Menu Close

Discovering How to Play the Tritone


The tritone from our last article is an interval of a Diminished 5th or an Augmented 4th. What makes this interval unique is that it is embedded in Chords. The principle goal of this article is to X-ray such Chords.

The very first is the Dominant chord.

A basic dominant chord is the [common] Dominant 7th. Which can be formed from a major chord by lowering its root by a tone or wholestep.

E.g the “C” Dominant 7th is formed from the “C” major chord thus;

C + E + G then we’ll lower the root Note which is “C” by a whole step or tone to have

C / Bb E G a full fledged Dom7th chord.
The first two notes on the right hand [which happens to be Bb + E] is a tritone [apart]

Meaning that when you play “C” on the left hand and Bb + E on the right, a Dominant7th is implied.

Which means that “Bb + E” is the tritone that correspond with “C” to form a CDom7th.

Having discovered the tritone in a Dom7th chord. Let’s use them on the key of “C” to play the 6[la]-2[re]-5[sol]-1[do] progression.

C E G when voiced as Dom7 becomes Bb E G
A C# E when voiced as Dom7 becomes G C# E
D F# A when voiced as Dom7 becomes C F# A
G B D when voiced as Dom7 becomes F B D

Now, voicing only their corresponding tritone, we have a sleek progression:

C / Bb E [doh]A / G C# [lah]D / C F# [Reh]G / F B [Sol]

We’ll invert some of the tritones for voice leading purposes.

C / Bb E [doh]A / G C# [lah]D / F# C [Reh] (an inverted tritone)
G / F B [Sol]


C / Bb E [doh]A / C# G [lah] (an inverted tritone)
D / C F# [Reh]G / B F [Sol] (an inverted tritone)

Well, i’m sure you’ve noticed that the tritones are descending chromatically; that’s its beauty.

Let’s take another example “Oh Happy Day” on the key of “C”. Which happens to be a 1-4 progression(between do and fa)

C E G becomes Bb E G (hope you remember?)
F A C becomes Eb A C (derived by lowering the root
note “F” by a tone)

Giving us two Dom7 tritones
* Bb E
* Eb A

Which are derived from the chords (Bb E G & Eb A C)

We’ll invert one tritone for “voice leading” purposes. So we’ll now have

*Bb E
*A Eb (inverted Tritone)

So let’s put them on the song “Oh Happy Day” on the key of “C”

Oh happy Bb E
Day A Eb
*make sure the first tritone descends chromatically into the second one.

Now tell me, how does this sound?

Let’s now discover the corresponding tritones for all the keys

C / Bb E G
D / C F# A
E / D G# B
F / Eb A C
G / F B D
A / G C# E

The first two notes of the right hand chords above are the corresponding tritones. Here they are;

C / Bb E
D / C F#
E / D G#
F / Eb A
G / F B
A / G C#

Well, I left the keys of Gb, Ab, Bb, Db, Eb & B out on purpose.

Gb / E Bb Db
Ab / F# C Eb
Bb / G# D F
B / A Eb F#
Db / B F Ab
Eb / C# G Bb

#forgive my enharmonic spelling(for music theorists). I did them to overcome spelling problems. Most pianists don’t know where Fb or E# is on the keyboard.

Taking a closer look at the lists will reveal that C and Gb share the same corresponding tritone.

*C / Bb E (an inversion of Gb corresponding tritone)
*Gb / E Bb (an inversion of C corresponding tritone)

D and Ab also share the same corresponding tritone

*D / C F# (an inversion of Gb corresponding tritone)
*Ab/ F# C (an inversion of C corresponding tritone)

Why is this so?

Well, the answer is simple…

C and Gb(which is also F#) are a tritone apart themselves. That’s why they share the same corresponding tritone. The same thing for D and Ab.

So reconciling the two charts, we have;

Gb or C / Bb E
Ab or D / C F#
Bb or E / D G#
B or F / Eb A
Db or G / F B
Eb or A / G C#

What i’m saying is this:
“Eb or A / G C#”
Means that Eb and A share the same corresponding tritone which is G C# or its inversion C# G

In conclusion, there are Six tritones only in music.(with due respect for enharmonic spellings( C Gb is same with C F#) and inversion (C Gb is same with Gb C)

Now that we’ve discovered the tritone as the essential ingredient of the Dominant7th chord, expect the next article-


Before I draw the curtain, I want to say that there are other chords that possess the tritone as an embedded interval.

* minor7b5
* Diminished7th
However, these two classes of chords are still analogous to dominant7ths. Here’s what I mean:

Cmin7b5 / Ab = Ab Dom9
Cdim7 / Ab = Ab Dom7b9

Which means that they are upperstructure chords for the “supreme” dominant chord class.

This is not to say that these chords cannot be independent- i’m just staying withing the premises of Dominant Chords and Tritones.

Long Article right?

Skip to content

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard