Tip #242 – Changing a Voicing Midway

Most people when writing or performing music tend to stick to one chord voicing for a harmony. While this is perfectly okay to do, this can lead into having trouble to voice leading because there is a limit to possibilities.

Often, composers don’t practice re-voicing a harmony. For example: if you have an A major seventh chord that lasts a measure long, try a different voicing at the halfway point.

Here is another example of it in action:

Try it out and see if it makes transitions sound smoother and give the piece more interest/variety!

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Tip #240 – Add Some Nice Crunch

One way to add some nice density to your chords for some unsettling atmosphere is by adding tones that will creating a m2 interval.

Triads, as you know, are made up of combinations of major and minor thirds. Dissonance mostly occurs in the stacking of two minor thirds or two major thirds (a diminished and augmented triad, respectively).

By either adding a fourth to a major triad, or a second to a minor triad, you create the really dissonant m2 interval:

Not only can it make the sound spooky, but add2 and aad4 chords can create some nice clusters for density purposes.

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Tip #236 – Squishing Down Voicing Possibilities

Say you have a harmonic progression like this:

There is an unlimited amount of possibilities in regards to how you can voice them to have good voice leading.

A quick two rule for harmonic voicings is to determine the bottom and the top by:

  1. Keeping the root/bass note at the bottom
  2. Make a roughly stagnant melodic line at the top.

This is because the chord voicings are to give harmony and nothing else; not to give a counter melody that will interfere.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 35.) Building Seventh-Chords from Scales

Now, we are going to be covering where all of these different kinds of seventh-chords appear within a key by building them off of different scale degrees.

First, we will take the major scale:

Notice how there are only four different seventh chord possibilities: the major seventh, minor seventh, half-diminished seventh, and dominant seventh. This should be pretty easy to memorize.

As for the natural minor scale, it is just a reordering of the major scale:

Now, we add the leading tone for the harmonic minor scale:

The harmonic minor scale, because of the raised leading tone, creates an augmented seventh as well as a fully-diminished seventh. Also, we have a seventh-chord we have never discussed before… the minor-major seventh which is a minor triad with a M7 interval from the root on top:

Finally, the melodic minor scale:

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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:

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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.

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Tip #232 – Root-less Chords

By default, when you eliminate the root from being at the bottom of a chord, it becomes an inversion of itself.

This can become a useful tool when constructing a bass line by avoiding the root in order to give an unstable feeling or imply a different harmony.

So, now the question is, how does the bass move?

Before, we talked about the root of one chord harmony move to the root of the next. What does one do when it is either the third, sixth, or seventh in the bass.

Above anything else: experiment. However, it might be wise to connect similar notes or move stepwise. Meaning, if the third of one chord harmony is the same as the seventh of the next, keep on that note.

Play with these ideas and see how they can improve with building bass lines.

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