Minor second dissonances

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Minor second dissonances

Post by Mr Showbiz »

Why do some minor second intervals sound more dissonant than others to me?

Also why does this dissonance seem to be affected by the register played; worse in the middle registers? (This would appear to counter the overtone series.)

Is it my imagination?
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by sonics »

What's the instrument under discussion? If we take a perfectly intonated instrument tuned in equal temperament, all the intervals should sound the same. Other instruments may be very different indeed. Also, beat frequencies occurring with change depending on the pitches played.

Perhaps tell us more about where you are noticing this effect?
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Martin Walker »

I suspect it all depends on how long this interval is held, and if it then resolves to a more 'natural' sounding cadence.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by adamburgess »

Do you mean only minor 2nds on their own? Like E+F sounds 'different' to A+Bb?
Probably won't be too dissimilar in themselves, but all about context. What's before and after etc…

Paired with another note(s), there's lots of interesting chords to be had.
They can end up as suspensions, or be 'softened', or made more 'dissonant'…
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by merlyn »

Dissonance and beat frequencies are pretty much the same thing. Consonant intervals don't beat as much as dissonant intervals. There is beating between the fundamentals, and also between the harmonics. Take the most consonant interval : the octave.

Code: Select all

A3 : 0220 0440 0660 0880 1760 ...
A4 :      0440 0880 1320 1760 ...
There's nothing to beat there. If the two notes were out of tune we would hear beats. The second harmonic of A3 is exactly the same frequency as the fundamental of A4.

Now take a semitone (rounding to the nearest Hz):

Code: Select all

A4 : 0440 0880 1320 1760 2200 ...
Bb4: 0460 0920 1380 1840 2300 ...
There are beat frequencies of 20Hz, 40Hz, 60Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz ... which is what we hear as dissonance.

Semitones do sound different depending on what pitch they are at. All intervals sound different depending on what pitch they are at because pitch is logarithmic and beats are a simple arithmetic difference in frequency.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Arpangel »

B Minor is the worst, or the best, depending on how you look at it.
I composed a piece in B Minor, and it always sounds a bit weird compared to other keys, and, it has a series of left hand chords in it that comprise mainly seconds, or ninths, which sound very odd. The seconds, or ninths, definitely sound slightly dissonant compared with other keys.
Yes, some keys are different in this respect, maybe this is a side effect of equal temperament, compared with other methods of tuning.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by sonics »

Arpangel wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 11:09 am Yes, some keys are different in this respect, maybe this is a side effect of equal temperament, compared with other methods of tuning.

Surely that "side effect" would be all keys sounding the same?!
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by shufflebeat »

adamburgess wrote: Sat Dec 03, 2022 9:29 am ...all about context. What's before and after etc…

Also what's around it - it's a thin line between a minor 2nd and a major 7th.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by shufflebeat »

sonics wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 6:58 pm
Arpangel wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 11:09 am Yes, some keys are different in this respect, maybe this is a side effect of equal temperament, compared with other methods of tuning.

Surely that "side effect" would be all keys sounding the same?!

BBC "Key Matters":

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tw55v

Conclusion (if memory serves) - probably all the same unless you've been conditioned into a particular way of thinking.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Martin Walker »

shufflebeat wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 9:46 pm BBC "Key Matters":

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tw55v

Conclusion (if memory serves) - probably all the same unless you've been conditioned into a particular way of thinking.

Ooh, great link - thanks shufflebeat! :thumbup:
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by shufflebeat »

I can't remember if I caught every episode but I will try to check it out again.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by merlyn »

Arpangel wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 11:09 am B Minor is the worst, or the best, depending on how you look at it.

Depends who you ask. According to Spinal Tap, D minor is the "saddest of all keys".
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Arpangel »

merlyn wrote: Mon Dec 05, 2022 3:05 pm
Arpangel wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 11:09 am B Minor is the worst, or the best, depending on how you look at it.

Depends who you ask. According to Spinal Tap, D minor is the "saddest of all keys".

It is, it is.

:frown:
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by adamburgess »

Just finished playing for a night of Les Miserables… The Gb major bit on harp was quite sad. The minor stuff is much more 'bitey' than sad in this show.

All about context (and timbre, and arrangement, and… and… and…)
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by merlyn »

Arpangel wrote: Mon Dec 05, 2022 6:03 pm
merlyn wrote: Mon Dec 05, 2022 3:05 pm
Arpangel wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 11:09 am B Minor is the worst, or the best, depending on how you look at it.

Depends who you ask. According to Spinal Tap, D minor is the "saddest of all keys".

It is, it is.

:frown:

Perhaps worth noting that Spinal Tap are not the most reliable source of information for matters relating to music.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by shufflebeat »

merlyn wrote: Mon Dec 05, 2022 8:25 pm
Arpangel wrote: Mon Dec 05, 2022 6:03 pm
merlyn wrote: Mon Dec 05, 2022 3:05 pm
Arpangel wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 11:09 am B Minor is the worst, or the best, depending on how you look at it.

Depends who you ask. According to Spinal Tap, D minor is the "saddest of all keys".

It is, it is.

:frown:

Perhaps worth noting that Spinal Tap are not the most reliable source of information for matters relating to music.

Or maybe electronics.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Sam Spoons »

But they do go up to 11 :D
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Arpangel »

merlyn wrote: Mon Dec 05, 2022 8:25 pm Perhaps worth noting that Spinal Tap are not the most reliable source of information for matters relating to music.

Are they musicians?
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by merlyn »

Arpangel wrote: Tue Dec 06, 2022 9:20 pm Are they musicians?

Spinal Tap think they are musicians. I'll let you decide for yourself. Here is Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap with his tastefully titled D minor ditty in the style of Mach. (A cross between Mozart and Bach).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgViOqGJEvM
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Arpangel »

They are 'entertainers' very good ones, isn't that what we all are, as musicians, ultimately?
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by merlyn »

Again, it depends who you ask. Robert Fripp would say no.

An idea I liked from Fripp is that there are two worlds -- the world of music, and the world of commerce.

"In the world of music much can be accomplished with little apparent effort. In the world of commerce little can be accomplished with much apparent effort."

As an example Segovia could produce beautiful music while sitting stock still. That's music. A rock guitarist might bang out an open E while twirling the guitar around his head. That's commerce.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by adrian_k »

Arpangel wrote: Thu Dec 08, 2022 7:58 am They are 'entertainers' very good ones, isn't that what we all are, as musicians, ultimately?

Not in my case! Don’t like performing and haven’t been able write my own material. It’s been a puzzle for me for many years, what use is this thing that won’t let me leave it alone?

Then I started training as a music therapist, and it’s making sense to me now. And relevant to the OP, because I used to spend a lot of time trying to write stuff, and part of that was the intellectual/theoretical side that used to kick in when I got stuck. But now it’s often about expressing something in a specific moment, no time for thinking. It’s very surprising what comes out, sometimes prosaic, sometimes deep but ephemeral, sometimes lyrical, but it can be just right for the person you are working with in that moment.

I find now that I work out afterwards what has been going on harmonically when I have created a piece of music, and I find things I never would have if I had started with scales and a structure.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Arpangel »

merlyn wrote: Thu Dec 08, 2022 2:23 pm As an example Segovia could produce beautiful music while sitting stock still. That's music. A rock guitarist might bang out an open E while twirling the guitar around his head. That's commerce.

But neither way, is more "right", or "better" than the other, and I fully understand both approaches.
Segovia wouldn't bet able to spend hours siting on a stool if it wasn't for the money he earned from his guitar, same with Fripp.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by merlyn »

If you want to develop a line in guitar twirling, please feel free.

Anyway ... we've twice de-railed this thread. The train is out in a field somewhere, with long grass growing around it. The nearest track is keys, and if we can get there, we might be able to get back to minor seconds.

I don't think the idea that Bm is "more dissonant" than other keys hangs together. There is one note (C# => C) different between Bm and Em, and one note (G => G#) different between Bm and F#m. Between them F#m and Em contain all the supposedly dissonant seconds or ninths from Bm.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by adrian_k »

I’m so far off track I thought I was in a different thread…. :headbang:
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by OneWorld »

Mr Showbiz wrote: Fri Dec 02, 2022 6:17 pm Why do some minor second intervals sound more dissonant than others to me?

Also why does this dissonance seem to be affected by the register played; worse in the middle registers? (This would appear to counter the overtone series.)

Is it my imagination?

If it sounded ok it wouldn't be dissonant?

In some cases, say a passing note, the 'dissonance' is acceptable and even desired. And if for example played some distance apart, say C1 + #C2, again it can sound quite acceptable. Depends where and when the notes are played, the closer they are together, seems to be more dissonant I guess because the waveforms are so together, each is fighting against the other for prominence.

I remember an experiment I took part in where a visiting composer, working with a group of 5 of us, asked us to do this

Voice 1 - sing Middle C
Voice 2 - sing F natural(the 4th)
Voice 3 - sing G natural(the 5th)
Voice 4 - sing an octave below middle C but rise to middle C in semitones
Voice 5 - sing an octave below above C but lower to middle C in semitones

The point being made was how the closer you got to a note, the harder it was for the participants to hold a note, especially when getting close and the 'beating' effect became more prominent. The composer said it was because the audio part of the brain desperately sought resolution - if that makes sense. It was quite an interesting experiment and for a person that is a singer but not a vocalist (me) it was very difficult, nigh impossible to hold the note
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Arpangel »

merlyn wrote: Fri Dec 09, 2022 1:50 pm If you want to develop a line in guitar twirling, please feel free.

Anyway ... we've twice de-railed this thread. The train is out in a field somewhere, with long grass growing around it. The nearest track is keys, and if we can get there, we might be able to get back to minor seconds.

I don't think the idea that Bm is "more dissonant" than other keys hangs together. There is one note (C# => C) different between Bm and Em, and one note (G => G#) different between Bm and F#m. Between them F#m and Em contain all the supposedly dissonant seconds or ninths from Bm.

To get my B minor piece to sound right, the piano has to be freshly tuned, really well, otherwise it definitely sounds strange.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by tea for two »

Sounds of wherever we live, our personal world is microtonal atonal also includes dissonances.

Only in terms of music it depends on which musics we take to, have grown accustomed to listening, as well as how our mind works.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by shufflebeat »

It also depends on the musical and logical progression of the notes. One of my favourite chords to play is an Am which (if memory serves - I do this without thinking too much):

(Bass strings first) - X07500, which is:
XAACBE or X, 1, 1(8), M3, 2(9), 5.

This sounds great, in context, played on a downstroke and horrific on an upstroke, to me.
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Re: Minor second dissonances

Post by Arpangel »

tea for two wrote: Sat Dec 17, 2022 8:18 pm Sounds of wherever we live, our personal world is microtonal atonal also includes dissonances.

Only in terms of music it depends on which musics we take to, have grown accustomed to listening, as well as how our mind works.

I read Silence, by John Cage, when I was seventeen, it was like taking LSD, I could never, ever, hear the world in the same way again, a similar thing happened when I entered the free-improv scene, everything can be music, any "sound" I simply can’t think any other way now, it’s impossible.
Since, concepts like keys, scales, etc, are like putting on a musical straight jacket, just like playing a conventional keyboard, that feels the same, emotional responses that are "normally" associated with certain "musical" structures, are there in sound too, any sound, it’s just a matter of hearing them, in the right contexts.
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