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Non-Diatonic Chords in a Progression

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by katonart, Jul 27, 2002.

  1. Michael,

    I know something about basic diatonic theory, and how different modes equate to different scale degrees, etc. Normally this would suggest that a chord built on the major third of the scale would be a minor chord.

    But then I come across a song like "All of Me". The first chord is a major chord on the root. The very next chord is a major chord built on the major 3rd. Obviously, it sounds good, the composer got the effect he wanted; the song is a standard.

    How do you view this, theory-wise? Is the "tonal center" changing at this chord? Is this just a composer breaking the rules? Is there something explainable happening here?

    I'm just trying to expand my obviously limited view of the world.

  2. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    Great question. Since you obviously have a good handle on diatonic harmony, we now have to begin to look at functional harmony. Functional harmony is the study of how a particular chord or chord progression functions within a tune. I would recommend buying The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine (Sher Pub) or my book The Chordal Approach to give some more detailed insight.
    Let's take a look at the first 8 measures of the tune.

    C6 | C6 | E7 | E7 | A7 | A7 | D-7 | D-7||

    The C6 is the tonic or I chord
    The E7 cannot be the III chord as it would have to be minor. Instead the E7 is a dominant chord that needs to resolve down a fifth (to the A). The E7 acts as the V7 of the A7 in measure 5.
    The A7 acts the same way as the E7 does. The A7 is the V7 resolving to the Dm7 in measure 7.
    Finally the Dm7 is the II chord. If we look at an analysis of the first 8 measures it might look something like this.

    I6| I6 | V7 of V7 of II | V7 of V7 of II | V7 of II | V7 of II | II-7| II-7||

    whoa! let's move on to the next 8

    E7| E7 | A-7 | A-7 | D13 | D13 | D-7 | G7||

    The E7 is the V7 of the A-7, resolving to the A-7 in measure 11.
    The A-7 is the part of a II-V progression (a very common jazz progression. The D13 is the V7 of that II-V resolving to the G7 in measure 15.

    "WAIT A MINUTE THERE DIMIN" you say there is no G7 in measure 15. The G7 does not show it's face until measure 16. Well you're right, but ...

    If we look at the progression, we can see that each chord lasts for 2 measures. Let us assume that originally there was a G7 chord in m15. The composer substituted a D-7 for the G7 in m15 to create a II-V progression leading to the C that starts the "B" section. It is called "nested II-V's"

    Did that help??

  3. Thanks very much. Looks like I need to get your book.

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