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 #225 – To Resolve In or Out

Say your song is based off of a group chords on repeat.  Do you have you progression resolve within the loop…

…or outside the loop…

…or does it really matter?  Do the two options really make a difference?

While one can argue that they don’t, there is a difference in motion between the two.  When you resolve within the loop, you have a return to “home” and completion.  Think of this like picking up a book, coming to an ending, and then picking up a new story.

As for when you resolve outside the loop, your momentum is continuous because the resolution takes place on the start of a new loop.  This is like reading a book then ends off with a “To Be Continued” cliff-hanger to lead into the next book.

Experiment with the two and see which feels right for your piece.

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Tip #221 – About a Line Cliché

What is a line cliché and is it really a cliché?

Commonly found in jazz music, a line cliché is…

  • A line moving between relatively stagnant chord harmonies
  • Either ascending or descending
  • Going chromatically (more typical) or diatonic
  • Staying at the bottom, top, or in the middle of the harmony
  • Usually the root, fifth, sixth, or seventh of the harmony

An example would be like such:

We have talked about these before in previous posts, especially with inner lines movements between harmonic changes.

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Tip #218 – Spicing-Up the Middle to your 12-Bar Blues

The typical 12-Bar blues format is, of course, made up of 12 measures.  In addition, it features predominantly only three chords: the I7 , IV7 , and V7.

You can also divide the format into different sections (or as I call “rows” when visually represented on a graph or piece of sheet music) based on when the emphasis is, as well as where you begin a new lyric line to the verses:

Today, I am going to be giving you a list of examples to ways you can alter the middle section of a 12-Bar blues:

Notice the similarities and differences between them. In addition, see how the last chord of the “row” leads into the last 4 measures. Some of them might work well together while others may not.

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Tip #217 – Spicing-Up the End to your 12-Bar Blues

The typical 12-Bar blues format is, of course, made up of 12 measures.  In addition, it features predominantly only three chords: the I7 , IV7 , and V7.

You can also divide the format into different sections (or as I call “rows” when visually represented on a graph or piece of sheet music) based on when the emphasis is, as well as where you begin a new lyric line to the verses:

Today, I am going to be giving you a list of examples to ways you can alter the closing section of a 12-Bar blues:

Notice the similarities and differences between them, as well as how each of them have a unique turnaround.

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Tip #216 – Spicing-Up the Beginning to your 12-Bar Blues

The typical 12-Bar blues format is, of course, made up of 12 measures.  In addition, it features predominantly only three chords: the I7 , IV7 , and V7.

You can also divide the format into different sections (or as I call “rows” when visually represented on a graph or piece of sheet music) based on when the emphasis is, as well as where you begin a new lyric line to the verses:

Today, I am going to be giving you a list of examples to ways you can alter the beginning section of a 12-Bar blues:

Notice the similarities and differences between them, as well as how each of them have a unique motion to getting to the second row starting with the IV7

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Tip #213 – Getting from an Inversion to Another

Say you wanted to go from your tonic chord (or any other) to an inversion of itself. But, you wanted something in the middle because the root movement is a bit too boring, or you just don’t like the jump of the P5. You want it a bit smoother:

Well, a progression that works well for this comes from many jazz and gospel tunes:

Notice how this is very similar to the I – Imaj7 – I7 – IV – iv progression talked about earlier. Now, the iv chord is replaced with the #ivo chord to give it more motion to the fifth scale degree.

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