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Dudley Moore – Beethoven?

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Author Topic: Chord Progression - ChordWheel - not the only solution ?  (Read 1801 times)
fmisa
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« on: February 21, 2012, 03:28:09 AM »

Hi....
I'm getting back into piano as an adult - after studying as a child for 5 years...
Never learned to play by ear - or improvise...... just scales and memorize.  Was never able to apply/appreciate the theory behind the notes...

To start - I'm focusing now on theory of Chord progression - and I'm confused by two schools of thought on this....

1) Some teach that certain chords naturally lead to others (follow-each other)... i.e. "Chord Wheel" or "Circle Of Fifths"...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUxzD2y7Zjw

2) However, others suggest - that ANY chord can follow a given chord as long as the "voicing is adjusted properly".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxSptvviV6w

So I'm confused...
Is "Chord-Wheel" theory - just imposing an artificial sequence on chords - when in reality.... non-exists...

YES it works - BUT it's not the only solution ?

I'd be grateful if one of you teachers would share your thoughts.

Thanks
Frank
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ted
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2012, 10:55:26 AM »

While the key circle is a generally useful pattern for building keyboard vocabulary and  learning any given chord or figuration in all twelve positions, it has little to do with what happens when I actually improvise. The only "rule", if that is the right word, that I have as an improviser is that whatever I play sounds good to me personally. What somebody else says is irrelevant unless the objective is to create music in some strict, well defined style of the past - baroque fugues, the orthodox jazz forms, filling in popular tunes or something similar.

I think your question is too broad to admit of a definite answer unless you let us know exactly what sort of music you want to end up playing. Once you do that I'm sure many forum members will proffer helpful advice. From my own perspective, I see things such as the key circle and systematic exploration of voicings as learning tools rather than musical instructions.
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iansinclair
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2012, 06:05:09 PM »

A chord wheel type of thing is always helpful, if only to understand the relationships between certain chords.  If one is improvising, though, it is much more important to learn -- get to feel, if you will -- chord sequences which are typical of the style of music you are playing, because it is these typical sequences which give much of the feel of various styles of music.  A sequence which is perfectly right for typical European music (most popular/rock and roll/country and western/ or Beethoven or Bach!) is not typical of other traditions -- say Celtic or Klezmer, for example, to take two extremes!  So get to feel the style and sequences of the music you want to work with...
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Ian
fmisa
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« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2012, 03:57:51 PM »

Thank you both very much - for sharing your thoughts.
Very helpful...
So - there are no 'rules' then - other than what is perceived by listeners as pleasurable to the ear.

Teaching tools like the "chord wheel" are rules of thumb that work - but reflect only a certain "vocabulary" of sound possibilities - that more closely reflect western traditions...

Other musical traditions "work" as well likely - do not fall into the patterns outlined by the "chord wheel".... it's NOT a universal language.

I think I got it - Thanks !

Cheers
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brianlucas
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2012, 08:31:29 PM »

You're actually talking about 2 different things. Circle of Fifths is meant to explain how keys and chords are related in a natural setting. If you already know your scales, you can learn the 6 natural chords of that key. Chords built on 1, 4 and 5 are major chords. Chords built on the 2, 3 and 6 are minor. Once you know natural chords, you can start to learn typical non-key chords.

The second video is talking about voice leading chords. It's a matter of picking inversions of the chords to create smooth transitions and not have your hand jump around too much. Any 2 chords can be connected this way.

My suggestion would be to start learning the typical chords in a key, all 3 inversions of those chords, and then practice smooth transitions between those chords. From there you can branch out to more complex chords.
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keypeg
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« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2012, 01:22:04 AM »

Just to make sure there is no confusion
Chords built on 1, 4 and 5 are major chords. Chords built on the 2, 3 and 6 are minor. Once you know natural chords, you can start to learn typical non-key chords.
Chords built on 1,4 & 5 of a major key are major chord.  As an example, in C major, these are:
1 CEG (starts on note no. 1 of that key)
4 FAC (starts on note no. 4)
5 GBD

If you play these chords you will hear that they are all major chords.  This is true for any major key.

2 DEF
3 EGB
6 ACE

These are all minor chords.

The only left is 7 BDF. This is a diminished chord.
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ted
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« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2012, 03:53:15 AM »

I didn't actually view those videos at the time, fmisa, and have just looked at them now. If you are just starting to improvise, I tend to think all this complicated stuff about harmony and "correct" voice leading might stop you developing any sort of natural flow. Worse still, it tends to promote the notion that all music is just a succession of discrete chord changes, a matter of knowing a few "tricks", and that the smoother everything is the better.

What if you happen to like the sound of rough, abrupt, irregular events ? In that case all that stuff about voicings won't get you where you want to go. It's rather like the classical brigade insisting that glassy smoothness of execution is an invariant technical ideal for everybody. Why ? I find rough execution much more exciting rhythmically and musically.

The circle of fifths is a very handy mental tool to expand keyboard vocabulary, I was taught it in my youth, but it isn't the be all and end all of improvisation. In fact compared to flow, rhythm and phrasing it seems to me scarcely relevant.

What sort of music, what sort of improvisation do you want to end up creating ? The right path for you very much depends on that preference.
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Derek
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« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2012, 02:38:40 PM »

Part of why I think people experience confusion with this stuff, and I know I did for years, is the "why" of the standard western harmonic rules are lost to history. I think I began to understand them from the "ground up" as it were when I got a clavichord. The reason is simple. When you toy with an instrument with as thin and sweet a sound as a clavichord (or harpsichord, I expect, or even monochord as earlier), octaves and fifths sound so "flat" against one another they don't seem "full." On a piano, they sound fantastic. But---what sounds truly sweet, and full, on these earlier instruments, are thirds, sixths, tenths, and their inversions. Basically, thirds and any inversion you can come up with. Fifths and octaves can be doubled according to taste in many cases but the third is always treated with care because it creates such a "full" sweet sound on these instruments. Every western harmony rule seems to be consistent with this aural experience of an earlier keyboard instrument.
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nystul
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2012, 12:29:59 PM »

I'm not a teacher but I have some ideas for the original poster.  First of all, there is no magic bullet.  You are not going to look at a single chart and know how to write or improvise music.  The circle of fifths is a nice tool for many things, but it is not a chord progression chart and there is no such thing as chord wheel theory.  Basically you have to start simple with the understanding that there are always more complicated options available to you as you learn more.

Harmony is about the relationship between notes.  Progression is about starting from a point of uncertainty and and ending with the feeling that you've returned home.  Here is a really quick exercise I think maybe can start to get a very basic foundation of the matter.  Start with a finger of left hand on middle C, and a finger of right hand on the Db above it.  Play the notes together and just listen to what they sound like together.  Write down on a scrap paper a couple words about how this interval makes you feel (label it with the notes played so you know which interval it was).  Next you are going to keep left hand at middle C, but right hand moves up a note to D natural, and do the same thing.  Just keeping working up a half step at a time until your right hand gets to the C an octave above the left hand (or 2 octaves if you would like to be thorough).  After you are done with this, do the same exercise starting with your left hand on C# and the right hand on the D above it.  Go until your right hand gets to the C#.  Put the notes for C# on a separate paper or column from the ones for C.

When you are done with this compare your lists and think about your observations.  Are there any patterns here?  How does this relate to what you know about chords, or the circle of fifths?
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