Chord progressions & Basic Music Theory
Welcome to the 2nd blog in this tutorial series, this week we are looking at chord progression, a basic understanding of how we put together a chord progression together & how we can use scales to keep our track in key and sounding good. Anything is possible with music & we can range out of the scales but for this tutorial we will be keeping it simple, this will allow us to get a better understanding of scales and how we write our chord progressions.
Most modern music generally use either a Minor or Major scale’s the following point which we will be going through in this tutorial are
· Difference between major & minor
· Key's & Scales in C (Major & Minor)
· Working out a scale using a secret formula
· Chords, Roman Numerals & Inversion's
· Chord Progression’s & implementing it into our track
MAJOR & MINOR
The reason I have picked Major & Minor is because they are the most heavily used keys that make up a scale in most modern music today, we usually play lead lines with a monophonic note (meaning one note at a time) and the Melody line usually is related to the track’s chord progression which in turn is related to the key of the track and is how everything fit in key with each other. This leads us to the two main types Major & Minor scales with each scale having 7 keys in them to make up that scale. Major is known for being a Happy, good feeling scale whilst Minor has a dark, sad emotion side. The most important note within the scale is the Root note or Tonic note this is what note we start the scale on and in this case, it’s C. From finding out our Tonic we can either pick Major or Minor and work out what keys are in our scale by following a pattern for each scale. For the next section you can follow along by right clicking on the Click/Device Drop Area and creating a MIDI channel, now search for the grand Piano via instruments and by pressing CTRL + F (PC) CMD + F (MAC), drag and drop the grand piano onto the midi track and use the keyboard or a midi input to play the keys.
KEYBOARD & KEYS
On a keyboard we have White & Black Keys, there are 88keys on a full sized keyboard starting from A and finishing on C, From the bottom note A all the way up to the last note C the spacing between the tones is a semi tone, we can also break down the keyboard into sections, As the picture shows you will notice there is a pattern of 2 black keys then 3 black keys, the white note to the left of the 2 black keys is where we will start and is always the key known as C, if we count 12 keys (including the black keys) up from the key C, we will notice that we are back on the note C, As we do count up the keys from C we will get the following, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb, B.
THE WORKING OUT OF A SCALE
So now we know about what keys are and how 7 keys make up a scale of either Major or Minor we can now use a formula to gain access to any Major or Minor scale. As we know there is a semi tone between each key we can add further to that by saying 2 semi tones is equal to a whole tone, for example from C to C# is a semi tone 1 spacing/ key, but if we go from C to D this would be called a whole tone as we jump up 2 spacing's/ keys. The formula to work out any Major or Minor scale is simple I will put down numbers relating to how many keys we jump up and I will put
2/T=Whole Tone &
MAJOR – 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 T-T-S-T-T-T-S
MINOR – 2-1-2-2-1-2-2 T-S-T-T-S-T-T
CHORDS, ROMAN NUMERALS & INVERSION'S
Now we have our scale we can work out different chords from each note within the chosen scale. As we are using C (root) Major (scale) (all the white keys) we can now put together chords which sound harmonically sound, the most basic chord there is, is the Triad. We will look at all the triads in the C major scale and from this apply roman numerals, this make's it easier to write down what chord progressions we want to use.
This might look a bit complicated at first site but as we break it down we can see how each chord is made. So we know we are using C (root) Major (scale) within each scale we have 7 notes and each note by adding two more notes make's a triad, as we start from the left C all we do is miss a note and play the next, miss a note and play the next so the triad of C major is C, miss D, E, miss F, G, so the chord is C, E, G or Cmaj, the next example differs from what we would think it to be E major instead it is E minor, to get the chord start at our root E, miss F, G, miss A, B, with the chord being E, G, B.
As you can see on the drawing above each root note within the scale are C, D, E, F, G, A, B with each note is given a number ranging from the tonic of the scale these are called Roman Numerals so in this case our scale of C major, the tonic/root C would be given a roman numeral of I because this is the tonic/ root of the key/ scale our track or music is being written in. We then count up from the tonic as follows, C, D, E, F, G, A, B - I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii, if you notice the numerals some are in lower case and some are in capitals, the numerals in capitals are Major and the lower case numerals are minor with the 7th in Major scale being diminished.
As you can also notice on the picture above I have greyed out some notes, we will use the roman numerals to understand why there are Maj, Min & dim chords within our scale. To figure out what the chord it is within our Major scale we look at the key spacing's in-between our chords, for example the Cmaj chord is a Major chord because it has 4 semi tones gap to E and then 3 semi tones gap to G as shown by the greyed out notes, to figure out a minor chord this is the opposite to maj as this has 3 semi tones gap first to G, and then 4 semi tones to B, as shown above in the drawing. The last chord you will notice is the diminished chord if you play the chord you will notice it just isn't like the others it has a dysfunctional feel to it, we know it is a diminished chord by noticing the spacing between the notes are 2 semi tone and 2 semi tones.
INVERSIONS & 7th,9th,11th,13ths
When building our chords it is normal to start with the root note, when we have our chord we can start to experiment with it by placing the keys within the chord in different positions, we can invert the C chord 3 different ways firstly by the root, the 3rd or the 5th either up a octave (pic left) or down a octave (pic right)as shown below.
This gives us different combinations from the chords we select and allows us more selection to write that we feel our track needs.
7ths, 9th's, 11th's & 13ths.
We can also add to our Triads by placing notes above 5th note, so far we have our root, our 3rd & 5th, we add notes for more variation and to make our chord & progressions sound more interesting, all the 7ths,9ths,11ths,13ths are shown below in C major scale, if you add all of them at once the chord might become over crowded and sound messy, try different combinations to see what suits the track your going for, Also note we can only go up to a maximum to 13th/ 7 keys as this will bring us back to the root note. There is also a table showing all the chords we can use within the C Major scale.
CHORD PROGRESSIONS & IMPLEMENTING IT INTO OUR TRACK
We have covered a lot of the basics in this tutorial and there is so much more, minor scale's have a different chord structure as compared to major scales but I don't want to fry your mind so we will leave it for another day.
We will finish off by writing some chord progressions via our Roman numerals and implement them into our track.
We want to write a chord progression to what we feel, we can stick to being safe and start at the root note or we can be adventurous and start anywhere within the scale, usually we want to take the listener on a journey and come back home to the root but in this example we are going to scrap that idea and use a chord progression I have made up, with what we have learnt try putting the following chord progression into the DAW, the chord progression is V, ii, iii, I try this before looking at the photo below.
As you can see this is our chord progression over 1 bar, we now need to spice it up a bit with a different arrangement that suits our beat and add a instrument that suits our liking, if you like how it sounds with the grand piano then you can leave it as it is.
This is our simple chord progression, there is added bass notes on another midi channel to try show the relationship between the two, both are in the same key and using the same notes within the selected chord's. We can deviate as much as we want from this but this is just a basic understanding on how we implement chords into our tracks.
Next time we will look at how we can take this chord progression further, by layering up different sounds & mixing them all to fit within the track, also to make sure they don't clash with each other and other sections of the track, so we will look at some techniques to compensate if a issue occurs.
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