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Feeling Tense About Tensions?

by Chris Tarry
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Tensions and Arpeggios

If we were to stack more thirds on top of a 7th chord, we would be into something called ?tensions? rather than more chord tones.

As bass players, it is sometimes hard to visualize things above the octave because of our occupational hazzard of having to hang around the root.

If we dissect these notes, we see that what is really happening is that, as we continue to stack thirds, the scale tones become the tensions. On an Fmajor 7 we get a 9 (which is the same as 2 just an octave higher) then a #11 (which is a #4 an octave higher) and finally a 13 (a 6th an octave higher).

From this we can infer that all major 7th chords take the tensions 9,#11,13. In a chord cymbal it would look like this: Cmaj 7 (9,#11,13). All types of chords take specific tensions.

Here they are:

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