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Elements of Music

16 17 BasIc harMonIEs triangles and triads The major triad, which occurs naturally in the harmonic series as a pair of thirds a major, then a minor, adding to a fifth, is the foundation of tertial music chords constructed in thirds around the world, the perfect fifth and major third being, after the octave, the most stable and resonant intervals, derived from the overtones. Moving a note from the bottom to the top of a triad creates an inversion below, with the same notes, but with a new bass. Notice how major triads in first inversion have two minor intervals, giving them an opposite flavour. The same holds true of minor chords, which in their first inversion sound markedly major, since two of their three intervals are major. Diminished and augmented chords are often said to be rootless, as they have no stable fourth or fifth. Inversions conspire to strengthen or weaken the importance of the root. In root position the fundamental intervals are all in place as in the overtone series, the bottom note receiving the identity of the chord built upon it. In the first inversion, the third of the chord is in the bass but has no strong intervals above it to emphasise its importance. Instead, the root, now at the top, is supported by a perfect fourth just below it, another strong architectural interval. The same is true with the fifth in the bass, the second inversion, where a perfect fourth again supports the root. The combined notes thus always point to their root position, stacked in thirds. Above The four chord qualities of triads, two stable, and two unstable. Symmetrical chords sound unresolved or unstable, while asymmetrical chords sound stable because of the presence of the perfect fifth, the only interval with its inversion, the fourth that does not divide the octave equally. Changing the fifth by one half step, in either case, produces symmetry and instability. Perfect fourths and fifths are the architecture of the system that contain the fluid symmetry of all the other intervals. Above A grid which contains the four chord qualities built upon notes and their enharmonic equivalents. Follow the keys on the left and right to spell any of the four chords in thirds.
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