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Thread: Lydian avoid note

  1. #1
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    Lydian avoid note

    Okay, so I understand that the 4th of the major scale is an avoid note and this is why the lydian mode is often used in its place, but isn't the #4 also an avoid note because enharmonically it's a b5? Or is an avoid note only a semitone above a chord tone and not below as well?

  2. #2
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    In my opinion, there is no such thing as a general avoid note. It is funny, I got the same question about a week ago and posted a reply on my "Infinite Guitar" Blog. I'll give you a brief explanation, but if you want to read the detailed answer, go here: http://theinfiniteguitar.blogspot.co...oid-notes.html

    You are correct to assume that the lydian mode is sometimes preferable because the #4 doesn't rub against the major 3rd in the chord. I like to think of the scale as better balanced. But, what if your chord was a sus chord? then the #4th would be plain wrong. What if you were playing over a diatonic progression in the major key? It would seem silly to play a lydian scale over just the tonic chord. The natural 4th would be a lot less of a problem in this situation. What if you were to play over a chord with the 3rd and 4th both included? You get these sometimes: C(add11)

    That is why I don't like the term "avoid notes" simply because it depends on the chord you are playing over. If there were really avoid notes, it is a safe bet that musicians would have removed them from the scales years ago.

    I have heard people say the 11ths and 13ths are weak sounding notes. What if you had to play over a 13sus chord? These notes would be the best ones to play in your solo.

    The #4 should not be confused with a b5. They are not the same. Simply because there is a natural 5th in the scale as well. The scale harmonizes to this:

    1-3-5-7-9-#11-13

    To really hear the way this scale works, you need to improvise over a maj7#11 (C-E-F#-B) chord or some similar lydian chord as in:

    Cadd9#11 (C-F#-G-D), there is no 3rd in the chord but you don't really need it.

    Cadd9#11 (C-G-D-F#-G) again no 3rd but a very nice voicing that you will have to stretch for. Try it from the 5th string.

    -CJ

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by graypianoflying
    Okay, so I understand that the 4th of the major scale is an avoid note and this is why the lydian mode is often used in its place, but isn't the #4 also an avoid note because enharmonically it's a b5? Or is an avoid note only a semitone above a chord tone and not below as well?
    Good question.
    The answer is to do with the intervals formed with other chord tones.
    Firstly, a #4 (#11) above a perfect 5th forms a maj7. This is dissonant, but less harsh than the minor 9th formed if you play a perfect 11 above a major 3.
    (You also get a nasty minor 9th if you play a b13 above a perfect 5th.)
    Secondly, in a typical maj7#11 voicing, the #11 will form consonant intervals with neighbouring chord tones: eg, a major 3rd above the 9th.
    The main problem with a P11 is not just the b9 with the 3rd below, but the tritone with the maj7 (see the current "most stable modes" thread).

    Semitone intervals (minor 2nds) are not such a problem as minor 9ths. Eg, a jazz pianist will often play a maj7 voicing with the root a semitone away from the maj7. But they won't put the root an octave higher (ouch!)
    Same with #4s - they might sit fine (if dissonant) right next to the 5th, but not if the 5th is an octave higher. Always safer to have the 5th below the #4.

    Generally speaking, it seems chromatic notes a semitone below chord tones are better than semitones above. And the effects of either (good and bad) seem to be enhanced if one of them is raised by an octave - making either a maj7 or min9.
    This even applies to the 7#9 chord, where you have what can be seen as an enharmonic minor 3rd against a major 3rd in the lower octave. It's crunchy, but attractive. Put the major 3 a semitone above the minor 3 - hmm, bluesy, could be OK. Put the major 3 an octave above - OW!

    In truth, there are all kinds of factors at play here (including those of cultural familiarity and expectation ) - but examining all the surrounding intervals in the chord (not just with the root or the nearest chord tone) is the best way to look at it.

    (To be honest, this is hard to do on guitar, where we are limited in our choice of voicings. You really need a keyboard to research and compare these effects.)

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    In my opinion, there is no such thing as a general avoid note. It is funny, I got the same question about a week ago and posted a reply on my "Infinite Guitar" Blog. I'll give you a brief explanation, but if you want to read the detailed answer, go here: http://theinfiniteguitar.blogspot.co...oid-notes.html

    You are correct to assume that the lydian mode is sometimes preferable because the #4 doesn't rub against the major 3rd in the chord. I like to think of the scale as better balanced. But, what if your chord was a sus chord? then the #4th would be plain wrong.
    Sure. We're only talking about #4s on maj7s or (to a lesser degree) dom7s. "Sus" means a perfect 11, by definition.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    What if you were playing over a diatonic progression in the major key? It would seem silly to play a lydian scale over just the tonic chord. The natural 4th would be a lot less of a problem in this situation.
    Not at all. This is the whole crux of the issue. It's precisely because the natural 4th IS sometimes a problem that the idea of the "avoid note" arises - and we get the notion of raising the 4th on the tonic chord.
    You can certainly play a perfect 4th in passing. The issue comes when we want to add an 11th to the chord, esp if we want to hold it as an extension over a maj7. The #11 simply sounds better. (Or it might be better to simply not add an 11th of any kind, of course.)
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    What if you were to play over a chord with the 3rd and 4th both included? You get these sometimes: C(add11)
    True, it's a little less problematic over a triad. But you won't see a "Cmaj11", or "Cmaj7add4". It doesn't happen. (I'm always happy to be proved wrong, I've just never seen one myself...)
    And even a C(add11) is likely to be a temporary passing chord.
    But you're right, it certainly indicates ionian mode. You wouldn't play lydian over an "add11" chord.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    That is why I don't like the term "avoid notes" simply because it depends on the chord you are playing over. If there were really avoid notes, it is a safe bet that musicians would have removed them from the scales years ago.
    But that's a misunderstanding of the term. They're not notes to be avoided altogether. Only handled with care in general, and (maybe) avoided in certain special circumstances.
    You're probably right it's a misleading term in the first place!
    Maybe "danger note" is better, or something similar...
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ
    I have heard people say the 11ths and 13ths are weak sounding notes. What if you had to play over a 13sus chord? These notes would be the best ones to play in your solo.
    I agree. I've not heard people say they're "weak".

  5. #5
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    Funny how the poor old "11" gets beat up all the time. Most people hear it's an "avoid" note and become almost scared to use it...ever.

    When building the perfect Extended maj13 (R M3 5 9 11 13), you definitely realize why people may "avoid" it most of the time.

    But, to give the little bugger some props...

    While it's avoided in Extended Major chords is widely accepted in Minor and Dominant chords.

    The m11 chord is beautiful and "fits" diatonically as the IIm11, IIIm11, and VIm11 chords.

    And as a 7sus11(7sus4) chord sounds perfect. It could actually be used as a Minor chord (m7sus11) or a Dominant chord (7sus11) in reality.

    Don't mean you repoint the thread...but I agree with both CJ and JR views...Major chord wise = be careful, single note wise = don't be too afriad to use it. And once you're working with Minor and Dominant chords, try using the heck out of it.

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Sure. P11s are nice on m7s. Also good on half-dims (m7b5).
    And of course essential on sus chords!
    A little trickier on dom7s - P11s are not normally used as extensions, but are fine in most soloing contexts.

  7. #7
    Bedroom metalurgist LaughingSkull's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gennation
    The m11 chord is beautiful and "fits" diatonically as the IIm11, IIIm11, and VIm11 chords.
    I have a question (sorry to be a bit off original topic) about building IIIm11 chords.
    IIm11 and VIm11 can be built as 1 m3 5 m7 M9 P11; but
    IIIm11 is 1 m3 5 m7 m9 P11 . Since m11b9 chords sounds horrible, I assume you build IIIm11 chords without b9 as 1 m3 5 m7 P11? Right?

  8. #8
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaughingSkull
    I have a question (sorry to be a bit off original topic) about building IIIm11 chords.
    IIm11 and VIm11 can be built as 1 m3 5 m7 M9 P11; but
    IIIm11 is 1 m3 5 m7 m9 P11 . Since m11b9 chords sounds horrible, I assume you build IIIm11 chords without b9 as 1 m3 5 m7 P11? Right?
    Yes, right (in terms of functional harmony). Since the diatonic 9th for a III- chord is a minor 9th (b9's are avoid notes over minor chords - they would clash with the tonic as a b9 and with the 5th as a tritone), there is no such thing as a diatonic III-9 chord and hence there cannot be a III-11 chord. There is however a "III-7 add11" chord (1 b3 5 b7 & 11) which coincidently utilizes all the notes of the minor pentatonic scale.

    cheers,

  9. #9
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Okay, so I understand that the 4th of the major scale is an avoid note and this is why the lydian mode is often used in its place, but isn't the #4 also an avoid note because enharmonically it's a b5? Or is an avoid note only a semitone above a chord tone and not below as well?
    Regular scales don't have avoid notes. The term "avoid note" refers specifically to chord scales only and describes notes diatonic to the key that degrade the chord's function if used too heavily. Further the term is typically used relative to major / diatonic harmony and is less meaningful in richer harmonic settings.

    An interesting note is that the avoid note for the Imaj chord and it's substitutes, the III-7 & VI-7, is equal to the subdominant (the 4th) of the relative major scale. (The III-7 has an additional avoid note equal to the tonic of the key, the use of which would imply an inversion of the Imaj7 chord) While the avoid note for the V7 chord and it's substitute the VII-7,b5 is equal to the tonic of the relative major scale. There are no avoid notes for the IV chord or it's substitute the II-7 chord.

    Example
    imaj7 - the avoid note is the 11th
    II-7 - no avoid notes
    III-7 - the avoid notes are the b9 & the b13
    IVmaj7 - no avoid notes
    V7 - the avoid note is the 11th
    VI-7 - the avoid note is the b13th
    VII-7,b5 - the avoid note is the b9

    Note that there are no rules against the use of "avoid notes", just an acknowledgment that their overuse can be problematic.

  10. #10
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jed
    Regular scales don't have avoid notes. The term "avoid note" refers specifically to chord scales only and describes notes diatonic to the key that degrade the chord's function if used too heavily.
    Nicely put!

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    Thanks for all the responses guys!! I don't think I was clear enough with my question: I was talking specifically about major 7 chords. I played some of this on the piano and the #11 definitely does sound better than the normal 11th. What I was wondering is why the #4 isn't dissonant with the tonic because they are a tritone apart?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaughingSkull
    I have a question (sorry to be a bit off original topic) about building IIIm11 chords.
    IIm11 and VIm11 can be built as 1 m3 5 m7 M9 P11; but
    IIIm11 is 1 m3 5 m7 m9 P11 . Since m11b9 chords sounds horrible, I assume you build IIIm11 chords without b9 as 1 m3 5 m7 P11? Right?
    Ah yep, you're right. My mistake. Maybe I should've called the m7add11 chords as opposed to m11 chords.

  13. #13
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Well, after a "nicely put" from JonR I probably shouldn't push my luck but I'm a glutton for punishment sometimes.

    You may find as many explanations as people with opinions since whether the #11 sounds dissonant or not depends on the listener's ear and what they are used to. I'll start with a couple of possible explanations:

    1) The #11 is only mildly dissonant versus the root of the chord in part because it is supported by lower chord tones with which it does not interfere (no b2 / b9 intervals). Despite the simplified interval being a #4, the actual interval is typically a #11 or larger. Larger intervals are typically less dissonant than smaller intervals due to the complexity of the upper-range of the harmonic series.

    2) The #11 is only mildly dissonant versus the root of the chord in part because it's implies the IVmaj7 chord (the only chord scale with a diatonic #4) which is already somewhat (harmonically) unstable by definition since it functions as the subdominant of the key.

    3) Through exposure to Blues, Fusion, Jazz and other rich harmonic music our ears have grown accustomed to the maj7 #11 sound.

    4) In the case of "borrowed" chords, the #11 is diatonic to the original key. Ex in the key of C, the Dbmaj7 chord's #11 is a G natural, the Ebmaj7 chord's #11 is an A natural, the Abmaj7 chord's #11 is a D natural, the Bbmaj7 chord's #11 is an E natural.

    5) See my previous post - the "tonic sound / chord" harmonically avoids the use of the subdominant of the parent scale; the "dominant sound / chord" avoids the use of the tonic of the parent scale; the "subdominant sound / chord" has no avoid notes.

    6) If you think in terms of functional harmony it actually makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately many people think of chords as separate entities, unrelated to the key from which they are derived, and pay little regard to their harmonic function. From my perspective harmonic function is the unseen component that ties all the theory into a cohesive whole.

    cheers,

  14. #14
    Jazzman Poparad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by graypianoflying
    Thanks for all the responses guys!! I don't think I was clear enough with my question: I was talking specifically about major 7 chords. I played some of this on the piano and the #11 definitely does sound better than the normal 11th. What I was wondering is why the #4 isn't dissonant with the tonic because they are a tritone apart?

    There are many other intervals going on between the #11 and the other notes of the chord that are very consonant, which cancel out the tritone's dissonance. Even then, when burried in a chord with other notes, the tritone is not a very dissonant interval. The only interval that is uniformly tense whenever it is used is the minor 9th interval. No matter how you dress it up, it'll help you make a tense chord. Every other 'dissonant' interval (minor 2nds, major 7ths, tritones) are softened in the presence of other notes.

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