Posted by on Dec 12, 2012 in Just Intonation, Septimal Harmony, The Notes | 2 comments

# Seven

My favorite contemporary band is the Black Keys. I think Dan Auerbach is a harmonic genius. The video is funny.

Dinosaur? What dinosaur?

This song lives in the universe of 7. I just spent a half day taking apart the main riff and seeing how it works out on the lattice. It strictly uses a 5-note scale: 1, 7b3, 74+, 5, and 7b7. The notes are all in the universe of 3 and 7; there is no 5 energy at all, in this part of the song at least.

There are three new lattice notes in this video, the septimal minor third, or 7b3, the harmonic seventh, or septimal flatted seventh, labeled 7b7, and a crazy new note I’ll get to in a minute. The 7b3 is found (on the scale) between the 2 and the b3. It’s a lot flatter than the minor third. The 7b7 is pitched between the 6 and the b7, a lot flatter than the minor seventh. Neither of these can be played directly on the piano. Blues pianists can evoke them by trilling between the key above and the key below. Variable pitch instruments, notably voice and electric guitar, are capable of actually nailing these notes and delivering their full effect.

This song added a new note to my lattice! Mathieu writes that it is used in the blues, and I knew about it theoretically, but I hadn’t used it or observed it in the wild before. One source calls it the septimal narrow fourth. It is slightly flat of the 4. My name for it turns out to be 74+. (The + is a slight pitch adjustment to show exactly how it’s tuned in just intonation.) In Next Girl, it makes a harmony note with the 7b3 root — a nice interval of a ninth.

Cool, haven’t confirmed the existence of a new note in a while. The bestiary grows. Kind of like particle physics.

Septimal notes are essentially unknown in European classical music, but thanks to the blues, they thoroughly infuse the music of America and many other countries. Without them, some music just doesn’t sound the same. They are one reason the Beatles don’t translate well to elevator music. Check this out:

Listen to the signature riff, how it changes and morphs. Throughout the song, George is playing with the region between the septimal flatted third and the major third. As the chords change, the song moves around on the lattice. In response, he bends the note a little more, a little less, to evoke the septimal third, then the major, and maybe even the minor third, located between the other two notes.

By the way, this is a great little zone on guitar. It’s the second fret up from the tonic. You can play four distinct notes just by bending — the 2, 7b3, b3 and 3. George Harrison spends this whole song exploring the tension and resolution in that little melodic space.

John’s vocals are great blues, right in tune.

As I hear them, the Black Keys go even further by putting septimal notes in the roots. Great lyrics and a sense of musical history too, an excellent band.

The usable septimal notes are all close to the center. They just get too far out for me to hear, rather quickly. I personally have found three of them useful so far, and today I’ve been introduced to another.

Here are the septimal notes I have on my current lattice. I imagine I’ll add more as I explore.

7/4, the harmonic seventh, 7b7

7/6, the septimal minor third, 7b3

7/5, the septimal tritone, a staple of rock guitar and one of my personal favorite notes.

21/16, the septimal narrow fourth, or blu ma according to Mathieu. He has some great note names in his book, based on the Indian singing notes, sa – re – ga – ma and so on.

Next: Summary (So Far)