• Preparing The Left Hand For Cyclical Progressions In Fourths and Fifths

    in Piano,Piano Exercises,Scales,Theory

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    I hope you enjoyed our previous discussion on cyclical progressions.

    If you did, then you’ll love this post because I’ll be taking you a step further by preparing your left hand for cyclical movement in fourths.

    There’s usually much emphasis on the right hand, learning all the chords and harmonic devices. And while there’s nothing wrong with learning chords on the right hand, when the left hand is overlooked, it becomes challenging to coordinate both hands down the road.

    In this post, I’ll be exposing you to concepts that will help you understand how the left hand works in cyclical progressions.

    Fourth vs Fifth Intervals

    Cyclical progressions ascend in fourths and descend in fifths.

    Although the most common qualities of fourths and fifths used in cyclical progressions are the perfect fourth and perfect fifth intervals, the diminished fifth and the augmented fourth intervals are also used.

    On the music clock (circle of fourths):
    circleoffiths1

    …moving counter-clockwise from C to F can either mean ascending from C:

    …to F:

    …or descending from C:

    …to F:

    Whichever way it is, it all boils down to F.

    There are also other situations where C:

    …will ascend [by an augmented fourth interval] to F#:

    …or descend [by a diminished fifth interval] to F#:

    The tritone is the relationship between the ascent of a root by an augmented fourth or its descent by a diminished fifth.

    Attention: Considering that the movement of the root (or bass) in cyclical progressions is at the player’s discretion to either ascend in fourths or descend in fifths, mastering fourth and fifth intervals (especially the perfect fourth and perfect fifth intervals) in all keys will be of the greatest possible importance.

    Perfect Fourth Intervals

    Out of the seven occurrences that scale tones are connected in cyclical progressions in any given key, six of those occurrences are the ascent of the perfect fourth interval. Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

    The notes of the C major scale can be rearranged in ascents of fourths:

    Let’s examine these fourths:

    From C to F:

    …a perfect fourth.

    From F to B:

    …an augmented fourth.

    From B to E:

    …a perfect fourth.

    From E to A:

    …a perfect fourth.

    From A to D:

    …a perfect fourth.

    From D to G:

    …a perfect fourth.

    From G to C:

    …a perfect fourth.

    That’s what I meant when I said six ascents by perfect fourths (C to F, B to E, E to A, A to D, D to G, G to C). There is only one ascent between F and B that is considered an augmented fourth interval.

    Here’s a tabular documentation of our close examination of the quality of fourths between the tones of the C major scale…

    Fourth Interval

    Quality

    C to F

    Perfect fourth

    F to B

    Augmented fourth

    B to E

    Perfect fourth

    E to A

    Perfect fourth

    A to D

    Perfect fourth

    D to G

    Perfect fourth

    G to C

    Perfect fourth

    The perfect fourth interval is used 85% (6 out of 7) of the times we ascend in fourths.

    Suggested reading: Mastering perfect fourth intervals.

    Here are the ascents of the perfect fourth interval in all twelve keys:

    C to F:

    Db to Gb:

    D to G:

    Eb to Ab:

    E to A:

    F to Bb:

    F# to B:

    G to C:

    Ab to Db:

    A to D:

    Bb to Eb:

    B to E:

    Perfect Fifth Intervals

    Descents in fifths are also common in cyclical progressions.

    Believe it or not, it is common for the root of the chord to descend in the interval of a perfect fifth 6 out of 7 times.

    Here are the notes of the C major scale rearranged in descent of fifths (start from the farthest C to the right and move to the left):
    Screenshot 2016-03-03 19.48.40

    Here are the descents of the perfect fifth interval in all twelve keys:

    C to F:

    Db to Gb:

    D to G:

    Eb to Ab:

    E to A:

    F to Bb:

    F# to B:

    G to C:

    Ab to Db:

    A to D:

    Bb to Eb:

    B to E:

    The Tetrachord

    The tetrachord was in use before modes.

    The term tertachord is a Greek word that means four notes. Here’s an example of a tetrachord built on C:

    These four notes – C, D, E, and F are a tetrachord.

    The major scale can be broken down into two tetrachords:

    • The upper tetrachord
    • The lower tetrachord

    The first four notes of the major scale are called the lower tetrachord while the last four notes are called the upper tetrachord.

    The C major scale:

    …can be broken down into its lower tetrachord:

    …and upper tetrachord:

    Attention: The lower tetrachord is simply the first four notes of a scale you play in the ascending direction, while the upper tetrachord is the set of four notes you play in the descending direction.

    For the sake of what we’re studying, we’ll be limiting our application of the tetrachord to the upper one, which is practically the first four notes you play in the descending direction.

    Check out the upper tetrachord in all twelve keys:

    C:

    Db:

    D:

    Eb:

    E:

    F:

    F#:

    G:

    Ab:

    A:

    Bb:

    B:

    Let’s wrap it up by exploring ascents in fourths and descents in fifths using the upper tetrachord as a guide to the left hand.

    The Upper Tetrachord

    Using the upper tetrachord of any key, you can prepare the left hand for cyclical progressions in any key.

    The left hand moves in melodic intervals of perfect fourths in the ascending direction or in perfect fifths in the descending direction.

    Attention: Melodic intervals are intervals that have notes that are played or heard separately. C and F, when played or heard one after the other, would form a melodic interval (as opposed to harmonic intervals that are played at the same time).

    In Ascents of Fourths

    The upper tetrachord of the C major scale:

    …consists of G, A, B, and C.

    These four notes can function as a guide that will keep us in the key that we’re in while we focus on forming perfect fourth melodic intervals.

    We’ll be using the upper tetrachord in its descending direction. The notes will be ordered thus:

    C
    B
    A
    G

    …pretty much like playing the tetrachord in a descending fashion.

    When this is done, form a perfect fourth melodic interval from each of the notes:

    • A perfect fourth above C is F
    • A perfect fourth above B is E
    • A perfect fourth above A is D
    • A perfect fourth above G is C

    You’ll be amazed to see that if you play all the melodic intervals you’ve derived, you’ll have the roots of the cyclical progression in the key of C. Check out the melodic intervals below:

    • C to F
    • B to E
    • A to D
    • G to C

    If we connect them together, we’ll have…

    C to F, to B, to E, to A, to D, to G, and to C

    …and here’s what it looks like:

    From C:

    …to F:

    …to B:

    …to E:

    …to A:

    …to D:

    …to G:

    …and back to C:

    Practicing this in other keys will help you prepare your left hand for cyclic movements.

    In Descents of Fifths

    We’re doing something similar to what we did in the last segment.

    We’ll be connecting the same notes of the tetrachord using a different direction (in descents) and interval (fifths).

    The upper tetrachord of the Eb major scale:

    …consists of Bb, C, D, and Eb.

    Play the upper tetrachord of the Eb major scale in its descending direction. The notes will be ordered thus:

    Eb
    D
    C
    Bb

    When this is done, form a perfect fifth melodic interval from each of the notes:

    • A perfect fifth below Eb is Ab
    • A perfect fifth below D is G
    • A perfect fifth below C is F
    • A perfect fifth below Bb is Eb

    Check out the melodic intervals formed below:

    • Eb to Ab
    • D to G
    • C to F
    • Bb to Eb

    If we connect them together, we’ll have…

    Eb to Ab, to D, to G, to C, to F, to Bb, and to Eb

    …and here’s what it looks like:

    From Eb:

    …to Ab:

    …to D:

    …to G:

    …to C:

    …to F:

    …to Bb:

    …and of course, back to Eb:

    Cyclical Progressions – Practice Suggestion

    I want to highly recommend that you practice these preparation exercises of the left hand for cyclical progressions in all keys.

    You can use the music clock:
    circleoffiths1
    …as a guide. Starting from the key of C major and proceeding to other keys in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion.

    Good luck!

    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 a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with 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 Jeff Newton

    Barry Harris’ Minor 6th-Diminished concepts; Coltrane’s “Giant Steps Matrix.” Above is beginner-level…

    Reply

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