# Slonimsky Thesaurus "Master Chords"?

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### Joey Goldstein

Sep 27, 2011, 4:15:07 PM9/27/11
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Just started working out of the Thesauras again (for some reason) and
can't quite grok the "Master Chord" designations yet.
In the Introduction he explains that the Master chords are dom7 chords
with 5th omitted and are designated by circled Arabic numerals 1 through 12.
I'm assuming that 1 is C7, 2 is C#7, 3 is D7, etc., through 12 which is B7.
But that doesn't seem to completely agree with his examples on page v of
the Intro or with any of the patterns, as far as I can tell.

So what exactly do the circled numbers really refer to?

--
Joey Goldstein
<http://www.joeygoldstein.com>
<http://homepage.mac.com/josephgoldstein/AudioClips/audio.htm>
joegold AT primus DOT ca

### TD

Sep 27, 2011, 4:25:48 PM9/27/11
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They are crop circles.

-TD

### paul s

Sep 27, 2011, 5:37:19 PM9/27/11
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my guess - he mentions that the Master Chords can be transposed "a
tritone up or down with satisfactory results".
The first chord in each of the three examples is a tritone away from
MC indicated by the numbers. 1 = C, he has F#, 5 = E, he shows Bb, 11
= Bb, he shows E. Then within each example he moves the voicings
parallel to the pattern. The first one goes up a tritone, second
example shows voicings moving in maj 3rds, third example moves them in
min 3rds.

Paul S

### Joey Goldstein

Sep 27, 2011, 5:54:34 PM9/27/11
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lol

### TD

Sep 27, 2011, 5:57:31 PM9/27/11
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On Sep 27, 4:15 pm, Joey Goldstein <nos...@nowhere.net> wrote:
The numbers correspond to drawing from his three realms: Tritone
Progression, affiliated with S an MP's 1 thru 180. Ditone progression:
181 thru 391 and Sesquitone pogression: 392 thru 568. Page "V" (Of
introduction) displays examples in the three respective realms. In
example V, you have the tritone C and F#. {Circled numbers, as realms
must be utilized in conjunction with the pattern numbers, even though
many will be the same inter-realm}This correlates with his F#7 and C7
triads (5th omitted). The G and Db, also a tritone are added tones,
each a P5 above each principle tone (of the initial tritone). He
considers the additional tritone (G and Db), "melodic elements" of
which he adds to C and F#. Leaving the 5th out of the master chords,
frees the ear up to accept bitonality. I have no problem with pattern
53 fitting the masterchords. In Jazz, we will voice much hipper than
that and still leave the fifth out. Of course,, youm are hip to this.
I am just trying to answer you as best I can at the moment.

The next double barline example, Pattern #186 reveals two sets of
Augment", major 7ths and dom 7ths entertain harmonic coalition. This
sounds like a plausible pattern/line to me, if we keep this in mind.
The next double barline example, pattern # 393 reveals quite obviously
two diminished chords juxtaposed a la double-diminished. The
masterchords correspond accordingly. But I wouldn't try this stuff on
an accordion.

Is how I see it. He is demonstarting bi-tonality and the idea of
melodic patterns mixed in with known and not so known scales (hybrids)
is "key."

-TD

### Joey Goldstein

Sep 27, 2011, 5:59:24 PM9/27/11
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Ah, thanks.
I didn't realize that he was suggesting a transposition for each
division of the octave.

### Joey Goldstein

Sep 27, 2011, 6:21:01 PM9/27/11
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So, for pattern #186 (based on an octave divided in 3rds) he gives
numbers: 5 6 11 and 12 (on page 29).
Does this mean that for the area of the pattern between C and E his
harmonization suggestions are E7, F7, Bb7 and B7 (which transposes to
Bb7, B7, E7 and F7)?
But the area between E and G# would be harmonized with G#7, A7, D7 and
D#7 (or D7, Eb7, Ab7 and A7)?
And the area of the pattern between G# and C would use C7, C#7, F#7 and
G7 (or F#7, G7, C7 and Db7)?
Do I have that right?

But why does he start each Master Chord example on Pg. v on the
tritone-transposition of the suggested MC rather than the un-transposed
version of the suggested MC?
Seems kind of obtuse to me, no?

I think that for most of us jazzers, most of the time, we'd be looking
for one chord upon which the entire pattern sounds strong.
In the past, when I've worked out of the Thesaurus, I never realized
that he was suggesting progressions of chords with which to harmonize
the patterns.
Live and learn learn.

Of course, in general, I'm always thinking of ways to use these
patterns/scales over standard 7th chords; one chord per pattern.

Thanks again.

### paul s

Sep 27, 2011, 6:42:55 PM9/27/11
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It seems like a demonstration of how the chords can be transposed a
tritone, without an explanation that that is what is being done. The
whole 1=7, 2=8 thing is a bit confusing too. Why not just have 1
through 6, with the understanding that the tritone transposition is
available ?

Paul S

### Joey Goldstein

Sep 27, 2011, 7:01:49 PM9/27/11
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On 9/27/2011 6:42 PM, paul s wrote:
> Why not just have 1
> through 6, with the understanding that the tritone transposition is
> available ?
>
> Paul S

+1

### Neer

Sep 28, 2011, 11:38:55 AM9/28/11
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This is correct. Page 244 lays out the master chords for the 3
divisions of the octave: Tritone, Ditone and Sesquitone. I

In the Tritone section (scales and patterns 1-180), each master chord
(the circled number) refers specifically to a tritone pair of dom 7th
(minus the 5th) chords. 1 is C and F#, 2 is Db and G, etc. So, if a
pattern has the circled numbers 1, 3, 5, 9 and 11, as scale 28 does,
the harmonization for that pattern would be F#7/C7, Ab7/D7, Bb7/E7, D7/
Ab7, E7/Bb7.

In the Ditone section, where the octave is divided in major 3rds, each
master chord refers to a trio of dom 7 chords (no 5th) for patterns
181-391. Pattern 295 has master chords 5, 6, 11, 12. These would
translate into: Bb7/D7/F#7, B7/Eb7/G7, E7/Ab7/C7, F7/A7/Db7.

The Sesquitone section is the octave divided in minor 3rds. It
follows the same principle, only each master chord represents 4
chords. Pattern 482 has master chords 6 and 12. The harmonies would
be B7/D7/F7/Ab7 and F7/Ab7/B7/D7.

Hope that helps a little.

### Neer

Sep 28, 2011, 11:55:44 AM9/28/11
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On Sep 28, 11:38 am, Neer <ionahoo...@yahoo.com> wrote:

By the way, I have a copy of Slonimsky's autobiography, "Perfect
Pitch" in front of me, and in one chapter he describes the book and
how he arrived at many of the formulas and chords. It is a little
over my head at first glance and not anything like you would expect to
understand in a Jazz context, but his arrival at a lot of these
permutations is pretty fascinating. He tells of his realization of
the Mother Chord--a chord that was previously discovered by Fritz
Heinrich Klein. Of this, Slonimsky says,

"...I could not believe that the Mutterakkord was unique. I sensed
that there had to be a tritone somewhere in the middle, because the
tritone is the only self-inverting interval. Going to bed, I imagined
that the pillow was a tritone which hurt my medulla oblongata with its
protruding F sharp. Then I awoke with a start and shouted, "Eureka!"
The general formula for the construction of mother chords came to me
in a flash."

It is a fascinating book.

### TD

Sep 28, 2011, 12:24:08 PM9/28/11
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Yes, like anything of great value when anyone decides to put the time
in necessary to dig beyond the surface.

-TD

### Bg

Sep 28, 2011, 4:28:25 PM9/28/11
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> The next double barline example, pattern # 393 reveals quite obviously
> two diminished chords juxtaposed a la double-diminished. The
> masterchords correspond accordingly. But I wouldn't try this stuff on
> an accordion.
>
> -TD

Wasn't that what Polytone's Tommy Gumina was doing on Accordion long
ago?
Bg

### TD

Sep 28, 2011, 5:13:11 PM9/28/11
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There are exceptions and perhaps he named his amps accordianlly.

-TD

### Bg

Sep 29, 2011, 4:48:09 PM9/29/11
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>
> > Wasn't that what Polytone's Tommy Gumina was doing on Accordion long
> > ago?
> > Bg
>
> There are exceptions and perhaps he named his amps accordianlly.
>
> -TD

Heh,!
Bg

### gzw...@gmail.com

May 13, 2015, 9:09:38 AM5/13/15
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In actual fact, his 1 is fsharp. but even though it fsharp he does say theat tritone substitution can be used on each Chord. therefore it can be cdom7 without the fifth. the key is to understand why they are being used. in passages where there are 2 or more common tones with the master chord, it can be used. especially if the tritone is there or the missing fifth as in the case of pattern 1 (c-csharp-fsharp-g). analyse the first 5 patterns with his chord selections and you should get it. (poor thelonius monk never made it past the first 2 pages, all his tunes seem based on the first 2 pages.)

### gzw...@gmail.com

May 13, 2015, 9:25:37 AM5/13/15
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In fact,slonimsky expects each chord to harmonise the patterns on their own, simply because he is not trying to be tonal. My one complaint with jazz musicians and their use of the thesaurus is they are inclined to use these patterns as scales, like thelonius and Coltrane, the greater masters of the system like oscar peterson will mix them up in a flashy ascent taking away their scalar qualities. he might use pattern 2 in the first octave and then 13 in his second octave and finish with a many noted pattern at the top. the feeling is less scalar and more melodic that way especially if its all done over the same master chord. this is why no one can here slominsky in oscars playing where as in thelonius, we can actually name the pattern used. Coltranes use was just as boring. his virtuosity saved him.

### e7m

May 15, 2015, 10:42:48 PM5/15/15
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Hi Jpey,
Good to see you are still around and posting. Its always good to read your posts even though I have a really hard time seeing how things like the Slonimsky Thesaurus "Master Chords" has to do with improvising. I can see that you find it very important, but what I don't understand is, after you figure out his notation, what do you do with that knowledge?

How do you apply what is in that system to create music?

Is it limited to the Guitar? or how does it apply to other instruments?

What is the benefit of the study?

I realize that you may not take this in the context that I am asking it (based upon responses from the past) but I really would like to know what is the outcome of studying something like this Thesaurus?

does it help the student to do substitutions? provide scales associated with an isolated chord? give an insight to function? After one studies this Thesaurus, what can they do that they could not do before?

Other than that, I hope you are fine. It seems like at worst, you and I are doing good if we can get up in the morning and complain about things.

Are you still teaching at your college? Playing regularly?

Its good to see you posting.

LJS.

### e7m

May 19, 2015, 4:37:31 PM5/19/15
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Hi,
I did not notice that Joey's post was such a long time ago. I would like to ask you that same question.

I see in your post some applications of the Solonimsky's thesaurus, but quite frankly, I don't see any uniqueness of the thesaurus that justifies the rather universal application to the artists mentioned.

I know in some research I have heard "musical appreciation" statements of Coltrane having "dabbled" in the "system(?)" and in Monk's case, I see most of his works (especially the earlier works) a pattern of studying techniques of 20th Century music (classical music theory) and composing really creative "assignments" to illustrate some of these techniques.

In Oscar P's case, I can see the same framework of the pre Baroque modal approach of voice leading using tones in the same manner that I see you use to explain the jazz use of Solonimsky's thesaurus.

My question in re: "is it limited to guitar" stems from the simple application of the natural tendency of a student guitar player using more basic "grips" and just filling in the tones between the notes in the "grip" with notes (possibly even random notes) and coming up with a rough approximation of the scales or patterns in the Thesaurus.

I am actually looking for an explanation of what one is going to do if he would "master" what I am understanding to be the application of his thesaurus. Actually, I really don't see the thesaurus aspect of his exercises, what I see is more of a Taxonomy of "chord types" that is rather interesting in that I can see it being a taxonomy that goes beyond Baroque and BeBop chord types and includes tone sets that can be generated by groupings from something like the Schoenberg serial concepts that he uses in his music.

I do admit that I am not a proponent of this volume, but I certainly do respect the work that he had to do to put it together. My problem is that I don't really see how it is a helpful set of exercises beyond their being difficult and will help the student to develop their ear, but there are much more simple and easily applicable ways of learning to select tones to use with various chord types both in tonal and non tonal music.

You seem quite versed in his work and quite able to discuss the application of his works. I do hope that you can find the time to discuss what his thesaurus is actually designed to do and how well it does it.

Thank you.

LJS
e7m

### boardm...@gmail.com

Mar 21, 2020, 6:33:26 PM3/21/20
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you are correct on page 1 of the tritone progression excersise 1 can work over c7(1) f7(6) f#7{7} and a B7{12) thats all there is to it

### J.B. Wood

Mar 23, 2020, 6:17:02 AM3/23/20
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Don't you ever look at the date of the message you're responding to?
Sincerely,

--
J. B. Wood e-mail: arl_1...@hotmail.com

### Joey Goldstein

Mar 27, 2020, 11:39:36 AM3/27/20
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Still, I got it.
lol

### J.B. Wood

Mar 30, 2020, 6:39:15 AM3/30/20
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On 3/27/2020 11:39 AM, Joey Goldstein wrote:

> Still, I got it.
> lol

Hi, Joey. We have to be the "Last of the (original) Mohicans" on the
ng. Hope some of the others like Margo are holding up. BTW I'll be 70
next month. Just bury me in that land of "Ancient Music Theory" when my
time is up. Sincerely,

Mar 30, 2020, 10:16:29 PM3/30/20
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> J. B. Wood e-mail: a...4@hotmail.com

I remember both of you, cheers to the old gang of rec.music.theory!

A year ago, I tried to get a conversation going about post-functional theories of harmony here (Dmitri Tymoczko et. al.). It didn't get far. These days, I read the Reddit music theory group and occasionally post anonymously. It's much more active than here.

### Joey Goldstein

Mar 31, 2020, 2:42:05 PM3/31/20
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On 2020-03-30 6:39 a.m., J.B. Wood wrote:
> On 3/27/2020 11:39 AM, Joey Goldstein wrote:
>
>> Still, I got it.
>> lol
>
> Hi, Joey.  We have to be the "Last of the (original) Mohicans" on the
> ng.  Hope some of the others like Margo are holding up.  BTW I'll be 70
> next month.  Just bury me in that land of "Ancient Music Theory" when my
> time is up.  Sincerely,
>

66 here.