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Thread: How do I use chords in a progression besides major/minor/diminished?

  1. #1
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    How do I use chords in a progression besides major/minor/diminished?

    Outside of the I ii iii IV V vi vii, how do I use all the other kinds of chords in a progression? Shouldn't a good guitarist be able to come up with a chord progression twenty chords long? (Could anyone give me an example of a really long chord progression? 15-20 chords)

    So when you are playing in a major key, how do you throw in 6, 7, maj7, m7, add9, sus2, sus4, etc? I know the easiest way to throw them in would be to use your ear. But I'd like to know how you make it all work from a theoretical perspective.

    Is there something to read about advanced chord theory? Does such a thing exist?

  2. #2
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    You could take most of Freddie Mercury's tunes in Queen. They will be stuffed with long chord progressions.

    Or, a jazzy blues:
    |Bb7 Bb7+5|Eb9 Eb-9|Bb7 Cm7 C#dim Bb7/D|Eb7 D7 Eb7 E7|Eb7 Eb9 Eb-9|
    |Bb7 A7 Ab7|G7 Db7|Cm7|F9 F-9|Bb7 G-9|Cm7 F-9|

    That's 27

  3. #3
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    Shouldn't a good guitarist be able to come up with a chord progression twenty chords long?
    No. 3-6 chords will do for a lot of guitarists.

    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    So when you are playing in a major key, how do you throw in 6, 7, maj7, m7, add9, sus2, sus4, etc? I know the easiest way to throw them in would be to use your ear. But I'd like to know how you make it all work from a theoretical perspective.
    It depends on the function of the chord. In a diatonic progression it will be ok to throw in 6, maj7, maj9 and sus4 at any time on the I chord. Sus4 is a chord that is creating tension and wants to go somewhere, so you will typically use that in combination with a chord change (could be back to I). 7 is not normally used for the I chord, unless it is functioning as a secondary dominant for the IV chord. Etc etc. Check good reference books on the topic.

    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    Is there something to read about advanced chord theory? Does such a thing exist?
    Ted Greene "chord progressions" and most theory books have lots of info on this.

    Hope this helps.

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    So when you are playing in a major key, how do you throw in 6, 7, maj7, m7, add9, sus2, sus4, etc? I know the easiest way to throw them in would be to use your ear. But I'd like to know how you make it all work from a theoretical perspective.
    Here is what I would do, others will have their thoughts.
    6th would be used for another voice.
    7th and m7 as in dominant 7th are used for the V chord to increase tension.
    Maj7 add9 etc. are added to non dominant chords to add a harmonizing note, i.e. you need a harmonizing note in the chord to harmonize the melody used over it - grab an extension, 6th, 7th, maj7, add9 etc. any thing that adds that note you need.

    Is there something to read about advanced chord theory? Does such a thing exist?
    I'd send you to a study on harmonizing the melody line. Google will bring up several papers on the subject. After you get the chord progression moving from rest to tension to climax and then to resolution - once you understand what chords do what in this journey the rest has to do with harmonization of the melody line. IMHO
    Last edited by Malcolm; 08-21-2009 at 08:07 PM.

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    Thanks to everyone who replied. Would anyone happen to know of a website that explains the function or relation of each chord?

  6. #6
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    Thanks to everyone who replied. Would anyone happen to know of a website that explains the function or relation of each chord?
    www.musictheory.net and help yourself to the many sites within that address.

    Here is my take on this.
    I is the tonic chord. The home base. In theory you are at rest when you began a progression, the I tonic chord does this very well. You need to end your phrase, progression whatever with the tonic to resolve and return to rest. With out a return to I your progression begs for closure. You do not have to start on the I tonic chord, but, you should close on the I tonic chord.

    ii is the minor super tonic chord the ii-V-I progression is seen in jazz quite a lot, my thinking on this is how else would you use a minor super tonic chord. Now to answer that the ii is a sub-dominant chord and it's task in life is to move to a dominant chord, i.e. the V or viidim.

    iii is the minor mediant chord. It function beyond a lead to chord I'm not real clear on except the iii wants to move to the vi. The viidim likes to go to the tonic or the iii. That makes the iii a great beginning to a turn-a-round, i.e. viidim, iii, vi, ii, V, I. I use it mostly as a lead to chord.

    IV is the Major sub-dominant chord. It's tack in life is to move to the dominant chord, i.e. the viidim or the V. ii and IV are sub-dominant and V and viidim are dominant chords. ii and IV can sub for each other as can V or viidim.

    V is the major dominant chord. It's tack in life is to move to the tonic chord. When you add the b7 and make the chord a dominant seventh you have increased the tension and the chord wants to get to the tonic chord right now. Anything else is anti-climatic IMHO. Again IMHO in the middle of a progression when you go to the I chord you have reached home base thus are back at rest - is that what you wanted to do? Also in the middle of a progression when you go to the V7 chord are you ready to move to resolution, if not why are you at the V7 chord?

    vi is the minor relative minor chord. I is the major tonic and vi is the minor equivalent. Key signature can be I or vi is what I'm speaking of here, did not explain that very well. The vi likes to move to a sub-dominant chord.l The I-vi-ii-V-I has been used in thousands of progressions.

    viidim is the minor leading tone diminished chord. It is also a dominant chord. The V and viidim are both dominant chords and can be substituted for each other. I use the viidim only when I want to start a more leisure trip back to the tonic, i.e. in a turn-a-round for instance. If I wanted to get past climax and close the progression I would use the V7.

    Now for that 20 chord progression you were asking about let the chords go where they like to go and use the viidim to lead somewhere other than to the tonic, i.e. try to stay away from the V7 until you are ready to close.

    Point of interest, a 20 chord progression with out a return to rest is no where in my wildest dreams. I see no need for it in any music I'm involved with.

    Have fun.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 08-21-2009 at 10:28 PM.

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    Shouldn't a good guitarist be able to come up with a chord progression twenty chords long?
    No. I can't think, offhand, of any song I know with that many chords. (There might be some, but they would be pretty rare.)
    I mean, a guitarist who knows his stuff COULD come up with such a sequence...(even a much longer one...). But there would rarely be any good reason to. Other than showing off, that is.

    gersdal's jazzy blues (above) doesn't really have 27 chords in it (and I know he knows what I mean...). Many of them are really the same chord. Eg, Eb7 and Eb9 are not really different chords.
    IOW, what "differences" there are may just be extensions or small alterations, which don't make one chord into different chords to any meaningful extent.
    The point is to understand function first of all (as explained above).
    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    So when you are playing in a major key, how do you throw in 6, 7, maj7, m7, add9, sus2, sus4, etc? I know the easiest way to throw them in would be to use your ear. But I'd like to know how you make it all work from a theoretical perspective.
    There's two good reasons for extending chords beyond triads:

    1. To make a sequence flow more smoothly, or with more forward momentum. (Adding 7ths often does this, which is why 7th chords are standard in jazz.)
    2. To harmonise (or create) a melody. (I.e., usually when you see something like Cmaj9, it's because the melody uses the 9th. Otherwise the chord would be written as C or Cmaj7.)

    Theoretically, the type of extension (eg 7 or maj7? 9 or b9? etc) depends on the diatonic scale - IOW, only adding notes that are in the key scale.
    Eg, in key of G, you would get a Gmaj7, Cmaj7 and D7. Not G7, C7 or Dmaj7.
    You might also get Am6, but not Em6 or Bm6.
    In the same key you could have Gsus4, Asus4, Bsus4, Dsus4, Esus4 - but not Csus4.
    All the minor chords, tho, would have b7s - so they would all be m7 chords. You only get m(maj7)s as tonic chords in minor keys - although they can occur as passing chords in runs... and this is where (why) a lot of unusual chord extensions occur.
    Eg, Am - Am(maj7) - Am7 - Am6 is really just the same chord with a descending A-G#-G-F# lline to make it more interesting. You would see such a thing in the key of A minor, or maybe on the iv chord in E minor.

    Similar things with a major chord involve adding sus4 or sus2, 6 or maj7. These don't change the chord function. Eg, C-Csus2-Csus4-C-C6-Cmaj7-Cadd9 is not a chord sequence, it's one chord (tonic in C major) with various decorations.
    However, if you were to add a b7 instead of a maj7, that would change the chord function, into a dominant (C7), creating the expection of a move to another chord (probably F).
    Again, you could add a 9 or 13 to the C7, it wouldn't change the function, just decorate it to make it more interesting (or more tense) if the chord hung around for a while.

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    Thanks to everyone who replied. Would anyone happen to know of a website that explains the function or relation of each chord?
    Malcolm's explained this pretty well, and it can be summed up as follows:

    TONIC function = I, vi or iii
    SUBDOMINANT function = IV or ii
    DOMINANT function = V or vii

    You'll notice that in each section, the chords share 2 out of 3 notes.
    You can also superimpose the minor (or dim) chords on to the majors, to create extended versions of the majors, which are the prime functional chords.
    So vi on top of I = I6; iii on top of I = Imaj7
    ii on top of IV = IV6
    vii on top of V = V7.
    (In fact, V7 chords are so common that the plain vii triad is hardly ever used.)

    There is some confusing overlap here, in that you can superimpose vi over IV to get IVmaj7, an extended IV chord.
    (You may wonder why vi has a tonic function when it has the same relationship to IV as iii has to I. IOW, in key of C, Am can relate to F the same way Em relates to C. But Am and Em are both technically regarded as having a tonic function. I'll admit I wonder about this myself... I guess it's just another of those grey areas in music theory... )

    We are talking major keys above, of course. Minor keys are much the same, but with some subtle differences due to the variations in the scale. Conventionally in a minor key, the i, ii, III, iv and VI are harmonised from natural minor, while the V and vii come from harmonic minor. (The name of the latter scale derives from the harmonic purpose of enhancing those two dominant-function chords.)
    So the tonic and subdominant are minor (Am and Dm in A minor), while the dominant is major, same as in a major key (E or E7 in A minor).
    The ii chord still has a subdominant function, and is a dim triad, or half-diminished chord. (Eg, in jazz, you will see Bm7b5 chords all the time, but they are never vii chords in C major, always ii chords in A minor.)
    The VI chord also has a subdominant function (F in A minor).
    The III chord (IMO) has a tricky role in a minor key. It's the tonic of the relative major key (C in A minor), so can dominate if overused. But it's quite common in 2nd inversion (G on bottom) as a variation of the (Am) tonic.
    There are two options for a vii chord in a minor key. The classic one is on the raised 7th of harmonic minor, and is a dim7 chord (G#dim7 in A minor). This is more common than the vii chord in a major key, and has a clear dominant function.
    Sometimes you see a bVII chord (G in A minor), but this is more of a modal chord, suggesting A aeolian mode. It would have a mild dominant function (resolving weakly to Am), tho extending it to G7 or G9 suggests a modulation to C major, where G7 is the main dominant.

  9. #9
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Supplementary points...

    While any diatonic extension is theoretically possible, some create "avoid notes" - which disrupt the chord function by creating confusing harmonies. Eg, you wouldn't add an F on top of a Cmaj7 chord because it creates a G7 on top of a C - tonic and dominant function together!

    Here's the possible practical extensions (chord types) on each chord in a major key:

    I: 6, maj7, maj9, maj13, 6/9, add9, sus2, sus4. (no 11th)
    ii: m7, m9, m11. (m6 or m13 are possible, but very rare because too similar to inversions of the extended V chord.)
    iii: m7, m11. (no 9th)
    IV: 6, maj7, maj9, maj7#11, maj9#11, maj13#11, 6/9, add9, sus2. (no sus4 or 11th)
    V: 7, 9, 13, 7sus4, 9sus4, 13sus4. (No 11. 6 is possible but not common.)
    vi: m7, m9, m11.
    vii: m7b5. (very rare)

    Minor keys:

    i: m(maj7), m6, m69, m(add9), m(maj9). (These chords all imply melodic minor. m7 chords are rarer, and suggest aeolian or dorian mode.)
    ii: m7b5 *. (very common in jazz!)
    III: 6, maj7, maj9, maj13, 6/9, add9, sus2, sus4. (no 11th) (Same as I in major key, but in a minor key the III will rarely be decorated in these ways.)
    iv: m6, m7, m9, m11. (m6 is an inverted iim7b5. Eg, in A minor, Dm6 = Bm7b5.)
    V: 7, 7b9, 7#9, 7#5. (In jazz, any combination of b9/#9/b5/#5 may be used.)
    VI: 6, maj7, maj9, maj7#11, maj9#11, maj13#11, 6/9, add9, sus2. (no sus4 or 11th). (Again, as IV in major key, but fancy extensions are rarer.)
    bVII: 7, 9, 13. (As V in major key, but - ditto - not often used with extensions.)
    vii: dim7 *. (vii in harmonic minor.)


    Remember that just because all these are possible doesn't mean it's a good idea to use as many as you can!
    Generally the best idea is to keep chords simple. Even in jazz, they only go beyond 7ths when necessary (eg to create additional melodic lines or voice-leading). What matters in music is always MELODY, and that shouldn't ever be swamped by fancy chords. The purpose of chords is to SUPPORT a melody (whether that's a composed or improvised one).
    Always think, with any sequence, "how can I simplify these chords to communicate the message of the song as clearly as possible?" Sometimes fancy chords are part of the message. (Eg the melancholy/poignant effect of a maj7 or add9.) Even then, it will be the melody that tells you when. (If a maj7 chord matters, it will be when the melody uses that major 7th note.)

    * NB: note the difference between ii and vii in a minor key. Both are based on dim triads (1-b3-b5), but the ii has a b7 (minor 7th) while the vii has a bb7 (diminished 7th). The ii chord is known as "half-diminished" for this reason (only one diminished interval).
    Eg:
    G#dim7 = G#-B-D-F = vii in A minor (common sub for E7b9)
    G#m7b5 = G#-B-D-F# = ii in F# minor (inverted Bm6, resolves to C#7)
    Bm7b5 = B-D-F-A = ii in A minor (inverted Dm6, resolves to E7)
    Bdim7 = B-D-F-Ab = vii in C minor (common sub for G7b9)

  10. #10
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    Just to fill in a little bit to the great posts of Jon and Malcolm.

    Some time ago I posted a quick reference to modes. For me this works as a reference to several things, including the extensions that I can use for each chord depending on the mode I working in. First is exentions for chords in the diatonic modes of the major scale, then the melodic minor scale and finaly the harmonic minor scale. The discussion has so far mainly been focussing on the diatonic chords of the major scale, but the melodic and harmonic (and others also I'm sure, but that is beyond my knowledge) gives other options for extensions, as mentioned in Jon's last post. Structuring them like I have done here is at least helpfull for me

    My little quick reference for modes of the major scale, melodic minor scale and harmonic minor scale (all examples given i C). Hope this is usefull ...
    Code:
    Major scale: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8		
    C	C maj7 (9th, 11th, 13th)	C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C	C Ionian
    D	Dm7  (9th, 11th, 13th)	D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D	Dorian 
    E	Em7 (b9th, 11th, b13th)	E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E	Phrygian
    F	F maj7 (9th, #11th, 13th)	F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F	Lydian
    G	G7    (9th, 11th, 13th)	G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G	Mixolydian
    A	Am7 (9th, 11th, b13th)	A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A	Aeolian
    B	Bm7-5 (b9th, 11th, b13th)	B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B	Locrian
    
    Melodic minor: 	1-2-b3-4-5-6-7-8		
    C	Cm maj7 (9th, 11th, 13th)	C-D-Eb-F-G-A-B-C	C melodic minor
    D	Dm7 (b9th, 11th, 13th)	D-Eb-F-G-A-B-C-D	Dorian b2
    Eb	Eb+5 maj7 (9th, #11th, 13th)	Eb-F-G-A-B-C-D-Eb	Lydian Augmented
    F	F7 (b9th, #11th, 13th)	F-G-A-B- C-D-Eb-F	Lydian b7
    G	G7   (9th, 11th, b13th)	G-A-B- C-D-Eb-F-G	Mixolydian b6
    A	Am7-5 (9th, 11th, b13th)	A-B- C-D-Eb- F-G-A	Locrian nat2
    B	Bm7-5(b9th,b/#11th,b13th)	B- C-D-Eb- F-G-A-B	Superlocrian, Altered over B7Alt
    
    
    Harmonic minor: 	1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7-8		
    C	Cm maj7 (9th, 11th, b13th)	C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-B-C	C harmonic minor
    D	Dm7-5 (b9th, 11th, 13th)	D-Eb-F-G-Ab-B-C-D	Locrian Nat 6
    Eb	Eb+5 maj7 (9th, 11th, 13th)	Eb-F-G-Ab-B-C-D-Eb	Ionian #5
    F	Fm7 (9th, #11th, 13th)	F-G-Ab-B- C-D-Eb-F	Dorian #4
    G	G7 (b9th, 11th, b13th)	G-Ab-B- C-D-Eb-F-G	Phrygian Nat3, G7/Ab scale
    Ab	Ab maj7 (#9th,# 11th, 13th)	Ab-B- C-D-Eb- F-G-Ab	Lydian #2
    B	B dim (b9th, b11th, b13th)	B- C-D-Eb- F-G-Ab-B	Altered bb7

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Couple of points worth adding to gersdal's chart:

    In minor keys, you don't often get harmonisations from melodic minor, except on the tonic chord. And harmonic minor modes tend to occur only on the V chord.
    Eg, the III chord in a minor key is rarely an augmented chord (from melodic or harmonic minor); more commonly a plain major, from the natural minor scale.

    Indeed, in jazz, harmonic minor is barely used at all, and they prefer more exotic scales to improvise with on the V chord. (Eg, half-whole diminished on a 7b9.)
    However, the melodic minor modes (in jazz) occur frequently in other places.
    So you might get the 7th mode (superlocrian or altered) used on the root of a V chord (eg, F melodic minor on E7 in key of A minor).
    The other common mode is the 4th (lydian dominant), used on bII chords, which are subs for V chords. This turns out to be the same as the altered scale in fact. Eg, in key of A minor, a Bb7#11 chord takes the Bb lydian dominant scale - which is F melodic minor again. Bb7#11 is essentially the same chord as E7alt; only the root is different. Both resolve to Am.

  12. #12
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    This is all great information I've added it to my favorites so I can come back to it. Great reference material.

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    Jesus Christ, I know so little.

    Sheesh. :P

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    Shouldn't a good guitarist be able to come up with a chord progression twenty chords long?
    technically a good guitarist could go forever and write a hugely long song that always changes constantly and never repeats that could go on for like days on end.

    classical music is more like this than modern music that tends to be more simple and loop more.


    but imo really a good guitarist is not one that does anything that you can analyze theoretically.

    just one that plays good music, simpel or not.


    so to me really a guitarist is not one that writes long chord progressions but one that does great thigns with the short ones.


    but you did say could and not should, so then ya i guess a great guitarist should be able to do that, though whether they would is a different story i guess.

  15. #15
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    I just have a nother question semi off topic, i hear alot of stuff about harmonic minor and melodic minor like you have in your chart, but i'm just wondering what you use those for.

    also, are those scales the same pattern as the major scale?


    or another way to ask it would be, let's say we took all the major scales of every key, and all their modes, and all the melodic minor keys and all the harmonic minor ones, how many different patterns woudl we have? 3?

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