I'm trying to wrap my head around this concept which is really common in practice, but I only find references to it here and there in books and lessons.

E.g. you're playing a chord progression II-V-I over say C-maj, but the next chord would be A-flat-maj, so the melody is already on II-V-I to A-flat-maj (sort of in advance).

Chords are random, but I hope you get the idea. I know it's quite simple, but all I play this way seems wrong (and I don't mean "oops, wrong note"), not the way it's supposed to sound; ergo I'm not moving forward in this.

Could you please recommend books/videos/transcripts/recordings that could help me here?


  • Do you know what the difference between a chord and a scale is? – Tim H Feb 21 '19 at 20:54
  • Can you verify all the chords? I think you mean dm7 G7 C Ab Is the Ab a simple major triad. Also it's probably necessary to get a few chords after the Ab to understand what's going on.Also, I don't get the connection to your title 'Melody over chords in advance.' You didn't describe anything about melody. – Michael Curtis Feb 21 '19 at 21:08
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    "Chords are random" Most of the time, that's completely false. And this question probably needs some clarification about the chords and melody you are describing. – user45266 Feb 22 '19 at 5:40
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    This question isn't clear as it stands. Please enlighten us further. – Tim Feb 22 '19 at 6:46
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    I'm pretty certain OP just means melodic foreshadowing, but a bit clumsily explained. I.e. when the melody's already leading towards the modulation, even though the underlying harmony doesn't (appear to be) yet. E.g. we have a II-V-I progression in C, which the harmonic instruments are playing, but the next key center will be Ab and the melodic instrument is already playing a II-V-I progression in Ab instead. (So yes, he should've written "but the next key would be", i.e. key instead of chord) – Creynders Feb 22 '19 at 13:16

I think the name for a common practice you refer to is bitonality. It comes down to implying different harmony over base harmony. The example you give, with II-V-I going towards next key center can indeed be heard quite often but there many other situations where bitonality shows its head. Actually bebob sound is sort of defined by bitonality.

One of the best resources you can find, that digs into this concept is David Liebman's "Chromatic Approach To Jazz Harmony and Melody"

It's indeed hard to make it sound good at first, the best way is to follow the examples from recording note by note an analyse paying attention at what notes are NOT played in certain contexts. The more "out" you are, the more internally coherent the phrases have to be, otherwise the bitonality effect gets muddled up. So it's worth for example to stay really close to leading tones of "alternative" harmony so it's really well pronounced.

For me the way of thinking about it to get some results is to remember that at the end of the day it's a tool for creating harmonic tensions and relaxations over time so the phrases we build have to start somewhere in then go out and then come back nicely to the base harmony. It's just my own practical simplification of this concept.

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  • I'll take a look at the book, thank you, I'll definitely find something useful there. I made a small clarification to @user45266's reply. – merinoff Feb 23 '19 at 20:07

Maybe you're talking about side-slipping!

That's a jazz term for when something gets moved up or down a half step in order to sound "outside" (chromatic). (I'm pretty much going to have to assume that this is jazz, or else I won't have a lot to talk about, because jazz has good labels for a lot of cool stuff!) Maybe your melody or chords are an example of this? It's hard to tell without context. Personally, I'm not an enormous fan of this label because it sounds like the theorist just gave up trying to explain what's going on in the music.

It could also (and probably more likely) be Tritone substitution causing your melody to anticipate the A♭ major sound. Example: Dm7 G7 Cmaj7 being played as Dm7 E♭7 A♭.

Also possible is that your piece isn't simply playing the A♭ major chord but rather is modulating, in which case a strange melody could end up making a lot of sense.

Maybe some really convoluted secondary dominants? [tonicizing a chord besides the I (or i) with its dominant chord]

Also possible is Polytonality, playing in two keys at once (though it's incredibly rare and highly chaotic at times, so I doubt this is it)...

Modal mixture is another possibility, borrowing notes from a parallel mode or scale.

Edit: It sounds like you are simply anticipating the (non-diatonic) chord with the melody. This is similar about what I said about tritone substitution, but just with any non-diatonic chord being anticipated by the melody. Thanks to Creynders in the comments for the insight.

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  • SE made me change the title [jazz] into a tag, so I thought it would be obvious, sorry for confusion. Outside and side-slipping is the closest to what I mean, (thank you for the terms!) but not exactly it. Here around 4:30, Barry Harrys sort of explains it. You sort of anticipate the next change in the melody. Thank you for trying to understand me, I hope next time I'll concentrate and use my words :) – merinoff Feb 23 '19 at 20:05

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