get into some interesting harmony because a lot of tunes are based on a repeating bass lick or pedal. So you have to separate the actual chord voicing from the chord function. One song I'm writing at the moment has these chord voicings-

    Cmin | Db Db#11 | Cmin | Dminb5 Dminsus4 |

    -over a repeating bass line riff with notes from C minor pentatonic. But because of where the notes fall the function of the chords is more like this:


    Cmin7 | Bbmin7 Eb7 | Abmaj7 | Dmin7b5 G7#9 |


    Does that makes sense? As far as your chord, if it's a C triad with a D in the bass you can think of it as Dsus. But it really depends on context, because that will change the function. I have another song with that type of chord in it, here are the basic changes-

    G | A | A/B | Bmin...

    In that case I choose to notate it as A/B because that explains the function of the chord better.



    Some of the greatest music in the world is disco. But you've got to get passed the KC and the Sunshine Bands and Village Peoples of the world. Either way, what the guitar is doing in a lot of this music isn't going to tell you a thing about the harmony. The guitar is mostly used as another percussion instrument.
     
  6. cameron

    cameron Member

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    I'd call C/D a Dsus7. I don't associate such chords with disco, but I wouldn't be surprised to find them there.

    Mark Levine has a little discussion of how to voice sus7 chords in his Jazz Theory Book, and he specifically recommends leaving out the 5th, and voicing them as a major triad plus bass note like the C/D example.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2008
  7. Jay Mitchell

    Jay Mitchell Member

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    Since it also contains the ninth (E), I believe it's more complete to call it a D11, recognizing that it could just as easily function as a Dm11, since there is no third. As typically voiced on guitar, it's also the drop two voicing of Cadd9, root position.

    A lot of Steely Dan tunes contain guitar voicings consisting of a major triad played over a non-chord bass note, e.g., C/F. Depending on context, there are several names that can be applied to this kind of voicing.
     
  8. cameron

    cameron Member

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    D11 would imply a D major triad with the 7th, 9th, and 11th added.

    C/D is a D11 with both the 5th and 3rd omitted. So you could notate it as D11 (no 3rd) to make it clear.

    The notation Dsus7 would imply that it's a Dsus chord, plus the 7th. Dsus can mean either Dsus4 or Dsus2, in this case it means both . . .
     
  9. Jay Mitchell

    Jay Mitchell Member

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    Yes. And most guitar players will have difficulty actually playing all those voices in a chord. C/D is compact notation, easily recoginzable by even relatively unsophisticated players, and it includes all the upper tones - 7, 9, and 11 - in a D11 chord.

    Yes. See above. However, even if the chart says D11, most players will have to decide which tones to leave out and still get the character of the chord. IMO playing C/D does an excellent job of that.

    The choice of chord names for writing charts is (and should be, IMO) often driven as much by recognizability as by function. I know that, when I write a chart, I'd rather make it as easy as possible for other players to read than rigorous in terms of chord function.
     
  10. funkycam

    funkycam Member

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    Most guys I know call this a sus chord & you see it everywhere in r&b, soul & gospel.

    eg the intro to never too much by luther vandross, the B chord in what's goin' on by marvin gaye, the Ab & F chords in Anita Baker's "sweet love"


    The most important thing to keep in mind IMO is the distinction between (eg) D minor11 & C/D
     
  11. hacker

    hacker Member

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    If the chord is wirtten C/D-doesn't that always imply that the D is in the bass?
     
  12. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    To answer the question of "how do I think of the disco chord", I consider it a C triad with a D in the bass. I most definitely do not think of it as a D11. A D11 would have the note F# in it. This note is very much not in the spirit of the C/D, as used in gospel-oriented music. Dm11 is a little closer, but it ain't the same thing.

    The chord most often functions as the V chord. So C/D is usually functioning as D7 in the key of G.

    I have a handful of grips for this chord. But in a band situation, I'll often just play a C triad or Cmaj7. I let the bass and keyboardist cover the bass note.
     
  13. cameron

    cameron Member

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    I think that's the most common convention. But I have seen other uses of the slash-notation.

    I think Ted Greene's books are a source of an alternative convention. I don't remember what he used the slash to indicate, but I remember always having to remind myself that he uses the notation in a different was from most people.

    But yeah, to most people, C/D means a C major triad with a D in the bass.
     
  14. cameron

    cameron Member

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    Yep. Which is why, even if I think of a chord like C/D as Dsus7, that's just me putting it into some kind of theoretical context. C/D is the better notation to put on a chart, not just for the convenience of guitarists, but also for the convenience of keys players and horn-section arrangers.

    A piano player who sees D11 in a chart might play one of any number of fanciful fingerings. A piano player who sees C/D is likely going to play exactly the chord in question.
     
  15. JonR

    JonR Member

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    "D11" is often used (erroneously) as shorthand for D9sus4, which is close enough to C/D.
    Uh-huh.
    It's basically D9sus4 without the 5th, but the 5th is non-essential - and "C/D" is a much neater symbol.
    Cmaj7(/D) makes it a D13sus4. ;)
    You get one of those at the end of the bridge in James Taylor's "You've got a Friend".
     
  16. kimock

    kimock Member

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    My friends in the gospel/blues/funk community (New Orleans funk paticularly) call that the "Church chord". It doesn't neccesarily have to be a V chord, any slash chord with that construction that assumes the blues scale of the tonic as a basic melodic resource qualifies as "church chord".
    So it's a I chord in your example. There are obviously going to be a couple of different possible, optional names for C/D, but the sound of it along with the blues or pentatonic scale of the tonic (not root) at the street level is usually just referred to as "church".
    To get back to the major/minor question, if you can get your head around the idea that the blues scale is neither major nor minor, but neutral, then the idea of a family of "neutral" chords that have no third to go with that scale makes sense.
    So, C triad with D in the bass, Bb with C in the bass, F over G, Eb over F,
    G over A, etc. With D blues scale, that's all church.
    That's one way to look at it.

    peace sk
     
  17. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    Good points Kimock. You have to think of where that chord is coming from, and it's basically a way to allow you to play those blues or minor pent lines over a sound that's neither minor or dominant.
     

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