1

I'll try to explain this to the best of my knowledge, if I've misunderstood any concepts please do correct my misunderstanding; I became disinterested in music theory as a freshman in high school, and this is the extent to any formal education I've had. I've been playing guitar for the around 16 years since, though, and meanwhile picking up the rest of what I know eclectically.

I find myself fingering a particular pattern frequently while tapping and I'd like to know more about the theory behind what it is I'm hearing and why I like the sound so much. Let's say I'm repeating this pattern

X:1
L:1/8
M:
K:G
V:1 clef=treble
G B d
%

and then I move to repeating this one

X:1
L:1/8
M:
K:G
V:1 clef=treble
F B ^d
%

The first forms Gmaj (G-B-D) and the second, if my understanding is correct, forms an inversion of Bmaj (F#-B-D#) - but I don't know if that's what you'd call it in the context I'm trying to convey. I get a different feeling when I switch from the G major pattern to a B major rooted on B, even though the actual notes I'm using haven't changed. That is, if I instead transition from

X:1
L:1/8
M:
K:G
V:1 clef=treble
G B d
%

to

X:1
L:1/8
M:
K:G
V:1 clef=treble
B ^d f
%

then the notes haven't changed from the first example, only their order and F#'s pitch - which, of course, can (and does) drastically change the sound of something, but I get the feeling the inversion takes on a different musical meaning. If I'm correct I'd like to know what such a thing is called.

Is there a name for this concept/feeling? If I should like to communicate such a thing to a fellow musician, what would I say in fewer words than I've used here?

It appears I'm moving from Gmaj to Bmaj, but the feeling I get when I move from G-B-D to B-D#-F# is not the same as the feeling I get when I move from G-B-D to F#-B-D#. This is how I view the difference in transitions:

(G-B-D)   = Gmaj = root -> major 3 -> perfect 5
(F#-B-D#) = Bmaj = perfect 5 -> root -> major 3

vs

(G-B-D)   = Gmaj = root -> major 3 -> perfect 5
(B-D#-F#) = Bmaj = root -> major 3 -> perfect 5

Is my interpretation reasonable? Or, should I be considering F# to be the root of the second fingering followed by a perfect fourth and then a major sixth? Something else? If more context is needed, for a rhythm I'd play a G5 over the first pattern (G-B-D) and a F#5 over the second (F#-B-D#).

  • The B chord is in second inversion (first inversion would have the D♯ at the bottom). You tell which inversion by successively moving the note at the bottom up: root position -> no movement; 1st inversion -> root moves up (third in bass); 2nd inversion -> third moves up (fifth in the bass); 3rd inversion (for seventh chords) -> fifth moves up (seventh in the bass). – user16935 Dec 4 '16 at 22:32
7

Congratulations, you've discovered the importance of proper voice leading!

What's going on here has not very much to do with what particular inversions you have of each chord; more important is the fact that in the first example you have a clear continuity of which voice goes where:

X:1
L:1/8
M:
K:G
%%score (T1 T2) (B1)
V:T1           clef=treble
V:T2           clef=treble
V:B1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] (d  ^d)
[V:T2] (B  B)
[V:B1] (G  F)

In the second case, you'd have some pretty big jumps, so there's no clear way for your ear to “stitch the voices back together”:

X:1
L:1/8
M:
K:G
%%score (T1 T2) (B1)
V:T1           clef=treble
V:T2           clef=treble
V:B1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] (d  "?"f) |  (d  d)     | (d  ^d2)
[V:T2] (B  ^d)   |  (B  B)     | (B2  "?"f)
[V:B1] (G  B)    |  (G  "?"f)  | (G  B)

Notice that in all three interpretations, there's a certain clash – voices stepping on a note where another voice just left, or voices crossing each other. Common practice voice leading strongly avoids this kind of clash. Guitarists tend to be much more lax about it, but in particular if the chords are arpeggiated by tapping single notes on one string it's really a good idea to give the voice leading some though, since any “jump incoherence” will be exacerbated by the jumps that are already present in the arpeggiation.

  • 1
    +1 but I would avoid saying "proper" for the voice leading. It would be proper in the Classical sense or more generally the contrapuntal sense but to say proper suggests that it's the correct way to do things regardless of context. Voice leading rules from Classical music are not so much relaxed by guitar players as they aren't a normal part of the most common genres that guitarists play. Parallel fifths aren't really a consideration for rock guitar, along with most other thoughts. I would agree that the voice leading is what the OP is noticing here though, which can compliment rock nicely. – Basstickler Dec 4 '16 at 23:45
  • 3
    I don't say it's wrong to not take care for proper voice leading – nothing is wrong per se in music. But then you're simply not leading any voices! With normal chordal guitar playing, there's no real intention to have independent voices in the first place, so no need to properly lead them anywhere; but especially if the chords are only layed out chopped through tapping-arpeggio then it really pays off to anchor the harmonic structure by making clear which note is part of what voice, and that's what I'd call proper voice leading. (And, I deliberately did not mention parallel fifths.) – leftaroundabout Dec 5 '16 at 11:49
  • It's not that I think you're wrong at all, just nit picking the choice of words. I really only chose to say anything about it because of how much a great answer can affect an OP's thought process. I know you didn't mention parallel fifths but that's part of what's being avoided. I also would mention that there are different types of voice leading that are not specific to a contrapuntal thought process, such as Jazz, where you also find a lot of parallel fifths and a lack of voice independence within the harmony. – Basstickler Dec 5 '16 at 15:12
  • 1
    Nice point about voice leading with real, independent voices versus chords. It's worth noting that a lot of tapping is neo-classical, deliberatly borrowing classical devices. It makes sense to talk about proper voice leading within that framework. – Michael Curtis Jul 10 at 12:59
2

The name for moving from I to III or I to VI or the like is "chromatic mediant." The normal movement is I to iii (though not necessarily very common). The chromatic mediant move is very smooth (common tone) and allows one to introduce "distant" harmonies quickly.

  • +1 Given the OP's theory level... chromatic mediants: two chords with the same chord quality (minor, major, etc.) and roots a third apart (minor or major third.) If that B chord moved next to E minor, it might make sense to call it a secondary dominant. – Michael Curtis Jul 10 at 13:01
0

Your example of going from G to B chords both in root position reminded me somewhat of the beginning of the verse in "Sea of Love" as done by the Honeydrippers (where Robert Plant starts singing.)

A I to III transition perhaps?

In talking with other musicians we'd discuss possibilities: do we want the change to be closely packed and smooth? Or do we specifically want a jump because we want that skip to be more pronounced and stand out?

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