Sunday, November 30, 2014

Chord "Deux" Jour Challenge: Abm and Cb

The Chord "Deux" Jour Challenge means learning or expanding upon two chords per day for 49 days. Check out the full list here.

Each chord map will hopefully appeal to guitarists and keyboardists of all skill levels. Simple chord shapes for novice guitarists are provided with the following finger system:

1 index finger
2 middle finger
3 ring finger
4 little finger
o play open string
x do not play open string
( bar one finger over more than one string
T that rare occasion that I recommend you use your thumb to fret a note (which probably won't show up during the Challenge)

Today's chords are A-flat minor (Abm) and C-flat major (Cb). You've encountered these chords before as G#m and B. When two notes, chords, or scales have the same sound but different names, they are said to be enharmonic. Here are three different ways of making sense out of this:

1. Enharmonic notes are the same note, but are given different names, depending on the situation. For example, to avoid confusion, we'll use the E# note in the key of F#, but we'll call that same pitch F in several other keys.

2. Enharmonic notes are not the same note, and it is a coincidence that they share the same pitch. For example, the key of F# (six sharps) is not the key of Gb (six flats), and vice versa, even though they sound exactly the same. This is just musical semantics, really.

3. Enharmonic notes are not the same note, and mathematically, they shouldn't even share the same exact pitch. Without Googling or using Wiki to double-check my assertions, I'll try to explain:

Many musical instruments are tuned so that they can play well in many keys and scales. To accomplish this, tuning is imperfect but otherwise generally pleasant, and enharmonics occur on the same pitch: You can play G# and Ab on the same black key on the keyboard; you can play F# and Gb on the same string, behind the same fret on the fretboard.

However, some musical instruments are tuned so that they play perfectly in one key. To accomplish this, tuning is mathematically exact, and many notes are excluded from the tuning. In other words, in a perfectly-tuned instrument, G# and Ab don't exist on the same frequency. Perfect tuning on a keyed or fretted instrument means you'll have access to one note, but not its enharmonic.

Honestly, I don't think I understand the concept fully. If you don't read music notation, use definition #1 for enharmonics. If you read music notation, definition #2 would be your friend. If you're into music-as-math, then get deeper into definition #3. Here are the chord maps:

Two more chords this Friday. (I need to finish this project I'm working on. My apologies for this hiatus.) Cheers!

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