What is a Tritone?

 

The tritone was considered to be a forbidden interval hundreds of years ago. Churches actually banned this interval from being played! Luckily there are no such restrictions today so we will be experimenting with it and understanding what its function is.

 

To put it very simply, the tritone is half an octave. There are twelve possible tones in Western music and if you go six half steps you will create a tritone. When you invert a tritone, it remains a tritone because it divides the octave exactly in half. When you play a triton you will understand why it was feared; the sound is eerie and almost demonic. In fact, it is used extensively in heavy metal music!

 

How does a tritone resolve? This is a very interesting aspect to tritones because you can go outward or inward by half steps and the tritone will resolve either way. So, if you have a tritone C – F-sharp, it could resolve outward to B – G. Or, it could resolve inward by half steps to C-sharp – E-sharp. Interestingly, each of these resolutions (outward or inward) end up being a tritone apart from one another. When resolving outward we ended up in G and when resolving inward it resolved to C-sharp. (G and C-sharp a tritone apart!)

 

The tritone is actually the basis for all Western music. This is because it is very important in determining the key of your music. In the classic cadence, I – IV – I 6/4 – V7 I, it is the tritone of the V7 chord that establishes the key.

 

A diminished 7th chord is actually two tritones creating great tension and a myriad of possibly resolutions which you can explore in the following videos:

 

 

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com

  The tritone was considered to be a forbidden interval hundreds of years ago. Churches actually banned this interval from being played! Luckily there are no such restrictions today so we will be experimenting with it and understanding what its function is.   To put it very simply, the tritone is half an octave. There are twelve possible tones in … Continue reading What is a Tritone?

Read More

What is the Neapolitan 6th Chord?

 

I highly encourage everyone to watch the accompanying video with this article. It provides excellent visual representations of the Neapolitan 6th chord as well as a demonstration of how it can be utilized in your music.

 

Neapolitan 6th might sound like a strange name, but it’s a beautiful chord that can enhance your music. Even if you haven’t heard the name, you’ve probably heard the chord. But what is it exactly and how can you utilize it in your music?

 

The Neapolitan 6th can function like a IV chord. Sometimes composers will substitute a II 6 chord for the IV chord. So in the key of C major, instead of the IV chord, F – A – C, you have the first inversion of the II chord which has the F on the bottom: F – A – D.

 

The Neapolitan 6 chord offers another substitution taking things one step further. The Neapolitan chord is a major triad built on the flatted second degree of the scale. That might sound complicated, so let’s break it down. In the key of C major, the second degree of the scale is D. So, lower that note a half-step and you have D-flat. Build a major chord on D-flat: D-flat – F – A-flat. That is the Neapolitan chord in root position. You might wonder how a D-flat major chord will fit in a the key of C major, but in the first inversion (6) it functions the same as the IV or the II 6 chord but has a unique sound.

 

Again, build a Neapolitan 6th chord by lowering the second note of a major scale. So, in C major you start with D and lower it a half-step to D-flat and build a major triad on D-flat: D-flat – F – A-flat. Then invert it so F is on the bottom (6 inversion) F – A-flat – D-flat. You now have a Neapolitan 6th chord!

 

 

So if you’re improvising or composing, and are using a IV or II 6 chord, think about using a Neapolitan 6th instead to give your music a distinct flavor. It’s a fun and creative tool to have at your disposal and something that can make your music more interesting. Furthermore, as you study your scores, you will discover the use of this chord in countless compositions.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions about this topic or any topic at all please contact us directly: Info@LivingPianos.com or (949) 244-3729.

  I highly encourage everyone to watch the accompanying video with this article. It provides excellent visual representations of the Neapolitan 6th chord as well as a demonstration of how it can be utilized in your music.   Neapolitan 6th might sound like a strange name, but it’s a beautiful chord that can enhance your music. Even if you haven’t … Continue reading What is the Neapolitan 6th Chord?

Read More

Living Pianos Podcast – Episode 02 – Jazz Music and Music Teachers

  Robert and Mike are joined by Bijan Taghavi a jazz pianist who is currently studying under scholarship as a sophomore at the Manhattan School of Music and also one of Robert’s past students. On this episode they discuss Jazz and the differences and similarities between Classical music, relationships with music teachers and questions from listeners.

Read More

What is Duplex Scaling? Piano Questions

 

Maybe you’ve heard this term before; maybe you haven’t; maybe a salesperson once told you, “You definitely need duplex scaling”. whatever your familiarity with duplex scaling, you will learn something about this technology today.

 

So what is duplex scaling? Simply put, it’s a tone enhancement system that is used in some pianos to increase tone life. That sounds great, but how does it work?

 

Every piano has something referred to as the “speaking length” of the string. This is the part of the string that is free to vibrate. In the image below the speaking length is highlighted in yellow:

 

 

Typically the area above and below the speaking length of the string is muted out with felt. You can see this area highlighted in yellow in the image below:

 

 

Why would this area be muted out with felt? Typically this area of the strings is not capable of adding pleasing harmonics to the sound. Duplex scaling utilizes a technology that tunes the non-speaking length of the strings to enable them to vibrate at musically pleasing frequencies.

 

Aliquots are used in duplex scaling to precisely terminate the strings at lengths that produce pitches that are complementary to the pitch that is being played. So instead of felt that is used to terminate the string, you have something that looks like this:

 

 

On a piano with Duplex scaling you will get the same pitch as all three strings, typically an octave or an octave and a fifth above the notes – which are overtones already contained within the fundamental pitch. The purpose of this system is to enhance the tone by creating more sound from each note.

 

Most pianos that contain duplex scaling typically feature it on the rear portion of the string. Certain pianos (like the one we are demonstrating in this article) has two sets of duplex scaling in both the rear and the front portion of the strings.

 

 

Most pianos use part of the plate above the treble section of the piano (capo d’astro bar) to terminate the strings. On this particular piano, there is a front set of aliquots which allows for the front section of strings to add useful harmonics due to sympathetic vibration, just as depressing the damper pedal adds richness to the tone.

 

So you’re probably wondering whether or not duplex scaling is something you must have on your piano. While duplex scaling is a useful technology that can enhance the tone of the piano, there are myriad scale design technologies that allow for different tonal results that can be equal in beauty of tone. Duplex scaling is just one way to enhance piano tone.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions or comments about this topic or any topic at all please contact us directly Info@LivingPianos.com or (949) 244-3729.

  Maybe you’ve heard this term before; maybe you haven’t; maybe a salesperson once told you, “You definitely need duplex scaling”. whatever your familiarity with duplex scaling, you will learn something about this technology today.   So what is duplex scaling? Simply put, it’s a tone enhancement system that is used in some pianos to increase tone life. That sounds … Continue reading What is Duplex Scaling? Piano Questions

Read More

The Best Exercise to Develop Strength on the Piano

 

One of the most common questions I get is how to build strength on the piano. This is a tough topic because practicing the wrong way can potentially lead to injury, so you must always be aware of how you feel. The fact is, there is no simple method to instantly gain more strength in your piano playing – but this exercise will definitely help.

 

This is a very tough exercise that will take some practice to master. However, with persistence and patience you will find that this can be a very beneficial exercise to use and it’s something that you’ll only have to do once every practice session.

 

If this exercise is too challenging, try this exercise first:

 

THE BEST PIANO EXERCISES (PART 1) – BROKEN TRIADS

 

This exercise is built upon broken 7th chords:

 

 

You’ll start with a Major 7th Chord, the Dominant 7th Chord, the Minor 7th Chord, a Half-Diminished 7th Chord, and then finally a Diminished 7th Chord.

 

But this is just the beginning of what we are going to do! In both hands you will be playing broken chords and you will be playing every other note in each hand and play in contrary motion. So it looks like this:

 

 

Is this the end? Not at all! You’re going to go through all twelve keys going up a half-step at a time until you reach C an octave higher. This will be challenging to learn, but once you get the hang of it, this will be an incredibly beneficial exercise for you and one that will help you build strength in your piano playing and independence of your fingers.

 

Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to play this exercise fast in order to gain benefit from it. Play it at a comfortable speed and work up the tempo gradually over time. This exercise will take time to master, but keep at it and you will get results.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions or comments about this topic or any topic at all please contact us directly Info@LivingPianos.com or (949) 244-3729.

  One of the most common questions I get is how to build strength on the piano. This is a tough topic because practicing the wrong way can potentially lead to injury, so you must always be aware of how you feel. The fact is, there is no simple method to instantly gain more strength in your piano playing – … Continue reading The Best Exercise to Develop Strength on the Piano

Read More