Wow, all three of you are just beautiful. This kind of conversation is exactly what I had hoped would happen with the IFR student forum, and it’s why I haven’t participated myself until now. This thread is a perfect example of you guys exploring issues and resolving them on your own. Special thanks to @hender99 for a beautiful explanation of exactly what’s going on here.
So this gets to the heart of what the “harmonic environments” mean. It’s not about playing the notes in a particular order on your instrument (e.g. 4, 5, 6, 7, 1, 2, 3, 4). And it’s not about what chord is sounding in the background (because as @mem pointed out, the 4 chord can be sounding in the background but we DON’T hear the 4th harmonic environment). It has to do with the TONAL CENTER.
Specifically, here’s the definition of the 4th harmonic environment:
“The 4th harmonic environment is how the notes of the major scale sound to our ear when we’re feeling note 4 as the tonal center.”
That’s it. And as @hender99 also wonderfully pointed out, this feeling of the tonal center can sometimes be just a passing sensation, as all of these feelings can be very fluid in musical compositions. This is why it’s important to get to know all of these sensations for ourselves, so that we can recognize them instantly whenever we happen to feel them while we’re improvising.
But for right now, I think the big discovery is contained in the little experiment that @mem already invented:
First go to the Seven Worlds jam tracks and practice improvising in the first harmonic environment. Notice how each note sounds.
Then stay with the Seven Worlds jam tracks but go to the fourth harmonic environment and notice what sounds different, which will be the striking sound of note 7 in this harmonic environment.
Then go to IFR Jam Tracks Level 2: Pure Harmony Essentials and practice improvising over a track that alternates between chords 1 and 4. Notice that the overall melodic sound of each note is identical to your experience in the FIRST harmonic environment.
What this experiment shows you is exactly what @hender99 explained, that when you’re improvising over that chord change you’re actually feeling note 1 as your tonal center the whole time.
Beautiful discussion, people. It’s inspiring and humbling to be able to serve musicians like yourselves.