By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
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Dominique who is in my Basic Chord Workshop course writes that he struggles with chord resolutions:
"It just occurred to me that we (your students) have no means to check whether our homework is correct, be it homework you give in the Basic Chord Workshop or Prelude Improvisation Formula courses. My greatest difficulty in this course (BCW) is resolution. The only thing you talked about in the second lesson is to go to the nearest tonic chord. I know there is more to it than that but I cannot find a good website to explain resolutions, so I am coming to you for help. I have to know I am doing it correctly to be able to learn anything and be able to perform well as a result. Thank you."
To help my Basic Chord Workshop students who struggle with chord resolutions in different keys, I created some special bonus trainings of Dominant, Subdominant, Diminished, Augmented, and Dominant seventh chords and their inversions with resolutions in all keys. Of course all the videos can be played at half speed for further clarity.
Ausra's harmony exercise:
Chord progression in B minor: i-iv-ii65-V42-i6-V43-i
Mateusz asks about the best way to learn chords:
"I recall reading one of your articles on your website about learning chords. I had a hard time understanding how to go about learning chords. Do you have any tips on how to get started with learning chords? The goal in mind is to increase my harmony knowledge and thus increase my ability to sight read and learn four part hymns and other music. I just don't know what is the "best" way to get started in learning chords. I don't know if I should just memorize each chord and their inversions by route memory or get used to "listening" to the chords and their inversions? Hope you can help me out."
I'm glad Mateusz appreciates the importance of learning basic chords and their inversions. From there you can go into harmony, modulation, and expand into the realm of improvisation of preludes or versets.
So in my experience, the best way to learn chords is this:
Take one chord or inversion per week and transpose it into all major and minor chords in the order of increasing the number of accidentals. The way you transpose is by translating the notes into scale degrees of C major or A minor and simply transferring them into a new key.
Make sure you know how to resolve them into tonic chords or inversions. You can sing them, write them, recognize them, and play them. If you choose to play them on the keyboard, try not to go into the next key unless you can play them slowly at least 3 times in a row correctly.
Of course, you can do this on your own, there is no reason why it can't be done. You just have to be very systematic about it and strict with yourself when you will want to quit (and this time WILL come for everyone sooner or later, believe me). But if you want to learn much faster and with less pain, then this course will help you learn the chords efficiently.
Ausra's Harmony Exercise:
Do you have a question about harmony for Ausra? You can reach her by email.
Imagine that you know only 3 note major and minor chords, built from C, D, E, F, G, Bb etc., such as C-E-G (major) or C-Eb-G (minor). You would think that they are very much alike and you don't have much choice in what to do with them.
The reality is, though, that you can do quite a few things creatively using these 3 note chords exclusively.
To demonstrate you what kind of possibilities you would have, I'm in the process of creating a set of variations on the famous Christmas carol "O Come All Ye Faithful" (Adeste Fideles) for organ.
Not only am I using major and minor chords freely to create a quite surprising sounding, modern, and colorful music but I'd like to teach you how to do it also so that you could create something similar on your own hymn tune or melody as well.
Interested? Check out this video course.
If you play natural and harmonic major and minor scales, you can build the following species of seventh chords based on the 3 consecutive triads. These seventh chords are systematized according to what kind of seventh is between the two outer notes (major - 5.5 steps, minor - 5 steps, diminished - 4.5 steps) and what kind of triad is produced out of the 3 lower notes (major - M3-m3, minor - m3-M3, diminished - m3-m3, augmented - M3-M3). Below is the list of 7 species of seventh chords you may find worth spending the time with.
1. Minor Major Seventh Chord (C-E-G-Bb):
Structure: Minor 7th between the outer notes and major triad.
Function: Dominant seventh chord (natural major and harmonic minor).
2. Minor Minor Seventh Chord (C-Eb-G-Bb):
Structure: Minor 7th between the outer notes and minor triad.
Function: Seventh chord of the 2nd and the 6th scale degrees (natural major), Tonic seventh chord and Subdominant seventh chord (natural minor).
3. Minor Diminished Seventh Chord (C-Eb-Gb-Bb):
Structure: Minor 7th between the outer notes and diminished triad.
Function: Seventh chord of the 7th scale degree (natural major), seventh chord of the 2nd scale degree (natural minor and harmonic major).
4. Diminished Seventh Chord (C-Eb-Gb-B double flat):
Structure: Diminished 7th between the outer notes and diminished triad.
Function: Seventh chord of the 7th scale degree (harmonic major and harmonic minor).
5. Major Major Seventh Chord (C-E-G-B):
Structure: Major 7th between the outer notes and major triad.
Function: Tonic seventh chord and Subdominant seventh chord (natural major), seventh chord of the 3rd scale degree and seventh chord of the 6th scale degree (natural minor).
6. Major Minor Seventh Chord (C-Eb-G-B):
Structure: Major 7th between the outer notes and minor triad.
Function: Subdominant seventh chord (harmonic major), Tonic seventh chord (harmonic minor).
7. Major Augmented Seventh Chord (C-E-G#-B):
Structure: Major 7th between the outer notes and augmented triad.
Function: Seventh chord of the 6th scale degree (harmonic major), seventh chord of the 3rd scale degree (harmonic minor).
Study these 7 species of seventh chords and try to play and/or write them in any key and from any note you want. By doing so they will become your own and you will start to notice them in real music that you play. Moreover, you will be able to use them in your own improvisations and/or compositions.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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