• Keyboard Harmony 102 : Taking Your Chordal Vocabulary Beyond Primary Chords

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,Piano,Theory

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    This lesson is for anyone who wants to take their playing beyond primary chords.

    Due to the fact that this is a 102 course, we’ll be dwelling on the basic concepts of harmonization and also limit our chordal vocabulary to triads and dominant seventh chords.

    So, if you just got started with the piano and have learned and are stuck with triads, this lesson is designed to take you two steps further in harmony by showing you step by step how you can spice up your playing using simple passing chords.

    Let’s get started with a review of what we covered previously.

    A Review Of Keyboard Harmony 101

    In our lesson on the fundamental precepts of harmony, we started out by defining the term harmony as the relationship between pitches that are heard at the same time.

    We went further into the lesson by defining chords as a collection of related notes [in harmony] that may sound pleasant or unpleasant. We also talked about consonance, which is the outcome of a chord when it sounds pleasant

    In addition to that, we covered scale degree chords. Check them out…

    The tonic chord (aka – “chord 1”):

    The supertonic chord (aka – “chord 2”):

    The mediant chord (aka – “chord 3”):

    The subdominant chord (aka – “chord 4”):

    The dominant chord (aka – “chord 5”):

    The submediant chord (aka – “chord 6”):

    The leading note chord (aka – “chord 7”):

    The tonic chord (aka – “chord 8”):

    We didn’t leave inversion of chords behind. We covered the concept of Inversion which has to do with the rearrangement of the notes of a chord.

    We also covered primary chords which are chords that have the same quality with the key that you are in. In the key of C major, only three chords have the major quality – the C major triad:


    …the F major triad:

    …and the G major triad:

    …which are triads of the first, fourth, and fifth degrees of the C major scale.

    We also considered voice leading principles, which bother on the smooth harmonic movement of chords from one degree of the scale to another. Instead of moving from the C major triad:

    …to the F major triad:

    …voice leading principles explain why the movement from the C major triad:

    …to the F major triad:

    …is smoother.

    We rounded up our study in keyboard harmony 101 by learning the harmonization of the major scale using primary chords.

    The C major scale:

    …can be harmonized using the primary chords we covered in this lesson. Here’s how it works…

    The first tone:

    …is harmonized by chord 1:

    …the root position of the C major triad.

    The second tone:

    …is harmonized by chord 5:

    …the first inversion of the G major triad.

    The third tone:

    …is harmonized by chord 1:

    …the root position of the C major triad.

    The fourth tone:

    …is harmonized by chord 4:

    …the second inversion of the F major triad.

    The fifth tone:

    …is harmonized by chord 1:

    …the root position of the C major triad.

    The sixth tone:

    …is harmonized by chord 4:

    …the second inversion of the F major triad.

    The seventh tone:

    …is harmonized by chord 5:

    …the first inversion of the G major triad.

    In the next segment, we’ll be taking our knowledge of harmonization to the next level by taking a look at some secondary dominant chords we can spice primary chords up with.

    “Say Hello To Dominant Chords”

    After mastering primary chords, it is also necessary to learn a few passing chords to connect them with.

    In a chord progression, although a chord can be preceded by any chord, the strongest option of what precedes a chord is another chord whose root is a fifth above. In the key of C major:

    …the best option of what precedes C:

    …is G:

    …and that’s because G is a fifth above C. Consequently, the strongest option of what precedes the C major triad:

    …is the G dominant seventh chord.

    “Let Me Explain Why We’re Using The Dominant Seventh Chord”

    The term ‘dominant seventh chord’ can be broken down into three words…

    Dominant: The technical name that music scholars associate with the fifth degree of the scale.

    Seventh: The width of a chord or interval that encompasses seven degrees of the scale.

    Chord: A collection of three or more related notes, played [or heard] at the same time.

    If we put the meaning of these words [dominant, seventh, and chord] together, we can have the definition of the dominant seventh chord:

    A dominant seventh chord is the chord formed on the fifth degree of the natural major (or melodic/harmonic minor) scale that encompasses seven degrees of the scale.

    The explanation to the use of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …before the C major triad:

    …is that the G dominant seventh chord (a chord of the fifth degree in the key of C) lies a fifth above the C major triad, which is the chord of the first degree [aka – “tonic triad“.]

    Also, it is important to note that chords of the dominant family are unstable because of the diminished fifth interval between their third and seventh tones (aka – “skeleton“.) The interval between the third and seventh tones of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …which are B and F:

    …is a diminished fifth interval (aka – “the tritone“), which gives the dominant seventh chord its sense of instability and tendency to resolve to major or minor chords.

    Here are two good reasons why the dominant seventh chord is used…

    1. It is a chord of the fifth degree and is the strongest option because it lies a fifth above the chord of the first degree (aka – “tonic triad“.)
    2. It is unstable, it is the instability of the dominant seventh chord that creates its tendency to resolve to the tonic triad

    Due to these reasons and more, we’ll be using dominant seventh chords to connect the primary chords we’re already familiar with.

    “Here are Passing Chords To Connect Primary Chords With…”

    There are three primary chords and we’ll be deriving passing chords for each of them in this segment. Take note that the examples are in the key of C major.

    Passing Chord To Chord 1

    The root of chord 1:

    …in the key of C is C:

    Although there are several options, the best passing chord we can use is the dominant seventh chord which lies a fifth above C.

    A fifth above C is G:

    …consequently, the G dominant seventh chord:

    …can be used as a passing chord to the C major triad:

    Passing Chord To Chord 4

    In the key of C major, the root of chord 4:

    …is F:

    The best option for a passing chord to chord 4 is a dominant seventh chord which lies a fifth above F.

    A fifth above F is C:

    …consequently, the C dominant seventh chord:

    …can be used as a passing chord to the F major triad:

    Passing Chord To Chord 5

    The root of chord 5:

    …in the key of C is G:

    Although there are several options, the best passing chord we can use is the dominant seventh chord which lies a fifth above G.

    A fifth above G is D:

    …consequently, the D dominant seventh chord:

    …can be used as a passing chord to the G major triad:

    Final Words

    Let’s put everything together using the classic hymn “Blessed Assurance.”

    Ble-ssed a-ssu:

    …rance (passing chord to chord 4):

    …Je:

    …sus is mine:

    Oh (passing chord to chord 4):

    …what a fore:

    …taste of glo (passing chord to chord 5):

    …ry di-vine:

    Heir (passing chord to chord 1):

    …of salva:

    …tion (passing chord to chord 4):

    …pur:

    …chase of God:

    Born (passing chord to chord 4):

    …of His Spi:

    …rit (passing chord to chord 5):

    …washed:

    …in His (passing chord to chord 1):

    …blood:

    At this point, you’ve seen how dominant seventh chords are applied and I believe that with the slightest effort, you’ll be able to apply the concepts we just learned to other hymn and worship songs.

    We’ll be ending this study now so you can get ready for keyboard harmony 103. 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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 zino

    great

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