Understanding chord progressions

Stu Goodis
Submitted: Thu, April 16, 2015 - 3:38pm EDT
"Understanding chord progressions" by Stu Goodis
Functional harmony is how chords relate and move.

The most recognizable chord progression is the "Dominant" to the "Tonic". In the key of Cmajor, G7 resolves to Cma7. This 4th movement is the Dominant-Tonic relationship, it defines how we hear chords move. The easiest way to illustrate this is using a circle. Moving counter-clockwise displays 4ths.

Additional chords are used via these common substitutions:

•Secondary Dominant: When dominant chords other than the "Five Chord" (G7) are used this is called "secondary dominant". These chords create tension and therefore demand stronger resolutions by moving in 4ths, for example....B7-Emi ..... E7-Ami ..... A7-Dmi ..... D7-G7 .... C7-Fma7. Secondary Dominant chords can also be used in series, for example.... B7-E7-A7-D7-G7.
•Minor Four: Fmi instead of Fma7. This is borrowed from the parallel minor key (Cminor) where the four chord is normally minor.
•Diminished chords: Generally used to connect chords chromatically. Cma7-C#dim7-Dmi7 ..... Dmi7-D#dim7-Emi7. This creates an ascending chromatic movement. Descending diminished chords are used this way, Emi7-Ebdim7-Dmi7. Diminished chords function as Dominant b9 chords. C#dim7=A7, D#dim7=B7.
•Tritone Substitution: A tritone sub is when chord is replaced with it's tritone (3 whole steps), for example, G7=Db7. As a result Db7 resolves to Cma7 chromatically. Tritone subs are generally dominant chords and can be used with any chord in the key.


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