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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

« 3-note Chord Dominants; Part 2 (Circle of Fifths) | Main | The 'ii V7 I' Chord Progression Pt. 3 with Don Julin »

March 3, 2011 | 3-note Chord Dominants; Part 3 (Passing chords)

Our third and final installment of of our series on 3-note V7 chords gives us a trick for putting smoother motion into our extended dominant chord progression. As we mentioned in Part 1, you can energize long, stagnant sections of playing the same dominant chord over many measures. We introduced some variations (or inversions), and while these added some interest to the music, they skipped around an awful lot. The best movement rarely transitions more than two frets at a time so we want to level things up with something we'll refer to as passing chords.

You've probably heard of passing notes (or passing tones) and the idea is the same. You use harmonically neutral voices, chord members that remain in the same diatonic key, but move nothing larger than a benign step in between. They don't alter or affect the chord progression, and they connect chord tones within the same key, without imposing any sort of harmonic agenda or intent.

Then again, maybe you haven't thought about it that deeply.

Since our V7 inversions leap up the fretboard in sequence, we can put a chord in between that doesn't change the overall chord progression of the music and round out the motion for both fingers and ear. What we are doing is taking the minor7 chord above it, and use the closest inversion. Here, we use the Bm7 with the home A7 as the transition chord:

A7root.jpg Bm7root.jpg A71st.jpg

We can continue this on up the fretboard:

A71st.jpg Bm71st.jpg A72nd.jpg Bm72nd.jpg A73rd.jpg

Of course, we start running out of frets, but the block relationships within the key remain the same, and your choice of which inversion to use will depend on how much fretboard real estate you have:

A73rd.jpg Bm73rd.jpg A7root8va.jpg

Let's put that last one in a different key so your fingers aren't struggling to breathe in the upper fret stratosphere:

D73rd.jpg Em73rd.jpg D7root.jpg

For the theory geeks, it could be ascribed that with the notes D, F# A, (sans B) some of the inversions of the Bm7 are really just a simple D chord. This is moot in the context of passing chords. It's not necessary to get overly analytical. The point of all this is to familiarize yourself with the connecting ligaments of a "walking" dominant progression, albeit, one that doesn't harmonically "progress." If you want to substitute the B for the A, it works just as well. It's the old "is it a ii7 or a IV?" dilemma, and it really does not matter.

Sing the instrumental introduction of "Sesame Street" in your head. Can you hear this progression being used? How about the first part of "All Blues?" Same thing! This is a very valuable tool to breathing life into many so called three-note chord songs.

Don't forget using these in 12 bar blues patterns too!

3-note Chord Dominants; Part 1 (Inversions)
3-note Chord Dominants; Part 2 (Circle of Fifths)
Easing into Modal Jazz
Spelling out the Chords. Melodically
What you can do with a V7 chord: Declaring Dominants

Posted by Ted at March 3, 2011 9:05 AM

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