#1
I've noticed a few songs I like have a major chord followed by it's minor and then moves to it's dominant chord.

For example Dmaj, Dmin, Amin.
#2
In that case Am is most likely the tonic.

IV iv I.

This works because it creates a nice chromatic movement.

If you look at the example you posted the notes in D major are D F# A
The notes in D minor is D F A. Note that the F# has moved down a half step to become F in the Dm.
Then that same note moves down another half step to become E in the A chord.

If you were moving to an A Major chord then the D would move down a half step to C# if you are going to an A minor then the D moves down a whole step to C.

It's that chromatic F# -> F -> E movement that makes this work though. Play it a few times and listen for that.

This is an extension of a plagal cadence (IV-I).

You are right though it is in a lot of songs...off the top of my head it's in When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars, Nobody Home by Pink Floyd, and Creep by Radiohead. There's a ton more songs but those are three examples. In all those instances it is a SubDominant - Tonic move not a Tonic-Dominant move.
Si
#3
Quote by 20Tigers
In that case Am is most likely the tonic.

IV iv I.

This works because it creates a nice chromatic movement.

If you look at the example you posted the notes in D major are D F# A
The notes in D minor is D F A. Note that the F# has moved down a half step to become F in the Dm.
Then that same note moves down another half step to become E in the A chord.

If you were moving to an A Major chord then the D would move down a half step to C# if you are going to an A minor then the D moves down a whole step to C.

It's that chromatic F# -> F -> E movement that makes this work though. Play it a few times and listen for that.

This is an extension of a plagal cadence (IV-I).

You are right though it is in a lot of songs...off the top of my head it's in When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars, Nobody Home by Pink Floyd, and Creep by Radiohead. There's a ton more songs but those are three examples. In all those instances it is a SubDominant - Tonic move not a Tonic-Dominant move.



Cheers. Thanks for that. Although I'm heavily grounded in folk rock, I've been looking into a bit of jazz techniques and stuff, so I'm trying out a lot of new and interesting stuff. I guess I don't like to overly commit to a certain or genre.

Do you know of a website that can teach me more about this stuff ?
#4
I can't give you a specific website but try looking into "voice leading".

Voice leading is about paying attention to the voices within a chord (the individual notes) and creating smooth lines through chord changes. This involves voicing your chords so that the notes of the chord move by as little amount as possible to become notes in the new chord.

A great way to get used to this is to try out some new ideas and write down what you do and how it sounds. It's also useful to look at existing chord progressions and see how the voices within those chords move one to the next.

Also with chord progressions think about dissonance vs consonance. A dissonant chord can sound really good if the dissonant interval resolves to a consonant interval through good voice leading.
Si
#5
Quote by 20Tigers
.
A great way to get used to this is to try out some new ideas and write down what you do and how it sounds. It's also useful to look at existing chord progressions and see how the voices within those chords move one to the next..


So sitting down and looking at how and why 'sultans of swing' by dire straights works so well and/or Our House by Crosby, Stills and Nash ?

Am I right as saying that each note is a voice of a chord? So the chord C has three voices, C, E, G. Moving to Emin has 2 similar voices (E and G), with the C note going down a semi tone to B, making it a Good place to move to ?

You've given me so much (good) extra work!
Last edited by flaaash at May 11, 2014,
#6
Yes E minor and C major have two notes in common and one note that is different.

Is it a GOOD place to move to? Well that really depends on what you want to do so I'm not going to answer that as it is entirely dependent on circumstance. But I will certainly be happy to discuss it with you...

These two common notes provide a strong similarity in the harmony of the E minor and C major chords. This similar harmonic structures provides a weak harmonic movement between the two chords.

If we are in the key of C major then that C major chord is our tonic chord. It provides us with a sense of harmonic stability: a harmonic home. When we move to Em we are only changing one note and so we do not feel as though we have gone very far from our harmonic home. It's more like we have gone out to the mailbox. We might be on the sidewalk and technically not on the property anymore but we still feel like we're home.

This starts to border on Diatonic chord families and common tone chord substitution (subjects well worth checking out). In a major key the iii chord is so harmonically similar to the tonic chord that it tends to serve the same harmonic function as the tonic chord.

The same can be said of the vi chord. In the key of C that would be Am. Am is A C E while C major is C E G. Moving from C major to Am we see the C and E notes stay the same while the G moves up to A. The two notes provide enough harmonic similarity that we do not feel as though we have really moved that far away from the tonic C major chord.

A I-IV chord change on the other hand provides stronger harmonic movement. In the key of C major still a I-IV would be C - F. The C major is made up of the notes C E G and the F chord has the notes F A C.

Assuming good voice leading a move from C to F would see: the C stay the same; the E would move UP a half step to F; and the G would move UP a whole step to A. Thus we have one note in common while the other two move UP, one by a half step and one by a whole step. This provides a sense of forward momentum propelling us AWAY from the tonic (C major) harmony to the subdominant (F major) harmony.

Here we get the feeling of moving into new harmonic territory. Unlike the vi (Am) or the iii (Em) which kept us feeling close to the tonic harmony the F major feels like a stronger movement away from the tonic.

The more subtle harmonic change can be desirable in some instances and in other instances you might want a more pronounced harmonic change.

I-IV for example is a strong harmonic movement away from the tonic harmony. Now say you wanted a more subtle movement into that IV chord from the I. One way to achieve that would be to change just one note at a time by introducing a vi chord between them. I-vi-IV.

In the key of C this would be C Am F. The notes would be C E G: A C E: F A C. Here each chord shares two notes with the chord before it so there is a lot of harmonic similarity between each chord change and we ease our way out of that tonic harmony into the sub dominant harmony.

So is C to Em a "good" chord change? It depends what you need. If you need a strong harmonic movement away from the tonic chord then it probably isn't, if you want to stay near the tonic harmony but also get off the C chord then yeah it's probably a good change. So it's about context.

Where voice leading really comes into it's own is when you look at more than one chord change and create lines across several chords (such as in your original example with the IV-iv-I) and in resolving a dissonance from one chord to the next.

For example the opening few bars of stairway to heaven. The middle two voices stay the same while the top voice moves UP diatonically A C E and the bottom voice moves down chromatically A Ab G.

Some songs use strong voice leading. For other songs such an analysis could be a waste of time. There may be some voice leading somewhere in Sultans of Swing but mostly it revolves around that Dm C Bb A progression. It's a journey from I to V but it achieves that through repetitive movements down a major second.

The problem with movements of a major second (in regard to voice leading) is that all the voices tend to move in the same direction and by the same amount. String several of those changes together and the effect is that you lose a sense of individuality between the voices since they are all doing the same thing. Consequently, the inner voices kind of disappear and root movement tends to become the main focus.*

There's nothing wrong with that of course, particularly if you are into folk rock. But an understanding of voice leading should always have a place in your musical vocabulary.
(I don't know Our House by Crosby Stills and Nash but it can't hurt to work out the chords and look at what's happening inside those chords...what notes are staying the same, what notes are moving, in what direction, and how far? What is the top line doing, what is the bass line doing, what is the root movement doing?) It's always good to ask questions and then look for the answers. Just be sure to keep notes of your observations and ideas with a pen and notebook.

Best of Luck.

p.s. I've rewritten this like four times. The first time was perfect but my computer shut down and it didn't save. The next few times didn't come our right and I'm still not happy with it at all but it's getting late so I'll just hit reply and hope that it is not too confusing or overdone.
Peace.
Si
#7
Thanks for all that. I looked up the diatonic family thing. Super interesting. It makes sense why some chords gel with others at some times and better at other times.

Much food for thought!
#8
Cool man

Just glad to help. Between diatonic chord families, voice leading, and cycle of fifth progression you should get a pretty solid base for understanding and creating interesting chord progressions.

Peace.
Si