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Chord Progressions - The 50s Cliche - Part 2: Relations between chords

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - The 50's cliche Part 1: I-vi-IV-V7-I Next page: Chord Progressions - The ii-chord (supertonic)

Relations between chords

Now it is time for some theory. The vi chord is the relative minor to the major tonic. As a sneak preview of what is covered in the lesson A Minor Relation, we can lay out the scale of natural minor, and compare it to a major scale. A natural minor scale has the steps 1 - 2 3 - 4 - 5 6 - 7 - 1 If we put it side by side with the C-major, we will se that the natural A-minor contains the same notes as C-major, but it has a different root. And Am is the root chord (tonic) in A minor. That is why it is called a relative minor. I will not list the relative minors to all the major keys. Just look in the column of the vi chord in the harmonized scale, and there you have the relative minor.

Take a look at common notes in the chords of this progression. C-major is C, E and G. A- minor is A, C and E. Voila! Only one note has changed: The G is gone, and the A has arrived. That gives us a smooth move, both harmonically and technically from the Cto the Am chord.

Then look at F: It is F, A and C. Take the E out of an Am, and put in an F, and you have a F-major chord. One note in the chord is moved one half step up, that is all. The move from F to G7 is not that smooth. G7 is G, B, D and F, meaning that they have only F in common. G7 and C have only the G in common, but as we shall see later, B and F are the two most important notes in the G7 in it's function as turnaround or cadence back to tonic.

Did you skip the Inversion and Harmonized Fretboard lessons because you found them too theoretical? Then it is time to pay back what you thought you could gain by that shortcut. Now we will apply some of that knowledge for making smooth chord changes in every key, all over the fingerboard. If we play the I-vi-IV-V7-I change in F-major, the chords will be F-Dm-Bb-C7-F. Play on strings 4-3-2, starting with the F-shape chord, which is the root major chord in root position. Then play Dm in 1. inversion on the same strings (2nd and 3rd fret), continue to Bb in 2nd inversion (3rd fret), and then a C7 fragment using Dm-shape on the same strings, before you finally return to the chord you started from. This will give you the following sequence:

F-major
Root position
D-minor
1. inv
Bb-major
2. inv
C7-fragment
F-major
Root

You can play a similar sequence on the bottom set of string. In A-major, the chord sequence is A-F#m-D-E7-A. It can be played like this:


A-major
Root position
F#m
1. inv
D-major
2. inv
E7-fragment
A-major
Root position

You may use another E7 fragment that you might find easier. You will see that it is what I call the "Middle D-shape". But you leave out the root, and instead includes the fifth of the chord. As a matter of fact, this "E7-fragment" without the root, is a G#dim chord (VIIdim), functioning as an E7 (V7) chord.


A-major
Root position
F#m
1. inv
D-major
2. inv
E7-fragment
=G#dim, 1. inv
A-major
Root position

If you have worked your way through the Harmonized Fingerboard lesson, you know that you can move this progression across to the next set of three strings, giving D-major if you play on the same frets. And I leave it as a work assignment for you play the same progression, with the same sequence of inversions, on the top three string. Use C-major.

When you see, and listen to these subtle changes, and realize the harmonic effect of the changes, it should come as not surprise that it is not always easy to detect these changes by ear. When you start to play the progressions on your guitar, you will probably use open sounding, full chords. And then the changes stands out sharp and clear. When they are used in another musical context, it will often be closed chords with few notes, and smooth changes. It might also be another instrument that changes the crucial note, while the guitar just keeps on playing the notes that are common to both chords, If you as a guitarist concentrate on the guitar, you might miss the change. Listening to the bass is often a good idea when trying to detect chord changes.

We can do on as we just did, starting with an inverted chord, and see what is happening. So off we go, this time starting from a I chord in first inversion. In the first example, I started with a chord-change that is well suited to illustrate the point. Now we take an explorers approach, starting with one chord and see what kind of changes we can make. And I start at the bottom set of strings with a chord in first inversion, the key of E-major. The chord sequence will then be E-C#m-A-B7-E.

The first chord is given by our decision on a starting chord. The next, C#m, has the notes C#-E-G#. Note that it has two notes in common with the E-chord: E and G#. The only difference is the change from B to C#. So we have to raise that B at 5th string, 2nd fret, up to a C# at fourth fret. But while B is the 5th of the E, it is the root of C#m, which means that we have the root as the mid-note of the chord. And that gives us 2nd inversion. So the next chord must be C#m in 2nd inversion.

Then our next chord is an A, with A, C# and E. Again it is only one note that is changing: We go from G# to A. We have the G# at 1st string, 4th fret, and the only thing we have to do is to move up to the 5th fret. Then we have the root in bottom, meaning that it is an A-major chord in root position.

The B7 is a four note chord, with the notes B, D#, F# and A. It is not possible to play a full four note chord on three strings, so to maintain the three string approach, we have to leave out one note from the chord. (I do not say that you cannot or should not add the fourth note, to get the full chord. But to illustrate the changes, it is better to keep it tight.) The two most important notes in a dominant seventh chord, is the third and the seventh. In B7, this is the D# and the A. These two notes give us the diminished fifth interval, that has such a strong leading effect. Refer to the V7-I lesson for more details on this chord. But this means that we at least have to keep those two notes. On the bottom strings, you find a D# on 6th string 11th fret, on 5th string 6th fret and on 4th string 1st fret. Using 11th fret from the position we are working in gives us a long jump. We do not want to do that. So then we are left with 6th or 1st fret. The A can be found on 6th string 5th fret, on 5th string open or on 12th fret, or we can use 4th string, 7th fret. If we go for 6th string 5 and 5th string 6, we must find either a B or an F# on the fourth string. B, the root note, would be the best choice if we have any. But then we have to go for 9th fret, and that is a finger stretcher. So we must stick to the F# on 4th fret. And the we end with the D-minor shape.

If we leave out the root, and keep the rest, then the rest constitutes a dim chord on the third in the chord we were going for. So what we have done, i actually substituting B7 with a D#dim. This gives you another little taste of chord substitution. And as a dim-chord, it will be in second inversion.

And then it is back to E again.


E-major
1. inv
C#m
2. inv
A-major
root
B7-fragment
=D#dim, 2. inv
E-major
1. inv

An alternative fingering for a B7 fragment, is one that covers 5th, 2nd and 1st fret on strings 6, 5 and 4. It will include the root, but leave out the fifth. It might be a better choice musically, but technically a more difficult one. You could also use 2. inversion of the D#dim. But then you have to include an open A string. And finally you could use a B chord i 2. inv, leaving out the 7th. But this leaves out one of the important notes, and you will no longer have that diminished fifth interval. A choice of a straight major instead of a 7th will not be wrong in the sense that it crashes with any of the other notes - all notes of a 7th is also in a basic major triad. But you miss the drive and direction of the 7th chord. On the other hand: That might be just what you want for a particular song.

You should have understood by now that you can move the whole sequence across to the next set of three strings, and repeat it all in A-major. I will not say anything more about that.

The middle set will also give us interesting changes. This time we will play the sequence in D-major, which gives the chords D-Bm-G-A7-D. And again we start with first inversion, as a point of departure for our exploration. If the sequence is a the previous, the next should be Bm in 2nd inversion. You just put down your pinky on the 3rd string, fourth fret to get B, and there you are. You have probably played this as a melodic embellishment over a D chord many times. And now you know that what is happening from a harmonic perspective, is that you are changing from D to it's relative minor chord, Bm, and maybe back to D again. If the B on the third string tend to sound like a melodic variation if it is just quick note, but it is as if the harmonic change catches up if you let the note ring a bit longer.

The following G is in root position (F-shape). You keep both the B and the D from the Bm, and just move the F# up to G. But you will probably have to change fingering.

For the A7, we once again have to make a choice. The choices are a substitution with a C#dim in first inversion with an open 3rd string, or in 2nd inversion (5th and 6th fret), or a sort of "long A", with a partial barré on second fret and then fifth fret on the fourth string. I would prefer the latter, but it is a matter of your personal taste.

D-major
1. inv
Bm
2. inv
G-major
root
A7-fragment
D-major
1. inv

Once again I leave it to you to figure out the corresponding sequence on the top three strings. I would have done that in the key of G.

The second inversion of a major chord is really nice as an "anchor" for such changes. And this time I will start at the top strings, in D. There should be no need for more explanation by now, so I just give you the sequence.

D-major
2. inv
Bm
root
G-major
1. inv
A7-fragment
D-major
Root position

Note how you can play around a D-chord.

A similar progression in A-major, on the middle set, is also nice:

A-major
2. inv
F#m
Root
D-major
1. inv
E7-fragment
A-major
Root position

And I leave it to you to figure out what you can do on the bottom set.

In a normal playing situation, you will not do all these changes horizontally. Some nice vertical chord changes will be discussed in the lesson on the I-vi-ii-V7-I change.

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Previous page: Previous page: Chord Progressions - The 50's cliche Part 1: I-vi-IV-V7-INext page: Chord Progressions - The ii-chord (supertonic) Next page:

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - The 50's cliche Part 1: I-vi-IV-V7-I Next page: Chord Progressions - The ii-chord (supertonic)