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Thread: "stylistic" chord progressions

  1. #1
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    "stylistic" chord progressions

    So I need some information on what I can best describe as "stylistic chord progressions"

    At my college we are currently doing a project, involving bands and writing orignal music. The band I have been put in, has the majority of people wishing to do some mix of jazz, soul and acoustic. My problem is I havent even heard much of this music, let alone played it.

    Now usually I can come up with pretty good chord progressions, and usually rather quickly. However I simply cannot seem to write anything that sounds remotly like this kind of music. Obviously Ive explained my complete lack of knowledge of this kind of music, and was given a list of artists to listen too, being:

    Amy Winehouse
    Norah Jones
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Madeleine Peyroux

    The only way Ive had any success in getting the sound they like is playing 7ths in a circle progression.. There was also a big mention of how great chromatic progressions are, yet I dont know the first thing about them.

    Any one have any advice? Guidelines to developing progressions other than circle progressions? How to create chromatic progressions(i havent even the slightest clue about this)?

    edit: oh yeah, most of my understanding of theory is from a classical perspective, and I assume this will certainly require knowledge of jazz theory, so any resources for learning that would also be very helpful.
    Last edited by Flash; 01-06-2009 at 11:04 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flash
    So I need some information on what I can best describe as "stylistic chord progressions"

    At my college we are currently doing a project, involving bands and writing orignal music. The band I have been put in, has the majority of people wishing to do some mix of jazz, soul and acoustic. My problem is I havent even heard much of this music, let alone played it.

    Now usually I can come up with pretty good chord progressions, and usually rather quickly. However I simply cannot seem to write anything that sounds remotly like this kind of music. Obviously Ive explained my complete lack of knowledge of this kind of music, and was given a list of artists to listen too, being:

    Amy Winehouse
    Norah Jones
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Madeleine Peyroux

    The only way Ive had any success in getting the sound they like is playing 7ths in a circle progression.
    That's the basis of most jazz, certainly of Ella Fitzgerald vintage. The other 3 are contemporary pop-jazz singers, but they mostly look back to that 30s/40s/50s vintage sound.
    Quote Originally Posted by Flash
    There was also a big mention of how great chromatic progressions are, yet I dont know the first thing about them.
    I don't know what that might mean.
    In jazz they often substitute chords, which can create chromatic moves.
    Eg, instead of Dm7-G7-Cmaj7, you might hear Dm7-Db7-Cmaj7. (G7 and Db7 share their 3rd and 7th, so the effect is much the same.)

    Jazz theory is really very close to classical theory, but perhaps simpler and less strict.

    You shoud try and get hold of a jazz "Real Book" and study the chord sequences.

    This site has some standard sequences sketched out:
    http://www.ralphpatt.com/Song.html

    You could try asking on this jazz theory forum for more:
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/forumdisplay.php?f=34

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    You might study the progressions in the following jazz standards:
    http://ralphpatt.com/Song.html {edit} Jon and I posted at the same time.

    Jazz will utilize the ii V I. Soul I am not sure of, however, I think it would hold to a basic I IV V as The Blues seems to utilize I7 IV7, V7 quite a lot. Not sure what you mean by acoustic. If that is pop, rock or country. Major I IV V with the vi and ii thrown in for good measure would catch most of it.

    Call up some fake chord music - from the Internet - and analyze them.

    Can not get around melody and the chord used under those melody notes will contain some of the same notes. That will normally explain any deviations from the basic I IV V I or ii V I. When the melody moves on and no longer contains notes found in the old chord your ear tells you something is not right -- time to find a chord that does contain some of the notes being played at this moment.

    You may want to spend some time at www.musictheory.net go to Lessons and then click on common chord progressions. Study what chords LIKE to do. You can make them do whatever you like, however, what they like to do may point you to a different understanding.

    The songwriter balances the need of rest, tension, climax, resolution and rest - the basic I IV V I structure needed by the verse and the need of the melody line to harmonize, be comfortable, with the chords used under them (having some of the same notes). It is a balancing act.

    One other thing that may throw some light - the use of 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th. Using a basic ii V I progression and starting with the ii chord -- just because you think that is what is done -- may not let the melody line harmonize with the ii chord. But, on fleshing out the song the addition of extensions 7th, 9th etc could get a note found in the melody into the chord -- and then harmonize that ii chord with the melody notes being used over it. Again that balancing act and now both verse structure and melody harmonization have been satisfied.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 01-07-2009 at 12:34 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    That's the basis of most jazz, certainly of Ella Fitzgerald vintage. The other 3 are contemporary pop-jazz singers, but they mostly look back to that 30s/40s/50s vintage sound.
    Obviously replying this quick I havent looked through that site yet (which looks great!) but how exactly would you establish any kind of.. variety when its so standard and predictable? This is whats making it quite difficult for me.
    I don't know what that might mean.
    In jazz they often substitute chords, which can create chromatic moves.
    Eg, instead of Dm7-G7-Cmaj7, you might hear Dm7-Db7-Cmaj7. (G7 and Db7 share their 3rd and 7th, so the effect is much the same.)
    You kinda answered it there I think. Tritone substitution maybe exactly what they meant but called it "chromatic chords".


    Jazz theory is really very close to classical theory, but perhaps simpler and less strict.

    You shoud try and get hold of a jazz "Real Book" and study the chord sequences.

    This site has some standard sequences sketched out:
    http://www.ralphpatt.com/Song.html

    You could try asking on this jazz theory forum for more:
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/forumdisplay.php?f=34
    Both those sites look great! thanks for posting them!

  5. #5
    Registered User Madaxeman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flash
    There was also a big mention of how great chromatic progressions are, yet I dont know the first thing about them.

    Any one have any advice? Guidelines to developing progressions other than circle progressions? How to create chromatic progressions(i havent even the slightest clue about this)?
    A chromatic progression simply uses the circle of 5ths and goes in this order:
    start on III, then bIII, II, bII, ending on I.

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flash
    Obviously replying this quick I havent looked through that site yet (which looks great!) but how exactly would you establish any kind of.. variety when its so standard and predictable? This is whats making it quite difficult for me.
    Well, only the foundation is "standard and predictable". Many jazz tunes do have the same (or very similar) chord sequences, but different melodies (not to mention different tempos, rhythmic feels, etc.).
    You might want to search out and compare jazz standards "Autumn Leaves", "Fly Me To The Moon" and disco classic "I Will Survive". All have the same chord sequence (maybe offset by a bar here or there), but you wouldn't mistake them for the same song!

    Popular music (of all kinds) depends on predictability - to some extent. Mass audiences want what is familiar, what they've heard before. ("If it ain't broke, don't fix it.") They also want freshness, of course - a mix of old and new - so composers usually subvert the familiar changes in some way - using deceptive cadences of various kinds, adding or omitting bars from standard-length lines, harmonising melodies in unusual ways.

    The other thing which is central to jazz - and has become almost outlawed in classical culture - is improvisation. Jazz musicians don't care (much) if a chord sequence is the same as one they've played 1000s of times before. Every time they play it, they can improvise new melodies over it. The whole point of jazz is not the given raw material, but the way in which improvisers play with it in new ways every night. The composition is merely a jumping-off point. The notation is where you start, not where you finish.

    You may find jazz harmony doing odd things (for classical ears). Such as using maj7 chords as tonics. (I once knew a classically-trained musician who found that very odd, thought they sounded unresolved, unfinished. Not in jazz they don't.)
    And in blues - which is a big part of jazz - dominant 7th chord types are used in non-functional ways (neither as Vs nor as secondary dominants). Major keys have their 7ths flattened. (Some very odd things happen in blues...)

    And don't forget one of the major differences between classical and jazz is rhythm (more so than harmony): jazz (of that kind of vintage) uses swing feel, which can't be notated, and which many classical musicians find very difficult to handle.
    Quote Originally Posted by Flash
    You kinda answered it there I think. Tritone substitution maybe exactly what they meant but called it "chromatic chords".
    Tritone substitution has something in common with the classical augmented 6th - but there may be important differences in resolution.
    Last edited by JonR; 01-07-2009 at 08:35 AM.

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    Hey, I was having some trouble on writing some bass parts for songs of the kind described above. Actually I had specifically the same artists in mind !

    This music is a bit new to me and unsettling. I have to write some bass parts for a bass+singer duo, and when it comes to covering jazz classics, I'm kinda lost.
    Would you know some good examples of II-IV-I progression, so I could train my ear ? When I heard about I IV V progression in blues, I couldn't quite figure out what it meant until I took examples from songs I love, and I was like "oh, that's what they meant !"... So I'd be glad if I could be given some famous examples !

    At the moment I'm trying to decypher "Can anyone explain" from Fitzgerald and Amstrong. Would that be a I IV V progression ?

    Thanks !

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sergey View Post
    Hey, I was having some trouble on writing some bass parts for songs of the kind described above. Actually I had specifically the same artists in mind !

    This music is a bit new to me and unsettling. I have to write some bass parts for a bass+singer duo, and when it comes to covering jazz classics, I'm kinda lost.
    Would you know some good examples of II-IV-I progression, so I could train my ear ? When I heard about I IV V progression in blues, I couldn't quite figure out what it meant until I took examples from songs I love, and I was like "oh, that's what they meant !"... So I'd be glad if I could be given some famous examples !

    At the moment I'm trying to decypher "Can anyone explain" from Fitzgerald and Amstrong. Would that be a I IV V progression ?

    Thanks !
    I don't know that specific song, but if you're writing bass parts, you obviously have to start from the chord sequence of whatever song(s) you have. Or are you (and/or the singer) writing original tunes?

    Probably the most famous jazz standard, and a good example of ii-V-I's, is Autumn Leaves:

    |Cm7 |F7 |Bbmaj7 |Ebmaj7 |Am7b5 |D7 |Gm

    Cm7-F7-Bbmaj7 = ii-V-I in Bb major
    Am7b5-D7-Gm = ii-V-i in G minor

    Duke Ellingtons' "Satin Doll" is another

    |Dm7 |G7 |Dm7 |G7 |Em7 |A7 |Em7 |A7
    |Am7 |D7 |Abm7 |Db7 |C

    That's a string of ii-V pairs, all lacking the I (tonic) target. But the last Abm7-Db7 is actually a tritone sub for the usual ii-V in this key, Dm7-G7. Try this instead and you can hear the connection:

    |Dm7 G7 |Dm7 G7 |Em7 A7 |Em7 A7
    |Am7 D7 |Dm7 G7 |C

    You can pick almost any jazz standard of that era (1930s-40s) and you're likely to find most of the chord progression consists of ii-V-Is, or just ii-Vs, perhaps in a few different keys.

    Writing bass parts for these sequences (in class jazz swing 4) is usually a matter of roots and 5ths, often with passing b5s as half-step descents to the root of the next chord. If the chords change every 2 beats (as in Satin Doll) there's little else you can do. Changes every 4 beats give you a little more freedom, but roots and 5ths are still the prime notes.

    But we can give better advice if we know the songs you're writing parts for.

  9. #9
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Jon said in the last post; "Writing bass parts for these sequences (in class jazz swing 4) is usually a matter of roots and 5ths, often with passing b5s as half-step descents to the root of the next chord. If the chords change every 2 beats (as in Satin Doll) there's little else you can do. Changes every 4 beats give you a little more freedom, but roots and 5ths are still the prime notes."
    Bass lines for jazz, really bass lines for just about anything - if we stay generic with the root, 5 and 8 in an appropriate pattern (any combination of those three notes) the groove develops quickly. Once the groove has been taken care of I am free to embellish with echo melody or chromatic runs between chords. But, in jazz someone else is probably taking care of the embellishment, less is usually more with jazz bass accompaniment. Here is an example of less is more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g35zS...eature=related

    True what Jon said about two chords per measure. When this is the case there is just not room for anything fancy. Roots for each or R-5 for each is all the room there is.

    Generic first is the point of my post.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 12-20-2010 at 02:04 PM.

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    Thanks guys for those answers... It helps ! I realize my theoretical background in Jazz is close to zero. So your posts are a real treat !

    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Bass lines for jazz, really bass lines for just about anything - if we stay generic with the root, 5 and 8 in an appropriate pattern (any combination of those three notes) the groove develops quickly. Once the groove has been taken care of I am free to embellish with echo melody or chromatic runs between chords. But, in jazz someone else is probably taking care of the embellishment, less is usually more with jazz bass accompaniment. Here is an example of less is more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g35zS...eature=related

    True what Jon said about two chords per measure. When this is the case there is just not room for anything fancy. Roots for each or R-5 for each is all the room there is.

    Generic first is the point of my post.
    Are you a mind-reader ? I was listening to that song a few moments ago ! And I was thinking that the bass line, though minimalistic, was quite cool.

    Since I'll be playing in a duo, I expect to play some basic groove during the verse, (standard bass lines, with the root, or R+5th as you said), but I'll also have to do some embelishment at some times, and to do the choruses (is "choruses" proper English, btw ?)., and in that I guess a real understanding of the chords progression will be useful !

    Jon, I'll listen to those songs asap, with the chords in mind. I'll let you know if there's anything I don't get.

    As for the songs we want to play, we settled for "Can anyone explain" Fitzgerald and Amstrong, "Dance me to the end of Love", Peyroux (here the chord progression is like Cohen"s version, I, IV, V, makes things easier for me), probably some "Fever" - Peggy Lee... But we're still seeking some ideas. Fortunately my friend knows this genre more than I do !

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sergey View Post
    Thanks guys for those answers... It helps ! I realize my theoretical background in Jazz is close to zero. So your posts are a real treat !



    Are you a mind-reader ? I was listening to that song a few moments ago ! And I was thinking that the bass line, though minimalistic, was quite cool.

    Since I'll be playing in a duo, I expect to play some basic groove during the verse, (standard bass lines, with the root, or R+5th as you said), but I'll also have to do some embelishment at some times, and to do the choruses (is "choruses" proper English, btw ?)., and in that I guess a real understanding of the chords progression will be useful !

    Jon, I'll listen to those songs asap, with the chords in mind. I'll let you know if there's anything I don't get.

    As for the songs we want to play, we settled for "Can anyone explain" Fitzgerald and Amstrong, "Dance me to the end of Love", Peyroux (here the chord progression is like Cohen"s version, I, IV, V, makes things easier for me), probably some "Fever" - Peggy Lee... But we're still seeking some ideas. Fortunately my friend knows this genre more than I do !
    "Can Anyone Explain" is a very simple sequence, and the bass on the original is "in 2", meaning it plays only on beats 1 and 3. It plays pretty much roots and 5ths only, as follows (chords above, bass notes below):

    Code:
    VERSE
    |G - - - |G - - - |G - Gdim7 |Am7 - D7 - |
     G   D    G   D    B   Bb     A     D
    
    |Am7 - D7 - |Am7 - D7 - |Am7 - D7 - |G - - - |
     A     D     A     D     A     D     G   D    
    
    REPEAT VERSE (8 bars)
    
    BRIDGE:
    |Am7 - D7 - |G - - - |A7 - - - |D7 - - -  |
     A     D     G   G E  A   A     D    D
    
    REPEAT VERSE
    It's hard to make out the harmonies, but the G with the B bass (bar 3) could be a Bdim7 (unlikely IMO), and the Am7-D7 bars could be D7 all the way (still with A bass on beat 1 tho). D7 all the way would be a more old-fashioned way of doing it.

    After the last repeat verse, the song changes key to C. There's a spoken interlude of 7 bars, then Louis Armstrong sings the whole tune again in C, at a slightly faster tempo. The above bass and chords are therefore transposed up a 4th (or down a 5th).

    There's a coda where the bass does move into a 4-to-the-bar line:
    Code:
       |Dm7      -       G7  -     |Dm7       G7
        D                G          D         G
    But now that you and I     are sharing a sigh
     
      |D7                       |G7            |C      Dm7   |G7    C
       D        C      B     A   G   A   B   G  C  C   D  F  |G  G  C
    we know you can't miss it    yes        we |know
    "Fever" (the Peggy Lee versio) is another really simple tune, with basically no chord sequence at all, just a bass riff in A minor pentatonic (you should be able to transcibe this one yourself!). It changes key a couple of times, moving up in half-steps. (There are implied chords, at least an implied E7, but nothing but bass - and those finger snaps and the odd drum!)

    "Dance Me to the End of Love". The Madeleine Peyroux version has a fairly complicated bass part, with a little riff on the intro and between verses. But the general feel is mostly "in 2", but with more passing notes. The chords are very simple - I-IV-V as you say, in key of F minor (except for a brief Db7):

    |Bbm - - - |Bbm - - - |Fm - - - |Fm - - - |
    |Bbm - - - |Bbm - - - |Fm - - - |Fm - - - |
    |Bbm - - - |Bbm - - - |Fm - - - |Fm - - - |
    |C7 - - - |Db7 -C7 - |Fm - - - |Fm - - - |
    |C7 - - - |C7 - - - |Fm - - - |Fm - - - |

    The bass is roots and 5ths, except there's a little descending scale on the Fm in the 3rd line, to lead down from the previous Bb to the C, and then it continues on down through the C7 chord:


    Code:
    |Fm - - - |Fm - - - |C7 - - - |Db7 - C7 - |Fm
     Ab   G    F    Eb D C    Bb   Ab    G     F
    The Ab bass note kind of explains the Db7 chord. IOW, to keep the bass line neat, one scale note at a time, something else has to occur over the Ab note - C7 won't fit, and Db7 is an obvious choice.

    The piano solo is a little different:

    |Bbm - - - |Bbm - - - |Fm - - - |Fm - - - |
    |C7(b9)- - - |Db7 - C7 - |Fm - - - |Fm - - - |
    x 2
    Last edited by JonR; 12-22-2010 at 06:15 PM.

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    Waow, thanks Jon !
    Looks like I'll have much less "homework" than expected ! Thank you so much !
    The bass parts are quite simple in those songs as you said, so there isn't much to work one once I know the chords - except finding nice variations, such as a replacement for Louis Amstrong's horn on "Can anyone Explain".

    Concerning Peyroux's cover, I had most of it right it seems... except for the subtleties, which it seems I'm deaf to. And I must admit I wasn't too concerned about the Piano solo - since I'll be doing it, it will be on my terms !
    For this song, I was actually considering not playing the actual bass part, even during verses, because I fear it might seem a bit empty. I guess I'll try both.

    About fever, it really is a great song, and was actually what got me into the idea of a duo, and not trying to set up a larger band.

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