Quartal and Quintal Chords


Quartal Chords

Quintal Chords


I feel like I am saying good bye summer, hello September! 

I sincerely hope this month is off to a good start for you.

And I want to thank you for your response to my newsletter.
By your questions, I could tell you were reading my article.
And it makes one feel good! Now, some answers to the questions.

1. What are they?


Quartal and Quintal chords have a suspended un-anchored sound to them that differs form regular chords. This quality makes Quartal and Quintal chords very useful in a composer's chord vocabulary. Simply put, whatever notes in the grouping, harmonically tied together, and diatonically correct.

2. What's the history?

Quartal and Quintal chords are now common in jazz, rock music and TV and film music. Quartal chords are also easy to play on the guitar due to the fact that the standard guitar tuning is mostly fourths. But they first showed up in Classical music with Claude Debussy.

3. Where are they used?

Quartal chords are used in "modal" jazz. Think two or three general chords, diatonically...maj7, m7, dom7. In C just think Cmaj7, Dm7, and G7. You hear the Quartal chord moving in a functioning way. This makes sense than just grabbing chords at random, especially when you are staying in ONE Key. 
Now, try this progression: Ebmaj7 | Dm7b5 G7 | Cmaj7 | Cmaj7 ||
Quartals are freely substituted over pretty much any chord, except a dominant. 

4. Application

There are all kinds of quartal chords and each pitch set has it's own color and uses.
A perfect fourth stack ( regardless of number ) moves in parallel  clusters. Other shapes include:

Mixtures of tritones and
perfect fourths

Perfect fourths with a major third on top


Perf. 4th stacks moving in parallel over a
pedal point (very common in modal jazz) 
Let's take a C Major 7th chord by adding some quartals.  First, remove unnecessary notes from the block chord. In the left hand, play C, E and B. In the right-hand, add a quartal starting on the 9th and play D, G and C. 


I read that all the alteration symbols are not a great "visual" for the fact that Quartal chord should be applied, mainly because the voicing really seems to be the important part of "Quartal". So naming something like F7#5#9(om.3) or just F7#5#9 doesn't really TELL you to stack them in orders of 4ths. For F7#5#9, when reading a chart, find a F7 voicing first, then alter for #5#9. But, this won't always give me a linear Quartal chord, but more of an altered/extended voicing. Spell the basic chord  like "(Quartal) next to it, like "F (Quartal)" or "Fmaj7#11(Quartal)". 

5. Approach

Generally, it's entirely possible to substitute quartal harmony over any non-dominant chord in a tune. It's a very easy way to turn static I chords into something more dynamic and interesting; and the results over minor chords is nice. Herbie Hancock is a good example of someone who often uses this approach. He routinely plans diationic quartals over chords when he's comping.

Approach 1: Diatonically played quartals. 

On a sheet of manuscript paper, write out the following chord (key of C Major): A D G C. Underneath this, write a C root. The chord: C 6/9 no 3. Next, play the entire chord up one diatonic note to obtain B E A D. Leave the C root intact. The chord: CMaj13.
Play up one note to obtain: C F B E. Not quite so useful. The fourth, F, in the chord is "avoid-ish", when playing over I chords. Continue the process to obtain all 7 diatonic quartals in the key of C Major. Now rewrite the entire set with a D root, instead of a C root, and consider this set as a set of useful quartal voicings/subs for a Dm (ii of C major). Repeat the procedure for each possible root in the key of C Major. The general idea: all quartal stacks over an appropriate root are good substitutions, with the exception of subs for Imaj7, that contain the fourth degree of the scale (F, in the C major example). Many of these chords are a bit stark by themselves. Many of them don't have 3rds. But they tend to consistently work well as alternating pairs of voicings in the same bar, or as ascending or descending planed stacks. One quartal voice doesn't necessarily contain a 3rd or a 7th; but a pair (or an ascending or descending group) always includes both in one or the other of the pair.

Approach 2: Pentatonics with displaced roots. 


Consider all voicings of all chords constructed from a pentatonic scale. These are functionally equavialent to quartals, because collapsing the notes of a quartal stack of five notes into a single octave produces a pentatonic scale. Any pentatonic chord is also a voicing of a quartal stack. In the key of C major, there are three possible pentatonic scales: C D E G A; C D F G A; D E G A B. For each, construct ascending stacked voices within the scale. Start with the shape G C E A; and play that shape through the pentatonic scale C D E G A. Repeat for the other two scales. For each of these played stacks, add a root note from the parent MAJOR scale (same idea as what we did with the extra root in quartal stacks). The root note doesn't have to come from the pentatonic scale of the moment. Each of these forms is refered to as a "pentatonic voicing with a displaced root". Each of these forms is a good voicing or sub, with the following exception: voicings that contain the fourth degree of the scale (the "avoid" note), over a I root doesn't work. Just like for quartal stacks. This approach generates all the same voicings. The primary difference is that when you walk the voicings up or down the keyboard, the pentatonic voicings have a more distinctly open sound to them than the corresponding quartal stack. (open in the sense that a 6/9 chord is open). A very distinctive sound, that I'm particularly fond of.
With quartal chords, on the keyboard, the span is a bit wide--you've got a major seventh on the outside. Often pianists will move the bottom voice up an octave or drop the top voice down an octave. This sound is related to stacked fourths, but the interval from bottom to top is only a fifth-easier to reach. A lot of sounds that you assume are fourth chords are actually these kinds of voicings." 

6. Wrap Up - Conclusion

Fourth voicings, also known as quartal voicings, are more of a "modern" sound in jazz and were really explored thoroughly by McCoy Tyner as well as Chick Corea in the 60's. They sound great and can be played in a number of ways. They really are just a pentatonic scale played every other note. Here are the 5 inversions of the C pentatonic scale in fourth voicings: 

 You can use C pentatonic fourth voicings over Cmaj7, C7, D-7, Fmaj7, F#7alt, Gsus7, A-7, Bbmaj7#11, or even maybe B-7b5. So there are many possibilities.
You can also make fourth voicings with notes that aren't in a strict major pentatonic scale. Here is every melody note in the key of C with fourths underneath: 

 You can also take a fourth voicing and move it around in parallel motion. Play this type of movement over a D-7 modal song: 

 These are all examples of two-handed fourth voicings. You can also just play 3-note fourth voicings in your left hand while you play a melody in your right hand. Going in and out of the key will sound very modern and cool if you do it right. Listen to McCoy to get a real lesson on how to do this.
I have the Mark Levine Jazz Book. A lot of this stuff is way over my head. You should get the book. Another Jazz artist whom I respect is Willie Myette.

 Jazz 101 and Jazz 201 will help you:  

Learn how to quickly and easily form tons of jazz chord patterns and runs that are guaranteed to have you standing out from the crowd, how to ensure that no matter what voicings and blues licks you play, they'll turn heads each and every time and the 7 secrets to playing signature solos like a pro from a pro!
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