Tip #205 – Progress by Voicing

In music theory, we are taught a certain way that chords progress by – following one by another based on their Roman numeral analysis. Such as:

  • V7 goes to I
  • Progression follow the Circle Of Fifths, I-IV-viio-iii-vi-ii-V-I
  • IVmaj7 can act as a predominant area or a Plagal cadence figure.
  • Etc.

Instead of thinking about chords by their Roman numerals, think about their voicings (in relation to the key or outside of it).

For example a dominant-seventh chord. You would think of that as the fifth scale degree to resolve to the root. So, G7 to C.

But, the function of the domain-seventh chord doesn’t always have to be the V7. It can be the:

  • Tritone Substitute, bII7 – I , G7 to F#
  • Dorian Vamp, V7 – ii , G7 to Dmin
  • Bluesy Vamp, IV7 – I, G7 to D
  • I7 chord in a 12-Bar Blues, I7 – V7 – IV7 – I7 , G7 to D7 to C7 to G7
  • Etc.

And now look! You have more possibilities than you can ever think of because you valued the chord voicing more than the Roman numerals in regard to the key.

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Thinking Out Loud – Appropriation of Rearranging

When it comes to versions of songs, there are two options: the original and the cover/rearrangement of it.

Some people prefer the originals, while others find how a different artist or arranger reworked the song into new.

In classical music, you sometimes see other prolific composers rework other’s pieces. As for jazz, it is very common – in fact, a standard – to play covers from the fake book. And rock music has many people doing covers of each other’s tunes.

But, one thing that strikes me odd is when I see a rearrangement of a spiritual in a classical context.

On the outside, it may seem like nothing is wrong… but I want to bring to the table to idea of cultural appropriation.

With spirituals coming from an African American background (especially during the times of slavery and segregation), the music has a weight of history behind it. Reworking the spiritual into a piece that sounds like music from the classical era is – what I consider to be – an act of white washing. To take a piece of history and rearrange it to sound like Western music is like taking cultural identity away.

So does that mean that different races cannot cover each other’s tunes? I’m not suggesting that, but I am saying to consider the history behind a piece of music before deciding to rearrange it into a different style or for a different purpose.

Just thinking out loud..

Tip #204 – Bluesy Vamp

Another vamp chord progression you can use is this:

I – IV7

Some of you might be thinking “but the IV chord isn’t usually a dominant-seventh chord… nor does it resolve to the I.”

Remember this from previous posts: in the twelve-bar blues progression the IV chord resolves more naturally to the I than the V does. Plus, the IV chord harmony appears more frequently than the V chord.

In addition, the IV7 chord provides the b3 scale degree. b3, which is in the blues scale.

Play around with it and see how it works!

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Tip #203 – Jazzy Way of Modulating to Predominant Key Area

Most music typically modulates from the tonic to the dominant, but that is not the only place it can go to.

Say that you wanted to go to the predominant (which is the fourth scale degree). That is like going from the key of C to the key of F.

One way that can be done is with an I – v7 – I7 – IV progression that utilizes the common ii – V7 formula found in jazz music:

Essentially, because the tonic chord hasn’t played the seventh, we are in ambiguous terms as to whether the triad expands to a major-seventh chord or dominant seventh chord. This works to our advantage that when we set up the ii – V motion, all we do is lower the leading tone down (making it mixolydian). Finally, the ii – V tonicizes the IV chord to become the new tonic and having the piece modulate to the subdominant area.

Try it out and see how you can vary this up.

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Tip #202 – Understanding the Sarasangi Scale

The Carnatic music of South India has 72 scales (melakartas) comprised of seven different notes in either an ascending (arohana) or descending (avarohana) fashion. These scales are used in a kind of India music called rāga and are extremely beautiful. In addition these scales are grouped into different chakras, based on certain similarities.

Today’s melakarta is the Sarasangi scale (roughly translating to “lake”), the third scale from the fifth chakra.

Below is a representation of the scale as if it was put into Western notation:

Both the first (SA) and fifth (PA) scale degrees are in a placement normal to most scales found in Western music. In addition, it contains the major tetrachord in the beginning with a raised seventh degree (NI).

Try playing around with the scale, possible harmonies, and progressions!

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Tip #201 – Ghost Notes

Because there are many types, notations, and definitions of ghost notes, I will be doing my best to cover them all in one example:

Essentially, a ghost note is a note that is unaccented, soft in dynamic to the point that it is inaudible but still helps with the rhythmic groove, or is “choked” in sound.

Typically, on most melodic instruments, a ghost note is noted with an “x” symbol. You should use these in a majority of the time when you want to indicate to a performer in your piece that you want the not ghosted-over.

However, in guitar and other stringed instruments like the violin, and “x” notehead indicates to mute, dampen, chop bow, or “choke” the strings while playing. One can argue that this is another way of ghosting a note, but it will create a different timbre besides lowering the dynamic.

“X” noteheads are typically used by drums for the cymbals, so to indicate a ghosted hit they use brackets and parenthesis around the notehead.

Learning how to properly notate is the best way to communicate to your performers how you want a part to be played and sounded.

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How To Beat Writer’s Block – Tip #18

Sometimes, having a block comes from the opposite of what you expect. Instead of having little-to-no ideas, you might have too many. In most cases, being imaginative and creative to the point where you have an overflow of ideas is not a bad thing… but it can cause a feeling of being overwhelmed on not knowing which of your fantastic ideas to start.

My suggestion would to do the following:

  • Physically write all of your ideas down (don’t keep them in your head)
  • Revise them and see which ones will work best for your next composition
  • Take those ones and order them in level of importance
  • Revise the list again into an order that the piece will progressively use

From there you can use this as a checklist for your composition being sure to accomplish the ideas that you had in a step-by-step manner that will also make the music flow from smallest to largest in scale on what you consider to be important musical aspects.

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.