• The Chromatic Supertonic Chord Vs The Predominant Chord

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    In today’s lesson, we’re doing a contrast between the chromatic supertonic chord and the pre-dominant chord.

    Before we proceed, let me start by saying that the terms below:

    • The chromatic supertonic chord
    • The pre-dominant chord

    …are used by music scholars to describe two important chords of the second degree that every serious musician must know about.

    If you’ve NOT come across these terms before, there’s no need to worry because we’re starting out with a review on these two terms, before delving into how they can be applied in a 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Quick Insights On The Chromatic Supertonic Chord

    To understand what a chromatic supertonic chord is, we need to breakdown the phrase chromatic supertonic chord into three words, and give a detailed explanation of what the individual words that make up the phrase mean.

    Let’s start with the term chromatic…

    “Chromatic”

    Although the term chromatic literally means ‘colorful’, it is used to refer to any idea [be it a note, scale, interval, chord, or chord progression] that is foreign to a given key.

    When music is played in a particular key, let’s say the key of C major:

    …the notes of the C major scale are said to be diatonic, while every other note…

    C#/Db:

    D#/Eb:

    F#/Gb:

    G#/Ab:

    A#/Bb:

    …[foreign to the key of C major] are said to be chromatic.

    In a nutshell, the term chromatic in this context refers to a chord that is foreign to a given key.

    “…Supertonic”

    Musical scholars have a way of describing scale degrees using technical names. Here are the technical names of the eight degree in the major key…

    First – Tonic

    Second – Supertonic

    Third – Mediant

    Fourth – Sub-dominant

    Fifth – Dominant

    Sixth – Sub-mediant

    Seventh – Sub-tonic

    Eight – Octave

    From the list of technical names we just made, it is clear that supertonic is the technical name of the second tone (aka – “second degree”) of the scale. The term supertonic in this lesson is used to describe chords that are formed on the second degree of the scale.

    “Chord”

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “a chord is a collection of three or more related notes (whether agreeable or not) that maybe played or heard together or separately.”

    There are so many ways that chords can be classified…

    • According to width [triads, sixths, sevenths, ninths, elevenths and thirteenths]
    • According to quality [major, minor, diminished, augmented, dominant]

    We’ll not go deep into the definition of the term chord, so we don’t drift from the subject matter. Let’s go ahead and put the three terms we’ve defined together.

    “What Does The Phrase Chromatic Supertonic Chord Mean?”

    From what we’ve discussed in this segment, the term chromatic means “foreign”, supertonic means “of the second degree” while chord means “a collection of related notes.”

    Altogether, the chromatic supertonic chord is simply a collection of related notes, built on the second degree of the scale that is foreign to the key. As we go further in this study, you’ll not only understand, but also appreciate this definition of the chromatic supertonic chord.

    The Pre-dominant Chord

    The term pre-dominant is a technical name that music scholars associate with a note that is a perfect fifth above the dominant.

    In the key of C major:

    …(where the dominant is G):

    …the pre-dominant is a perfect fifth above G (and that’s D):

    The pre-dominant in the key of C major:

    …is D:

    …which is basically known as the supertonic.

    “So, What’s A Pre-dominant Chord?”

    The pre-dominant chord is the chord of the second degree of the scale. In the key of C major:

    …the predominant is a D minor chord, which can be a D minor triad:

    …D minor seventh chord:

    …D minor ninth:

    …or D minor eleventh chord:

    The 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using The Chromatic Supertonic Chord And The Pre-dominant Chord

    There are eight degrees in every key – whether major or minor and each degree of the scale has its unique chord (aka – “scale degree chords”). The movement of chords from one degree of the scale to another produces a chord progression.

    A Short Note On The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    The 2-5-1 chord progression is a harmonic movement from the second degree (aka – “the two”) to the fifth degree (aka – “the five”), then to the first degree (aka – “the “one”).

    The 2-5-1 is one of the most important chord progressions for a variety of reasons, especially because 95% of the time, it is found at the end of songs.

    In the key of C major:

    …a 2-5-1 chord progression consists of the following chords…

    The D minor seventh chord:

    The G dominant seventh chord:

    The C major seventh chord:

    The Chromatic Supertonic Chord Vs The Pre-dominant Chord

    The first chord in a 2-5-1 chord progression is chord 2. In the key of C major:

    …the root of the 2 is D:

    There are two chord types that can be played as chord two:

    • The chromatic supertonic chord
    • The predominant chord

    “Check Out This 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using The Chromatic Supertonic Chord…”

    In the key of C major:

    …the chromatic supertonic chord is a D dominant chord – which can be a D major triad:

    …D dominant seventh chord:

    …D dominant ninth chord:

    …and so on.

    Let’s explore the 2-5-1 chord progression using various chromatic supertonic chords.

    Example #1

    Chord 2:

    …the D dominant triad.

    Chord 5:

    …the G dominant triad.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major triad.

    Example #2

    Chord 2:

    …the D dominant seventh chord.

    Chord 5:

    …the G dominant seventh chord.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major seventh chord.

    Example #3

    Chord 2:

    …the D dominant ninth chord.

    Chord 5:

    …the G dominant ninth chord.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major ninth chord.

    “Check Out This 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using The Pre-dominant Chord…”

    The predominant chord in the key of C major:

    …is the D minor chord – which can be a D minor triad:

    …D minor seventh chord:

    …D minor ninth chord:

    …and so on.

    Let’s explore the 2-5-1 chord progression using various pre-dominant chords.

    Example #1

    Chord 2:

    …the D minor triad.

    Chord 5:

    …the G dominant triad.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major triad.

    Example #2

    Chord 2:

    …the D minor seventh chord.

    Chord 5:

    …the G dominant seventh chord.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major seventh chord.

    Example #3

    Chord 2:

    …the D minor ninth chord.

    Chord 5:

    …the G dominant ninth chord.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major ninth chord.

    Final Words

    From what we’ve covered in today’s lesson, I’m doubly sure you now have a binary approach to the classic 2-5-1 chord progression.

    If you’re a gospel or jazz musician, I know you’ll also appreciate the substitution of the pre-dominant chord for the chromatic supertonic chord and vice-versa.

    In another lesson, we’ll be going deeper by exploring the alteration of chord 5 in the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    See you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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