[music-dsp] [ot] Catalogue of effects of various chord progressions
rwd at cableinet.co.uk
Sun Aug 20 08:55:39 EDT 2000
This is all probably getting ~very~ off-topic... but anyway:
"the basics of what
chord progressions have what effect is not taught" because, firstly, it
is not 'basic', and most teachers of any calibre would not dare
prescribe such direct correspondences so baldly. It is very much
something to discover. I would never say "this progression has that
effect", I would more likely ask "what effect does this have"?
The following represents my view, nothing more.
The key to all this is to start not with chords but with monody, and in
particular, monody over a drone. This can be implicit, as in the case of
plainchant, or explicit, as in the case of much folk music, and Indian
classical raga. To the Greeks, 'harmony' was horizontal, relating to the
effect one note would have on the note(s) before and after.
The fundamental principle of the move between dissonance and consonance
can be discovered most clearly, this way. The design of chord sequences
origintes in the art of voice-leading (and the rule of thumb that, most
of the time, adjacent chords should have one note in common), and the
rule explained most vividly by R.O Morris in his book "Contrapuntal
technique in the 16th Century", that so long as the rules of harmony
between any two voices are followed, the sum of all the voices will also
be 'correct'. Some seemingly outrageous combinations contrived by
composers can be shown to fit this 'rule'. Thus monody, and then
'counterpoint' of two distinct voices, underly the classical theory of
It can be very illuminating to set up a simple drone, and freely
improvise (slowly!) other notes using a given scale or mode, to feel the
effect of each, against the drone, and thence relative to each other.
Don't just try major and minor - try each of the classical church modes,
such as Dorian and Lydian. In Indian classical raga, each note or sruti
(22 to the octave according to an ancient classification) has not only a
name, but an emotional ~quality~, in almost a cookbook sort of a way. A
similar approach could be applied to the qualities found for each note,
in each mode. This could then form the basis of an algorithmic composing
system. At the very least, the simplistic but nevertheless palpable
distinction between 'happy' modes and 'sad' modes can be felt.
You also need to include in your exploration of the 'fundamentals' the
element of performance. the 'quality' of a sequence depends vey much on
the gesture which projects it. Thus, you need to correlate
melodic/monodic sequences with verbal gestures, and also with the
principles of classical rhetoric - repetition, emphasis, assonance,
contradiction, hyperbole, lytotes, surprise, and so on.
This is research that each composer and performer does; it has been
going on for thousands of years, and the final paper on the subject has
yet to be written!
A book on Schenkerian analysis would complement the Lerdahl/Jackendoff
book very nicely. One problem with the latter is that there was also a
musico-political agenda, to 'prove' that atonal music is 'cognitively
opaque' and thus of no genuine musical value. This is often a problem
with books on musical 'deep structure' - the theories tend to be there
to promote or 'prove' some uber-theory about music. This is true of
Schenker too - the 'ur-satz' - again it assumes the universality of the
perfect cadence; but it is one of the more 'musical' theories around, I
find, as it recognizes the importance of voice leading - the Schenkerian
'middle ground' is a fascinating territory to explore, and I think work
has been done to derive compositional procedures based on it. I don't
know if Schekerian analysis has been applied to monody in a formal way,
but I do something very like it as part of my flute teaching.
Oh, and try out the famous C major Prelude from Bach's 'Forty-Eight';
nothing (?) but chord sequences, that impressed Gounod enough to add a
soppy melody to it - though he did have to add a chord that Bach didn't
write, to make it work!
Joe Wright wrote:
> Thanks for the discussion.
> It is true that the effect of chord progressions can become very complicated
> very quickly. I'm just starting learning and I've so far looked at two
> chord sequences in C Major starting with C (in root, 1st and 2nd) and then
> one of the other notes an any inversion that fitted with the no-overlapping
> rule. This has already generated loads of sequences and then I need to move
> on to starting with D (still in the key of C Major), E, F, G, etc... and
> then do the same for minor. Then I need to move onto 3, 4, 5, 6 chords and
> the options bolloon. Hopefully a pattern will arise so I can narrow down my
> options. I've ordered the book Joshua suggested which looks very
> Even though the subject is obviously huge, it is also one of the
> fundamentals of music (along with rythm, volume, melody and sound design).
> Therefore, I think it is very important to try and understand as completely
> as possible. The harmony books I have read so far very much gloss over this
> and examine subjects that are useful once you have your basic structure in
> place. A bit silly really.
> The ideal would be to specify the emotionally script for the piece and then
> convert that into the harmony progressions and then add further complexities
> with, advanced harmony, melody, rythm, etc...
> The importance of getting this worked out is that everyone is re-inventing
> the wheel. Those that do the training and then spend their life devoted to
> it get the best results. That's fine but we could all do with the basics
> being taught to us. Essentially what I'm saying is that the basics of what
> chord progressions have what effect is not taught.
> joe at nyrsound.com
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