Tip #235 – Neo-Soul Progressions

This is a generalization – so that means that there are certainly more chord progressions found in the music of neo-soul than just this, but this is a good place to start.

Also, keep in mind that the chords in these examples are just the basic triads and seventh-chords, and not the expanded voices we talked about in a previous post. We will just be talking about root movement today.

What I have found interesting about neo-soul music, is that instead of where most pop music starts in the I chord and uses the V7 chord at the end of a repeated section to get back to the I chord in the beginning, neo-soul does the opposite:

Starting on the V7 or its variants give an instability to then resolve on the I chord on the weaker measure of the vamp. This keeps the motion rolling.

Then, there is the use of parallel motions (especially by minor chords) where the chord quality doesn’t change, but the root does:

Finally, a common neo-soul chord progression is movement by thirds. Music tends to follow the common circle-of-fifth, where the roots move by descending fifths. Moving by either ascending or descending thirds can give a neo-soul feel to your music:

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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