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HEXATONIC theory page

If you have linked here, you are probably curious about what hexatonics are. First, here are your links back to the charts you were viewing, or the text you were reading:

Musician's Lounge

Blue Tito

The Use of Tensions 3 [Jazz Theory]

You might also be interested in the Theory Den section of the Musician's Lounge.

I first encountered hexatonics in my work with Charlie Banacos, a private music instructor in the Boston area. The most prominent artist to use hexatonics on a regular basis is McCoy Tyner, and his tune Passion Dance [The Real McCoy] is an excellent example of a hexatonic melody. Another pianist who uses the sound is Latin/Jazz artist Eddie Palmeri. Both pianists accompany the hexatonics scales below with voicings in fourths in the left hand. Jerry Bergonzi and Michael Brecker are tenor saxophone players who have utilized hexatonics in their improvising.

Hexatonics are elegantly simple. They consist of two mutually exclusive triads, usually a whole step apart, which are combined to create a six note scale. In the song Passion Dance mentioned above, the scale is created from an F major triad and an Eb major triad. The notes form around the tonal center of F as follows: F, G, A, Bb, C, Eb, F. The left hand voicings are built in fourths, although McCoy will sometimes invert the voicing to cluster two of the pitches. The most prominent left hand ride for the scale listed above has three voicings, the lowest being (in ascending order) Eb, A, D, the next being F, Bb, Eb, and the highest being G, C, F. 

One of the effects of hexatonics is a flattening, or modalization, of the harmonic areas. The sound in the paragraph above can be applied to an F7, a Cm7, and an Am7b5. The II - V change Cm7 - F7 can be covered with the same sound, which produces the modal effect. With a few modifications of the left hand voicings to accommodate the chord tones and tensions, the same scale can be used over an Ebmaj7, an F7sus4, a Dbmaj7#5, a D7sus4b9, and an A7altered. The best way to work with this is to learn the sound of the scale and left hand voicings first, and then place these sounds over the different roots. As you become accustomed to transposing the sounds, you can string together progressions, and learn how to flow through changes as well as play over flat harmony, as in Passion Dance


Legbones from Cat's A Bear's Tito: In Search of a Revolution is constructed using hexatonics for the melody and chording.

Change from Cat's A Bear's Tito In Wonderland is constructed using hexatonics for the melody and chording.

Much of Blue Tito from Cat's A Bear's Tito: In Search of a Revolution is constructed using hexatonics for the melody and chording.

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