Diatonic Harmony

All songs in every style are based on pleasing combinations of chords. Many great pop and rock songs were written using only 3 or 4 chords. More involved songs like a jazz standard or a rhythm & blues ballad have a complex form, with several sections and typically contain many more chords. These sections are like a song within a song and are often made up of a few good sounding chords, like a pop or rock song.

Cadences

When chords sound good together it is because they have produced a cadence, a cadence is defined a feeling of rest and resolution produced by switching chords.

Triads

This is an exercise in studying and hearing tonal music, establishing one note as a tonal center, in this case "C" also called the I (one) or the tonic. Any of the 12 notes in music can be the first note of its own major scale so therefore, there are 12 major keys in the world of music.

These are the chords that result from harmonizing the C major scale so these chords all sound good together because they are all in the same key. When music schools teach this concept it is called diatonic harmony, the chords resident in a key.

There are many rules and exceptions to these rules, but for a song to be in the key of C, it must treat the C major chord as home base, usually beginning and ending on this chord and making the C major chord the single greatest source of stability and resolution.

Seventh Chords

Harmonizing the scale further yields a series of seventh chords. Seventh chords are associated with modern popular and rock music. Once again, all rules have exceptions. (Dominant 7th chords are found in music as early as the baroque period while minor 7th chords appeared in the work Claude Debussey.)

Generally however, to a guitar student, seventh chords represent a jazzy or more sophisticated sound than the sound of the basic major and minor chords first studied in beginning lessons and introductory rock songs.

Analyzing And Understanding Cadences

All songs in every style, rely on chord to chord movement. When those chord changes form a sense release or resolution, they have formed a cadence. Cadences and the feeling of release, repose and resolution that they produce, are the basic building blocks of musical compositions. A cadence almost always appears at the end of a phrase, ( a series of a few chords) the end of a section (bridge, pre chorus, chorus) and at the end of the song or piece. The amount of release, finality or resolution that a cadence produces can run the gamut of musical effect from very pronounced to quite subtle. A key or tonal center is established and maintained through the use of cadences.

The basic game of music is establishing the key, taking your listener on a pleasant and interesting sonic journey away from the key and then arriving back at the center of the key. In the case of the exercises on this page that key center in a C major or a C major 7 chord called the TONIC. The chord that produces the strongest movement and sense of resolution to the TONIC chord is the V chord (five chord) called the DOMINANT in the case of the exercises on this page that chord is a G or G7.

Chord Function

I One Chord The TONIC chord establishes the key and creates stability, and resolution. The one chord is the strongest most correct sounding chord in the key and is found at the end of the strongest cadences in the song.

V Five Chord The Dominant chord creates tension and almost always demands resolution back to the TONIC chord.

IV Four Chord The Sub-dominant chord creates tension and can resolve back to the TONIC chord for a very strong cadence but the Sub-dominant chord can also move to the dominant or freely between the dominant and the TONIC chord.

Strongest Cadences

Authentic cadence -the strongest cadence in music is also called the final cadence or full cadence and relys on the movement of V to I, or Dominant to Tonic. The authentic cadence gains a large part of strength from the presence of the leading tone ("B") moving back to the root note of the tonic chord or the tonic pitch, the strongest, most correct sounding note in the key.

Plagal cadence -the next strongest cadence is also called the 'Amen cadence because it often conclude church hymns and is matched with the words "a- men".

 

Stock or Standard Cadences

Songwriters, cover musicians, arrangers and virtually music professionals have memorized a number of common knowledge chord patterns (cadences) that make their work flow smoothly and their jobs easier. Playing by ear, writing songs, or new sections of existing songs, spicing up old material with a fresh set of chords or creating new material quickly are examples of the kinds of tasks that are made easier by developing a vocabulary stock or standard cadences. To the right there are a number of these stock or standard cadences for you to work with and develop an ear for.

Cadences are not native to any style of music. An authentic or plagal cadence can be found in punk, funk, Bach, rock and all points in between. All basic cadences are just as useful to a heavy metal musician as they are to a jazz player. The example to the right uses the same I - IV - V (C, F & G in the key of C) cadence to suggest two different styles of rock music.

 

I - IV

A good old I - IV can add a hard rockin' and hot little spice to an otherwise dull or routine chord.

I - V

A resolution between I - V is a staple among songwriters. Check out the example below based on the Hank Williams classic Jambalaya.

 

I - IV - V

There are countless variations which use variations of the I - IV - V (C, F & G in this study) which, if you are reading this page you certainly have played and memorized at least a few of them.

II - V - I

The great Berklee College Of Music professor Charles Chapman used to say the world of music revolves around Blues, Cycle V (based on the circle of fifths) and II - V - I progressions. Jazz music wouldn't be jazz if it weren't for the II - V - I progression. Like all cadences, the is not limited to any one style.

To A Working Musician One Of The Most Important Applications Of Basic Music Theory Is.........

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I Chord
II Chord
III Chord
IV Chord
V Chord
VI Chord
VII Chord

The study and practice of basic diatonic harmony is a critical part of any professional level musical studies and essential to the success of any musician. Nashville studio musicians (and experienced jazz players) have long ago turned basic music theory into a type of musical shorthand, referring to chords by their number, or the place they hold in a particular key.

A professional musician or songwriter has this information, at all times, on the tip of their tongue. The first step is play and memorize the I - IV and V chords in each key as they are the most important chords in any. In pop and rock music, the IV and V chords appear almost invariably to provide a sense of chord to chord motion back to the I chord. Although any rule in music is routinely broken, it a pretty safe bet that you will find, or have cause to write either or both IV and V chords in most of your pieces.

Key of C
C Major
D minor
E minor
F Major
G Major
A minor
B diminished
Key of G
G Major
A minor
B minor
C Major
D Major
E minor
F# diminished
Key of D
D Major
E minor
F# minor
G Major
A Major
B minor
C# diminished
Key of A
A Major
B minor
C# minor
D Major
E Major
F# minor
G# diminished
Key of E
E Major
F# minor
G# minor
A Major
B Major
C# minor
D# diminished
Key of B
B Major
C# minor
D# minor
E Major
F# Major
G# minor
A# diminished
Key of F#
F# Major
G# minor
A# minor
B Major
C# Major
D# minor
E# diminished
Key of F
F Major
G minor
A minor
Bb Major
C Major
D minor
E diminished
Key of Bb
Bb Major
C minor
D minor
Eb Major
F Major
G minor
A diminished
Key of Eb
Eb Major
F minor
G minor
Ab Major
Bb Major
C minor
D diminished
Key of Ab
Ab Major
Bb minor
C minor
Db Major
Eb Major
F minor
G diminished
Key of Db
Db Major
Eb minor
F minor
Gb Major
Ab Major
Bb minor
C diminished
Key of Gb
Gb Major
Ab minor
Bb minor
Cb Major
Db Major
Eb minor
F diminished

Nashville Numbering System, Harmonic Analysis, Roman Numeral Analysis

The Nashville Numbering System which appeared in the early 1950's is nothing new or unique to Music City. Jazz Musicians call it harmonic analysis and classically trained musicians refer to it as roman numeral analysis. The Nashville Numbering System is a system of musical shorthand which assigns a roman numeral to each chord to replace the traditional chord symbol. By memorizing or at least becoming familiar with the chart which appears above you can function in any musical situation in which the Nashville Numbering System is used.

 

Musical Examples

First a basic 4 chord song such as Stand By Me or Teenager In Love.

more tehory

Next a 12 bar Blues.

theory

Finally a tune with more involved chords and a few bars of stop time such as When The Saints Go Marching In.

analyze song

 

 

In rock, blues, country and popular styles, even in professional situations, music recording sessions or rehearsals involve "head charts", that is music which is mostly in the heads of the players and writers. In jazz and classical music there are more structured, involved and often quite complicated compositions and arrangements involving formal musical charts written entirely in traditional notation.

In the 4 chord chart to the right the leader may simply say, "It's a 1-6-2-5 in G". At that point the band is off to the races creating their own arrangement on the fly. After listening to each other and playing off each other, a more involved arrangement is created right there on the spot.

If a song contains the chords C - C - F - G in the first 4 measures or numerically a I - I - IV - V, the leader may call this "an eleven forty five".

If a single measure of a song contains more than one chord, that measure in enclosed in a set of parenthesis.

 

analyze song

 

The Nashville Numbering System can be as personal as the handwriting of the person using it. There is a shortage of quality books which outline its use and there are surprisingly few hard and fast rules. Some people will enclose all of their roman numerals in circles while others will use a circle to indicate a change of key.

One thing for certain is this, all competent and professional musicians use some form of The Nashville Numbering System, roman numeral analysis or harmonic analysis to do their work.

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