• Here’s How To Play Cyclical Progressions Using “Skeleton Voicings”

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano,Theory

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    In this lesson, I’ll be showing you an application of skeleton voicings.

    So many people don’t believe that less is more and that’s because in certain cases, more is more and less is less. However, there are situations where one can achieve more using less.

    We’ll be achieving more with less today by playing cyclical progressions with just two notes on the right hand.

    Skeleton Voicings

    The notes of a chord can also be considered as voice parts or voices – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. This consideration leads to the rearrangement of the notes of a chord during chord progressions. Jermaine Griggs

    Voicing is the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices. The skeleton voicing of chords is the rearrangement that focuses on the most important tones of a chord (aka – “the skeleton”.)

    The C major seventh chord:

    …can be voiced with its third and seventh tones:

    …which are its skeleton.

    Check out the skeleton voicing of other seventh chord qualities…

    The C minor seventh chord:

    …can be voiced with its third and seventh tones:

    …which are Eb and Bb.

    The C dominant seventh chord:

    …can be voiced with its third and seventh tones:

    …which are E and Bb. This skeleton is popular among gospel and jazz musicians, who use it as left hand voicings.

    Further reading: Skeleton Voicing.

    We’ll be learning how to play cyclical progressions using these two note voicings. But before we do so, let’s look at one more thing – the “A & B Voicing”.

    “A & B Voicing” Of The Skeleton Voicing

    The skeleton of a chord consists of its third and seventh tones.

    Although the skeleton can be played regularly in a way that the third comes before the seventh, it can also be inverted. The outcome of this inversion is that the seventh tone would be played before the third tone.

    Here’s an example…

    The skeleton voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    …is E-B:

    …which are its third and seventh tones.

    Inversion of E-B produces B-E:

    …which is pretty much the same skeleton voicing, however, in this case we’re having the seventh tone (B) before the third tone (E.)

    In the next segment, we’ll be exploring cyclical progressions using the skeleton voicing and that’s where the knowledge of A & B voicing of seventh chords would be of the greatest possible importance.

    Considering that we’ll be learning cyclical progressions in the key of C, I’ll be showing you the A and B voicing of the the skeleton voicing of scale degree chords in the key of C.

    Attention: Dwell on these chord voicings for a while before you continue with the rest of the lesson.

    Chord 1 – The C Major Seventh Chord

    The skeleton voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    …is E-B:

    …and can be played in A:

    …or B:

    …voicing.

    Chord 2 – The D Minor Seventh Chord

    The skeleton voicing of the D minor seventh chord:

    …is F-C:

    …and can be played in A:

    …or B:

    …voicing.

    Chord 3 – The E Minor Seventh Chord

    The skeleton voicing of the E minor seventh chord:

    …is G-D:

    …and can be played in A:

    …or B:

    …voicing.

    Chord 4 – The F Major Seventh Chord

    The skeleton voicing of the F major seventh chord:

    …is A-E:

    …and can be played in A:

    …or B:

    …voicing.

    Chord 5 – The G Dominant Seventh Chord

    The skeleton voicing of the G dominant seventh chord:

    …is B-F:

    …and can be played in A:

    …or B:

    …voicing.

    Chord 6 – The A Minor Seventh Chord

    The skeleton voicing of the A minor seventh chord:

    …is C-G:

    …and can be played in A:

    …or B:

    …voicing.

    Chord 7 – The B Half-Diminished Seventh Chord

    The skeleton voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …is D-A:

    …and can be played in A:

    …or B:

    …voicing.

    Let’s connect these voicings we’ve covered into a cyclical chord progression.

    Cyclical Progressions

    Chord progression is the movement of chords from one scale degree to another. In chord progressions, Chord 1 can move to any scale degree chord ranging from chord 2 to chord 7 in an unpredictable manner.

    Cyclical chord progressions are predictable chord progressions where the root of a chord moves in a certain interval.

    In music, the strongest movement between chords is in fifths and fourths. Chord progressions that are based on root movements in fourths and fifths are called cyclical progressions and this is because they move in a cycle using the same interval.

    Fourth Vs Fifth

    Attention: Fourth or fifth here has a lot to do with direction. Cyclical progressions ascend in fourths and descend in fifths. Using the chart below:

    circleoffiths1

    C to G can be a fifth or fourth.

    “Here’s how…”

    C:

    ..to G:

    …in the ascending direction is a fifth, encompassing C to G:

    …five degrees of the scale.

    “…while”

    C:

    ..to G:

    …in the descending direction is a fourth, encompassing C to G:

    …four degrees of the scale.

    Due to the relationship between fourths and fifths, all I’ll recommend that you do is, follow the arrangement of notes in the circle of fifths in a counter clock-wise manner while playing cyclical progressions.

    Cyclical Progressions From A Diatonic Perspective

    If you follow the circle of fifths/fourths chat in a counter clockwise manner as recommended, you’ll certainly find yourself in notes that are foreign to the key that we’re in.

    Starting from C, if we follow the circle:
    circleoffiths1
    …we’ll have…

    F

    Bb

    Eb

    Ab

    Db

    etc

    …which are are foreign notes to the C major scale:

    …save F. Therefore, instead of these foreign notes, we’ll rather have the notes of the C major scale arranged in fourths.

    C to F:

    F to B:

    …instead of the regular Bb on the chart.

    B to E:

    …instead of the regular Eb on the chart.

    E to A:

    …instead of the regular Ab on the chart.

    A to D:

    …instead of the regular Db on the chart.

    D to G:

    …instead of the regular Gb on the chart.

    G to C:

    …instead of the regular Cb on the chart.
    Put together, here’s the C major scale in fourths:

    Letters

    C

    F

    B

    E

    A

    D

    G

    C

    Numbers

    1

    4

    7

    3

    6

    2

    5

    1

    Alright, let’s get everything together now by doing a chord progression based on the numbers above. We’ll be moving from chord 1, to chord 4, to chord 7, …to chord 5, and back to chord 1.

    I suppose you know what numbers to fill in-between chord 7 and chord 5. Yeah! We’re talking about predictability here.

    Cyclical Progressions Using “Skeleton Voicings”

    Without any further ado, here is a cyclical progression in the key of C major using the skeleton voicings of scale degree chords we covered earlier…

    Attention: Expect the chords to come in the 1-4-7-3-6-2-5-1 cyclic order.

    Take #1

    Chord 1:

    …the B voicing of the C major seventh chord, to Chord 4:

    …the A voicing of the F major seventh chord, to Chord 7:

    …the B voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord, to Chord 3:

    …the A voicing of the E minor seventh chord, to Chord 6:

    …the B voicing of the A minor seventh chord, to Chord 2:

    …the A voicing of the D minor seventh chord, to Chord 5:

    …the B voicing of the G dominant seventh chord, to Chord 1:

    …the A voicing of the C major seventh chord.

    Take #2

    Chord 1:

    …the A voicing of the C major seventh chord, to Chord 4:

    …the B voicing of the F major seventh chord, to Chord 7:

    …the A voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord, to Chord 3:

    …the B voicing of the E minor seventh chord, to Chord 6:

    …the A voicing of the A minor seventh chord, to Chord 2:

    …the B voicing of the D minor seventh chord, to Chord 5:

    …the A voicing of the G dominant seventh chord, to Chord 1:

    …the B voicing of the C major seventh chord.

    At this point I’m sure you’re seeing how much we’re achieving with skeleton voicings – two notes.

    Final Words

    “Did you notice that…?”

    The first chord voicing in take #2 is the last chord voicing in take #1 and vice-versa. This means we can put take #1 and #2 together. Check it out below…

    Take #3

    Chord 1:

    …the B voicing of the C major seventh chord, to Chord 4:

    …the A voicing of the F major seventh chord, to Chord 7:

    …the B voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord, to Chord 3:

    …the A voicing of the E minor seventh chord, to Chord 6:

    …the B voicing of the A minor seventh chord, to Chord 2:

    …the A voicing of the D minor seventh chord, to Chord 5:

    …the B voicing of the G dominant seventh chord, to Chord 1:

    _____________________ending of take #1/starting of take #2___________________________

    …the A voicing of the C major seventh chord, to Chord 4:

    …the B voicing of the F major seventh chord, to Chord 7:

    …the A voicing of the B half-diminished seventh chord, to Chord 3:

    …the B voicing of the E minor seventh chord, to Chord 6:

    …the A voicing of the A minor seventh chord, to Chord 2:

    …the B voicing of the D minor seventh chord, to Chord 5:

    …the A voicing of the G dominant seventh chord, to Chord 1:

    …the B voicing of the C major seventh chord.

    This is just the beginning! In subsequent posts, we’ll explore more chord qualities and add a variety of stuff to this basic cyclic progressions.

    Until then, practice what you just learned in other keys.

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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 lesson

    Reply

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