• Revealed: The Chorale Perspective To Playing Cyclical Progressions

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

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    There’s a chorale perspective to playing cyclical progressions and only a handful of musicians and privileged to know it.

    In today’s lesson, we’re letting the cat out of the bag for anyone who is interested in playing cyclical chord progressions with effortless ease.

    Attention: If you’re coming across the term cyclical progressions for the first time, don’t worry, we’re starting this lesson with a thorough review on cyclical progressions.

    One of the reasons why it is important for every musician to learn and master cyclical progressions is because of its common place in popular music styles – especially in jazz and gospel music.

    A Review On Cyclical Progressions

    Chord movements that are based on a particular interval are called cyclical progressions. In this post, we’re exploring progressions with root movements based on an interval of fourths.

    Once again, here’s our cycle (or circle) of fourths:
    circleoffiths1

    If you follow this cycle in a counter-clockwise direction, it represents the movement of the root of chords in intervals of fourths.

    Using this cycle, it’s easy to see the root move from C to F:

    …F to Bb:

    …Bb to Eb:

    …following this musical clock in the counter-clockwise direction.

    While the organizing of notes on the cycle of fourths are based on perfect fourth intervals, root progressions can also move using the augmented fourth interval.

    It’s possible to have C:

    …move to F#:

    It’s also possible to have F:

    …move to B:

    Attention: No doubt, root progressions can move in any quality of fourth – whether perfect or augmented, however, it’s more common to see them move in the perfect fourth intervals.

    Before discussing anything else, let’s quickly talk about the concept of voicing.

    “What Is Voicing?”

    There are four main voice parts in choral music:

    • Soprano
    • Alto
    • Tenor
    • Bass

    Here’s how they are stratified:

    Soprano is the first voice

    Alto is the second voice

    Tenor is the third voice

    Bass is the fourth voice

    The first and second voices, which are the two upper voices are usually assigned to the female voice, while the third and fourth voices, which are the two lower voices are assigned to the male voice.

    The consideration and rearrangement of the notes of a chord as these voice parts is known as voicing. For example, the notes of the C major seventh chord:

    …can be considered as voices.

    B:

    …is the soprano voice.

    G:

    …is the alto voice.

    E:

    …is the tenor voice.

    C:

    …is the bass voice.

    Beyond the consideration of the notes of the C major seventh chord as voices, voicing also entails the rearrangement of these notes using voice-leading principles and voicing techniques which include (but is not limited to):

    • The part-over-root voicing technique
    • The rootless voicing technique
    • The drop-2 voicing technique
    • The upper-structure voicing technique
    • The polychord voicing technique

    Let’s go ahead and explore the chorale perspective to cyclical progressions. In another lesson, we’ll expound on these voicing techniques

    Cyclical Progressions From A Chorale Perspective

    While playing a cyclical progression where the root descends by a fifth or ascends by a fourth, for example, the case of the C major seventh chord:

    …progressing to the F major seventh chord:

    …the common challenge a vast majority of pianists face is smoothness.

    The downward movement of the C major seventh chord:

    …to the F major seventh chord:

    …is not smooth because all the voices are literally transposed down a perfect fifth interval.

    “Say Hello To The Chorale Perspective…”

    Here’s one secret that most advanced players know:

    In a cyclical chord progression, the two lower voices (which are the bass and tenor voices) in a given chord are the two upper voices (which are the alto and soprano voices) in the next chord.

    For example, in the case of the C major seventh chord and the F major seventh chord, the bass and tenor voices of the C major seventh chord:

    …(which are C and E):

    …are the alto and soprano voices in the F major seventh chord:

    …(which are also C and E):

    Due to the fact that two successive chords have two notes in common, only the two upper voices (alto and soprano) move, while the two lower voices (bass and tenor) are static.

    In a chord progression from chord 1 to chord 4, the alto and soprano voices of the C major seventh chord:

    …which are G and B respectively:

    …move to F and A:

    …while the bass and tenor voices (which are C and E):

    …are static. This produces a chord progression from the C major seventh chord:

    …to the F major seventh chord:

    A downward movement of the bass and tenor voices of the F major seventh chord:

    …which are C and E:

    …to B and D:

    …produces the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    In a cyclical chord progression, all the voices don’t move at the same time. The upper voices (alto and soprano) move downwards in root position seventh chords while the lower voices (bass and tenor) move downwards in second inversion chords.

    Cyclical Chord Progression In The Key Of C Major

    Starting from the C major seventh chord:

    …moving the alto and soprano voices (G and B):

    …downwards to F and A:

    …to produce the F major seventh chord:

    Moving the bass and tenor voices of the F major seventh chord (which are C and E):

    …downwards to B and D:

    …produces the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    Moving the alto and soprano voices of the B half-diminished seventh chord (which are F and A):

    …downwards to E and G:

    …produces the E minor seventh chord:

    Moving the bass and tenor voices of the E minor seventh chord (which are B and D):

    …downwards to A and C:

    …produces the A minor seventh chord:

    Moving the alto and soprano voices of the A minor seventh chord (which are E and G):

    …downwards to D and F:

    …produces the D minor seventh chord:

    Moving the bass and tenor voices of the D minor seventh chord (which are A and C):

    …downwards to G and B:

    …produces the G dominant seventh chord:

    Moving the alto and soprano voices of the G dominant seventh chord (which are D and F):

    …downwards to C and E:

    …produces the C major seventh chord:

    “Putting It Together…”

    Attention: Please pay attention to the movement of the voices.

    The C major seventh chord:

    …to the F major seventh chord:

    …to the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …to the E minor seventh chord:

    …to the A minor seventh chord:

    …to the D minor seventh chord:

    …to the G dominant seventh chord:

    …to the C major seventh chord:

    Final Words

    Congratulations! I’m doubly sure that you can now play cyclical progressions with effortless ease, just by the mere understanding of the concept of voicing. Indeed knowledge is power.

    In the next lesson, we’ll be transposing this cyclical progression to all twelve major keys.

    See you then!

    The following two tabs change content below.
    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

    good

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