What do you call the chords we play so often that are just root/fifth/octave?
In all of my theory courses I’ve just heard them referred to as “open fifths harmony.” (Or something similar). I mean… because of the lack of a 3rd or the lack of pitches higher up (making chords built on 4ths or 5ths), it can’t be classified as major/minor/diminished/quartal/quintal.
So I think this is sort of one of those things that has fallen into the cracks in terms of having a distinct name. It is also sometimes called “an empty fifth” or a “bare fifth.”
How about a “colorless chord”? My keyboard mentor argued that while others claimed that the third determines a triad’s color, a root-fifth-octave had a color of its own. The metallic sound organs can produce is built from a tall stack of octaves and fifths. None of which is rigorous music theory, admittedly.
My composition teacher, Dorothy Priesing, wrote a song called “Now Is the Caroling Season” that was used as the feature selection on a nice old album by the Fred Waring Chorale.
The final chord as an open fifth. We adorable college students would torment her in rehearsals by having someone softly hum a major or minor third at the end of the piece.
She brooked no nonsense when it came to the performance in concert. I’m sure if anyone had sung anything but the opened fifth she would have made them apologize and dragged them off the stage.
The sound is very Middle Ages appropriate.
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