Anyone use quartal harmony?

anyone use quartal harmony? know any good books for learning more about it?

This immediately springs to mind:

The guitar fretboard favors fourths, so quartal harmony is a common jazz guitar thing.


Sure. I wrote a few choral pieces exclusively using quartal harmonies a while back. Mostly as experiments. It can lead to some interesting sonorities, I suppose.

I don’t know of any books really. There’s honestly not a whole lot to it.
Maybe this?:

I think Schoenberg wrote a bit about it in one of his theory books…


I’ve used it a lot through having played jazz guitar and piano, and always thought of it as an extension of tertiary harmony.

I’m also unaware of any books on it specifically, so my only advice would be to learn about extended chords (if you’re not already familiar with them) – maj7#11 chords for example – and then try voicing them in fourths. Or the reverse, try building chords in fourths and analyze them in terms of tertiary harmony.

A quick example:
A Cmaj13 chord (in root position, C E G B D A) could be voiced in fourths as B E A D over a C bass note


I’m coming at it from a more classical angle so most quartal stacks sound like unresolved sus chords to me.


What @chrisharrisx said. Lotta fourths available when you get above 1 3 5 7 then invert and open the chords.


I’m not sure why I’m getting alerts about so many old threads without updates today but it’s OK I’m finding some neat stuff. :slight_smile:

I think a great resource for approaches to working with quartal harmony is Vincent Persichetti’s Twentieth-Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice. It’s probably my favorite traditional theory book, it’s not dogmatic about rules and takes a questioning approach that’s more based on consonance and dissonance than convention and canon.

It doesn’t go as far as James Tenney’s Meta-Hodos and Meta Meta-Hodos in the sense of trying to approach harmony from the standpoint of perception and acoustics, but I’d say it’s Hodos-curious at least, reaching for that sort of approach in the face of an otherwise really dogmatic western theory canon…