So far you already know about chord progressions and the typical cadence shapes II – V – I, we will continue our approach showing how to use chord progressions.
Besides being pleasant to our ears in any context, progressions can be used to make changes in tonality (modulation). So that changing doesn’t be abrupt and “painful” to our ear, normally we use progression.
Example of how to use chord progressions
Imagine that the song is in A major and, for some reason, you want to change the tonality to E major in the chorus. The automatic way of doing this would be by start playing E major harmonic field in the chorus, what would be shocking to the listener and probably negative.
Another way it would be doing the cadence II – V – I to E major. We would use, therefore, the chord F#m7 to serve as IIm7 of E. To complete the cadence II, V, I; we would play, after F#m7, the fifth degree of E, which is B7, for then solve it in E7M.
Notice that the sequence F#m7, B7, E7M is a cadence II – V – I.
The interesting about this is that F#m7 chord belongs to A major harmonic field (it is the VI degree). Besides also belonging to E major harmonic field (II degree) this made this changing of tonality became softer. We were in A major, and the first chord of the cadence II, V, I of E still belonging to A harmonic field (until here, the listener didn’t know that tonality would change). The chord B7 is no longer part of A major harmonic field, therefore, here now the listener sees the change. But despite the fact that this chord doesn’t belong to A field, appearing in the song is not really abrupt due the fact that F#m7 precedes it. Our ear accepts well the cadence II, V, I because of its feeling. This is why our brain adapts itself to the logic, projecting a progression II, V, I to E instead of rejecting B7 for not belonging to A field. When we play E7M, this chord is nothing more than a progression already waited, and it is not a chord out from the context anymore.
Besides this explanation, a cadence can be useful to embody the harmony. Think about the song below, that has only for chords and repeats them continuously:
| Dm7(9) | Gm7 | C7M | A7(#5) |
The song returns to Dm7(9) after A7(#5). We have here a “dominant – tonic” (V – I) function. We can use the last bar line to insert a chord that serves as IIm7 to complete the cadence II, V, I. The second degree of D is E, and we will use Em7(b5), because the sequence IIm7(b5), V7(#5) solves well in a minor chord, as we saw before.
So, we have:
| Dm7(9) | Gm7 | C7M | Em7(b5) A7(#5) |
We can work more with this harmony. Notice that we have another cadence II, V, I happening: Dm7, Gm7, Cm7. But, the fifth degree here is minor instead of major (V7). We can, then, change it in a major chord with seventh (G7) to characterizes better this cadence II – V – I that is solving in a major chord (C7M) Now we have II, V, I typically of a resolution in a major chord, observes it:
| Dm7(9) | G7 | C7M | Em7(b5) A7(#5) |
This work that we did is known as Reharmonization, because we touched in the song’s harmony. We will talk more about this in other topics, but is good for now that you have in mind that you will see many chord progressions inserted in this context.
In the next topic, we will continue this subject differentiating the existent kinds of cadence. You will see that not all of them have this key idea of suspending/preparing/concluding.
Go to: Kinds of cadences
Back to: Module 6