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I heard of block harmony when I was experimenting with the dictionary in my Yamaha PSR 192 Database, and later when I went on Wikipedia.

Both of these things told me that blocks are harmonies made up of four notes.

The thing I have trouble understanding is why a C major tetrad isn't called a block. It has four notes, C, E, G, and another C. Is it because even though there are two different C's in octaves, they are still considered as one? Or, is it something else entirely?

In a block, if I played C, it might harmonise below. C4, A3, G3, and E3, which makes it sound like a C major add six. It could also harmonise above. C4, E4, G4, and A4.

3

You'll find lots of definitions of 'Block Harmony'! It's not a precise term with One True Definition. It certainly doesn't have to be 4-note. And your C-E-G-C chord could certainly be considered a 'block'.

Here's some sample definitions. None of them are complete or definitive. None of them are likely to be obeyed strictly in real-life music.

It's close position voicing. All the notes are played at the same time and all move in the same direction (or are static) when changing chord.

It's 'George Shearing' or 'Glenn Miller' voicing where the top and bottom voices double the melody an octave apart, the rest of the harmony follows the same rhythms and fits in-between. (But it doesn't HAVE to double the melody in that way, that's just one example of 'Block Harmony'.)

It's bad 'easy keyboard' arrangements where the RH plays the tune, the LH plays close position chords in the tenor range (to be fair, this may just be intended to trigger the auto-accompaniment feature.

It's the opposite of counterpoint! I think I'll go with that one :-)

  • 1
    'All move in the same direction when changing chord'. I'd have thought some notes would stay where they are, with common notes. – Tim Jul 29 '18 at 13:26

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