Part III - Chapter 2
"Chords - Advanced Chord Progressions"Hey all! The Intermediate section of the Ultimate Guide to Guitar continues, with a new theory chapter at the door... This chapter will continue where the last one left off: we learned how to construct a myriad of chords last time, but we don't know how they can be combined and strung together in chord progressions! That's what this week's article is about...
The basics of chord progressions using "harmonized scales" was already covered, in the Novice chapter on chord progressions (Chapter II-3), but this time we're taking it further! After this chapter, you will be able to construct your own chord progressions not only using basic Major and Minor triads, but most of the more "advanced" chords we learned last week!
This is what we will cover in this chapter:
01. Harmonizing a scale in sevenths: adding sevenths to the harmonized scale you already know!
02. Writing chord progressions: using the seventh notes from the harmonized scale, and more!
03. Soloing over chord progressions: recognise the key a chord progression is in!
This article follows the same outline as the previous article on chord progressions... but we'll be going a lot more in depth this time! So, let's get started!
Harmonizing A Scale In SeventhsIn Chapter II-3, we learned what a "harmonized scale" is: a scale in which we use every single note to construct a chord (or "harmony") on. We only learned about harmonized scales with basic Major and Minor triads in that chapter... But in this chapter, we're taking it one step further and adding a seventh to each of those triads! We're going to "harmonize in sevenths"...
So how exactly do we go about doing this? Easy, here's how to do it in some easy steps:
01.We take a scale (Major or Minor)
02.With every note in the scale, we construct triads using only the notes in that scale: we now have the "regular" harmonized scale, like we studied it in Chapter II-3!
03.We now add a 7th to the triad we constructed in step 2, again using only notes from the scale we chose! Depending on whether the triad is Major or Minor, and whether the 7th is major or minor, we will find a different type of 7th chord!
04.Now, we have a harmonized scale using all 7th chords instead of "regular" Major and Minor triads!
So, depending on the key you chose to build your harmonized scale upon, you will find a set of 7 chords, or a "chord scale" of 7th chords, that all fit within that key! You can use any of those chords to build a chord progression with... or, conversely, you can recognise the key of a song based on a given chord progression in sevenths! These are the 2 uses of the harmonized scale, like we learned in Chapter II-3 already...
Last time, I used an example to show you the construction of a harmonized scale: we took the key of C Major (and A Minor) and built the harmonized scale using only Major and Minor triads. This time, I'm going to use the same example, but we're going to add 7th intervals to each chord! Let's go!
A. Harmonizing the C Major scale in sevenths
Like in the last chord progressions article, we're going to make a triad out of every note in the C Major scale... but we're adding a 7th to each triad now, too! This doesn't change the way we construct harmonized scales, it just complicates it a little... The 2 steps we follow to construct a harmonized scale in sevenths remain the same:
- First, we take a note from the Major scale and find the 2 other notes that form a triad: the "3rd" is found by going up from the root, skipping a note, and taking the next note; and to find the "5th", skip another note and take the next... like we did last time. Then, we're skipping another note and using the next one, the "7th", to create our 7th chord!
- Next, we analyse the intervals between the notes. Because we always skip a note in between, the distances will always be 3rds, either major or minor. The combination of major and minor 3rds will determine whether the triad you constructed is a Major or a Minor triad, and also whether the 7th you added is a Major or a Minor 7th... This will lead us to one of the 4 possible 7th chords, for each note in the scale!
The first chord: C
We're going to start off by taking the first note in the C Major scale, which is obviously C, and then applying the above 2 steps on it! Here goes:
- In the first step, we need to find the notes in the C Major scale that make up the seventh chord we're going to construct: a 3rd, a 5th, and a 7th interval. Let's see which notes we are using:
C D E F G A B
We start from C, skip the next note (D) and use E as our 3rd, then we skip F to find G as our 5th... now we found the triad we already found last time! Then, we skip another note to find B as our seventh... Now, we need to analyse this chord!
- If we take a look at the intervals between each note, we will find this interval scheme:
C D E F G A B
\Major 3rd/ \minor 3rd/ \Major 3rd/
The first two intervals, the major 3rd followed by a minor 3rd, construct a Major triad (like we already know!)... and the added Major 3rd between G and B makes B a major 7th interval. So, a Major triad with an added major 7th... that's a Major 7th chord! We just constructed the first chord in the harmonized C Major scale in sevenths: the CMaj7 chord!
We can now move on to the next note in the C Major scale, which is D, and apply the same 2 steps to find our second 7th chord!
- First, we need to know the notes we're using to construct this chord:
C D E F G A B C
We start from D, skip the next note to find F as our 3rd, then we skip another note to find our 5th which is A... this is the triad we found last time. We know it's a Minor triad, remember? Then, we skip the next note again, to find C (the octave!) as our 7th note!
- Analyzing this set of notes will show us this interval scheme:
C D E F G A B C
\minor 3rd/ \Major 3rd/ \minor 3rd/
The interval scheme shows a minor 3rd followed by a major 3rd, which constitutes a Minor triad! We knew that already from Chapter II-3... Just review the previous chord progressions article if you don't remember this!
What's new, though, is the extra minor 3rd interval which adds a minor 7th to the triad... A Minor triad with an added minor 7th, that's a Minor 7th chord! So the second chord in our harmonized scale is the Dm7 chord!
I'll give you one more example, and from then on you should be able to find the rest of the chords by yourself! So here goes, the construction of the 3rd chord in the harmonized scale in the same 2 steps:
- Which notes are in the chord?
E F G A B C D
Note that this is still the C Major scale... don't be fooled, it doesn't start on E, I just left out the first 2 notes because the page isn't wide enough! The notes that this chord is made of are E-G-B-D.
- The interval scheme for the notes we found looks like this:
E F G A B C D
\minor 3rd/ \Major 3rd/ \minor 3rd/
As we know from Chapter II-3, this is a Minor triad; you can see this is correct by the first two intervals (minor 3rd followed by major 3rd). The next interval, a minor 3rd, adds a minor 7th to the Minor triad... this combination brings us another Minor 7th chord! So, the third chord in our harmonized scale: the Em7 chord!
From here on, you should be able to find the notes that construct these chords and the intervals that define them by yourselves... So, I'll just briefly summarize for you now, how each chord is defined!
- The F 7th chord is constructed of the notes F-A-C-E (pun not intended)
- The intervals between the notes are Major 3rd - minor 3rd - Major 3rd, so we have a Major triad with an added major 7th... which defines a Major 7th chord. So, the 4th chord in the harmonized scale is an FMaj7 chord!
We follow the same procedure for the next chord, the G chord:
- The G 7th chord is constructed of the notes G-B-D-F
- The intervals between the notes are Major 3rd - minor 3rd - minor 3rd. This time we have a Major triad with an added minor 7th... and this defines a Dominant 7th chord. The 5th chord in the harmonized scale is a G7 chord!
Again, we follow the same 2 steps for the next chord:
- The A 7th chord is constructed of the notes A-C-E-G
- The intervals between the notes are minor 3rd - Major 3rd - minor 3rd. This is a minor triad, with an added minor 7th... which form a Minor 7th chord together! The 6th chord in the harmonized scale is, therefore, an Am7 chord!
Last time, we learned that the last chord in the harmonized Major scale is an unusual one: it's not a Major nor a Minor triad, but a diminished one! We can add a 7th interval to that chord too, though... So here goes!
- The B 7th chord is constructed of the notes B-D-F-A
- The invervals between those notes are minor 3rd - minor 3rd - Major 3rd... not much Major in that chord, is there? The first 2 minor 3rd intervals constitute a Diminished triad... BUT: if you count the extra Major 3rd up from the diminished 5th, the added note is a minor 7th, not a diminished 7th like we learned last week!
So, we can't call this chord Bdim7, which is a B Diminished chord with an added diminished 7th... This chord is called "Bm7b5": it's the same as Bm7 (Minor triad with added minor 7th), but with a diminished 5th (hence the "b5").
These are the 7th chords you can use to write a chord progression in C Major... You can mix up these chords with "regular" chords from the harmonized scale, it doesn't matter, as long as you remember that if you want to add a 7th interval to one of these "regular" chords, you have to stick by these rules!
CMaj7 - Dm7 - Em7 - FMaj7 - G7 - Am7 - Bm7b5
B. Harmonizing scales in sevenths: general rules
In the last chord progressions article, we derived the "general rules" of harmonizing scales from the example I gave. We're going to do the same this time: from the above example of a harmonized C Major scale in sevenths, we can derive the general rules for harmonizing any scale, both Major and Minor, in sevenths! This knowledge will have 2 uses: first of all, you will know what chords are available in a given key; and second of all, you will be able to derive the key of a song from a given chord progression!
The general rules for harmonizing a Major scale can be derived easily from the above example, as it's a Major scale as well... and even though all Major scales use different notes, the intervals between them are exactly the same! So, if the 1st chord is a Maj7 chord in C Major, it will be in every Major scale; if the second chord is a m7 chord in C Major, it will be in every Major scale as well; and so on! So, the chords that constitute a Major scale harmonized in sevenths are:
IMaj7 - ii7 - iii7 - IVMaj7 - V7 - vi7 - vii7b5
You may remember the way these Roman numerals work from Chapter II-3: an uppercase letter indicates a Major triad, while a lowercase letter indicates a Minor triad. From this notation in Roman numerals, we learn that:
- The chords IMaj7, IVMaj7 and V7 of the harmonized Major scale are always Major chords. The added 7ths are major for the IMaj7 and IVMaj7 chords, but minor for the V7 chord.
- The chords ii7, iii7 and vi7 of the harmonized Major scale are always Minor chords. The added 7ths are all minor.
- The chord vii7b5 is always a diminished chord, but it has an added minor 7th rather than a diminished 7th.
So, the chords in the harmonized Minor scale in sevenths are:
i7 - ii7b5 - bIIIMaj7 - iv7 - v7 - bVIMaj7 - bVII7
All you have to do is change the order of the chords in the Major scale: take the 6th chord (vi7), and rename it to "i7" because it is now first in line, and do the same to all the other chords. Don't forget to add a "b" in front of the 3rd, 6th and 7th chords... In the Minor scale, the 3rd, 6th and 7th intervals are minor intervals, so you should indicate this in the Roman numerals of your harmonized Minor scale, in order to distinguish it from a harmonized Major scale!
- The chords bIIIMaj7, bVIMaj7 and bVII7 of the harmonized Minor scale are always Major chords. The added 7ths are major for the bIIIMaj7 and bVIMaj7 chords, but minor for the bVII7 chord. (They are equivalent to the Major chords IMaj7, IVMaj7 and V7 of the relative Major scale.)
- The chords i7, iv7 and v7 of the harmonized Minor scale are always Minor chords. The added 7ths are all minor. (They are equivalent to the Minor chords vi7, ii7 and iii7 of the relative Major scale.)
- The chord vii7b5 is always a diminished chord, but it has an added minor 7th rather than a diminished 7th. (It is equivalent to the diminished chord vii7b5 of the relative Major scale.)
- Firstly, you can combine any of these chords in your own chord progression, along with the "regular" triads you already know... And maybe some of the other, more "unusual" chords we learned in the previous chapter!
- And secondly, you can now recognise a chord progression that contains 7th chords, and determine the key of the progression, so that you're able to pick the right scale to solo over it!
Writing Chord ProgressionsWe learned about writing your own songs using basic chord progressions already in Chapter II-3, but after the previous article, you have more chords in your arsenal that you could use in a progression... and thanks to all the above, you now know which 7th chords you can use in a certain key!
So, when trying to write your own chord progression, you have a key and you use the given key to find the chords you can use in that key. You can use chords from the harmonized scale without sevenths, or with sevenths, or mix up both... and if you want, you can add some of the other "exotic" chords we studied last week! Some examples:
- "Hey Jude" by the Beatles is in the key of F Major, and uses a couple of 7th chords such as FMaj7 (the root 7th chord), C7 (a V7 chord) and Gm7 (a ii7 chord). Other than that, there's some "variation" chords in there, such as Csus4 (which can be a replacement for a C or Cm chord, as Suspended chords are neither Major nor Minor!) and some "slash" chords! Listen to the song here!
- Another classic that most of you probably know: "Wonderwall" by Oasis, in the key of F# Minor. The main riff uses an Em7, a Dsus4, and an Am7sus4 (an Am7 chord in which the minor 3rd has been replaced by a 4th). Other than that, there's some more interesting chords in there, such as a Cadd9 and some slash chords. Check it out, listen to the song here!
Soloing Over Chord ProgressionsThe second use of the harmonized scale is to determine the key a song is in. You can take any song, and by looking at the given chord progression, you can find the key by trying to find the harmonized scale in which all these chords fit!
We did this in Chapter II-3 as well, and like I told you then, this takes some guesswork. There's some things you can pay attention to, that can help you out, though!
- A quick and dirty way to determine a song's key is to look at the first and/or last chord in the song, which is usually the chord that "resolves" the progression, and therefore the root chord... we discussed this in Chapter II-3.
- A better way is to look at "orientation points" in the progression. For example, two adjacent Major chords (F Major and G Major in the same progression, for example) are a clear indication of the key of the song, as discussed in Chapter II-3. Other orientation points we can look for with our newfound knowledge, though, is the presence of a Dominant 7th chord, which MUST be chord V in the harmonized Major scale (because I and IV are Major 7th chords!). You can then count back to I to find the root note... for example, if a progression contains a D7 chord, this must be the V chord, and the root chord should be G, so you're in the key of G Major!
ConclusionAnd there we have it! Your knowledge of chords has again improved, with not much left to improve further upon... You can build a harmonized scale from any scale now, and use it to write your own chord progressions, or to solo in the right key!
Next week, we'll be returning to technique again, with some of the more exciting technique lessons some of you have been waiting for a long time now! So stay tuned...
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