Tritone Chords

So, you want to play a little jazz piano, do you? To get started, all you need to do is learn this chord configuration. Three notes. Sounds simple? Well, it is.

First, and way before we get into the theory, I want you to get your fingers used to playing the “tritone and a fourth” chord. Let’s start with your right hand. Put your thumb on an E. The next note in the chord, the middle note, is up a tritone. That’s the note between a fourth and a fifth (the devil’s interval). Put your index finger on Bb. The top note of the chord is up one fourth from the middle note. That would be an Eb.

Got it? Now, just move the whole chord down one half-step. That would be Eb-A-D. Do the same thing in the other direction, up to F-B-E. Practice moving chromatically between these three chords. Already sounds a little jazzy, doesn’t it? Now, let’s play a little jazzy blues number in the key of C. You can also jam your way through a few choruses using the blues scale in your right hand, while fingering these tritone chords with your left hand. Jam away.


A little theory: There are two different chords based on the tritone configuration. If you build the tritone configuration on the third above your root, you’re playing a sharp nine chord. (Ex. C+9 is C-E-Bb-D#) NOTE: Eb and D# are enharmonic. We call it D# because it’s the ninth. When you build the tritone configuration on the seventh, you’ll be forming a 13th chord. (Ex. G13 is G-F-A-D) D is the 13th.   –If you liked this article you might also like ‘How Chords Work’ or subscribe to our newsletter.  Click here.

Todd Hobin is a singer/songwriter, touring musician, and adjunct professor in the Music Department at Le Moyne College. He is a contributing writer for Making Music magazine and International Musician, and lectures on the music industry and the history of rock ‘n’ roll. His Todd Hobin Band has shared the stage with the greatest bands of their time from The Beach Boys and Kinks, to the Allman Brothers and Hall & Oates. Their double CD set, The Early Years is filled with Hobin classics, and their latest album, It’s Not Over, continues in the same tradition. Hobin has also released the Wellness Suite of new age music. His music scores can be heard in film, TV, and audio books, including King Kong, Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl and Fairest, a novel by Gail Carson Levine, which was nominated for an AUDIE Award. Hobin was the musical director and lead songwriter on the acclaimed, nationally syndicated children’s television series Pappyland. He has written and produced for clients as diverse as Coca Cola, Hershey Park, ABC Television, and Tri-Star Pictures. His latest film credits include, Impossible Choice and My Brother and Me. You can contact Todd Hobin at:

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