~ chord type ~

~ families of musical colors ~

~ major key ~ I / ii / V ~

~ ii V I / 2 5 1cadential motion ~

'... streamlining the process of learning our harmonic spectrum of colors with basic nuts and bolts theory and movable shapes ...'

 

In a nutshell. Chord type, mostly used with jazz chord theories, is simply a way to view, in theory, any chord, here now defined as a 'triad + 7th', as one of three broad categories of chords. Based on the type of 3rd in the triad, and the added 7th colortone chosen, this pairing determines a diatonic chord's relative stability and how it functions within a key center.

Are we creating a sense of tension and moving to a point in the music? Or have we reached a point of repose, a resting pause in our story before moving on?

Within this Essentials book, chord type is viewed from the major scale basis. Thus, songs written in a major key. Down the road a bit we'll add in numbers, 1, 2 and 5, to represent our three chord types. These are the root pitch One, Two and Five notes of the major scale.

The organics. We base a chord's 'type' on its 3rd and 7th. And since we only have two varieties of each, major or minor, we get four basic combinations. Two of these combinations provide a perfect 5th interval between 3 and 7, one gives us the two pitch tritone interval, and one a minor 6th interval. Examine the pitches from the root pitch 'C.' Example 1.

The two combinations of 3 and 7, that create the perfect 5th interval become our One type chord in a major key. The two pitch, 3 and 7 tritone, is the unique tension within V7, so it directs the harmonic flow of the music.

The minor 6th interval created in the last measure is discarded as a possible chord type, as its inversion is a major 3rd. And while the major 3rd interval is stable, the basis of our major triad, created this way makes it non-diatonic to the key center it is generated from. So not 'universally' suitable as a generic 'type' of chord.

Three varieties of 3 and 7. So we get the three possibilities. Thinking diatonically in a major key center, we get the major 3 / major 7 combo with the One and Four chords. The minor 3 / minor 7th combo with the Two, Three and and Six chords. The major 3 / minor 7 tritone is only found on Five. Minor 3 / maj 7 is not to be found in the diatonic relative major / minor realm :( So must be saved till delving into the 'three groups of the minor tonality.' Thinking 'C' major, spell to examine the letter pitches and their sounds. Example 2.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
.
.
scale pitches
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
.
.
arpeggio degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15 (1)
.
.
arpeggio pitches
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
.
.
One maj 7
C
E
G
B
.
.
.
.
.
.
Four maj 7
F
A
C
E
.
.
.
.
.
.
V7
G
B
D
F
.
.
.
.
.
.
Two min 7
D
F
A
C
.
.
.
.
.
.
Three min 7
E
G
B
D
.
.
.
.
.
.
Six min 7
A
C
E
G
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Seven
B
D
F
A
.
.
.
.
.
.

Three chord types ~ One / Two / Five. One, Two and Five become the chord types by default really, as we end up with three unique chords that carry the basics, root, 3, 5 and 7, plus on through and to include the upper color tones.

The One chord gives us a 'tonic' chord type as a foundation chord for a key center. Two, the 'supertonic', ends up having a major 6th above the root, more common than the minor 6th of the Three and Six chords. The Five chord, the 'dominant', is unique in its encapsulated tritone. The Seven chord, with its 'flat 5' or diminished 5th, is just to dissonant for our harmony 'homogenization' process.

A cadential motion of chord types. We next can place these three 'types' of chords into a resolving cadential motion. While the 'One / Four / Five / One' is the most common, in jazz, oftentimes Two subs for Four, as motion to Four becomes more of a destination in telling a song's story.

The Two and Four chords are also just one pitch apart in the arpeggio. Example 3.

C E G B D F A C E G ...

The Two chord is sleeker for the brighter tempos of jazz. This translates into a rapid ability to modulate from one key to another. It is also closer to One by proximity of their root pitches. We'll end up filling in this space using a chromatic motion with the 'great accelerator.'

We get variety, with the three different sounding chords in the Two / Five / One cadential motion. And Two / Five as an independent non resolving 'cell' is just jazzier to work with. So we get to imply a direction in the music, then quickly go there by resolution to One, or not, as the case may be.

And like Four / Five, the Two / Five is a common vamp. Cycles of Two / Five's are common and fun, and evolve into the '3 / 6 / 2 / 5' motion of many hipsters. So there's lots of cool reasons to think by chord type and sub the Two (ii -7) for Four (IV maj 7).

Here's Two / Five / One in 'C' major. Example 3a.

THE ultimate super theory game changer? Could be, for some folks that is. There's a fair to midland chance that this one evolution of our cadential motion,

from 4 5 1 to 2 5 1,

opens one up into a vast new universe for those so inclined. The bridge towards jazz, Two / Five / One is the portal, that in so many ways, transports us to other musical realms beyond the diatonic.

Chord type / movable forms. In developing an understanding of chord type, let's not forget our movable chord shape forms. For even a dozen movable chords times 12 frets makes well over 100 different chords. Evolving artists might remember how many tunes they could play with the movable barre chords. Same will hold true here with thinking chord type.

We'll end up with the three categories of chords; One, Two and Five. And when a new chord shape comes along, we'll add it to our list. Once there, we can add it into our 'mix and match' shedding that sifts through existing puzzle pieces for new combinations. Here's a half dozen or so of each chord type, root position, all movable and rooted on 6th, then 5th and 4th strings.

Root position, tonic / One chord type. Example 4.

Root position, Two chord type. Example 4a.

Five / V7 chord type. Example 4b.

Cool? The '13' chord is a fave. A perfect 4 finger / 4 fret shape for the start and stop, pop to swing da rhythms :) The 'V9' chord 'the' funk voicing. Know the '#9' right nearby? In the bonus ! Well, and going off the playground a bit too. For the 'dim = diminished' and 'aug = augmented.' These are symmetrical shapes with neat ways they can 'legally' move about.

Mix and match / assembling 251's. Here the fun begins yet anew. For now we can choose any chord from any category and mix and match to make our cadential motions. Need a Three chord? Try a Two chord a whole step up. Need Four? Find a One chord. Seven? Diminished, for now. Here's a few mix and matches from the above voicings, mostly.

The Five and One chord voicings in this next idea are new. Thinking 'G' major. Example 5.

The V7 9 13 and One maj 9 in measure two are new shapes, not included above. My bad, but I forgot them earlier. The tonic major 9 comes from the 'butter' scale shape, based on the open 'C' major scale but up in 7th position to make 'G' major. OK with the 'b9' color? A jazz color mostly but sometimes in pop music too. Forget that actually, 'b9' is super rare in pop. Yet, it is a nice part of the Paul Anka hit from the later 50's.

So run through the shapes and mix and match, explore and find some new ones. Everything you learn and discover is yours to keep and share, forever.

wiki ~ "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" pop song

Advanced theorist. Including more chords, and thinking chord types, between even the most core of our harmonic motions, simply creates more opportunities to explore for the improvising artist. If you get a Two / Five motion of chords between One and Four, written in or not, then there's a new option to explore for melodic ideas, created by simply including this mini cadential motion between One and Four.

And when C7 becomes a V7 chord type, all of the associated theory potentialities of dominant harmony become possible solutions with any V7 chord. What we actually play depends on what we know and have shedded, and the artistic setting we find ourselves performing in. And the artistic and musical abilities of the cats with whom we are creating this magic? Most important of all, but take some chances too.

As modern as it gets. This idea of using V7 to set up the next chord, anywhere in the music, is an integral part of the evolution of Americana harmony over the last 50 years or so now. Simply slip in V7 before any chord, every chord, or make every chord V7. Start by fully arpeggiating the V7 chord you've chosen. This evolves us, in the brighter tempos with advanced players, what becomes a sort combined 'chromatic buzz.' At the far, modern end of our harmonic evolution, this level of performance is potentially as complex as it ever gets.

Chord type / chord substitution. One approach to understanding and performing jazz music is in how the language allows for replacing one harmonic element in the music for another. And once the harmony changes, new parent scales for creating melodic ideas over the substitute chords opens up new improvisational ground.

Initially, a chord that substitutes for another has one or more of the same pitches or common tones as the written chord. Gradually this sharing of pitches can be reduced and in thoroughly modern performance, is oftentimes nearly eliminated, as the musical form of the song can replace the chord changes / bass line story in keeping things together. This can open up a whole new vista of artistic opportunity for the evolving artist, that;

no harmony = greater freedoms of expression

Initially based on what the composer has originally written, the artist uses this written guideline to begin the substitution process. This could very well be the beginning of what some players call 'going outside.' Which simply means taking the improvisations 'outside' or away from the diatonic tonal center, written chord changes of the song.

'Going outside' becomes a career long journey of artistic exploration, whereby we begin to manipulate our tonal gravity and aural predictability, potentially evolving into masters of musical disguise. This evolution evolves as our ears get bigger and we accept new and potentially more complex colors as substitutions for the written changes.

Understanding chord type can greatly facilitate this process. And of our three chord types, that dominant / V7 type harmony generally has the widest variety of colors and substitution potentials, enables it to become all of the harmony in a modern sense. All V7 chords like the 12 bar blues? Yep, but way more a 12 tone blurring of the tonality and structure of a song.

Review / the benefits of chord type knowledge. Simply in that we can group like elements into categories, potentially reducing the amount of shedding, while organizing and streamlining the chord substitution thought process. Learning chord type follows the same numerically additive process as done with the pitches, scales, arpeggios, chord shapes and styles, which provide clear numerical patterns to facilitate their learning and corresponding evolution of musical style.

So while learning chord voicings or phrases for C7, G7+ and F7b9 for example, in thinking chord type, these chords become V7, V7+ or V7b9 chord. The central idea is that if these chords mostly function in a similar theoretical manner, why not just group them all as part of the dominant family of chords?

So once we master V7 chord type, it applies to all V7 chords built on any root pitch. Further, if we master the minor third / diminished properties of b9, it applies to all V7b9 chords. Master the augmented / whole tone colors of V7+5, and its multiple tonic resolution capabilities, same sorts of crossovers? Absolutely, whether diatonic, written, or as an artist's substitute chord, thinking by chord type can facilitate the learning, rote memorizing and application thereof.

"Ideas come to you when you work."

wiki ~ Karl Lagerfeld

Grout, Donald Jay. A History of Western Music, p. 10. W.W.Norton and Company Inc. New York, 1960.

 

Aebersold, James and Slone, Ken. Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978. I know this is a troubling stand to take but I felt I had to and as jazz player, I based it on Charlie Parker's compositions in the Omnibook. Find a copy, count the number of tunes, then compare the number of major key to minor key songs. Any real book of popular American song, by a mix of composers, will follow along similar lines in this regard.