Tip #161 – Cheat-Sheet for Building Large Eight-Part Chord Structures

Previously, we have talked about reimagining the idea of eight-part chord structures. Instead of thinking the chords as one big harmony, we can mentally divide the chord into two different chords at smaller harmonic density – and then from there, arrange the two chords into unique voicings.

Below is a cheat-sheet on how to build these large chord structures:

To read the cheat-sheet, start by deciding what chord harmony/family you want to do in the left-most column. Then, you will notice that each selection is made up of two horizontal rows. The bottom horizontal rows are chord harmonies that work best for the bottom half. Likewise, the upper horizontal row is of chord harmonies that work best for the upper half.

If the chord is highlighted in light blues, that means that it is most optimal to use if you want the root to be in the melody.

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Tip #160 – Cheat-Sheet for Pairing Scales and Chords Together

Many times I hear among jazz musicians the idea of what scale(s) should go with what chord harmony.

It makes sense to understand what scale works best with what harmony so that you know which pitches to chose from when constructing a melody, improvisation, counterpoint, etc.

Below is a lengthy (but not perfect) cheat-sheet for multiple kids of scales, and what chords work best:

Note that this graph is turned on its side so that it can fit your screen better. To turn it, simply download the picture and edit it with a rotation app.

To read this cheat-sheet, find the scale you want starting on the right scale degree of the key that you are in. From there, look at the harmonic possibilities as the Roman numerals relate to the key that you are in.

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Tip #159 – Reframing Thoughts on Eight-Part Chord Structures

Say that you are being extravagant and want to incorporate a chord like this into your composition:

This is a D7(b9 b13) chord with the doubling of the root at the top.

Instead of thinking of this as one big chord, you can divide it in half and get this result:

Now, you have a D7 chord on the bottom with an Ebmaj7 chord above it.

Thinking of large chords at a micro level can help with voicing. Now that we know that the D7(b9 b13) chord is really just a combination of the two chords (D7 and Ebmaj7), we can essentially “divide and conquer” with solving how we want to voice the chord harmony:

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Tip #155 – Building Four-Part Closed Fifth Clusters

Once again, the title of today’s tip might sound a bit intimidating… but it is a lot more simpler than you think.

Today, we will be talking about building clusters that span over the harmonic interval distance of a perfect fifth by using only four different pitches.

Basically, to build a closed fifth cluster, you take a melody and harmonize underneath it by a perfect fifth interval. Then, you “fill in the middle” with the diatonic minor third of major fifth. So, now you have a bunch of triads. Finally, you add a note a perfect fourth below the melody note. And there you go, harmonization built from closed fifth clusters:

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Tip #154 – Cheat-Sheet for Four-Part Fourth Structures

Okay, the title may seem really confusing, but this is what it is:

This post is about how to create fourth structures (harmonies built on intervals of fourths) with four notes.

To read the cheat-sheet below, take a melody note and decide what function is it in relation to the chord. Then, you add three remaining chord member notes below it. Finally, you analyze the chord in relation to the melody note being the tonic:

So, say that I have the note A, and I want it to be the m3 of a chord:

Because A is the m3 of the chord, that means the notes below it (from highest to lowest) are E as the b7, B as the 11, and F# as the root 1. We can thus analyze this as vi 11 in the key of A major:

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Tip #153 – Dropped Voices

For the longest time, I had no idea what people meant by “use a ‘drop-2’ voicing on that chord.” That terminology was unfamiliar to me at the time. However, I am here no to tell you all so that you don’t end up in the same situation as I was of not knowing.

Dropped voicing is a simple way of creating an open position chord voicing by lowering specific notes by an octave.

First, you start with a chord (usually, in four-part density with the melody note doubled) just like the examples below:

Then to do “drop-2,” you simply drop the second voice from the top an octave down:

This can also be done as “drop-3” or “drop-4” depending on your liking of the sound. In addition, you can combine certain ones together. Most typically, arrangers use “drop-2 & 4” in their scores:

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Tip #151 – Using Fourth Structures in Harmonization

Continuing with a topic discussed the other day, we are going to take a look at how we can harmonize a melody using these fourth structures.

First, start off with a melody:

Then, add the diatonic fourth below the melody (this can either be a P4 or a tritone):

Now, we are going to do a closed fourth voicing, which means that we will add a third below the melody note. However, for the harmony that has a tritone, we are going to add a third ABOVE the bottom note:

If we instead wanted to do open fourths, we would need to stack two intervals of a fourth on top of each other. So, that simply means adding another fourth below the fourth from the previous example:

But, notice how the one with X’s have a tritone in them. Technically, that does not exactly fit the definition of an open fourth structure. To edit this, we use chromatics to adjust the harmonic intervals:

And there you go!

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