The Logic Of Chord Progressions

author: DiabolusMusica5 date: 05/27/2011 category: music theory
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For the sake of limiting this article to a reasonable length, the only kinds of chords that will be dealt with here are your basic triads (tertiary, that is made up of 3rds) in both the Major and the minor tonality. It is highly recommended that one develops mastery over these chords (in progressions) before they attempt to introduce intervals of 7ths & beyond into their chord progressions. First things first... In every Major and Minor Key, there are seven of these things that music theory nuts call "Diatonic Chords". These chords consist of a Root, 3rd, and a 5th. When they are in closed root position, they look like little snowmen sitting on the staff. So the I chord of any key is built on scale degree 1, the II is built on scale degree 2...ect. When no accidentals other than the ones already included in a key signature are being implemented, those chords are called diatonic because they only contain tones that are naturally found in that particular scale. The Major Keys have the following quality/type for their Diatonic chords: I-Major triad ii-minor triad iii-minor triad IV-Major triad V-Major triad vi-minor triad vii*-diminished triad The Major Keys have the following quality/type for their Diatonic chords: i-minor triad ii*-diminished triad III-Major triad iv-minor triad v-minor triad VI-Major Triad VII-Major Triad For bits of information that are necessary to learn the logic of chord progressions is that there are essentially 3 different kinds of chords that you will find "Diatonically" in Major and Minor; they are 1.) tonic (otherwise known as stable/resting) chords, 2.) Dominant (Unstable and desiring resolution) chords, and 3.) Dominant Prep chords. In the major AND minor tonality, the Tonic chords are: I,iii, & vi the dominant chords are V & vii* (but in minor, they are only dominant if you raise the 7th scale degree by a 1/2 step0 and the dominant-prep chords are ii & IV (the ii chord is diminished-meaning that its 5th is a nasty tritone) So the most common patterns or cycles that chord progressions go through are: tonic chord->dominant prep->dominant->tonic (for example, a very frequent one that is used is I-IV-V-I) keep in mind that the nastiest of the Diatonic chords (the diminished ones) are often inverted so that the root of the chord is not the lowest note. This act of inverting them kicks out some of their nasty pep (it makes them weaker than if they were voiced with the root in the bass. Hope this helps! -Nicholas Jacquet
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