• Cyclical Chord Progressions: How To Apply 3-7-3 And 7-3-7 Chord Skeletons

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Gospel music,Jazz music,Piano,Salsa & Latin styles,Theory

    In this lesson, we’ll be learning how cyclical chord progressions can be played using chord skeletons.

    “Is This Lesson For You?”

    Just to be sure that you’re the person this lesson is for, kindly answer the questions below.

    1. Do you love seventh chords and are an intermediate keyboard player who is interested in playing “more with less”?
    2. Are you interested in learning how to play chord progressions smoothly and with minimal movement of the fingers?
    3. Do you love playing around the circle of fourths or circle of fifths with chords?

    If your answer to any or all of the questions above is yes, then this lesson is for you.

    Now that you’re sure this lesson is for you, let’s get the ball rolling with a brief discussion on chord skeletons.

    Quick Insights On Chord Skeletons

    The skeleton of a chord are basically its most important tones and they are the third and seventh tones.

    The third and seventh tones are considered to be the most important tones of a chord because they are used to determined the quality of a chord.

    The skeleton of the C major seventh chord:

    …are E and B:
    …which are the third and seventh tones of the C major seventh chord.

    A closer look at these three seventh chord types:

    C major seventh chord:

    C minor seventh chord:

    C dominant seventh chord:

    …shows that they all share the same root and fifth tone:

    C and G:

    …but differ in skeleton:

    C major seventh skeleton:

    C minor seventh skeleton:

    C dominant seventh skeleton:

    So, the difference between major, minor, and dominant chords are their skeletons.

    3-7-3 Vs 7-3-7 Voicings

    The skeleton of a chord can be inverted and instead of the 3rd and 7th, we’ll have the 7th and the 3rd.

    The inversion of the skeleton produces two skeletons the “3-7” skeleton and the “7-3” skeleton and If you breakdown the C major seventh chord:

    …to the 3-7 and 7-3 skeletons, you’ll have:

    The 3-7 skeleton of the C major seventh chord:

    The 7-3 skeleton of the C major seventh chord:

    If the 3rd or 7th is duplicated in any of the skeleton voicings, the outcome would be:

    The 3-7-3 skeleton of the C major seventh chord:

    The 7-3-7 skeleton of the C major seventh chord:

    We’ll be putting these voicings to work in a subsequent segment but before we do that, let’s refresh our minds on cyclical progressions.

    A Short Note On Cyclical Chord Progressions

    A chord progression is considered to be cyclical when the chord movement is based on a fixed interval.

    In tonal music, the strongest cyclical chord progressions are in fourths and fifths. So, ascending or descending in fourth and fifth intervals produces cyclical progressions.

    “Here’s How It Works…”

    Starting from any scale tone chord in the key (let’s say the 1-chord) and progressing in these two directions:

    1. Descending in fifths
    2. Ascending in fourths

    …produces a cyclical chord progression.

    From the 1-chord:

    …to the 4-chord:

    …then the 7-chord:

    …to the 3-chord:

    …followed by the 6-chord:

    …and the 2-chord:

    …then the 5-chord:

    …and back to the 1-chord:

    That’s exactly how a typical cyclical chord progression works. I’d have loved to be a lot more elaborate on cyclical chord progressions but for time constraint.

    Let’s go ahead and explore cyclical chord progressions using 3-7-3 and 7-3-7 voicings.

    Cyclical Chord Progressions Using 3-7-3 And 7-3-7 Chord Voicings

    We’ll start from the 1-chord and cycle all the way back to the 1-chord in the key and I’ll be giving you two options right here:

    Option A

    Option B

    Are you ready?! Alright!

    Attention:  Keep in mind that all the examples are given in the key of C major.

    Option A – “Starting From The 3-7-3 Voicing…”

    The 1-chord:

    The 4-chord:

    The 7-chord:

    The 3-chord:

    The 6-chord:

    The 2-chord:

    The 5-chord:

    The 1-chord:

    Did you notice the movement of the outer and inner voices of the skeleton? From the 1-chord to the 4-chord, you’ll notice that the outer voices are static while the inner voice moved.

    In the case of the movement from the 4-chord to the 7-chord, the outer voices moved while the inner voice was retained.

    Option B – “Starting From The 7-3-7 Voicing…”

    The 1-chord:

    The 4-chord:

    The 7-chord:

    The 3-chord:

    The 6-chord:

    The 2-chord:

    The 5-chord:

    The 1-chord:

    Attention: Don’t let the movement and retention of the voices escape your notice.

    Final Words

    These progressions sound great and can be applied in (but should not be limited to) genres like Jazz, Gospel, Salsa, Bossa-Nova, R&B, etc.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll be playing songs with these chord voicings and progressions.

    See you then!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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