Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings
Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings
Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings is just a fancy name for a chord. Any chord can be a Pitch Class Set Chord because Pitch Class Set Theory is another way to organize sound, which I find very useful. It does this by using numbers which are really the distance between each note. So if we have a C minor triad that would be called an 037. “O” is the “C,” “3” is the “Eb” because it is three half steps above “C.” Finally “G” is “7” because it is seven half steps above “C.” Pitch Class Set Theory does get more complicated than this when you consider “prime form,” but for now let’s make it simple and just say that whatever the group of notes you are using which could be a scale, arpeggio, chord etc is, they all have intervals between the notes and you identify any group of notes by starting with a “0” for your first note and then count the half steps that exist between the first note and every other note.
A Great Way to Organize Sound
What I find cool about Pitch Class Sets is they include all possible combinations of notes. This is where it gets interesting because traditional harmony pretty much sticks to chords built in thirds and the seven notes scales of the Major, Melodic Minor, and Harmonic Minor scales. A few additions like the Diminished modes, Whole Tone, Pentatonics and Blues scales and possibly maybe Harmonic Major Modes can be included, but that is pretty much it. So if you are interested in exploring other sounds, Pitch Class Sets are the way to go because they offer such a variety of alternative organization. This organization makes it easier to categorize pitches, and especially to see relationships between different groups of pitches.
Some Suggested Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings
I’ve been studying Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings since 1990 and have created a system to help others learn these chords and apply them in places where traditional harmony would be used. For instance, rather than playing a C major 7th chord, I would play B, C and G. This is very much like a major 7 chord except it only has the root, 5th and 7th. If you are worried about the “3rd” not being there, don’t; you will see and hear that leaving out what most people think of as crucial pitches isn’t as big a deal as you might think. I give you a link to a video further down this page so you can hear the use of this type of chord.
A common replacement that I use for a C dominant chord is E, A and Bb. So in this case I have the 3rd and 7th and have added in the “13th.” So that particular combination wouldn’t rattle any feathers.
Two Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings Is All You Need
Believe it or not, by just using these two combinations we can play all major, minor, dominant, minor 7b5 and diminished chords. So now you are starting to see the power of pitch class set chords. Basically learn two chords and their inversions, and you can play through 99% of all music. Yeah that what I’m talking about! It’s an easy way to play chords by just incorporating a couple of Pitch Class Set Chords.
Hear and See Pitch Class Set Chords In Action
Applying Pitch Class Set Chords to Traditional Harmony Watch the video on this page. It shows you how I apply the chords I’ve mentioned to a jazz standard. You will hear that they sound very modern, yet not super dissonant or weird. You could use these chords in any situation and any style. People will notice that you are playing something different but not be upset by it. That is the beauty of pitch class set chords. When used in the right way they give you a modern yet acceptable sound to replace all your chords voicings.
Where to Start to Learn Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings
If you want to get started with using Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings I recommend starting with the Applying Pitch Class Set Chords to Traditional Harmony This course gives you voicings for 15 standards and has you write out and learn your own examples too. Most of my students have this down within six weeks with a minimum of practice so it’s a win win situation.
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