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Blues Guitar - Tritone Blues 1

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Tritone is an interval with three whole-steps. In a normal major scale, you find the tritone between the 4th and 7th note, which is F and B in the key of C. The tritone might also be called an augmented fourth. A perfect fourth consists of two whole-steps and a half step, while the augmented fourth have three whole steps. If you listen to the tritone, you should notice that it is a disharmonic interval, with a restless sound that call for some kind of harmonic resolution.

The tritone is the half of an octave, thus dividing the octave in two equal parts. If you take the interval B to F in the key of C-major, you will notice that it consists of two whole steps (C-D and D-E), and two half-steps (B-C and E-F). This interval is called a diminished fifth. But both the tritone and the diminished fifth have six half steps, meaning that the distance from bottom to top is the same. The ear cannot tell the difference between the two intervals, at least not when they are not played in a musical context. In theory they are different, but in practice they are (almost) the same.

Now you should notice that F and B are two of the notes in a G7 chord. If you start from a G-major chord, with the notes G-B-D, and add the minor 7th (F), you have G-B-D-F. And there you have the diminished fifth between B and F, and you will have the F to B tritone if you invert the chord. And now one of the lessons to lean: It is the tritone or diminished fifth that gives the 7th chord it's character. If you are in C-major, the B is often referred to as the leading note, while the F might be called a leaning note. The diminished fifth between B and F creates a tension. The tension is resolved when you go from B to C and F to E, and by that going from the diminished fifth to a major third (C to F). You can omit the other notes from the chord, both the G and the D, and it will still function as a G7. Try playing just the interval B-F instead of a G7, and it still works. But if you take away the B and/or the F, it will no longer function as a G7 chord.

If you compare a G7 and a Gm7, you should notice that the minor7 has a much smoother and more jazzy sound, and it does not create the same tension as the G7. One major difference is that there is no tritone in a m7 chord. The Gm7 consists of G-Bb-D-F. From Bb to F there is a perfect fifth, and from F to Bb there is a perfect fourth. The minor 7th interval from G to F and the corresponding major second from F to G are two dissonant intervals. But they are not as dissonant as the tritone/diminished fifth. And the G7 has the dissonant tritone/diminished fifth in addition to the minor 7th/major second.

You will also find the diminished fifth in the diminished chord. The diminished chord consists of to minor thirds on top of each other. A Bdim (also notated as B°) have the notes B-D-F. And now you should note that if you have a G and put a Bdim chord on top of it, you get a G7 chord. There are some clues to chord substitution in this knowledge, but this will not be covered in this lesson.

The tritone / diminished fifth is an easy interval to finger on the guitar. You find it in these positions:

xxxxx

Then we can play a simple 12-bar blues in the key of A, with the the root note in the bass, and the VIIb-III tritone interval of each chord. I fingerpick, with a monotone bass technique.

Simple Tritone Blues 1 in A


 
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In the next 12-bar blues, I utilize the magic of inverting these chords. The VIIb-III tritone interval of an A7 chord is G - C#. Now the III-VIIb diminished fifth interval in a D7 is F# - C. This means that you can just move the "chord" one fret down, and then you have the inverted interval of the IV7 chord. And then there is no prize for guessing that you can move this "chord" up two fret to the V7 chord. You should also try to slide into these position from one fret below or one fret above, and you can slide from the V7 to the IV7 chord. I will play one round of 12-bar blues with a bass-lick combined with a tritone that goes like this:

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