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Chord Resolutions - Need help!

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by gbf, Feb 27, 2005.

  1. hello there oh mighty ones... :smug: i was wondering if any of you guys could explain to me how chord resolutions work? do chords need to have the tritone to need resolution?
    i'm totally lost on this one, so anything beyond tritone resolution is already of great help.

    thank's :hyper:
  2. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    In order to be able to help—what is your musical situation that would cause you to wonder how chords resolve? Just curious about chords, or trying to walk through a change?

    The most general thing you can say about how chord progressions “should”resolve is that some of the voices in the chords ideally should resolve downward by half step. Stepwise motion is the key not necessarily whether it contains a tritone. Technically any dissonance should resolve—that could include minor2nds, major7ths or tritones. But dissonance is relative. To older ears (let’s 250-300 years ago), the minor 7th was considered a dissonance. So the minor 7 in a II chord –let’s say C in a D-7 chord needed to resolve to the B of the G chord but the F voice in the D-7 if retained in the G chord (as in G7) would form the dissonant tritone between F and B requiring the resolution to E-C. the Cmajor. So the dissonance was in a 2 part resolution format. But again it’s relative. Jazz progressions will have a I major 7 chord. You could resolve Cmaj7 to Cmaj6 because a major 6 is less dissonant than a major 7 but it’s really not necessary by today’s standards. We still follow the rules of dissonance in terms of II-V-Is but this is because it sounds orderly and “right” but it doesn’t “demand” the resolution from a dissonance point of view because today’s ear accept all kinds of dissonance without resolution

    Chords often progess by strong root motion—by perfect fourth or half step down. The reason for this is that chord progressions by fourth have the optimum combination of common tones and notes that need to resolve. Chords that have no tones in common will tend to pass to another chord on its way up or down. Tones that have too many tones in common (for example Cmaj7 and E-7) will be considered substitutes for one another. Typical “standard” chord progressions are driven by root motion and downward motion by half step.
  3. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Gabe, the question you've asked is re-phrased as, "How do chords connect?" That question, in turn, is re-phrased as, "How does Western music work?" It's really that broad. As John notes above, there are an infinite number of "ways that chords resolve."

    In short, you need to say more to get a meaningful response.
  4. nypiano: in fact i'm trying to learn jazz, so walking up chords would be the right answer for me.

    my doubts are exactly what nypiano was saying. why some chord voices resolve? and where do they resolve? and how do they resolve?

    i was wondering if the jazz theory book by Mark Levine would be of any help because i'm planing to buy it.

    thanks for both of you
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The example that I use for students is this, which demonstrates the V-I movement (which is what it's all really about):

    Sing 'Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits', leaving off the last note. That desire to hear the last note is the magic of tension and release....
  6. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    Re: Levine. A good book on all counts. On harmonic theory you might also try Michael Longo’s Theory and Musicianship for the Creative Improvisor (published in the 1980s). It might even be better in terms of encapsulating and providing the rationale for harmonic motion.

    Re: where do they resolve? In a nutshell the closest possible note (by half step or held if the same note) and usually down
    There is also this one rule of thumb I tell students:
    In jazz chord motion by 4th, the 3rd becomes the 7th (holds) and the 7 moves to the 3. The why of resolution is simply a physics principle: think of resolving like gravity-downward. (also this may seem to contradict Ray's shave and hair cut example. It really doesn't if you were to harmonize shave and a haircut. Plus it's an ultratraditional triadic harmony resolution where the 3rd resolves to the root)

    When you boil it down in the diatonic system, chords are a 2nd apart, a 3rd apart or a 4th apart. Everything else is an inversion. Chords a second apart are a passing chord situation-all tones move stepwise through the chords and continue on to the next chord in the same direction, Chords a 3rd apart are a color variation (tonic subs) because of their 3 common tones. Chords a 4th apart are cadential (the plagal or perfect cadence) using common tones and stepwise motion .

    In traditional harmony when other keys/chromatic tones are introduced, typically there is a rationale for it so that the transition seems to make musical sense--a pivot chord that dovetails from the previous harmony to the new. For example Fmaj7/E-7b5 A7/Dmaj And/or perhaps a mode aspect whereby minor key relationships are transplated in major for example Gmaj7/F-7 Bb7/Ebmaj (latter chords borrowed from Gminor).
  7. i think it's going to be kinda hard for me to get Longo's book because i live in Brazil and i wont have all the money to get 2 books. I'll have to buy Levine's book on Amazon and my wallet isn't that big :p

    but you guys managed to respond all my questions very well.

    nypiano: i just didn't understand what you meant in the last example. are those chords used in a modulation context?
    ex. you played a dominant chord and resolved it in a chord already in another key? is that right?

    thanks already for the great help you guys are givin' me!
    (you just have to love this place :hyper: :D )

    ps.: feel free to correct my english
  8. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    It was a privot chord explanation, whereby the Gmajor is the pivot chord to the key of bVI of Gminor (Eb major). In another words the Eb key and the G major key are related by the fact that Eb is bVI of G minor. When you modulate back: Ebmaj D7/Gmaj you’ll notice this relationship.

    Anyway the concept you referred to: resolution, is somewhat nebulous without some type of guiding principle and intent. The strictest definition of resolution is really the “relief of dissonance”which literally means, take the dissonant interval and resolve it to a less dissonant one, for example an augmented 4th to a minor 6th; which was probably driving your original question which was: (paraphrased) is chord resolution really about resolving dissonance only or is something else involved? The other tension has to do with modulation in general. For example when you establish a key center and then break it you create tension from where you started and release to where you went to. That is, when you go to a new key there is a tension that’s created against what you’ve established in your head as the tonic. In traditional harmony- tension at cadence point is the manner in which you establish a key-again it’s similar to physics. So in a way the term resolution has different levels—first at the intervallic level in the inner voices and then at the overall key perception level. The only true way to understand though is to study music and scores and try to look at it historically so all this makes sense.
  9. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    great stuff, NYpiano
    I can't help think of what Miles said-tends to help me on many levels; "Never resolve nuttin'"
  10. Thanks to all of you who posted replies in this post. I finally got it! Specially to nypiano for all the help.

    i'm printing this stuff and getting to play and hear it.

    Thanks Again :p
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    If you want to hear nypiano playing some music (disclaimer - me too) go to this place.
  12. i wish i could move to NY to study with you guys...
    Ed Fuqua: I really liked your playing with nypiano. i think it's better than that Bittern and Pintail stuff i've heard earlier.
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Not that there's anything wrong with the Bittern and Pintail stuff, mind you...:D
  14. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002

    Sounds good , Ed !...and John.
  15. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003

    Y que es esto?

  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Go here and click on my name and look for BITTERN AND PINTAIL by the Jeff Silverbush Quintet, Jacob Sacks on piano.
  17. hehehhe dead on! :p