There is so much to think about when discussing chord progressions it boggles the mind.
A good starting point in understanding chord progressions is the flow inherent in most any musical piece. Fast or slow, happy or sad, poignant or ludicrous, rebellious or patriotic each tune is built around defining the flow of the piece reflected in style, tempo, rhythmic and harmonic structure.
There are two basic overall rhythmic flow types in music: vertical and horizontal. A good example of vertical music would be a John Philips Sousa march where the rhythm is defined by micro stops in time enforced by emphasis. A good example of horizontal music would be a Bill Evans ballad that magically floats thru time and space. Most tunes are somewhere in between.
Musical compositions are based on establishing a tonal center, going away from it, coming back to it. How you do this is dictated by the style of music and the level of the composer/arranger. There are 3 basic types of harmonic chordal progression: diatonic scale motion (Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7,etc.), cycle of fifthing (C7,F7, Bb7, Eb7, etc.) and going from relative major to relative minor (Cmaj7 – Am7). You must remember that these progression types have been noted in a simplified manner. The amount of sophistication, creativity and inventiveness that can be applied is endless. The goal of jazz progressions is to proceed fluidly forward with no effort.
When I was a young person I was always amazed by anyone who could play anything. Since I didn’t know a lot about the technical, theoretical end of music I was easily impressed by anything that sounded good to my untrained ears. I didn’t realize that that was as far as most people took it, they just liked it or they didn’t and that was all there was to it.
I wanted to play and I wanted to be good but I didn’t know how. What happened, because I didn’t understand how or why, is that I placed myself in a position of un-understanding which hindered my musical growth for many years. I hadn’t been shown and I wasn’t a savant. I lacked a good music education and my musical growth suffered until I came in contact with competent teachers who had experience and knowledge.
It took me the longest time to start writing drum parts. How could I do that? I wasn’t a drummer. It wasn’t until I asked Bill Muha, a drummer in one of my bands, for advice and he told me that drumming really clicked for him when he finally got the basic swing beat. In 4/4 time the snare on 1 & 3, the bass drum on 2 & 4 and the ride cymbal on 1, the and of 2 and 4. I went home and wrote that rhythm into my Finale software program and played it back. Lo and behold my understanding clicked. Here was a rhythmic flow defined by a combination of 3 simple parts. Granted this isn’t the end all of drumming but it allowed me to open my mind and place my feet on solid ground to proceed forward. Thanks Bill.
Music – the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.
Noise – random or unpleasant sound.
Playing music for the trained musician is manipulating patterns in sound. The patterns manifest themselves in melodies, bass lines, rhythmic figures and harmonic structures. The ways that these components fit together are many and varied. It is interesting to note that the basic rules of music theory aren’t man made ideas, they are the result of people listening to what sound does with itself and were compiled over many years.
There are savant players, but for many of us musical freedom is achieved through an intense study of scales, bass lines, chord changes and rhythms until we start seeing the inherent patterns in music and can start to extrapolate upon them and come up with new ways to play within the system.
We can insert uncommon musical patterns into tunes as long as we do it properly. In general it is done by going out of the norm and coming back in. In most types of music there is a tone center which must be dealt with and genre considerations.
Listen to the blues lick and note the descending whole tone scale fit in where it normally should not be. It fits because it is a pattern within itself and is properly resolved back into the blues structure.
It goes without saying that practice makes perfect. Practice will even improve natural talent and when it is coupled with consistent lessons with a knowledgeable teacher the only limit is the inherent ability of the student.
It is important when learning an instrument and how to play that the student comes in contact with the best teacher available as soon as possible. One should not think that it is a good idea to get comfortable with the instrument and learn a few things on their own and then get an instructor. Unless you are one of those very few people, people who are born with the ability to play as in being a savant, you end up doing more damage to your playing then you realize. First impressions are very strong both physically and mentally, especially in matters of technique. It can take the student six months to correct an incorrect first impression experience on an instrument.
Even savants would benefit from being shown how to properly physically approach an instrument as far as hand and body position. What feels naturally comfortable is not always the best way. In your everyday life you don’t hold your hands and body in a manner conducive for playing. You need to be shown and allow your hands and body to open up to the correct physical positions. Eventually you will adopt your own particular playing style though it is really best to wait until you have mastered the “proper” way to play before you start making personal technique decisions.
The Old Man
In music, what is the difference between major and minor?
This is an extremely loaded question with mountains of information waiting to tumble down upon us. To make it easier to handle let’s narrow it down to what is the “effect” of major and minor in music, and more importantly, what is the effect on the listener.
The foundation of Western Music is the major scale and the harmonic possibilities (chords) within it. This series of notes comes to us directly from the Greek modes. If we take the note series C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C there is a half-step between E&F and B&C, all other notes are a whole step apart. The Greek modes go from A-A, B-B, etc. all the way to G-G with the half step intervals shifting position because E&F and B&C are a half step apart and all the other notes are a whole step apart regardless of where they are used or what scale they are being used in. There are 7 Greek modes: the Ionian mode is from C-C and is commonly referred to today as the Major scale and the Aeolian mode is from A-A and is commonly referred to today as the Minor scale. These 2 scales, major and minor, share the same notes, the only difference between them is where they start and stop. Another way to put it would be to say how they resolve or come to rest within the listener’s ears.
The major scale is used to denote: good, air, light, positivity. The minor scale is used to denote: evil, darkness, mystery, sadness.
When we play or compose music properly, what we are really doing is giving voice to feelings and emotions that reside within us. These feelings and emotions that are communicated are not in result of some man made system of audio processing, they are the result of the effect that these particular patterns in sound have and always have had on human beings. The study of music theory in the West has always been based on what the sound is telling us. We listen and then make up rules on music theory and harmony.
If you’re writing a happy song chances are your first chord would be C, and if you had just lost a loved one Cm.