2

Daniel Caeser & H.E.R.'s song "Best Part" has the following chord progression:

Dmaj7, Am7, Gmaj7, A#maj7

The song sounds like it is in D major, which means that the A chord should be Amaj or A7, but then why does the Am7 sound so amazing in this progression?

2

Those are common and useful tricks. The way I'd explain the whole chord sequence is, it modulates between keys all the time:

  1. Dmaj7 : establishes D major as the key
  2. Am7 : gotcha! it wasn't D, it was G major!
  3. Gmaj7 : yeah ... see, I told you, it was G major.
  4. Bbmaj7 : oooops! the key is D minor! Fooled you twice!!
  5. Dmaj7 : ha ha ha! the key is in fact D major ! You're so easy to fool! ;)
  6. etc.

If we just look at the Am7, there are many ways to look at it.

  • You can see the Am there just as a fancy D7, because it has the C note in it, the very thing that makes D7 push strongly towards G (using the "V-I motion" mechanism).
  • Or you can look at it as "simulating" or "borrowing" or whatever, pretending for a short while that you're in the key of G major, where the Am - D7 - G would be a II - V - I movement.

Try replacing the Am7 with a D7. Then try replacing it with a D11 (i.e. C6/D) ... almost the same? No? What's different? Then take any song that has a D7 - G movement, and replace the D7 with Am7. Same? Different?

One of my favourite chord sequences is in Skee-Lo's "I Wish", based on a sample from Bernard Wright's "Spinnin'" (AFAIK). In "C" it would go like this: Cmaj9 - Abmaj9 - Bmaj9 - Gmaj9 (repeat). It modulates between keys in a very juicy way.

  • Love your description of the listener's experience. – PeterJ Dec 23 '18 at 13:11
1

Why is it that the A chord should be A maj or A7? There is nothing anywhere saying it should. You've seemingly fallen into the trap that music theory prepares for all of us. It masquerades as the rules. Simply not true!!

One explanation - apart from the blindingly obvious one which you perceived - is that it belongs to the parallel key. That is, D minor instead of D major. That set of different chords can usually be borrowed from, as here.

Another is that Am7 has nearly the same note make-up as D9, which 9 times out of 8 moves directly onto a G of some sort. Here, Gmaj7.

  • Evil music theory, trapping everyone into following fake rules. +1 – ggcg Dec 22 '18 at 22:05
  • @ggcg - ah, is it the 'rules', or is it the gullible readers..? – Tim Dec 23 '18 at 8:43
  • So, now you admit they are rules. – ggcg Dec 23 '18 at 12:31
  • @ggcg - please note the use of inverted commas. They are there for a specific purpose. Should I explain..? – Tim Dec 23 '18 at 12:54
  • If you feel you must. – ggcg Dec 23 '18 at 13:00

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