/hek"seuh kawrd'/, n. Music.
a diatonic series of six tones having, in medieval music, a half step between the third and fourth tones and whole steps between the others.
[1685-95; < LGk hexáchordos having six strings. See HEXA-, CHORD1]

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(Greek; "six strings")

In music, a group of six tones in a specified pattern, specifically the interval pattern tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone (as in G-A-B-C-D-E).

The hexachord was apparently conceived in the 11th century when theorist Guido d'Arezzo noticed that the scales of the church modes could be seen to overlap in their interval patterns. His system of solmization gave each hexachord the same syllables (ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la), and by means of overlapping hexachords the theorist could represent the complete "gamut" of pitches. Though counterintuitive to modern musicians, who think in terms of octaves, the concept of hexachords was fundamental to music theory throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

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      in music, six-note pattern corresponding to the first six tones of the major scale (as, C–D–E–F–G–A). The names of the degrees of the hexachord are ut, re, mi, fa, sol, and la (also called solmization [q.v.] syllables); they were devised by the 11th-century teacher and theorist Guido of Arezzo (Guido d'Arezzo). The hexachord was described in medieval and Renaissance musical theory and was extensively used in the teaching of singing. Its value was that it gave the singer a fixed set of pitch relations by which he could orient himself as he sang; as a practical device it proved an effective way to teach the sight-reading of music and to teach individual melodies. Modifications of the system to encompass a full octave are still in use.

      The essence of the hexachord system is that each hexachord includes only one semitone—between mi and fa. A series of seven overlapping hexachords completed the gamut of formally recognized musical tones, a span of two and one-fourth octaves, containing the notes of the C major scale plus B♭.

      There were three varieties of hexachord—natural, hard, and soft. In the natural hexachord, which started on C, mi is E and fa is F. In the hard hexachord, which started on G, mi is B (B♮) and fa is C. In the soft hexachord, which started on F, mi is A, but fa cannot be B♮, for B♮ is a whole tone, not a semitone, above A; fa is therefore B♭. Both B♭ and B♮ were thus fitted into a system of hexachords that always kept the same relative pitches between ut and la and therefore provided one set of pitches that the singer could always use to orient himself.

      The pupil learned to sing his gamut by memorizing the sound of the series ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la as it was sung. He then knew at what point to make the semitone interval mi–fa, whether or not the music included B♭ or B♮. If he needed to sing B♮ he used the hard hexachord; if he needed to sing B♭, he used the soft hexachord.

 The chart shows four of the seven overlapping hexachords of the gamut. Ascending the hard hexachord to its fourth note, C fa, the singer would find himself on a level with the first note, C ut, of the natural hexachord. The full name of this note is, therefore, C fa ut. He could then think himself into the overlapping hexachord by taking this C as ut and continuing from there. This process of transferring to an overlapping hexachord at the pivotal points is called mutation. It enabled the singer to apply the solmization syllables to any series of notes he encountered, although he would take musical context into consideration in choosing the best note on which to mutate. See also gamut.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hexachord — Hex a*chord, n. [Hexa + Gr. ? string, chord: cf. F. hexacorde.] (Mus.) A series of six notes, with a semitone between the third and fourth, the other intervals being whole tones. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hexachord — (a. Musik), 1) die große Sexte; 2) eine Tonleiter von sechs diatonischen Stufen, wovon die 3.–4. einen großen halben Ton ausmachen. Guido von Arezzo gründete darauf sein neues Tonsystem. Vgl. Solmisation …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Hexachórd — (griech.), eine Skala von sechs Stufen insbes. die sechsstufige diatonische Tonleiter (mit den Halbton von der 3. zur 4. Stufe: cdefga), die Guido von Arezzo (oder einer seiner Schüler) an Stelle der griechischen Tetrachorde der theoretischen… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Hexachórd — (grch.), die diatonische Folge von 6 Tönen der Durtonleiter (c d e f g a), als Solmisation (s.d.) Grundlage des mittelalterlichen Tonsystems …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Hexachord — Hexachord, die Tonleiter mit 6 diatonischen Stufen; mit 6 Saiten bezogenes Instrument; die größte Saite …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • hexachord — [hek′sə kôrd΄] n. [< L hexachordos, having six musical strings or stops < Gr: see HEXA & CHORD2] Medieval Music a diatonic scale of six tones, with a semitone between the third and the fourth …   English World dictionary

  • Hexachord — In music, a hexachord is a six note segment of a scale or tone row. The term was adopted in the Middle Ages and adapted in the twentieth century in Milton Babbitt s serial theory. Middle AgesThe Guidonian hexachord (named after its inventor,… …   Wikipedia

  • Hexachord — Ein Hexachord (von griech. hexa „sechs“, chordé „Saite“) ist in der Musiktheorie eine Reihe von sechs aufeinanderfolgenden Tönen oder Tonklassen[1]. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Hexachorde im Mittelalter 2 Literatur …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • hexachord — noun Etymology: hexa + Greek chordē string more at yarn Date: 1730 a diatonic series of six tones having a semitone between the third and fourth tones …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • hexachord — noun a series of six tones denoted with the syllables ut re mi fa sol la separated by seconds, the only of which that is a minor second being mi fa …   Wiktionary