#1
Hello UG!
I've been lurking here for quite some time now, but I finally decided to register because something has been bothering me for the past 2 weeks or so.

I'm completely self thought on guitar and music theory, been playing since 8-9 years but with lots of long periods on inactivity in between.
I decided to start going serious at it again since a few months, and with that comes also wanting to improve my understanding of music on a theoretic level.

Something that has always bothered me, and increasingly more are chord progressions.
For most questions / topics I can easily google, wiki, search forums like these and so on, but the fact is that I just cant find good info for what I'm trying to understand.

Any search about the theory behind chord progressions inevitably comes up with just one of the following three:

1) Just a basic explanation of the basics and jargon. Yes, I know that a I-IV-V-I progression in C major would be played as CMaj - FMaj - GMaj - CMaj. Yes, I know the 7th version of the vi chord relative to that C major scale is built using the 6th, 8th (1st), 10th (3rd) and 12th (5th), which would make ACEG which would be A minor 7.

2) Just a list of popular / most used progressions. Mostly variations of I-IV-V.
Sometimes you'll see more alternative progressions, sometimes I get nice sounding stuff out of it, sometimes not. But I dont want to just use a bunch of progressions, I want to understand and make them myself.

3) A bit rarer than the other two, but more usable: Some basic 'flow' explanation of what chord wants to resolve to what chord. Only problem is that it's very much limited to triads & major scale, and still no explanation why degree this goes to degree that.

It could be that my search-fu is just too weak, but using many different search combinations and having page upon page of those three things if it isnt flatly out promoting some product or peddling some school is just demotivating.

So yeah, if anyone can explain it to me or at least point me in the right direction... I dont expect to 100% understand it at quantum mechanic levels or something, but at least some rules of tumb or pointers or something?
Is it about the fifths? How do extended chords fit into the whole thing.. do the resolve the same as triads? What about slash chords? exotic or artificial scales? Is it about sharing notes? Implied notes? Is it even about chord notes, and rather about scale degrees in absolute terms?

I mean, I cant even figure out why I-IV-V would be so obvious.. other than the tonic's fifth being the dominants root and the sub-dominants fifth being the tonic's root. Halp?
#2
What you want to learn is called voiceleading. Notes in chords tend to want to go up or down in the form of steps or skips (though octave isn't always important). Giving them what they want can allow you to create a natural sounding chord progression. Ignoring them will create something jumpy, strange, and possibly desirable. The strongest root movements are by perfect fifth or minor second, but if you stick to those you'll get pretty bored. Movements by minor 6th sound cool, IMO, but you'll have to try everything out.

As far as I-IV-V, I know some guys here who can explain this 100 times better than me, so I'll let them do the talking.
i don't know why i feel so dry
#3
Quote by ShadesOfGray
Hello UG!
I've been lurking here for quite some time now, but I finally decided to register because something has been bothering me for the past 2 weeks or so.

I'm completely self thought on guitar and music theory, been playing since 8-9 years but with lots of long periods on inactivity in between.
I decided to start going serious at it again since a few months, and with that comes also wanting to improve my understanding of music on a theoretic level.

Something that has always bothered me, and increasingly more are chord progressions.
For most questions / topics I can easily google, wiki, search forums like these and so on, but the fact is that I just cant find good info for what I'm trying to understand.

Any search about the theory behind chord progressions inevitably comes up with just one of the following three:

1) Just a basic explanation of the basics and jargon. Yes, I know that a I-IV-V-I progression in C major would be played as CMaj - FMaj - GMaj - CMaj. Yes, I know the 7th version of the vi chord relative to that C major scale is built using the 6th, 8th (1st), 10th (3rd) and 12th (5th), which would make ACEG which would be A minor 7.

2) Just a list of popular / most used progressions. Mostly variations of I-IV-V.
Sometimes you'll see more alternative progressions, sometimes I get nice sounding stuff out of it, sometimes not. But I dont want to just use a bunch of progressions, I want to understand and make them myself.

3) A bit rarer than the other two, but more usable: Some basic 'flow' explanation of what chord wants to resolve to what chord. Only problem is that it's very much limited to triads & major scale, and still no explanation why degree this goes to degree that.

It could be that my search-fu is just too weak, but using many different search combinations and having page upon page of those three things if it isnt flatly out promoting some product or peddling some school is just demotivating.

So yeah, if anyone can explain it to me or at least point me in the right direction... I dont expect to 100% understand it at quantum mechanic levels or something, but at least some rules of tumb or pointers or something?
Is it about the fifths? How do extended chords fit into the whole thing.. do the resolve the same as triads? What about slash chords? exotic or artificial scales? Is it about sharing notes? Implied notes? Is it even about chord notes, and rather about scale degrees in absolute terms?

I mean, I cant even figure out why I-IV-V would be so obvious.. other than the tonic's fifth being the dominants root and the sub-dominants fifth being the tonic's root. Halp?


well, you're trying to follow theory like a manual..... looking for flow charts and step by step directions.

The reason you don't see those is because composers use their ears to decide their harmonic materials.


The idea is ...... learn music....become familiar with the materials used....... When you have internalized enough, you can make your own choices for your own music.
the key = listen.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Jun 7, 2010,
#5
Step 1: Learn Harmonic Progression (too lazy to write out right now)

Step 2: StudyIntervals and tendency tones ( 7- 1 or 5-1 in scale degrees @ cadeneces) etc..

Step 3: Repeat
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JacksonStars KE TN-02
Jackson DK2M
Jackson WRXT
Jackson KSXT
Jackson DXMG
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#6
Quote by ShadesOfGray
I mean, I cant even figure out why I-IV-V would be so obvious.. other than the tonic's fifth being the dominants root and the sub-dominants fifth being the tonic's root. Halp?
Well, if you mean precisely a I IV V (I) progression (in that order), then one way to look at it is the dominant motion. The tonic can also be looked at as a secondary dominant to the subdominant (V/IV), so that explains that movement, and then the V returns it back to the tonic. Pretty simple.

You can also look at the subdominant as a predominant. In other words, the IV "leads into" the V (which then leads back to the the I). Or, you can even just look at the IV as a strong chord in the key, since it's a diatonic major chord.

I think the best way to analyze it is the fact that IV acts as a predominant. The whole analysis with the secondary dominant (V/IV) can be misleading because it doesn't actually tonicize the IV, which is sort of the essence of secondary dominants. I guess you could call it a secondary dominant but it just seems a bit weird to me.

I can explain more stuff and in more detail if you need me to. Just let me know if you do.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
#7
Thanks for your replies. Look like some intresting stuff to read up on.

Quote by Eastwinn
What you want to learn is called voiceleading. Notes in chords tend to want to go up or down in the form of steps or skips (though octave isn't always important). Giving them what they want can allow you to create a natural sounding chord progression. Ignoring them will create something jumpy, strange, and possibly desirable. The strongest root movements are by perfect fifth or minor second, but if you stick to those you'll get pretty bored. Movements by minor 6th sound cool, IMO, but you'll have to try everything out.


Voiceleading, isnt that with the church/choral music and the 'no parallel fifths' stuff?
Or am I mixing up stuff? Should probably read into it :p

What you mentioned about root movements though, do you mean from the root of a previous chord to a chordnote in the next one, or from chordnotes into the root of the following chord?

Quote by GuitarMunky
well, you're trying to follow theory like a manual..... looking for flow charts and step by step directions.

The reason you don't see those is because composers use their ears to decide their harmonic materials.

The idea is ...... learn music....become familiar with the materials used....... When you have internalized enough, you can make your own choices for your own music.
the key = listen.


On the contrary, I want to get out of 'just put your fingers here' or 'just do this'. If anything, I experiment a lot and come up with dozens of intresting riffs or parts if I sit down. However, finding the right movement is the challenge for me.. Following my ears always results in a part being *too* perfect; It becomes circular and doesnt seem to want to move anywhere.
Figuring it out on paper instead results either to something that is too obvious and cheesy, which is ok sometimes when you're going into a climax or releasing tension after the climax, but not all the time. Or it results into something that just sounds too random and unnatural.
So yeah, I'm trying to understand which movements a certain chord / chordnote wants to go without giving into the movement imediatly.

If anything though, I always want to understand stuff on an intelectual level. I just have an OCD personality in that regard, but oh well..

Quote by MikeDodge
If you understand Major Keys and Minor Key (the Minor having a V7 instead of a Vm7) the next big things you want to look up are:

Cadences and Borrowed Chords

Then look into Secondary Dominants.


Borrowed chords? hmm, I'm confused enough figuring out inscale movement as it is.
But out of curiosity, would that be modulating or changing only the tonality? Or is chaning tonality the same as modulating?

Quote by seymour_jackson
Step 1: Learn Harmonic Progression (too lazy to write out right now)

Step 2: StudyIntervals and tendency tones ( 7- 1 or 5-1 in scale degrees @ cadeneces) etc..

Step 3: Repeat


Isn't harmonic progression just a more technical way to say chord progression? I'm not sure, but the term seems to be interchangeably used to me.

Tendency is kinda what I was looking for, thanks
But one thing seems unclear to me.. do tendency tones resolve relative to the root of a degree, or relative to the tonic?

Quote by food1010
Well, if you mean precisely a I IV V (I) progression (in that order), then one way to look at it is the dominant motion. The tonic can also be looked at as a secondary dominant to the subdominant (V/IV), so that explains that movement, and then the V returns it back to the tonic. Pretty simple.

You can also look at the subdominant as a predominant. In other words, the IV "leads into" the V (which then leads back to the the I). Or, you can even just look at the IV as a strong chord in the key, since it's a diatonic major chord.

I think the best way to analyze it is the fact that IV acts as a predominant. The whole analysis with the secondary dominant (V/IV) can be misleading because it doesn't actually tonicize the IV, which is sort of the essence of secondary dominants. I guess you could call it a secondary dominant but it just seems a bit weird to me.

I can explain more stuff and in more detail if you need me to. Just let me know if you do.


I think I understood that, thanks. I didnt mean that progresion with that particular order though, more in general of all those progressions that seem to contain those degrees and only those degrees.
However, most of those progressions do seem to revolve around IV-V. Sometimes it's I-IV or IV-I, but never V-IV.

But that IV-V movement puzzled me. Neither triad shares any notes, and there's no G major triad in F major scale or F major triad in G major scale. Only C major (but it's not for nothing it's the tonic's triad, right )

Okay, so taking C major as an example, the subdominant's triad is F-A-C. The fifth is C, whoms triad has G as the fifth. I think that was what you ment?
Still, analyzing it that way, doesnt V-I-IV-I make more sense if you move by fifth? Or is implying the I between the IV-V movement a bit more subtle than actualy spelling it out?
Last edited by ShadesOfGray at Jun 9, 2010,
#8
harmonic progression is every diatonic chord and their possible movements.. completely unrelated to circle of fifths and fourths .. IE V - vi or V-I (just very small examples).. Minor is a little different than major

tendency tones is where a note sounds like it wants to go.. there are ways to break the tendency tone such as a Dominant V chord moving to a minor vi (aka deceptive motion or if its at a cadence deceptive cadence)
My Gear:
JacksonStars KE TN-02
Jackson DK2M
Jackson WRXT
Jackson KSXT
Jackson DXMG
Jackson 7 String soloist

Ovation Celeberity
#9
Borrowed Chords...

they are nothing more than combining the chords of a Major Key and a Minor Key from the same Root/Tonic into the same progression.

This is why a lot of song "in G" have chords from the Key of G Major, like G C and D, but also have chords like F and Bb. The G, C, and D are from G Major, and the F and Bb are from the Key of G Minor.

So a Major Key can borrow from the Minor Key of the same Root.

This is also fundamentally what happens when something in a Minor Key contain a Major V chord instead of the Vm chord. Like something "in A Minor" has Am, C, D, E. That E chord is borrowed from the Key of A Major.

So if you list out the Keys and the chords you find the answer to A LOT of songs that never matched up with the basic Diatonic Major Key.

G Major - G Am Bm C D Em Fmb5 G
G Minor - Gm Amb5 Bb Cm Dm Eb F Gm

You can also include the "Dominant based Key" or the "Dominant Family" chords too (this is NOT a Key, the term was used as a reference to the other stuff above):

G Dominant - G7 Am Bmb5 C Dm Em F G7 (this is really the chords in C Major or G Mixolydian)

Now look at some old Kinks, The Who, Zeppelin, etc...and you'll see where the chords that didn't fit nicely from the Major Key are found in these other Keys from the same Root.

Music uses Borrowed Chords all the time.

(Remember the Dominant thing isn't a Key, but the chords viewed from the Mixolydian of the same Root are fair game)
#10
Quote by ShadesOfGray
Voiceleading, isnt that with the church/choral music and the 'no parallel fifths' stuff?
Or am I mixing up stuff? Should probably read into it :p

What you mentioned about root movements though, do you mean from the root of a previous chord to a chordnote in the next one, or from chordnotes into the root of the following chord?


Yes, that's what it is, but that part isn't what's important. You don't really have to learn it as much as you need to recognize the importance of how voices move.

Anyway by root movement I mean the movement from one root to the next. This is much different from bass movement, which is how the bass of the chord moves. As a random example, songs by Used often have huge jumps as far as bass movement goes, and all the chords are in root position so the root movement is identical. The end of Would? by Alice in Chains moves A -> G# -> G in the bass while the roots move D - G# - G. The latter is the actually chord progression, but what makes the end sound so great is how the bass moves chromatically. Looking for these kinds of things can give you a new perspective to certain genres and give you new inspiration.
i don't know why i feel so dry
#11
Quote by ShadesOfGray


On the contrary, I want to get out of 'just put your fingers here' or 'just do this'.


Well, thats good. Just remember that approaching theory as you were talking about is practically the same thing. "this chord must go to this chord because theory tells us so".
You're still just following directions.
Quote by ShadesOfGray

If anything, I experiment a lot and come up with dozens of intresting riffs or parts if I sit down. However, finding the right movement is the challenge for me.. Following my ears always results in a part being *too* perfect; It becomes circular and doesnt seem to want to move anywhere.


thats not "too" perfect. Thats you needing more experience. Which is perfectly normal.

Quote by ShadesOfGray


So yeah, I'm trying to understand which movements a certain chord / chordnote wants to go without giving into the movement imediatly.


well, thats what Im saying. It's YOU thats writing the music.... not the chords. They don't dictate where they go. Thats your choice to make.
What I would recommend is becoming familiar with common chord progressions. Learn what they sound like. Spend quality time with them in the context of music. Use theory to study their attributes.


Quote by ShadesOfGray

If anything though, I always want to understand stuff on an intelectual level.

Thats good.

Like I said, look at the MUSIC. When you are knowledgeable enough with this analytic tool we call theory.... you can use it to make more sense of the music.

Again, It's not a step by step instructions manual for composition. It's a tool for studying music. What you gain from that study gives you more to work with when you're ready to make your own choices for your own music.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Jun 9, 2010,
#12
Okay, I've read a bit into voice leading and tendency tones. I wont claim I've completely internalised it already, but one thing made me wonder.

I'm not quite sure where I read it, but taking C major as example again the cadence V -> I (GMajor -> CMajor) seems to be considered powerful because the G Major triad is is G-B-D, whom's root is the fifth of the CMajor chord and the third is also the leading tone.

However, why not iii -> I? Eminor to CMajor. Eminor is E-G-B, it already contains the G as the tonic's fifth and B as the leading note, and since it only differs one note with CMajor it seems a less sudden change?

So I thought.. is it because exactly the fact that the I and iii triads differ so little that it's not as strong, so it'll sound more like I-Maj7 than iii -> I , not resolving that way?

Or is resolution more dependant on the root notes rather then compound notes?