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Thread: How do I know which chords resolve to what?

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  1. #1
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    Question How do I know which chords resolve to what?

    Hey, How do I figure out which chords resolve to what, does it have to do with the notes involved or what?

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    Hey, How do I figure out which chords resolve to what, does it have to do with the notes involved or what?
    Sheesh, so many questions! Some folks here are running out of patience...
    A lot of what you're asking you can answer yourself by trying it out. You sound like you need to do a lot more playing and listening, in general.

    Yes, it "has to do with the notes involved" - how could it not? What else would be involved?
    Just play through some sequences from songs (look them up) and listen to how the chords change.
    In particular look for 7th chords: they contain more tension than plain triads.

    Play this:

    -1-
    -0-
    -0-
    -0-
    -2-
    -3-

    ...then this:

    -0-
    -1-
    -0-
    -2-
    -3-
    -x-

    ...that's the sound of "resolution". Listen in particular to the top 2 strings. Notice the tension there in the first chord, and how the change to the 2nd chord smooths it out, as if answering a question.

    (I hope you know what these two chords are called. If not, I'm outa here...)

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    Sorry, lol Yeah, I know I'm asking alot but this site is just so helpful! And I have so much I want to know! And the chords are G7 and C but I mean like something like a Asus4?

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    your getting into more depth theory, which means you will have to learn something that proceed this sort of thing to understand whats happening. If you are will it can be explained. Just depends on how indepth you want to go.

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    Sorry, lol Yeah, I know I'm asking alot but this site is just so helpful! And I have so much I want to know! And the chords are G7 and C but I mean like something like a Asus4?
    OK...
    A sus4 - or "suspended 4th" in full - is a classical tension that resolves by the 4th moving down to a major 3rd. Like this:

    -0--------
    -3->>-2---
    -2--------
    -2--------
    -0--------
    ----------

    That's an Asus4 chord, with the D (on 2nd string) resolving down to C#. (The >> is not a tab technique, just the direction of resolution!)

    But in modern music, sus4 chords don't need to resolve at all. We often quite like them unresolved. A famous Herbie Hancock tune called "Maiden Voyage" consists of four 7sus4 chords on different roots, and in different keys. None of them resolve.
    The year before that came out. the Beatles issued "A Hard Days Night", which began (famously) with an unresolved G7sus4 chord:

    -3-
    -3-
    -5-
    -3-
    -5-
    -3-

    Hit that hard and loud. Sounds cool, right?
    Classically, one would expect it to proceed as follows:
    G7sus4 G7 C
    -3-----3---3----
    -3-----3---5----
    -5-----4---5----
    -3-----3---5----
    -5-----5---3----
    -3-----3-------

    - but they just went straight into a progression in G major. It was slightly surprising, and they never pursued the idea in later tunes. (It was jazz guys like Hancock that - thanks to pre-existing modal jazz ideas - understood the implications and took it further.)

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    OK so what I'm wondering is you said that the Asus4 moves down to a major 3rd, I'm wondering if there's a site that like lists what all the chords resolve to?

  7. #7
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    Sorry, lol Yeah, I know I'm asking alot but this site is just so helpful! And I have so much I want to know! And the chords are G7 and C but I mean like something like a Asus4?
    OK since you did fill out your profile, and I now see you are not going into Middle School this year. Was I close on salesman or attorney?

    The sus chords like to get back to their parent. Asus4 wants to move to the A chord. Csus4 wants to get back to the C. Can it go other places? Sure.

    I use sus chords with lyric words that use more than one melody note, i.e. Ma-ry Csus2 on "Ma" and then C on "ry". much easier on keyboard than fretboard. Try a C - Csus2 - Csus4 - C makes a great ending to a song.

    This hitch hikes on what jon said about the G7-C.
    http://www.cyberfret.com/theory/how-...work/index.php
    Last edited by Malcolm; 08-24-2009 at 08:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm
    OK since you did fill out your profile, and I now see you are not going into Middle School this year. Was I close on salesman or attorney
    Huh? LOL

    Anyway, I'm starting to get all of this, the thing I'm looking for is like something that tells you which chords resolve to what and like what each sounds like? Let's say I'm writing a song and I want a certain sound but I have no idea what chord can achieve it, I'm wondering if there's like a reference thing that can help me?

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    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    Huh? LOL

    Anyway, I'm starting to get all of this, the thing I'm looking for is like something that tells you which chords resolve to what and like what each sounds like? Let's say I'm writing a song and I want a certain sound but I have no idea what chord can achieve it, I'm wondering if there's like a reference thing that can help me?
    The only "reference thing" that's ultimately going to tell you what resolutions "sound like" or which chord will give you "a certain sound" is your ears - as has been suggested, you aren't going to get there without a lot - I mean a LOT - of actually playing and LISTENING.

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    Anyway, I'm starting to get all of this, the thing I'm looking for is like something that tells you which chords resolve to what and like what each sounds like? Let's say I'm writing a song and I want a certain sound but I have no idea what chord can achieve it, I'm wondering if there's like a reference thing that can help me?
    Not AFAIK.
    I can see how it looks as if such a thing would be useful - and how there ought to be some resource somewhere.
    But the point is that so much of this either (a) depends on context, or (b) is a matter of personal taste anyway.
    One could write down a list of various chord effects and chord change effects. But then there would be so many exceptions and variations, so manh ifs and buts, that all the points would start to bleed into one another.

    So the sound of one particular chord (or chord change) will be different depending on what's come before, or on how the chord is voiced or inverted, or on the rhythm or timing, or on any number of other things. You can't say that chord "X" will always want to go to chord "Y". (Chords don't "want" things. People want things... )

    Take a look at this, which is the nearest thing I've found to what I think you're asking for:
    http://mugglinw.ipower.com/chordmaps/genmap.htm
    - looks comprehensive and convincing, right? But not only is it (a) a bit of a mess (some chords occur twice; what do the shapes mean?), but (b) not every eventuality is shown, not by a long way. And some common changes are omitted and some less common ones included; or less common ones are made to seem more common than they are.
    IOW, this is one way of showing, graphically, a whole bunch of possible chord moves within a major key. But that's all it is.
    And it doesn't, of course, tell you what any of this SOUNDS like! (How could it?)
    (Still, you may find some useful hints elsewhere on that site. Or you may not... )

    The way to achieve those sounds you want is simple (in principle anyhow ):

    1. How do you know what sound you want, to begin with? Because you've heard something like it before. (You must have) So the answer is - find where you heard it, and work out how they did it.
    2. Of course, that's working backwards. Maybe you forgot where you heard it? So the conclusion then is:
    3. Listen to songs constantly, and take note of particular effects that grab your ear. Find the tab or chord chart (or work it out by ear). You may find it's not what you thought. (Eg, a particular mood might not be down to the scale or chord, but the tempo, or choice of instruments or effects.)
    4. In particular, PLAY as many songs as you can - whether you like them, or have even heard them before. (Eg, you can get hold of compilation songbooks and just strum through the sequences one by one.)
    5. Also, experiment with your instrument. You can discover new chord sounds this way. (New to you, that is. It's not possible to invent a new chord that no one else has discovered.)

    There ARE certain standard (common) practices in chord progressions, that will let you achieve standard common effects. IOW, make you sound like an old-fashioned pop songwriter, if that's what you want.
    By far the most important concept is the cycle of 5ths. That means (in this context) chords whose roots move down in 5ths, or up in 4ths. This is a familiar and predictable move, and the vast majority of classical and jazz sequences employ it.
    Eg, in key of C, you'd get this:
    C-F-Bdim-Em-Am-Dm-G-C. (I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I)
    (You'd rarely get all the chords used this way, but strings of 3 or 4 are very common.)
    The second most important concept is how you can mess with that to make it more interesting (because let's face it, it's pretty boring like that). You can sum these up as:
    1. Making minor chords into majors (dom7s). This is generally the same thing as "secondary dominant" (see other threads).
    2. Using tritone substitutes (also see other threads).

    A third concept (remembering this is the major key we're talking about) is to mix it up with the parallel minor (again, see other threads). We can use chords from C minor, such as Eb, Bb, Ab or Fm.

    But really the point here is that these rules (even the alteration concepts) will produce dull music if followed to the letter. We've heard it all before. (Because that's how these things get to be "rules" in the first place! )
    Good music needs an element of surprise. And you can only introduce that through your own judgement. And - again - that comes from listening to stuff and looking out for surprises: "wtf was THAT chord change???" It could be anything. If there were rules to cover it, then it wouldn't be surprising, would it?

    Lastly, though - ALL of the above is still getting things somewhat back-to-front. When composing, you DON'T start from a chord sequence. Ideally, you begin with a melodic phrase.
    Sing something. You can't sing a chord, right? You can only sing one note at a time. So "songs" begin as strings of single notes: melodies. Chords are just a way of filling them out, supporting and enhancing them.
    (Even when people do start with chord sequences - as a lot of rock composers do - they have to be hearing melodic movements between the chords, such as bass lines or inner voice-leading. And it's not a song until someone sings something over it.)

  12. #12
    Did I say that out loud ? joeyd929's Avatar
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    Resolved and unresolved

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma View Post
    Hey, How do I figure out which chords resolve to what, does it have to do with the notes involved or what?
    I was wondering if anyone has any insight regarding "resolved" and "Unresolved" chords. I was doing some research and discovered some interesting information that has helped me in regards to progressions and resolution.

    For example if you take the Key of C Major and add the F note, you have a perfect fourth. C and F is an unresolved interval. The article explains that in any key but C for this example, three of the chords do NOT have F in them, this would be the I VI and III. Of course these three chords are C Major in nature, Eminor7 is CMajor9 and Aminor7 is CMajor6. Anyway, these are considered "Resolved" because they do not have the F note in them.

    The remaining 4 chords are considered "Unresolved". I am referring of course, to the II IV V and VII. The II has DFAC. Notice C and F are in there, just like the IV chord has C and F in it, once again, the unresolved interval.

    The V and VII do NOT have C in them but once again, based on C ionian, F is "unresolved" against C.

    Sooooo, what does this all mean? I pasted part of the article here, which explains it.


    ""To sum this up we could say that the Ionian scale contains two different sounds sound with Fs and sound without Fs. I like to call the CMaj7, Emi7, Ami7 (1,3,6 chords) Resolved and the Dmi7, FMaj7, G7 Bmi7b5 (2,4,5,7) Unresolved. Remember that Resolved and Unresolved are just words to differentiate between the sounds. We could use the words black and orange. If the 4 of key (F tone in the key of C) is being played it is Unresolved no matter which other tones in the key are being played with it. If the 4 is not being played, it’s a Resolved. This means our scale only has two sounds out of the 7 chords. Example Progressions: Key of G
    Ami7,D7,GMaj7 (2,5,1)
    (2 bars of Unresolved and 1 bar or Resolved)
    has the same function as D7,CMaj7,Bmi7 (5,4,3)
    or Ami,F#mi7b5,Emi7 (2,7,6)
    or CMaj7,D7,GMaj7 (4,5,1)
    of course you have to be able to do this in all the keys.""

    The article I am referring to can be downloaded at this link.
    http://www.trimcrafters.com/Theory.zip

    For me this is great information because I knew something was missing from what I could understand and what I was hearing other experienced jazz players do. This puts some perspective on the whole thing for me. Its more like progression substitution , very cool indeed.

    Any1?
    Last edited by joeyd929; 09-29-2010 at 12:54 AM.
    Joey D




  13. #13
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    The issue with the 4th of the scale - the reason it is dissonant against the tonic (more than any other note in the scale) - is that it is not part of the harmonic series of the root, and all the others are (although some, like the maj7, are some way up).
    Not only that, but C is a strong harmonic of F, so any time F is played (in key of C) it threatens to take over root role, esp if combined with a C note.
    In a C-F perfect 4th, F is the acoustic root. When combined with a C-G 5th, however, the latter is stronger, so the F becomes a strong tension (suspension), that has to resolve downwards. IOW, its root "claim" is defeated by that of C.

    There's also a theory that lydian mode is the most stable mode, because all 7 notes make consonant intervals with the root. That's another reason why F in key of C is a disruptive note in the tonality - it's directly opposed to a tonic on C.
    Of course, that tension is what keeps the major key alive, contributes all the movement we enjoy. Music in lydian mode, in contrast, would be very static, even (perhaps) a little stiff.
    The role of Ionian as a stronger tonality than lydian (despite that awkward perfect 4th) is helped by the resolution of the tritone. B-F in key of C naturally resolves to C-E, root and 3rd of the tonic triad. So that helps keep F lydian at bay, as it were.
    IOW, an Fmaj7#11 chord may well sound very consonant on its own - but as soon as we draw the F down to E, and the B up to C, its power is reduced, and C (triad) takes over.

  14. #14
    Did I say that out loud ? joeyd929's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    In a C-F perfect 4th, F is the acoustic root. When combined with a C-G 5th, however, the latter is stronger, so the F becomes a strong tension (suspension), that has to resolve downwards. IOW, its root "claim" is defeated by that of C.
    In reference to the acoustic root, would that apply to other types of chords like b5 chords, or #9 and b9 chords, it seems as though these tones pull the ear away from the real root so would these be accoustic roots also? Also, minor chords sort of have that affect in some way to my ear, when the third is flatted it pulls away from the root maybe?
    Joey D




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    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeyd929 View Post
    In reference to the acoustic root, would that apply to other types of chords like b5 chords, or #9 and b9 chords, it seems as though these tones pull the ear away from the real root so would these be accoustic roots also? Also, minor chords sort of have that affect in some way to my ear, when the third is flatted it pulls away from the root maybe?
    Acoustic roots depend on how well the chord tones relate to each other in simple ratios, from which we can calculate an acoustic root.
    Eg, for the notes E-G, they have (near enough) a 5:6 ratio. So the acoustic root is the E frequency divided by 5, or the G divided by 6 - which gives a C (same C in both cases of course).
    When you have alterations you rarely get easy ratios like that - or, if you do, they point to roots which (at first glance anyway) are not related to the functional purpose of the chord.
    E.g, supposing those E and G notes were the 7th and b9 of an altered F#7 chord? The acoustic root of C is interesting, of course, because C7 would be a tritone sub for F#7, and would perform the same function.

    What about a b5? How does it work for (say) a m7b5 chord).
    Take the notes B-D-F-A (Bm7b5). There are six intervals in this chord, all pointing in different directions:
    B-D: acoustic root = G
    D-F: acoustic root = Bb
    F-A: acoustic root = F
    D-A: acoustic root = D (strong)
    B-A: acoustic root = A (weak)
    B-F: tritone - no clear acoustic root, because there are two or three possible pure ratios which it could be representing. One of them (5:7) points to G as the root - seemingly backing up the B-D 3rd. Another (7:10) points to Db, the tritone sub of G. The other one (12:17) is closest to the equal tempered tritone, but is a pretty remote ratio, and therefore unconvincing for a root indication (it points to E, in fact, so is pretty unhelpful anyway).

    So the best we seem to come up with is that Bm7b5 is really a rootless G9 - which makes a lot of sense if we are thinking key of C major (both resolve to C).
    The alternative (also musically sensible) is that it's an inverted Dm6, which makes a little more sense for the typical jazz use of a Bm7b5 in the key of A minor: both Dm6 and Bm7b5 make good chords to lead to the V (E7).

    Your observation about minor chords is correct IMO - the 3rd does "pull away" from the given chord root.
    It could be that the reason they sound more "mysterious", "intense" or "moody" than a major triad is because the m3 has no easy acoustic relationship with the chord root.
    Unlike a major triad, the acoustic root of a minor triad is not the nominal root of the chord. The nearest pure ratios for a minor triad are 10:12:15. For an Am chord, that points to an acoustic root of F (albeit a very low one).
    The 3-way ratios make the chord hang together convincingly enough as a harmonic entity - and the perfect 5th seems a good strong indicator of the nominal root - but there is that odd sense of mystery about its sound, because of that 3rd.
    One might also argue for a C root (because of the C-E major 3rd), but that doesn't really hold water unless there is also a G in the chord.

    In short, I think the concept of acoustic roots - while based on physics - is of limited use in explaining musical effects. It helps to explain roots of intervals, and the strength of a very simple chord like the major triad, but doesn't really help (apparently) with the way more complex chords work. There are many other factors at work, esp familiarity with certain sounds - where we don't respond to the physical acoustic nature of them so much as their familiarity. IOW, we don't need to respond to the frequency interactions, just recognise the overall sound as something that has a place in a sequence. Eg, if we hear an E7#5#9 chord, we don't (generally) marvel at the incredibly rich mix of sonorities, and get lost trying to hear a root that makes sense of it - we just hear "chord about to lead to an Am". IOW, we recognise it the same way we recognise a face: we don't need to "put 2 and 2 together", as it were, we just see "4".
    And in real music, of course, we are hearing melodic movement between chords. An occasional dissonance needn't have any internal meaning of its own, as long as we perceive how the voices lead to something more consonant.
    Last edited by JonR; 09-30-2010 at 12:02 AM.

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