Quartenary Harmony - for when triads start to sound dull...

An explanation of how and why quartenary harmony works. This is pure theory though - you won't find many examples of chords.

Traditionally, harmony is built up in 3rds: for instance if we take a c major triad it is made up of C,E and G. C is the root, E is a major third above the root and G, the fifth, is a major 3rd + a minor 3rd above the root. If we were to extend this to a seventh then the B would be a further major third above the root. You can build up a chord in thirds until you reach X13 (where X is the root note). A C13 would contain all of the notes in the C major scale but in the order CEGBDFA - obviously you couldn't play this on an ordinary guitar unless you arppegiated it.

Quartenary Harmony works on exactly the same principle only rather than being built up on thirds, the harmony is built on fourths. This creates a more angular sound and is typical of modal jazz. The advantage with using chords based on stacked fourths is that they will harmonise with any note from the scale in one way or another. Taking this gorgeous sounding chord: X33455 - the first chord from the C major scale - I would describe it as CI (CFBEA) - its actual compound name is rather complicated since the naming of chords is based on thirds - this particular chord goes Root, Sus4, Maj7, 3,6 so I suppose it might be named "Cmaj7sus4add6(no 5th)" but this is a lesson in harmony, not nomanclature. But anyway, lets examine how that chord interacts with the notes of the major scale:

C harmonises with C (obviously) F (as a pefect fourth or a perfect fifth) E (a minor third below) A (a minor third above) but it will clash with the B.

D doesn't even appear in the chord but harmonises with F (minor third below), B (minor third above), A (perfect fourth/fifth) and will bite against the C and E - but there is still more consonance than dissonance so it still all sounds rather nice.

You can analyse the further notes of the scale and you will see that it applies for them all.

We can also examine chromatic notes to see how they would interact with the chord:

C# clashes with C, is a major third below F, clashes with B, minor third below E and a major third above A - again we have overall consonance - despite the fact that C# comes from an unrelated key.

However not all the chromatic notes will work as well so we have not lost the tool that is dissonance - we just have to journey further from the comforts of the diatonic scale to get there...

Finally, this is an explanation of what quartenary harmony is, how and why it works and why it can be useful - I'm going to leave you to figure out further chords - particularly as I don't have a clue how to name them. If you managed to get this far then you are probably perfectly capable of building up the chords anyway. I imagine its only a matter of time until someone posts a suitable chord sheet.
1. it's not called quartenary. it's quartal harmony

2. this is not really a lesson or article. it's more of a "check it out, here's something I heard about but don't even fully understand myself". hell, you didn't even get the name of the concept correct.

3. no examples, no conceptual application, no voicings, nothing. you even admit you wouldn't know what they are as far as the names go.

4. you name things incorrectly (ie. the chord name (the ONE chord you use as an example.... that would be Cmaj7 (4/13) or Cmaj13 (4). not that hard) the intervals.) oh, and you spelled nomenclature wrong.

5. the information you give is either wrong, general, misleading, or rather vague.

6. you don't even know what you're on about.

if you want to write a lesson you need to

  • a.) know about it first.
  • b.) be able to explain how to apply it
  • c.) be able to explain where you can apply it (and WHY... not just "this is good for modal jazz")
  • d.) you need to give examples of such applications and then
  • e.) elaborate.

your post accomplishes none of that.

I say *thumbs down*

1. Valid Point
2,3. I found that just knowing how the concept works opened up new creative possibilities but I suppose people would benenfit from some examples.
4. Useful comment - thank you.
5. I would disagree - I aim here to lay doen the foundations for reader's exploration.
6. You should do standup

Anyway, constructive criticism is appreciated so I will say thanks. I will carry out some more research and attend to the weaknesses of the article that you have pointed out.
Afraid not mate.
<Dobzilla> because "when you were born, they thought yo' momma shit herself."
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