2

I would like to write a chord progression going through the C major scale with the bass moving up in diatonic steps and using as few note changes as possible between triadic chords... So, obviously, to achieve this without actually changing each chord you would use chord inversions going up the scale. Does anyone have such an example or exercise that I can study?

7
  • If you truly aim to have as few note changes as possible between chords, I'm fairly sure we can do some horrific things with constant pedal notes like C, G, and if you're daring, E.
    – Dekkadeci
    Apr 17, 2021 at 13:49
  • @Tim Well, I tried C > G/B > A/E > F.... it sounds ok but not like a real progression...maybe the voicings I am using are wrong. I just thought there was a staple kind of movemement that you would find much like the descending version which is all over the place
    – user35708
    Apr 17, 2021 at 14:46
  • You said going up. That's C, D, E isn't it, note-wise? Try 1st inversion C, Dm, Em etc.
    – Tim
    Apr 17, 2021 at 15:16
  • @armani did you mean "G/D" not G/B" there? Assuming that was a typo
    – Some_Guy
    Apr 17, 2021 at 21:02
  • also, do you only want triadic harmony? Or are extended chords a possibility?
    – Some_Guy
    Apr 17, 2021 at 21:03

4 Answers 4

1

Here are a couple of options to get you started.

I  ii7  I6   IV  I64  IV6  viio  I
C  D-7  C/E  F   C/G  F/A  Bdim  C
X:0
M:4/4
K:C
L:1/2
%%score V1 | V2
V:V1
V:V2 clef=bass middle=D
[V:V1] [Ec] [Fc] | [Gc] [Ac] | [Ec] [Fc] | [Fd] [Ec] ||
[V:V2] C D | E F | G A | B c ||
I  vii6    iii  IV  V7  vi  V6   I
C  Bdim/D  Em   F   G7  Am  G/B  C
X:0
M:4/4
K:C
L:1/2
%%score V1 | V2
V:V1
V:V2 clef=bass middle=D
[V:V1] [CE] [B,F] | [B,G] [A,F] | [B,F] [CE] | [DG] [EG] ||
[V:V2] C D | E F | G A | B c ||
6
  • Hi Aaron. Sorry but I have no idea what that code is... is this an error?
    – user35708
    Apr 18, 2021 at 7:48
  • @armani I coded two musical examples using ABCjs. There are some known issues viewing ABCjs on mobile devices. Could that be the issue here?
    – Aaron
    Apr 18, 2021 at 13:14
  • ahhhh, that was it, thanks Aaron.. you are the top dog around here... well done :) nice progressions, just what I needed
    – user35708
    Apr 19, 2021 at 8:17
  • Your music notation graphics specify the foreground to be dark, but use a transparent background. This makes them invisible if the background is dark. Could you specify both foreground and background as Michael curtis has done in his graphic?
    – Rosie F
    Apr 20, 2021 at 6:11
  • @RosieF It's not a graphic. It's ABCjs code that is interpreted by SE to produce music notation; the background and foreground are generated by SE and not in my control.
    – Aaron
    Apr 20, 2021 at 6:34
2

Stepwise movement in a bass line tends to make it difficult to retain many notes between chords. There are some procedures (1500-1900 or so) called the "Rule of the Octave" or "Règle de l'Octave" which do what you describe. These place various chords above a diatonic octave bass line. The point is that during improvisation, one may have a short (3 or 4 note) scale passage in the bass and one would like a quick method of harmonizing these.

This is a good reference but it requires a subscription (or maybe just registration): https://www.jstor.org/stable/932911?seq=1

The Wikipedia article is good too.

Campion's rule was (roughly translated to slash notation in C) C, G7/D, C/E, d7/F, G, F/A, G7/B. The idea was to have "active" steps use a 7th chord and "stable" steps use the triad (with doubling if desired.)

1
  • JSTOR allows individuals to register without requiring a paid subscription.
    – Aaron
    Apr 17, 2021 at 17:50
2

If you want to maintain as many common tones as possible you can literally just pedal C major for most of it:

X: 1
T: 
M: 4/4
L: 8/8
R: 
K: C
%%annotationfont Times-Italic *
|"_C"[CGce]|"_C/D (aka D11)"[DGce]|"_C 1 inv."[EGce]|"_FM7sus2"[FGce]|"_C 2nd inv."[G,Gce]|"_Am7"[A,Gce]|"_Em 2nd iv."[B,GBe]|"_C"[CGec]

If the goal is to change absolutely as few notes as possible, this gets pretty close. Only 1 note change in the whole thing ;)

That's a pretty extreme example, but why not? All of these chords are defensible as legit chords.

And some songs go even further, good voice leading can justify chord progressions where the individual chords make no sense at all. Acoustic guitarists playing indie covers are notorious for this.

Take the classic, "miss you" by blink 182. A common acoustic guitarist's rendering of the refrain would be something like:

X: 1
T: Miss You
M: 4/4
L: 4/8
Q: 100 
K: C
%%annotationfont Times-Italic *
|"_C"[CEGce]"_Gsus4/B maybe?"[B,DGce]|"_Am7"[A,EGce]"_G"[G,EGce]| "_F"[F,FAcf]2|"_Fm"[F,F _A cf]2|

The 2nd chord in the refrain there makes little sense in its own right (to the extent it's hard to even come up with a justifiable name for it), but it works because of the voice leading. It's basically just "C over B" which, as a chord in its own right makes very little sense.

4
  • isnt C over B just a major 7th chord in 3rd inversion?
    – user35708
    Apr 19, 2021 at 8:50
  • Funny answer. Actually, you could even keep that last Em(6 4) chord as C/B, situationally of course. Those chords seem a lot more normal played in reverse order! Nice.
    – user45266
    Apr 19, 2021 at 15:57
  • Your music notation graphics specify the foreground to be dark, but use a transparent background. This makes them invisible if the background is dark. Could you specify both foreground and background as Michael curtis has done in his graphic?
    – Rosie F
    Apr 20, 2021 at 6:11
  • @RosieF this is the native format for music notation on stackexchange, rendered using ABCjs. If the background causes a problem that's a problem with SE's rendering, I suggest you post on the meta about it here music.meta.stackexchange.com
    – Some_Guy
    Apr 21, 2021 at 19:24
2

If the harmony style is common practive, the rule of the octave was a standard harmonization for step wise basses...

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • basses of ^1 and ^5 get root position chords
  • all other basses (^2 ^3 ^4 ^6 ^7) get some chord of the sixth, either 6/3 or 6/4
  • take note of the harmonization for basses ^4 and ^6, depending on whether the step ascends or descends, the harmonization differs.

The rules above are from a teacher names Fenaroli, other teachers gave slightly different rules, but more or less the rules follow the same basic design.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.