I have been recently looking into neutral triads and trying to incorporate them into my music composition. However, there are very little online regarding composing with them. I am trying to use the twelve-tone equal temperament system making an exception only for neutral triads. I have gotten stuck trying to resolve to one within these constraints I have set.

That is why I ask: "Does anything non-microtonal resolve to a neutral triad?"

  • 2
    Why would there be any limitation on "resolving" to a neutral triad? For example, why can't a 12-TET G7 chord move to a C-neutral chord?
    – Aaron
    Feb 3 at 4:18
  • Why the downvote? Feb 3 at 21:40
  • Is the G7 tuned in equal temperament or 5-limit or 7-limit just intonation, or something else? How is the neutral third tuned, as the square root of 1.5, as the 7/24th root of 2, or as some just ratio that lies somewhere between 1.2 and 1.25?
    – phoog
    Feb 4 at 10:06

1 Answer 1


This is sort of a definitional issue; in common parlance, anything that uses notes outside of the standard 12 is "microtonal"*. So no, music can't really resolve to a neutral triad and not be microtonal since a neutral triad is itself always microtonal. That doesn't mean neutral triads are unusable, I'm just making the point that using them will necessarily make your music microtonal.

So what does resolve to a neutral triad? That's a question of personal taste, and there are plenty of resources that would cover common (ahem) approaches towards using neutral chords in compositions. You can write it if it sounds good, and what does "sounds good" really mean anyway? Does G7 sound good resolving to C neutral? That's for the composer to answer, not the theorist.

If you're looking for a sort of modification to traditional western 12-TET music theory that incorporates neutral triads, you'd actually probably be better off looking for a different theory/system entirely that was designed for those chords (or microtones in general). Music of various cultures incorporates the neutral third interval, so maybe check that out. There's also 24-EDO temperaments to explore. Or come to your own understanding of how these chords work musically!

*Most musicians use "microtonal" pretty casually like this, some would even say a piece of music that's tuned a little off of A = 440Hz is microtonal. For me personally, I'd only count it as microtonal if it was possible to notice the different effect of the notes that aren't usually available, but to each their own.

  • "I'd only count it as microtonal if it was possible to notice...": This is rather subjective, though. I know several people, untrained as musicians, who have trouble distinguishing between equal-tempered major thirds and 5-limit just thirds. Similarly, someone with perfect pitch may hear a difference between two performances that differ only in being tuned 50 cents higher or lower, whereas few people without perfect pitch would be able to unless they heard them one right after the other.
    – phoog
    Feb 4 at 10:02
  • 1
    @phoog yeah, I agree. I probably wouldn't call stuff that only perfect pitch people would recognize microtonal, but if it was presented in a context where that difference could be heard, sure? I don't want to get too far into the weeds there though, it's just a word.
    – user45266
    Feb 6 at 3:03

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