Perfect 5th and Enharmonic Use of Tri-Tones

TritoneImage via Wikipedia
Question: What's a tritone? I've heard this was considered dangerous music and banned by the church in the middle ages. - J.P.

Answer: Strictly speaking, it's an augmented fourth (such as C up to F#), and is called that because it's three whole scale tones in succession (for example, C-D, D-E, E-F#). But a diminished fifth (such as F# up to C) is just a tritone turned upside-down (inverted) and is treated in traditional music with the same care as the tritone. The tritone was in traditional counterpoint studies known as "the devil in music," and was avoided as a difficult-to-sing-in-tune awkward melodic interval. You may read stories at unreliable internet sources about this interval being "banned by the Catholic Church" but really it just presented a technical problem in composition and performance, and so the style "rules" studied by budding musicians advised that one should not use it. Nonetheless, it was used on occasion, and some theorists thought it useful when handled well.

Leonard Bernstein made a little joke out of this in West Side Story - in particular with his song "Maria," whose melody begins with a tritone, Eb-A, that is lovingly repeated.

Here are Tri-tones and 7th chords. They involve the 3rd and 7th or the other way around. Think in terms of the left hand where you're playing your chords. The left hand tells the right hand what to do. Here are some examples. Try these:

CG/C

DA/D

EB/E

FC/F

GD/G

AE/A

BGb/B

Then go to the black keys:

DbAb/Db

EbBb/Eb

GbDb/Gb

AbEb/Ab

BbF/Bb

Then try this:

EBb/C

GbC/D

AbD/E

AEb/F

FB/G

DbG/A

EbA/B

FB/Db

GDb/Eb

EBb/Gb

GbC/Ab

EbA/Bb

A great resource that I have bought online from Jamal Hartwell regarding tritones can be purchased here:

Learn the X-treme Way to Play Worship by Ear!


Thanks to all my readers and your wonderful messages I have received. I decided to post answers to your music questions instead of replying individually to your messages. Thanks for understanding. I hope that you enjoy practicing tritones and loving the sounds!

All the best,
~ LadyD

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