Harmonic Principles and Progressions - Guitar Lesson 9
Written by Philip du Toit   
Friday, 27 November 2009 08:33

 

From lessons 1 to 8, we have worked on chord building, scales, notes etc.  We also tried to focus on developing your ear.  This lesson attempts to open the world of harmonization.  It is one thing to know what possible chords one can play in a song (based on the tritones – lesson 8) or how to play all the possible chords, but it is another skill to know what chord to play when.  This is not a skill that can be developed overnight.  It comes with a lot of exposure to music, a lot of playing an instrument, and a well developed ear.

 

We want to open some doors on harmonization in such a way that you can apply it in the songs you play.  We also just touched on two songs, but there are thousands of songs where you can apply the same principles.

 

 

 

Let's introduce you to a few harmonic tendencies.  The first one, we have introduced already (Lesson 8).

  

  

1. Use chord expansions instead of basic majors and minors (see Chordexpansions.pdf)

 

E.g. A9 or A13 instead of A

        Em7 or Em9 instead of Em

  

  

  

2. Use related minors instead of majors

 

Majors and their related minors can be used interchangeably

E.g. Am instead of C, Em instead of G


  

  

  

3. Music tends to move anticlockwise in the circle of fifths:

 

Open CircleofFifths.pdf

 

This means that chords often progress as indicated on this circle.  Can you remember "Battle Ends and Down Goes Charles' Father"? (Lesson 6).  Well, this is essentially the same, just in another application.  Lets take the key of G major.  What will the three basic majors and three basic minors be?  G, C and D.  See where they lie on the circle of fifths relative to G.  The related minors will be Em, Am and Bm.  See where they lie on the circle of fifths relative to G.  If you move to another key everything will be in the same relationship.  E.g. in the key of C, the three basic majors and minors will be one position anticlockwise.  This is another way of determining which chords to use in a certain key, and how.

 

E.g. “He is Lord” from Dale Grotenhuis (alternative harmonization):

 

 

(In the key of G)

 

| G  -    B      -       |  Em7 -  A7 - | Am7 -  -  - | Am7/D  -  D9  - |  G  -  -  -  | G  -  -  - | C  - Am  - |
           from the…

 

Notice that in the above progression, the B is the third harmony, but in this case it is a major.  You often get that the third harmony becomes a major, followed by the next minor in the circle of fifths.  In the above example, the circle of fifths is broken by a related minor.


 

 

See the next example of a Jazz chord progression in G major.  Play it in 3/4 time (waltz).

   

| Gmaj7 -  - | Em7 -  - | F#m7b5 -  - | B9 -  - | Em7 -  - | A9 -  - | Dm7 -  - | G7b9 -  - | Cmaj7 -  - | -  -  - |

 

Cm7 -  - | F9 -  - | Bbmaj7 -  -  |  -  -  - | Bbm7 -  -  | Eb9 -  - | Abmaj7  -  - | -  -  - |

 

F9/A -  - | -  -  - | Bm7 -  - | Bbdim -  - | Am7 -  - | D7b9 -  - | Gmaj7 -  - |

 

 

It starts with a G major, followed by its related minor.  It then starts with a sequence in the circle of fifths, starting with the F#m, right through to the Ab major.  It is then broken by an F9/A, followed by another line on the circle of fifths, back to the G.

 

 

 

4. Music often tends to move with a continuous bass-line:

 

 

Play this example:

 

| D  -  -  - | A  -  -  -  | D7 -  -  -| G  -  -  - | D -  -  - |  A7  -  -  - | D

 

 

Now play:

 

| D  -  -  - | A/E  -  -  -  | D7/F# -  -  -| G  -  -  - | D /A -  -  - |  A7  -  -  - | D

 

[Try and play the D7/F# with your thumb on the F# (second string).  The other two can be strummed from a different bass note.]

 

Both versions contain the same chords, but building it on a continuous baseline, brings a stronger line into the harmony.

  

  

  

5. Delay the fifth harmony

 

Try to delay the fifth harmony.  Rather try to play the related minors or move anti-clockwise in the circle of fifths.

 

 

In the song “We love you with the love of the Lord” (D Major).  In stead of playing…

 

| D -  -  - | A  -  -  - | D -  -  - | -  -  -  - | D  -  -  - | -  -  -  - | A  -  -  - |  -  -  -  - |

 

 

Play:

 

| D -  -  - | Em7  -  -  - | F#m7 -  -  - | Bm7  -  -  - | F#m7  -  -  - | Bsus  -  B7  - | Em7  -  -  - |  Asus  -  A  - |

 

Here, the A is only played right at the end for a short while after the Asus.  Note how the Asus chord anticipates the A.

  

  

  

6. Chord substitution (neighbouring chords)

 

In stead of moving through the circle of fifths, it can be substituted with a neighbouring chord.  See examples below:

 

(in Bb Major)

 

Cm7    F7    Bbmaj7
  

   becomes

 

Cm7    B7    Bbmaj7

 

 

Variations:

Cm7   B9b5   Bbmaj9 (I worship you Lord)

 

Cm7     B9#5     Bbmaj9     Gm7      Cm7      B9       Bbmaj7 (O Lord my God)
              (F9)                                                   (F7b9) 

 

Cm7/Eb      B9       Bb9 (Blue Christmas)

 

 

 

7. Use diminished chords between neighbouring chords

 

 

(In G Major)

 

Bm7    Bbdim    Am7    D7b9    Gmaj7 (Jazz Waltz)

      or

Bm9    Bb9    Am9    D7b9    Gmaj7

 

 

(In C Major)

F    F#m7b5    G9sus4    G9 (Cumba Ya)

 

 

(In C Major)

C    C#dim    Dm9 (Father in Heaven)

     or

C    A9/C#    Dm9

     or

C    A7b9    Dm9

 

 

 

I sincerely hope that there was something in these lessons for everyone – from the new guitar player to the more advanced one.  You are welcome to contact me if you have any query about this.  I also give chord building seminars for churches and congregations.

 

 

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