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How To Play Tritones and Ditones

Updated on March 20, 2013

How To Apply Tritones and Ditones

Tritones are chords played in gospel music. Tritone has become very popular and many people just want to know how to play it. It's easy to play but you have to be careful when it comes to its application.

You would hear tritone in albums of The Clark Sisters, Marvin Sapp, Israel Houghton and many other urban/contemporary gospel music

In music, a tritone substitution is the chord substitution of a chord with its root being a tritone away from the original. It is the use in a chord progression of a V7 (dominant seventh chord) (major/minor seventh chord) that is three whole steps (a tritone: 6 semitones) away from the original V7. Tritone substitutions are used in improvisation and are commonly used to create tension during a solo.

Breaking it down Futher

The tritone is basically what the name implies. It's a two note tone with two tones in-between. e.g [C F#].
You would almost always play the tritone with your left hand and then couple it with a major chord on your right hand.

When playing the tritone on the keyboard it's structured in such a way that when you play a note, the tritone is the same on the left side as it is on the right. This implies that in substituting a tritone for a chord you can have more than 1 tritones to use.

For example the tritone for chord 1 on C major is -
LH - [Bb E] RH - [A C# E A] or

LH - [A# E] RH - [A D F# A] or

LH - [E Bb] RH - [Eb G Bb] or

LH - [E A#] RH - [E G C] or [Eb Ab C]
- passing tone

Before I proceed, lets do an exercise.
Practise playing the tritone using all the instances I have shown, moving up and then down chromatically until you have mastered playing it very well.

Let me give you the tritones again in their different flavours

LH - [F B] RH - [E A C#]
LH - [F B] RH - [F Ab C#]
LH - [F B] RH - [E Ab B E]


How To Use Tritones:

Tritones are easy to use. You just must have a purpose and a reason for using it. You have to time it right . For example, You can not just decide to replace your chords randomly with tritones. It will not sound right. Below are some ways in which you can use tritones.

  • Passing Tone
  • Root of the Chord
  • Chord Substitutions

Passing Tone:
Tritones come in handy if you want to play passing chords. The circle of fifths is a popular progression and it's often used as passing tone in various music. Check out the example below.


This exercise is in key C

LH - [A E] RH - [G B C E]
LH - [Ab E] RH - [F# B C E]
LH - [G D] RH - [F A Bb D]
LH - [F# D] RH - [F# A Bb D]
LH - [F C] RH - [E G A C]
LH - [B Eb] RH - [A D F]
LH - [Ab D F] RH - [Ab C D G]

LH - [G B C E] RH - [G B D]


The Tritone Version:

LH - [C F#] RH - [B E Ab B] - tritone
LH - [G D] RH - [F A Bb D]
LH - [Bb E] RH - [A D F#] - tritone
LH - [F A C E] RH - [C E G]
LH - [A Eb] RH - [Ab C# F] - tritone
LH - [Ab D] RH - [G C E G] - tritone


Now let's take a look at the little brother of the tritone

Ditone

The ditone is a 2-note tone with a tone inbetween. For example [C E]. You would almost always play the ditone with your left hand and couple it with a suspended chord on your right hand. Let me show you and exapmple

LH - [C E] RH - [Bb Eb Ab]

Now practice playing the ditone on all keys using the example I just gave you. Just go up and down chromatically.

There are 3 basic ways of using the ditone.

  • As Passing Tone
  • Root of the chord
  • Chord Substitutions

You would use it as a passing tone when you play the example I gave above. Let me now show you how to use it as root of the chord. In the example below, I show you the ditone used as the 1 chord on the key of C.

LH - [C E] RH - [A D G]

Now I will show you an example in which I use the ditone as the root of the chord, passing tone and a substitution the the key of C.

LH - [C E] RH - [A D G]
LH - [E Ab] RH - [D G C], LH - [F# Bb] RH - [E A D], LH - [Ab C] RH - [F# B E]
LH - [A E B] RH - [C G B D]
LH - [C# F] RH - [B E A]
LH - [D A] RH - [C E F A]
LH - [Ab D F] RH - [Ab C D G]
LH - [A E] RH - [G B C E]

For more lessons and video lessons, visit Play Keyboard Better

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    • profile image

      Deon 5 years ago

      This is the most helpful teaching session I received about tritones ,thanks alot

    • profile image

      Celebrate 5 years ago

      U helped me man thnx

    • profile image

      Festus 5 years ago

      This is really great awesome. Thanks a lot

    • profile image

      Festus 5 years ago

      This is really great awesome. Thanks a lot

    • profile image

      hutchess2013 4 years ago

      Why call Major 3rds Ditones? Most of the world doesn't recognize them as that.Beginner musicians might be a little confused if you call them that. Just saying. I know that they don't call them that in the AP Music Theory Exam, if that says anything.

    • profile image

      Dan 3 years ago

      This is so helpful and it has increase my playing skill

      Thank you a lot

    • profile image

      phizzyG 3 years ago

      Thanks for making me better...

    • profile image

      johnclef 2 years ago

      thanks bro.uve really added to me.now my jazz sounds better

    • profile image

      David 23 months ago

      Am very greatful 4 this tutorial tank u big bro....am short of words...tanks 4 making my sounds more interesting to listen to

    • profile image

      oche 22 months ago

      Your lecturs at really inspiring more grace to your elbows

    • profile image

      Gospel Keys Easy 21 months ago

      Visit http://gospelkeyseasy.co.uk for more keyboard lessons

    • profile image

      Emmanuel 20 months ago

      Thanks alot

    • profile image

      imilykeyz 19 months ago

      Add me on whatsapp +2347062908544 n learn piano even masters can add n let's learn piano 2geda

    • profile image

      Michael Wisdom. 14 months ago

      I still can't understand this tritones, maybe, I will get it in due time....

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