Is there a music style without using chords?

Discussion in 'Tab & Music Forum' started by Bangbang, Aug 24, 2008.

  1. nayoud

    nayoud Strat-Talk Member

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    I don't think you'd find any western type of music that doesn't use chords or harmony. Western music in aggregate relies heavily on harmony especially after the renaissance. All other types of music, Arabic Classical, Turkish Classical, In dian, Chinese are all based on melody.
    Cheers
     
  2. xen_

    xen_ Strat-Talker

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    Of course there is a music without chords: Plainsong. Your question can be rephrased as "does monphony exist?" It not only exists, we even have a name for it! :p

    First the definition of 'chord,' from Chapter 1 of Aldwell & Schachter:


    The majority music, played or sung in most cultures and for most of human history has not had chords in the formal sense.

    Exactly! And that's not to mention traditional African music (which has had a wee bit of influence on some styles of music we enjoy today).

    In Western Music, Gregorian (and other) Chant is the most obvious. It's even possible to have Western harmonic music without chords, as in Notre Dame Organum of the C12th and C13th century composers Lenonin and Perotin. Arguably C20th serialist and atonal music is also harmonic without employing chords. Someone pointed out free jazz. Much European folk music was originally purely melodic, harmony being added sometimes as late as the C19th. Don't forget that JJ Rouseau, writing as late as the C18th, railed against harmonic music as being corrupted and corrupting as opposed to virtuous monophony (not necessarily of the religious kind).

    Now you might want to argue that the modal system of Gregorian Chant contains (and in pratice even outlines) chords within its very structure. And it's true that western harmony including our system of chords derives from the practices of C14 -C16th polyphonists, in setting the traditional chants to counterpoint. But neither Machaut, Josquin Depres or probably even Palestrina would have understood their art in these terms. And such a view seems hopelessly teleological to me. Instead we hear chords implied, because chords are part of our musical vocabulary. Which segues nicely ...

    When answering a question such as this we must insist on a legalistic definition of terms. You called a Strawman, I'm calling Argument by Definition (or at least the grave danger thereof).

    What's happening with partial chords including is one of two things :

    Firstly because chords do form part of our musical vocabulary, tones "missing" from partial chords are implied. Thus even out of context, if I play E , D and G# (e.g, 2/5, 3/7, 4/6), I trust you will hear and E7 chord. This is because of all chord tones the 5th is most unambigiously implied to those inculcated with modern western harmony. However an E7 chord does have a B, and what you are hearing is an E7. In other words the "missing" 5th is there, just not acoustically. :D The point is, it is not some indeterminate 3 note chord. Neither is E5 a two note chord (I know it was not you who raised it), it is most often an E major or minor triad, context depending.

    In context, the tonic is also easily implied. So these tones often disappear from jazz chord voicings, especially for guitarists whose job it is to highlight the particular colour (ie, 9ths, altered notes etc) of the chord. Which leads us to ..

    Secondly, in a band situation chances are someone, somewhere in duration of the chord will actually play the missing tone(s). Why else do we put up with basists?

    Someone mentioned Freddie Green. Green was famous for parsimonious partial chords and especially three note 'fat' chords played on the 3rd, 4th and 6th string (I'm guessing the common chord you are referring to is one of these?). The same fingering, for example (3/7, 4/6, 6/6) might variously be Bb7 or E7b5. Remember Green played in Count Basie's orchestra, so he knew damn well the missing 5th in the first case and tonic in the second, would be covered by someone else. Moreover playing the full chord by himself would have been an unwelcome intrusion on other players. Even in the much smaller settings of today, chord playing instruments have to be taught to economise. A loose pianist is a particular danger, they have 10 fingers, and they know how to use 'em!

    I'm not saying that you don't know this. Indeed it is implicit in the notion that a selection of notes from a chord "can simultaneously be defined as one of several different chords." What I am saying is that the example of partial chords does nothing to advance your argument, that chords are anything other than what they are "legalistically" defined to be by music theory.

    So to reiterate. Yes there are many musical styles which don't use chords. And there are many situations where it might not look like chords are being used, but they are (as arpeggios, modal outlines or partial chords).
     
  3. dtfan4ever

    dtfan4ever Strat-Talker

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    I think a lot of Indian music is built around moving lines and not chords that support the moving lines. So yeah, I think it's possible. Also the Ballanese Gamelan music has lots of moving lines and no real chords being held down.

    If one spent enough time analyzing the music, I guess you could find chordal structures. But the music is not based in the same roots as western music where there is clear chordal support.
     
  4. Brad Pittiful

    Brad Pittiful Strat-O-Master

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    punk contains all types of chords and riffs...you obviously dont listen to it :D
     
  5. ArlenBucy

    ArlenBucy Senior Stratmaster

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    SRV's The sky is crying only has a couple chords.

    And punk is all chords for the most part.
     
  6. autodane

    autodane Strat-Talk Member

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    Moving on from defensive chordal theory... You might be approaching this the wrong way- if you want to avoid learning chords or chordal structure than you're only limiting yourself. Just about any form of music can fit lead parts or monophonic accompaniment into it, it comes down to how you can adapt your playing. Unless you were just asking out of interest, in which case I've just wasted a small portion of the world's finite supply of letters...
     
  7. Offshore Angler

    Offshore Angler Senior Stratmaster

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    First off, you can play many a surf song and never play a chord.

    As far as keys not being implied - learn to read music and then re-evaluate that statement. Any musician who's been around the block looks at the chart and counts the flats or sharps next to the cleff to know what key the piece is in. Look at the circle of 5ths as well...

    Unless you want to re-write the rules for western music, evey song is in a key. It has to be to be notated. Period.

    A chord can be two notes. We call that structure a diad. A chord cannot be defined as major or minor without a third, but is still a chord. Also, some chords do not carry the root, so the three note inference is irrelevant. What if in the key of A I play a C# and an E in unison? That's definatley a major sound.

    Sure, some eastern music is deviod of chordal structures, but do you play much eastern music? Look, the tempered tuning of western music is BUILT IN to the guitar via the tuning and fret placement. In the context of how most people use a guitar, it is a western instument construction. Applying rules from other systems to the guitar is a nice intellectual excercise, but in practice has no real meaning.
     
  8. autodane

    autodane Strat-Talk Member

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    Now I think of it, there's always free jazz...
     
  9. legendarytoby

    legendarytoby Strat-Talk Member

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    well theres some Hard rock songs or Heavy metal that uses single note riffs.. But Hard Rock also uses powerchords which are way more easier than chords you play the root note and the fifth you dont play the 3rd. Like for example a G5 power chord is playing the 3rd fret of the low E string and then since the a is string is a third higher than an E you play the fifth fret of the A string its simple
     
  10. Bruster

    Bruster Strat-O-Master

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    It's funny, I've watched this thread for some time now and never found it necessary to contribute. But I just watched U2's Rattle and Hum DVD and couldn't help suggesting taking a look at the chapter when BB King Performs with them. Early in the practice session, BB seems to feel he needs to make it known that he's not so hot on the chords. Bono, says 'oh don't worry about that, The Edge will take care of it'! BB goes on to sing beautifully and solo with -mostly- his 5 favorite notes!