• Exposed: How Gospel Musicians Backtrack A Major Triad

    in General Music,Gospel music,Piano,Theory

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    You arrived at this page because you want to learn how gospel musicians backtrack a major triad.

    The backtracking concept is one of the vital techniques every serious gospel musician must be with. Although most concepts can either be classified as either traditional or contemporary, the backtracking concept has continued to appeal to both traditional and contemporary listeners.

    I’ll be taking you by the hand and showing you step-by-step, the ins and outs of the backtracking concept in this lesson.

    The Backtracking Concept – Explained

    Preliminaries

    Chord progressions that descend in fifths are the strongest chord progressions in tonal music. The strongest option of what the C major chord:

    …progresses to is the F major chord:

    …and this is because a fifth below C:

    …is F:

    This C-F chord progression in the key of F major:

    …can be considered a 5-1 chord progression – from the fifth degree (aka – “dominant”) to the first degree (aka – “tonic”) and is the strongest diatonic progression in the key of F major:

    Here’s the music clock:
    circleoffiths1
    …which is a geometrical representation of the twelve musical notes:

    …in fourth (counter-clockwise) and fifths (clockwise), hence, it’s called the circle of fourths or circle of fifths.

    C is at the 12 o’clock position

    G is at the 1 o’clock position

    D is at the 2 o’clock position

    …and so on, up to F at the 11 o’clock position.

    “What Is Backtracking?”

    The term backtracking literally means to retrace one’s steps and can be applied too in music. For example,

    …you can backtrack the C major triad:

    …by going counter-clockwise (or retracing your steps in the musical clock):
    circleoffiths1
    …from C (at the 12 o’clock position) to F (at the 11 o’clock position.)

    To backtrack the C major triad you’ll have to play an F major triad (over C on the bass):

    …before the C major triad:

    “Check Out Another Example…”

    The E major triad:

    …can be backtracked by going counter-clockwise (or retracing your steps in the musical clock):
    circleoffiths1
    …from E (at the 4 o’clock position) to A (at the 3 o’clock position.)

    To backtrack the E major triad you’ll have to play an A major triad (over E on the bass):

    …before the E major triad:

    I’m certain that you’ve understood the concept of backtracking, therefore let’s proceed to one of the most important things one must consider while backtracking.

    Voice Leading Considerations In The Backtracking Concept

    Backtracking is an awesome concept and I’m glad that we’ve defined it. However, one of the things to consider when backtracking a chord is smoothness.

    In the backtracking of the C major triad:

    F major/C:

    C major triad:

    …the movement from the F major triad to the C major triad involves two chords that are a perfect fourth apart from each other and is not smooth when played or heard because of the large interval between the chord tones.

    Using a technique known to music scholars as voice-leading:

    • The notes of the chords can be considered as voices or voice parts.
    • Similar voices in two consecutive chords should be retained.
    • Other voices should move to the closest voices possible.

    In the backtracking the C major triad:

    F major/C:

    C major triad:

    …it is important for us to apply voice-leading techniques on the F major/C chord for a smoother movement to the C major triad.

    One of the rules of voice-leading says that “similar voices in two consecutive chords should be retained”. As a result, we’ll start by identifying the note(s) that the F major chord:

    …and C major chord:

    …have in common and that’s C:

    In a nutshell, in the movement from the F major/C to the C major chord, C should be retained. Then another rule says that “other voices should move to the closest voices possible”.

    Applying both voice-leading rules to the backtracking of the C major triad, we’ll have the F major/C chord:

    …move smoothly to the C major triad by the retention of this C:

    …and the movement of other voices (F and A):

    …to the closest voices possible:

    F:

    …moves to E:

    …while A:

    …moves to G:

    Altogether, we’ll have a smoother backtracking of the C major triad – from the F major/C:

    …to the C major triad:

    The Goal Of Backtracking

    At this point, I feel it’s necessary to state one of the goals of backtracking. The backtracking concept is primarily used to create anticipation.

    In the backtracking of the C major triad (smooth version):

    F major/C:

    C major triad:

    …the target chord is the C major triad. However, playing the F major/C chord:

    …which is a displacement of the C major triad on the right hand creates an anticipation for the C major triad:

    In a nutshell, if you want to create an anticipation for a given chord, go ahead and backtrack it.

    Final Words

    I’m happy that you made it through to the end of this lesson. So many people read only the introduction, others stopped half way, but you made it through because you want to learn about the backtracking concept and that’s a good thing.

    Go ahead and apply this technique the best way you know how to, and please don’t forget to explore it in all twelve keys.

    All the best and see you in another lesson!

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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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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Joe

    Does the back tracking concept functions the same way as the sus 4 resolving on the major 3rd, or is their a distinct difference?

    Reply

    2 Christine

    I am bless above measures praise God

    Reply

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