Tip #233 – Expanding to Give a Neo-Soul Sound

There are many aspects that define a music genre. The kinds of harmonies, rhythms, lyrics, chord progressions, fashion, etc. all help classify a piece of music.

Before we get into a debate of whether labels are good or bad, it is skill for composers to know what makes a genre to draw direct inspirations from.

We are going to talk about how simply expanding the harmony of your chord choices and voicings can give your piece of music an interesting neo-soul feel.

Take a look below at some common chord types (never mind the key):

Typically, you would use some major chords, minor chords, dominant seventh, and diminished chords to write a song. To give it a neo-soul flavor, try expanding the harmonies this way:

  • Major Triad -> Major Ninth Sharp Eleventh
  • Minor Triad -> Minor Eleventh
  • Dominant Seventh -> Dominant Thirteenth Sus 4
  • Diminished Triad -> Altered Dominants

Also, taking inspiration from modal harmonies are re-voicing in quartal harmonies (of stacked fourth), can give your piece a neo-soul sound. Basically, jazz harmonies will be your best friend in this.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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