Play It Forward
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Carol Kaye calls the b5 a passing tone... Good enough for me, since she was a jazz guitarist before switching to the bass,...
The northern parts of Africa are obviously more Muslim and so there is what I call that Middle Eastern influence going on which is very different to say Zulu music from the south of Africa.These are all great points.
Firstly, there is African music that sounds close enough to blues to possibly share some kind of ancestral link: mostly from West and North Africa, not Central or South Africa, which would make sense as most slaves were taken from the West and North. (The above article seems to be talking about instruments from Central and South Africa - very different cultures from the North, which has strong Islamic influence.)
However, it's hard to remove the Western influence from the music of (say) Ali Farke Toure or Tinariwen. Obviously they play electric guitars, and equally obviously they've heard American blues and popular music, and it's hard to tell how much of their African heritage they've retained. The best we can say is that they clearly feel a natural affinity with blues, as if they do recognise something familiar in it, at least with the one-chord blues of John Lee Hooker. They're clearly not just copying American music, but producing something with a still very African sound.
But African-American music obviously drew from many sources. Slaves were frequently banned from indulging in African musical practices, in case it encouraged solidarity and rebellion (an exception being New Orleans). So they naturally attempted to apply their musical instincts to the European music they heard. Certain kinds of British and Celtic folk music have a lot in common with African folk forms, in particular (interestingly) the so-called "neutral 3rd", which is neither major nor minor, but somewhere in between - not fixed, but movable by the singer for effect.
IOW, just as Ali Farke Toure heard a distant cousin in John Lee Hooker, 19th century slaves would have heard familiar-sounding melodies in old English folk tunes like "Pretty Polly" (a 12-bar form, incidentally, and mostly minor pentatonic).
Meanwhile, Scots melodies would have led to the major pentatonic spiritual and gospel forms, also adopted eagerly by slaves and their descendants.
Blues can, of course, be crudely described as a blend of parallel minor and major pentatonic, with melodies pulled around between one and the other.
Jeez. .But our harmonic system is based on 5-limit intervals (or close approximations to them). 7-limit is not considered because its too out of tune. Chords built using those pitches would not work the way we mostly like chords to work - in progressions in keys, with the potential for modulation (without retuning).
For 7th partials to have harmonic use, we'd need a different harmonic system, and maybe a totally different set of octave divisions (more of them, or highly irregular ones).OK, but that's a 35:24 ratio with C. Why not just go for a 7:5, surely a more likely ratio? And much closer to the midway point between P4 and P5. Why - if the keynote is C - go down to A in order to come back up?
This is all very well, but how do you then explain the most common blue 3rd which centres itself somewhere between 6:5 and 5:4?
There is no simple 7-limit ratio that applies in that space.
The only thing that can explain that note, seems to me, is the idea of "something somewhere nebulously in-between" (between either two ET pitches or two just ones, take your pick). Or as I prefer to see it, as a variable pitch region, not fixed to anything at all.
I guess it may well be pulled (intuitively) in two directions, by 5:4 at the top end and 6:5 (or even 7:6) at the bottom end, but the distinctive thing about the "blue 3rd" is its very mobility. You certainly don't hear blues singers singing any of those pitches dead on and holding them, for long enough to be sure exactly what pitch they're thinking of.
The 7th partial theory is appealing in some ways (certainly regarding the blue 7th at least), but it's hard to see how we could get evidence for it from actual blues performances, where singers never seem to settle long enough on any note (other than chord tones) for them to be actually measurable.
This is one problem with the western scientific approach to music and scales. We seem to want to identify specific frequencies or specific ratios; to pin down some fixed pitches. Obviously if we want to make connections to the harmonic series, that's essential. But blues is not like that. Singers and players bend their notes around - that much is obvious. We can't measure the frequencies they're producing when they never stay still long enough; but more to the point, why should we want to, when it's the movement that is clearly the point?
Obviously there are fixed pitches in the immediate environment (chord tones, tuned more or less to ET), and - in the vocals - I wouldn't deny a sense of gravitational pull to tonic and 5th at least; and possibly 4th too. There may also be cases of a blue 7th held long enough to suggest it might be 7:4, and maybe figures can be obtained to show it's nearer that than it is to a tempered m7, or to a just 9:5 or 16:9.
But the blue 3rd - I don't see how that's going to get pinned down to one "ideal" pitch. One might suggest 7:6 and 5:4 as its outer limits (I'd be OK with that), but that hardly explains the fondness for something between 6:5 and 5:4.
Maybe that's just some kind of attractively "unstable equilibrium"?
"Fixed pitch" is an instrumental reference, you would never even consider the term in relation to voice, so no, anything sung is by definition not fixed pitch.
Whatever the pitch is, "blu third" by your definition, or any location on the continuum of the octave, if you don't ID it and commit it to a tuning or a temperament it's "not fixed".
That doesn't mean it "moves around" or it's "mobile"
OK., it just means you haven't gone thru the considerable trouble to nail it down and commit it to a small, limited system of tones for use harmonically. Chords.
Quite - I wouldn't say it was!If it's recognizable as pitch at all, it's not in two places at the same time
OK, this is probably semantics, because I'm not sure what you mean here., so while I get where you're coming from and think it's fine for you to think like that, you're missing the point that "fixed pitch" requires that pitch to have multiple meanings.
But why would I want to nail it down? That's what I don't get.You just have a temperament based perspective.
You could easily nail down blu third from that perspective, it's the bisection of the fifth. Done. It's in the system, it's a quarter tone.
Ah-ha....The flip side being we don't really hear like that, by "mean", or mid-way point.
Now that sounds interesting. It seems to align with what I was saying about "unstable equlibrium", a tension between two points.Audible, harmonic mediants are more likely some product of the harmonic weight of their end points regardless of interval size.
I'll need that explained. What's a "Noble mediant"? and 4:3 in relation to what?The Noble Mediant of the the fifth is probably 4:3, not the physically equidistant 1/4 tone.
I see all that (I think), but all I mean by "move around" is the normal way we bend notes in blues, in that they don't settle on fixed pitches (or do so rarely). If they do settle on an identifiable pitch, they spend longer on the moving up to it, or away from it.Anyway, pitch, as melody unfixed by temperament doesn't "move around" except when viewed from the perspective, lower resolution, and rules of temperament.
It still "plays by the rules" if it's going to be heard and sung or played, it's just playing by different rules according to tempo, tonic, relative tuning in the rest of the harmony, and splitting the differences between chord tones, lingering melody tones, scale tones, direction of the line, and "local intonation" intervallically.
I don't think I am, personally, and I'm probably not explaining myself very well.The polarities involved are basically "note" and "meaning".
You're looking at meanings which employ a great many notes from the perspective of a system which uses one note for a great many meanings and scratching your head.
First, I have to read up on 7th-partials. Anyway, yes, this is what I meant, it is like any other passing tone we typically play in "blues".I think I see what you are saying, essentially that "the blue note" as defined by a flat5 is no more expressive than any other chromatic note, and hence does not deserve the lofty title of THE blue note. The tension that it creates, however, cannot be matched by any other chromatic tone in a blues progression IMHO.
And more rules:As a general rule, simply do the following:
Be certain that the soprano and alto voices are closer than an octave to each other.
Typically, allow no more than a sixth between the two.
Do not allow the tenor voice to stray lower than a seventh below the alto, and again, typically, no more than a sixth.
The bass voice may range freely. When it is closer to the tenor, then the alto and soprano should not range too far away.
Think in this case that the bass represents the second, third or fourth partial. The upper voices are relatively close to the lower voices.
When the bass ranges away from the tenor voice — and it is perfectly OK for the bass to be a tenth or even a twelth away — there is a greater ability to expand out the voices, as in the model of the harmonic series.
Here is the basic principle, recognizing that exceptions are often to be found within certain harmonic contexts.
1. Root position triads. Double the root of the chord, which is the same as saying double the bass note.
2. First-inversion triads. Double the soprano, regardless of which voice it represents.
3. Second-inversion triads. Double the bass, which is the same as saying double the fifth of the triad.
4. First-inversion diminished triads. The diminished triad appears most often with the third in the bass, so as to avoid the tritone between the actual root of the chord and the upper fifth. When voiced in this way, double the bass note, which is the same as saying double the third. Thus the tritone is only represented by one voice, and the more stable third is represented by two.
5. Seventh chords. Regardless of inversion, distribute the four notes of the seventh chord, of any type, to the four voices, observing smooth voice leading. Occasionally, especially with the dominant seventh chord, the fifth can be omitted and the root doubled.
Thing is, different rules apply to different genres (and styles and periods) of music. That's really how we define different types of music in the first place.First, I have to read up on 7th-partials. Anyway, yes, this is what I meant, it is like any other passing tone we typically play in "blues".
As far as music theory having rules goes - When I took music theory classes it had VERY strict rules, almost like English grammar or math. A given particular movement DEMANDED a specific response. But I am referring to the classic four voice chorale harmony most of us studied if you were a music major at any time. I had two years of it. I think it is good to know and understand music theory as a language for communication, but I think there are far more advanced and applicable ways to define the theory of contemporary music (extended jazz chords, for example).
I actually truly believe and wish music theory could "start over" and that many of the old rules could be replaced with new rules. That is almost a new thread topic "Music's New Rules" - one example would be "how many different forms of the blues scale exist and when do you use each one?" - another would be "chord substitutions for accompanying a melody".
Also - just to note that this "mystery" of the "blue note" is not just in my mind. It has tripped up deeper thinking musical theoreticians than myself. Here is an article where the author starts to dig into the specific topic, but while he finished the web site, never finished his article about the "blue note": ("Examples coming soon." he left it saying)
And when it comes to rules, consider just page ONE of the same person's book #2:
[examples of his rules below]
And more rules:
Sorry for the confusion and the delay, I was busy. .
We're clearly using the same words to mean different things here.
If a sung note is not fixed, then surely it moves around (or is capable of moving anyway). If it doesn't, that means it's fixed.
Yes? No? Help me out here....
Fretted guitar doesn't have the 100% flexible thing going on, but you can bend flat to varying degrees in the higher register on the wound strings.Guitars can really only play the fundamental note and sharp (vibrato) technically. However, a guitarist can bend up to a note (minor to M3, for ex) and then let it go lower.