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What are the key centres of this chord progression?

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by qfbass, Jul 7, 2018.

  1. I've written this chord progression which I like, but I'm having trouble with arranging and writing around it since I'm having trouble with not knowing what the key centres are. Any help is appreciated!

    The chords are:

    G#m9/F# - Gmaj9/F# - Cm9/G - Em9/D - G#m9/D# - then go backwards through the same chords

    It sounds a bit like it's in Gmaj. I guess this would mean the progression could be explained as:

    ¿ bii - I - iv - vi - bii ?
  2. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2010
    That's really a nonfunctional progression. Assigning scale numbers to those chords is kind of gratuitous.

    Look at the progression as a series of modes instead of a group of chords in one key.

    I would play each chord and decide what scale sounds best over it, then use those scales as the basis for my melodies and voicings. I wouldn't try and torturously calculate a key center from those chords at all.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2018
    vilshofen and qfbass like this.
  3. G#m9/F# = F# G# B D# F# A#

    The G#m9 chords could be seen as a tritone to some type of D chord.
    ie. V I iv vi V

    I'd look at the relationship between one chord and the next, and write the melody that way.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
    Quinn Roberts and qfbass like this.
  4. You've cured me, Groove Doctor!
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  5. mtto

    mtto Gold Supporting Member

    May 25, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    I suggest writing out the progression on the staff and look at the voice leading between the chords. For instance, the 3rd of the G#m9 leads to the 3rd of the Gmaj9. Perhaps the C in the Cm9 leads to the B in the Emin9, and the Eb in the Cmin9 leads to the E in the Emin9.

    There are multiple ways to voice lead through progressions like this. Which one(s) do you love? That might lead you to your melody. It will also make soloing more natural than mode-mode-mode-mode-mode kind of thinking, if this is piece is going to have improvising.
  6. The main question with that kind of slash chord progression is "Where is the root of each chord? The root of the upper chord or the bass tone itself?"
    You can often check that by enhancing the bass note by a fifth, trying to establish the bass note as the root (the fifth either being a pure fifth, which should be the first choice if possible, or a diminished or augmented fifth, whatever fits the scale that goes with the chord).
    So you should first find out which scale notes could played on that chord (after the previous one(s)). The chord notes can help you, just fill the gaps with better sounding choices. Don't be afraid using modes of melodic minor, harmonic minor or even harmonic major as well as wholetone or one of the two diminished scale modes.
    Often there is only a relationship between the previous and the actual chord and then a new one between the actual chord and the following one. That way you can get away from the starting chord as much as you want in small or large steps and you still have the local chord relation, but also (if the distance in chords or time is not too large) the relation of the current chord root to the starting chord root. See that as a development that can go anywhere, but can go back to the starting point if you want.
    My piece 'Circular' is made that way.
    But in your case, I think you are basically right with your analysis, with the exception that I think the Em/D has the root in the bass, so being a dominant to G. And I would not use G#m but Abm, which is the bii to G. Even if that means having a Cb in it.

    If you move through the harmonic fields you can easily get where you have decide to either avoid double accidentals but make the harmonic relationship unclear or make the harmonic relationship clear and accept the use of double accidentals. As a composer you should make the harmonic relationship clear to better understand what you are doing. For notated music some might prefer the avoidance of double accidentals (and some of them might not be able or willing to play notated double accidentals) others might prefer understanding the function of the notes because of the double accidentals. For improvisers who should be able to understand the meaning of the note, the use of double accidentals, even if they only part of the chord notes and not the root, should be preferred.
    If you have repeated chord scheme, it would be a good idea to write complete parts for improvisers and chord instruments with a clear harmonic meaning/relationship and only simplify purely written parts (mostly in larger ensembles).

    You play with expectations. The Em/D as the dominant D to G can go with a B7/D# to Em (or E). So your G#m is a root stripped E which is very close, but misses the E as the goal and is played with the D# together, which is a bit as playing dominant and root (E) at the same time.
    And you can interpret a chord as the enharmonic to progress into a different direction. In your case getting back from the stripped E to the Abm in your first chord.

    Just my ideas. I might have overseen or misinterpreted something, so check if I am right or not. You should understand how your chord progression works and how to improvise on it (which scale(s) could be used). In case you are sure which scales should be used, either write a scale sheet to help the improvisors or notate the scale with the chord.

    I'm writing on a booklet about that level of chords and scales, but progress is very slow since I cannot find enough time to work on it. I also plan to explain my piece 'Circular' (which is available as an arrangement for bigband too) in it, but it is mainly about scales and chords, not chord progressions. And I think it could be useful for any kind of (mostly harmonically progressing) music, not just jazz.
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