#1
After reading through this thread: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=912965
Do powerchord progressions actually resolve?

I've tried to study voice-leading and counterpoint in past couple of weeks. What I've realised is that the main parts of a chord which make it resolve, is usually the third and the seventh, which resolve by a semitones (which is usually how notes like to resolve).

For example, an authentic cadence V-I in C: a G7 chord is GBDF and the Cmaj chord is CEG. The B resolves by a semitone up to the C, the F resolves down by a semitone to the E. In this cadence there is two semitone resolutions, which creates that resolution you hear in that sort of cadence.

But powechord progression barely have any of their voices moving by semitones, as most powerchord progressions (check if you want) use these chord: I, V and IV.

So I've figured out a few things:
theres no resolution these progressions
its basically 2 voices moving in parallel fifths, which is against contrapunctual law for making each voice lose its identity (I'll explain this more if anyone wants)
These two lower voices almost always move by disjunct steps, which, if used too much, starts to make melodies sounds unstructured

tldr; powerchord progressions not only sound like shit, they're theoretically shit as well.

So, why are powerchord progressions so popular?
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#2
They do resolve. Play C5 - F5 - G5 and say that following it with C5 doesn't sound like a resolution.

They're popular because the interval of a fifth is the most basic and integral interval in music other than the octave: it's a frequency ratio of 2:3, the simplest outside of the octave (2:1). Because of this, they sound good with distortion on as there isn't any harmonic baggage to be screwed up.

Contrapuntal law is not ingrained into the fabric of time and space. It's just the conventions of the people who were making music 300 years ago.
#3
Quote by blue_strat
They do resolve. Play C5 - F5 - G5 and say that following it with C5 doesn't sound like a resolution.

They're popular because the interval of a fifth is the most basic and integral interval in music other than the octave: it's a frequency ratio of 2:3, the simplest outside of the octave (2:1). Because of this, they sound good with distortion on as there isn't any harmonic baggage to be screwed up.

Contrapuntal law is not ingrained into the fabric of time and space. It's just the conventions of the people who were making music 300 years ago.


exaclty why
#4
Quote by blue_strat
They do resolve. Play C5 - F5 - G5 and say that following it with C5 doesn't sound like a resolution.

They're popular because the interval of a fifth is the most basic and integral interval in music other than the octave: it's a frequency ratio of 2:3, the simplest outside of the octave (2:1). Because of this, they sound good with distortion on as there isn't any harmonic baggage to be screwed up.

Contrapuntal law is not ingrained into the fabric of time and space. It's just the conventions of the people who were making music 300 years ago.


Truth.
#6
Quote by blue_strat
They do resolve. Play C5 - F5 - G5 and say that following it with C5 doesn't sound like a resolution.

They're popular because the interval of a fifth is the most basic and integral interval in music other than the octave: it's a frequency ratio of 2:3, the simplest outside of the octave (2:1). Because of this, they sound good with distortion on as there isn't any harmonic baggage to be screwed up.

Contrapuntal law is not ingrained into the fabric of time and space. It's just the conventions of the people who were making music 300 years ago.
Contrapuntal law still dictates how music sounds. Sure it's not really followed word for law today (and it damn well shouldnt), but it still describes what harmonises nicely and what doesnt.

And yes, the perfect fifth is consonant due to the 2:3 ratio. But melodic perfect fifths without other voices dont really resolve, melodic minor seconds do though.
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#7
My (drunken) theory is that with power chords the notes aren't there but they're there, their 'power' comes from how they imply harmony.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#8
Quote by beadhangingOne
They are popular because they are easy to listen to. Hence, mass appeal. There's a reason blink-182 has sold more records than, say, dream theater.

I beleive Dream Theater also plays power chords. Blink 182 has sold more records because they have catchier songs with more mass appeal.
#9
Quote by werty22
I beleive Dream Theater also plays power chords. Blink 182 has sold more records because they have catchier songs with more mass appeal.
This post is so arguable (and the one before it), it has the potential to run my thread about voice leading and powerchord progressions downhill into an idiotic blink vs dreamtheater argument. Please cease this faggotry.
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#10
Quote by demonofthenight
This post is so arguable (and the one before it), it has the potential to run my thread about voice leading and powerchord progressions downhill into an idiotic blink vs dreamtheater argument. Please cease this faggotry.

You're ignorant to think that Blink 182 doesn't produce catchy pop-punk ditties for the masses. Stop being hateful.
#12
Quote by demonofthenight
Contrapuntal law still dictates how music sounds.

Expand.
#13
Contrapuntal theory is defeated by theory rule no. 1;

If it sounds good, it is good.
Call me Batman.
#14
^parallel fifths still makes each the two voices loose their identities. Sixths, thirds, fifths and fourths still sound good, whilst seconds and sevenths still sound bad. Similar skips still sound obnoxious. Yep, alot of the contrapunctual rules still apply.
Except I dont think harmonies which use Major second/minor seventh intervals are THAT dissonant these days, as its been done so many times. The same with tritones.
Quote by manmanman133
You're ignorant to think that Blink 182 doesn't produce catchy pop-punk ditties for the masses. Stop being hateful.

Quote by bangoodcharlote
Blink and DT are both awesome!
AHHH TROLLS . Come on guys, I want answers I've listened to (and liked) both dreamtheater and blink. I just think it's stupid to say ones better than the other, as they're completely different bands who play completely different genres.
It does get a bit repetive the whole I IV V progression using powerchords though, thus my comment about them sounding shit, which was probably a bit out of place. Nothing against blink182.
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#15
Maybe because if you only use the 1 and 5 you are left with the more possibilities. You can solo with major or minor because there is no tonality.

There are less notes to worry about nasty min2nd clashes.

A perfect 5th intervals is also the most consonant interval. Why wouldn't you use something that sounds nice?...even IF it pisses Bach off.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”


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#16
Quote by bangoodcharlote
Blink and DT are both awesome!


the state looks down on sodomy

demon you seem to miss probably the most basic and rudimentary of music concepts, i think you're WAAAAAAY overthinking this.when you use powerchords, especially in hard rock or metal or punk etc etc etc. the 5th of the chord really accentuates the root, it adds to it. the defining characteristic is the root however. so if i was to take and play E5, F#5, G5, A5, G5 the long story short would be although they're fifhs, the defining notes would be E, F#, G, A, G and playing it as a single note line instead of powerchords would tend to want to have the same motion to it. that line would be in E minor even though theres a C# in the F#5, the bass would follow the root which is the note that is implied in the chord.
#17
^I sort of get you. But why is the backing ALWAYS made up of the first note of a scale, the fifth and the fourth. How come so few pop-punk songs use the other 4 notes?
Quote by metal4all
Maybe because if you only use the 1 and 5 you are left with the more possibilities. You can solo with major or minor because there is no tonality.

There are less notes to worry about nasty min2nd clashes.

A perfect 5th intervals is also the most consonant interval. Why wouldn't you use something that sounds nice?...even IF it pisses Bach off.
lol, Bach didnt publish the first contrapunctual rules, a group of gregorian monks did. And Johann Fux published the treatise that most other counterpoint treatises are based off. No input on bachs behalf.

The notes in the chords, IMO, only help with the desired effect. I guess if you go by that logic (that less notes=more freedom) than the best option for improvisers is no backing at all.
My mentallity is that more notes=more control of the effect your looking for.
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Last edited by demonofthenight at Jul 19, 2008,
#18
Quote by demonofthenight
^I sort of get you. But why is the backing ALWAYS made up of the first note of a scale, the fifth and the fourth..

i'm not sure i understand what you mean when you say "why is the backing always made up of the first note of the scale" like why is every song 1-4-5? i'm lost on the question
Quote by demonofthenight

How come so few pop-punk songs use the other 4 notes?
.

oh i blame lazines for that seriously! also play an F#dim7 -> Emin7 with distortion on, not really pretty sounding right? now do the same thing clean and finger pick it, sounds a lot better right? i think dynamics of effects (like distortion) and how its played have a bit to do with it too.
#19
Quote by demonofthenight
tldr; powerchord progressions not only sound like shit, they're theoretically shit as well.

So, why are powerchord progressions so popular?


The big misconception is people treat power chords like chords, they are functionally more equivalent to single notes, not chords. There is a reason why you can drop the fifth from a chord and still have it sound mostly like the chord.

Power chords are popular because they allow for more interesting and dynamic usage in what would have been a much less interesting single note line. The power chord progression is quite frequently used by some bands to complement other instruments that are the ones actually defining those concepts. The guitar doesn't have to be the most important and focal instrument.

Also if you look at some of the really, really low end bands, they just play high distortion and are playing actual chords, that doesn't make them more theoretically advanced. Who would you say has the more advanced knowledge of theory people like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani (who both have quite a few power chord heavy songs) or Johnny Ramone who almost exclusively used full chords?
#20
^I sort of realised that, but the way pop-punk bands use powerchords, its like a progression. But if they're not chords, so the notes dont really want to move anywhere in particular, why is it that pop-punk bands seldom use any notes other than the first note, fifth and fourth notes of a scale? They could use any of the notes of the major scale, and still sound good.
Quote by z4twenny
i'm not sure i understand what you mean when you say "why is the backing always made up of the first note of the scale" like why is every song 1-4-5? i'm lost on the question.
I was just asking why the backing of every pop-punk song uses the I, IV, V progression, especially since it's not really chords moving and more like an accentuated line. But yeah, you pretty much answered it.
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#21
Quote by demonofthenight
This post is so arguable (and the one before it), it has the potential to run my thread about voice leading and powerchord progressions downhill into an idiotic blink vs dreamtheater argument. Please cease this faggotry.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to cause an argument.
Quote by manmanman133
You're ignorant to think that Blink 182 doesn't produce catchy pop-punk ditties for the masses. Stop being hateful.

He's not being hateful. Threads often go off-topic because of things like that.

Power chords are used for several reasons. In metal, they usually seem to be used for riffs because they sound more "full" than single notes. Forgive me if that's not an accurate observation (I'm not much of a metal fan).

In modern pop-punk, they are sometimes used in place of triads. Early pop-punk bands such as The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, and The Undertones used full chords, like most music of the time. In the '80s, as the genre became faster and sometimes more distorted, it became common to fret barre chords, but mostly only play the root, fifth, and octave. Once bands like Nirvana, Green Day and The Offspring got popular, other bands (such as Blink-182) began to copy them. Now they're basically the standard for distorted music.

They don't have the notes that define their tonality because they're not really necessary. The melody of a song can define whether it's major or minor. The V still resolves to the I. We're so used to hearing V-I that the root and fifth is enough to imply the third and seventh.

It might be a little bit off-topic, but does anyone know why peaople say Pete Townshend played power chords? Every Who song I've heard is full chords.
#22
Power chords don't really have much to do with counterpoint. The point of counterpoint is that the notes are working against each other, and the independence of the phrases are maintained. Powerchords can resolve just fine because, in context, they can suggest a tonality.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#23
Quote by mike
why is it that pop-punk bands seldom use any notes other than the first note, fifth and fourth notes of a scale?
I don't play pop punk much, but I don't think 'seldom' is the right word. Of the pop punk songs I've learned it's rare to have only three chords (usually at least four), and as often as not they're in a minor key.

And the ones that are only I IV V, I suspect they used those chords because they wanted to.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#24
I was lead to believe (on here at some point) that the root, perfect fourth and perfect fifth are the most stable notes in a diatonic scale. Thus a I - VI - V progression is not a giant leap. Also, since those are all the 'perfect' notes (the root is still perfect as it is the same for both major and minor) it's avoiding major or minor tonality.

A I - VI - V progression is safe.
#25
Quote by colohue
I was lead to believe (on here at some point) that the root, perfect fourth and perfect fifth are the most stable notes in a diatonic scale. Thus a I - VI - V progression is not a giant leap. Also, since those are all the 'perfect' notes (the root is still perfect as it is the same for both major and minor) it's avoiding major or minor tonality.

A I - VI - V progression is safe.


A I-IV-V progression doesn't avoid tonality, it very strongly establishes it, which is why it is so common.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#26
Quote by Archeo Avis
A I-IV-V progression doesn't avoid tonality, it very strongly establishes it, which is why it is so common.


I think he means that when it's played as power chords in punk, a major or minor tonality can be implied by the melody.
#27
Quote by Eirien
I think he means that when it's played as power chords in punk, a major or minor tonality can be implied by the melody.


Ah...that would make sense.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.