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· Smokestack Lightning
218 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·

Lately I've been messing around with quartals on the neck. For those unfamiliar, quartals are chords made of stacked fourths. I have a couple of questions for people more comfortable with quartals.

1. How the hell do you name them? The best I've thought to do is name them/apply them using the highest note on the chord, since that's what my ear tends to gravitate towards, the middle note and the root are color tones while the bass player or piano establishes the root. I've been referring to them for my own knowledge as Q5 or Q6 which leads to my next question.

2. Should I be using only perfect fourths or should I be using the fourths that occur diatonically? As of now I've been experimenting with quartals in relation to the Dorian mode (1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7) since the four fourths stacked on top of each other essentially make a m11 chord and because the m6 interval is pretty harsh. Would it be worth it to explore quartals for the other modes or even other scales?

· Premium Member
33,895 Posts
I expect this thread will be us plus Distressed Romeo. :lol:

Your second question... I'd definitely use diatonic fourths.

Your first... Eh, I'd probably name them as if they were tertiary. Say you've got two stacked 4ths - G-C-F, for example. I'd call that a G7sus4(no5). I don't know if that's the convention, but that'd at least get the point across...

Either way, it IS a cool sound. I've been meaning to try to write more with quartal harmony...

· Where?!
2,935 Posts
I expect this thread will be us plus Distressed Romeo. :lol:

I'm with Drew, start with diatonic fourth voicings, but on other important way of applying them is to experiment with how they sound on top of different root notes, which is how a lot of jazz pianists seem to use them. For example, let an open A note ring, and try moving a quintal voicing up chromatically to see where the nicest voicings are...



Obviously some of these won't be practical, but there're some really cool sounds lurking in here. For instance, one of my favourite ways of playing 6/9 chords is like this...


The bracketed note represents the implied root, which the bassist or keyboard player would usually add. Rootless voicings like this are a lot of fun to experiment with, and sound great in a band context.

· Smokestack Lightning
218 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That 6/9 voicing is sweet, I've been a fan of that one for a while :yesway: Here's a sweet chord I've stumbled upon.


Without the E as the root, it looks like a drop 2 voicing of an A13, but with the E root it becomes Em69.

I've also been experimenting in my lead playing with going up with 4ths and coming back down with some sort of Dorian lick. Quartal voicings to me sound strange over major chords because of the tension between the perfect 4 and the major 3.
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