Chord Tones for Altered Dominants

Josh Johnson

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I've been playing the following chords tones for altered dominants for a while:

1, 3, #5, 7 (so E7alt = E, G#, C, D)

But I've always felt that it sounded a bit static.

After talking with a friend about this, he advised me to try the following chord tones:

3, #5, 8, #9 (so E7alt = G#, C, E, G . In other words, G#Maj#5)

Although they both have 3 notes the same, the second group of chord tones sound more dynamic, it also helps starting on the third rather than the root.

Does this float anybody's boat?
 

Linky Lee

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I played it piano, I think you're right with the static feel of the first set,
the second is more lively.

I like the sounds of G, Bb, D and F over the E7alt
 
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Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson

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Its just a different musical colour. Its like playing C major and changing the F for an F#, its still C major, just a different colour of C major.
 

Pete Thomas

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After talking with a friend about this, he advised me to try the following chord tones:

3, #5, 8, #9 (so E7alt = G#, C, E, G . In other words, G#Maj#5)
I find this approach a bit confusing as you can easily forget what the function of the chord is if you you don't realise what the root or bass note is.

This is more of a shortcut guitarists use to be able to ppay other wise difficult chords. Assuming the bass player is playing the root, they could e.g. sometimes play an Em triad instead of C major 7:

E G B instead of C E G B

This may solve some tricky guitar chord fingerings but doesn't help when you need to learn the theory and how root movement can be significant when one chord moves to another.

PS, I don't like the tern "alt" chord as it is too unspecific, it can mean a dominant type chord with any alteration of 9 or 13. (b9, #9, b13 #13 - take your pick!)
 
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Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson

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I find this approach a bit confusing as you can easily forget what the function of the chord is if you you don't realise what the root or bass note is.
I was suggesting alternative chord tones as a development after learning the basic chord tones. I understand the confusion it could cause if learnt instead of the basic chord tones.

PS, I don't like the tern "alt" chord as it is too unspecific, it can mean a dominant type chord with any alteration of 9 or 13. (b9, #9, b13 #13 - take your pick!)
If an "alt" is signalled, 9 times out of 10 bass players and pianists will outline the basic chord tones: 1, 3, #5, b7. I think this is more or less the given interpretation of a standard symbol. This gives the soloist plenty of scope to use the altered dominant scale. To be over-specific with chord symbols could 'throw' musicians if they are sight-reading a piece. It could also harmonically confine a soloist.

Kind regards,

Josh.
 

Pete Thomas

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If an "alt" is signalled, 9 times out of 10 bass players and pianists will outline the basic chord tones: 1, 3, #5, b7. I think this is more or less the given interpretation of a standard symbol. This gives the soloist plenty of scope to use the altered dominant scale. To be over-specific with chord symbols could 'throw' musicians if they are sight-reading a piece. It could also harmonically confine a soloist.
Very true, is fine for rhythm sections, when I don't like it is in a lead sheet if the melody is e.g. a b9 and the rhythm section plays a #9.

PS, did anyone spot the glaring mistake in my post above?
 

RSPINDY

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Hi Folks,

The "alt" designation means that everything that can be altered is altered. Therefore the scale that can be used includes #5(=b13), b9, #9, and #11(=b5) [#13 is redundant since it = b7]. The scale that fulfills this is often referred to as the diminished/whole-tone scale which is the 7th mode of melodic minor (a C diminished/whole-tone scale is the Db melodic minor starting on C -- its 7th step.)

As a keyboard player and therefore part of those rhythm sections, I have thought hard lately about how we accompany these aggressively altered harmonies. These can give us our lushest chords, but it is easy to get in the way of a soloist. I would say to any bass or keyboard player to use them in the arranged ensemble parts or your own solo, but be careful with using these altered scale steps when accompanying an improvisation. In other words, as boring as it may sound, our only safe notes at this time is root, 3rd, and 7th. Sometimes less can be more.

Scott
 

cwillsher

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PS, did anyone spot the glaring mistake in my post above?
You can't have a #13? Did you mean to say b5 / #5 (b13)??

Altered chords are a tricky subject for sure but there are lots of ways to handle them both as a rhythm section player, or soloist. It's true that most pianists/guitarists will favour a particular shape when they see 'Alt' on their part (I usually play a straight tritone substitution - so coming back to your E7 Alt, I would generally play G# C D G (a standard Bb13 voicing) over an E bass, giving the 3rd b13 7 and #9).

In transcriptions I've looked at recently, some more modern jazz pianists are simply playing a major triad starting on either the relative minor (i.e. C# Major over an E bass - 13 b9 and 3rd) or a semitone lower (C Major over E, for a b13 root and #9). Hands up if you're lost yet?

NB: Many times though, the type of alteration is indicated by the melody notes in that bar.

I think that rather than settle on any particular series of notes for an Alt chord, it's a good idea to explore the Altered Scale in terms of the triads you can find within it: I=Diminished, II=Minor, III=Minor, IV=Augmented, V=Major, VI=Major, VII=Diminished. You can then extend these to four note chords.

Of course, none of this theory will turn you immediately into a great soloist but it's a way in to hearing some of the possibilities. Bear in mind this also comes from someone who can say it but can't do it!! :(

_______________
EDIT: Scott beat me to the punch on much of the above and yes, the 3rd and b7 are the key notes to be aware of.
 
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RSPINDY

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You can't have a #13? Did you mean to say b5 / #5 (b13)??
You'll notice that I said "#13 is redundant = b7". Which is my way of saying that you can't have it. I stated the "#13" so that if any less experienced asked about it. I guess I should have been clearer. Similarly, a b11 = maj. 3rd and, in minor a #9 = minor 3rd.
 

cwillsher

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You'll notice that I said "#13 is redundant = b7". Which is my way of saying that you can't have it. I stated the "#13" so that if any less experienced asked about it. I guess I should have been clearer. Similarly, a b11 = maj. 3rd and, in minor a #9 = minor 3rd.
No, no, Scott. I was answering Pete's initial question.

We posted at the same time, you just beat me to it.

EDIT: Actually, we clearly didn't post at the same time - maybe I just failed to see the second page of the thread before?!?!? Oh well...
 
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