Tip #175 – Harmonizing a Chromatic Scale with Secondary Dominants

Once you see the process to doing this, you aren’t going to forget it.

Now, say that you have a diatonic melodic line like the one below with the notes appearing in sequential order:

Between each of the diatonic notes, we are going to approach each with a chromatic note. It should look like this now:

Okay, from here we are going to harmonize the diatonic notes with triads within the key. For the simplicity of this tip, the notes will act as the root of the chords:

Finally, it is time to add the secondary dominants. A secondary dominant is the “V7” chord proceeding before a chord it wants to temporarily tonicize. It just so happens that those chromatic tones are part of the secondary dominants we are going to build:

Our progression is now I – V7/ii – ii – V7/iii – iii , all built on a chromatic line!

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Tip #148 – Reducing Dominant Chords to Three-Note Harmonies

Tailgating on the idea of being limited to a three-part harmony; you are going to have to make some choices if you want the sound of a dominant chord, but can only voice three notes.

To remind: a dominant chord is a major triad with a b7 interval above it (and is usually decorated with extra upper extensions as well as tension tones).

So…

Whenever the root, 9, b9, #9, 11, +11, 13, or b13 is in the melody – support it with the 3rd and b7th of the chord underneath it.

Whenever the 3rd or 5th is in the melody of the dominant chord – support it with the b7th, and the remaining 5th or 3rd.

Whenever the b7th is in the melody – support it with the 3rd and 5th underneath it.

Whenever there is an alternation or substitution in the dominant chord – keep it, but make sure the distance between the two upper notes is not a m2.

And more so…

Keep this in mind as you plan how to do a harmonic arrangement and support of your musical work.

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Tip #107 – Dominant Chords Resolving Onto Themselves

I noticed this interesting chord progression idea in some heavy metal riffs.

Usually, a V chord resolves to I – that is something we know happens commonly in music.

However, for today’s tip, we will talk about how the dominant chord can resolve to a minor chord version of itself, containing the same root.

Observe the progression below:

Notice how we set up for a cadence in F# minor with the C#7 chord. However, it resolves to a F#7 chord. We think that we have possibly modulated to B Major/minor, or started a circle of fifths progression – but no! Instead, the F#7 chord resolves to a F# minor triad.

With good voice leading, this can work very smoothly. Most of the chord notes are kept the same – only difference being the change from the major third to a minor third, which is just a half-step.

This creates a “deceptive” resolution (and I use this term loosely because there is already a term for a “deceptive cadence”) while smoothly creating momentum back to the minor tonic area**.

**Note, this progression only works if the tonic is in minor.

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