Quartal Harmony

Quartal Harmony.

All music theory books about harmony, all deal with what is called “tertial harmony”.
This is the foundation of all our chords: stacking 3rd intervals on top of one another.

While the study of tertial harmony covers a very large part of everything there is to know about chords, and while that type of harmony is the foundation of all our composition and music theory, there are other types of note combinations that you want to know about, like for example drones, or clusters, or quartal harmony.

In this blog, we’ll cover quartal harmony, which is what you call chords that are built stacking 4th intervals.

Let’s pick a scale: C major scale.

In order to get a 3 note chord, you need to stack 2 intervals.
Stacking two 4ths on every note in the C major scale, we get following note combinations:

  1. C F B
  2. D G C
  3. E A D
  4. F B E
  5. G C F
  6. A D G
  7. B E A

Looking at the formulas for each of thes chords, they all have a root, a 4th and some type of 7th (major 7th or minor 7th)
That makes all these chords sus chords.

The names of these above chords are:

  1. C F B = Cmaj7sus4
  2. D G C = D7sys4
  3. E A D = E7sus4
  4. F B E = Fmaj7#11 (no sus4 here because F to B is not a perfect 4th but a tritone)
  5. G C F = G7sus4
  6. A D G = A7sus4
  7. B E A = B7sus4

You can also invert all these chords, which would give you sus4 and sus2 chords.
If this doesn’t make sense, it will over time when I cover this in another blog.
In today’s blog, I only want to cover the root position quartal harmony chords, the ones mentioned above, not the inversions for now.

As you know, I always like to be structured and organized in everything I do, ESPECIALLY my teachings.

In this blog, you will learn all the fingerings for the above 3-note voicings.
In future blogs we’ll also cover the 4 string quartal harmony voicings, the 5 string voicings, to finally the voicings where you play big sounding chords consisting of nothing but 4th intervals, covering all 6 strings.
All this is in the key of C major.

Here are the 3 string voicings:

One fun way to practice this:
Play along with any song or backing track you like in the key of C. Intead of soloing with scales and notes, you’re soloing with 3 note chords, moving around on 1 string set.

Here’s how to play the voicings and how to solo with them

Conclusion

Hit me up anytime at [email protected] if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.

Keep me informed on your progress. You can hit me up in the comments section below.
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I believe everything can always be improved. I’d gladly implement your suggestions and ideas in this blog or the next.

Be on the look out for more blogs about everything guitar, music, songwriting and music education.
You’re on your way to becoming a great guitar player.
Have fun! 🙂


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  1. Improvisation With 2nd and 4th Interval Stacks | ZOT Zin Guitar Lessons Says:

    […] Quartal Harmony […]

    August 21st, 2020 at 8:40 am