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Making Notes (Part 6)

Intervals and Cadences

What is Harmony? In its basic form it is the method of chord construction and the relationship of successive chords to each other, also called 'Harmonic Progression'. I really started the subject of Harmony way back in Part 3, on Major Scale formation and then subsequently Left Hand Chord formation, which we now know is reliant upon note numbers of the scale.

The notes forming a chord not only have a relationship to the scale, but also have a relationship regarding distances from each other, musically termed 'Intervals'. If the higher note of the Interval is part of the Scale of the lower note, the Interval is PERFECT, or MAJOR.

A MINOR INTERVAL is one Semitone less than a Major Interval and a DIMINISHED INTERVAL is one Semitone less than a Perfect Interval.

C to D is a MAJOR 2nd.
C to E is a MAJOR 3rd.
C to F is a PERFECT 4th.
C to G is a PERFECT 5th.
C to A is a MAJOR 6th.
C to B is a MAJOR 7th.
C to Db is a MINOR 2nd.
C to Eb is a MINOR 3rd.
C to Fb, is a DIMINISHED 4th.
C to Gb is a DIMINISHED 5th.
C to Bb is a MINOR 7th.

Figure 1.

Counting from the Root Note of the 'C' Major Scale for example, we have the intervals shown in Figure 1.

This rule of Intervals within the octave from the Root Note, will apply to all Major Keys of music.

Intervals of music are also reckoned by the number of note names in a consecutive sequence, inclusive of the upper and lower notes. C to E, is an Interval of a THIRD because it uses three note names: C - D - E. C to F# and C to Gb look identical on the keyboard but C to F# is an Interval of a FOURTH because it contains four note names: C-D-E-F and C to Gb is an Interval of a FIFTH because it contains five note names: C-D-E-F-G.

Briefly, there are two forms of 'Intervals' in the make up of a chord; CONSONANT - 'Perfect' and 'Imperfect' and DISSONANT Intervals, which create the musical effect that you hear.

The PERFECT CONSONANT Intervals are the Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th and Octave. The IMPERFECT CONSONANT Intervals are the Major & Minor Third, Major & Minor 6th and the Major 7th.

The DISSONANT Intervals are the Major Second (Ninth), Fourth (Eleventh) and Minor Seventh.

There are two groups of Chords: CONCORD and DISCORD. Chords in the CONCORD Group contain only Consonant Intervals. These chords of Major, Minor, Major Sixth, Minor Sixth and Major Seventh do not require a 'Resolution', a need to be followed by another chord, as their notes combine in an agreement of sound.

Chords in the DISCORD Group contain one or more Dissonant Intervals. The Seventh, Minor Seventh, Ninth, Eleventh and Thirteenth Chords do require a 'Resolution' as their combination of notes create a restless sound, always needing to move on to another chord. 'Discord' in this context does not imply that the overall sound of the chord is 'Discordant'.

Prove this point by playing a 'Concord' such as a 'C' Major or 'C6' which sounds complete in itself, no Resolution needed. Now play a 'Discord' such as a 'C7' and hear the effect of a need for movement or Resolution to another chord, in this instance 'F' Major.

Figure 2.

The CIRCLE OF KEYS (Figure 2) forms the basis for creating Harmonic Left Hand Chord progressions, Modulations and musical Introductions and Endings.

The Circle is interpreted by reading it in a clockwise and anti clockwise direction and seems to be complicated to use, perhaps because of the unfamiliarity of reading a clock face backwards.

In my teaching, I use the Circle of Keys adapted into a 'Musical Ladder'© Figure 3, containing exactly the same information as the Circle but much easier to use. The Circle has been turned around so that the 'F#' and 'Gb' Key Notes are at 3 O'Clock and by opening the Circle out the F# Key Note is at the TOP and the 'Gb' Key Note is at the BOTTOM of the ladder. On each step of the Musical Ladder a KEYNOTE is displayed, representing a Major 'Key' of music. Here I must establish again that a 'Key' of music is also a Scale of music.

Before learning about Left Hand Chord progressions it is necessary to understand how music is written, or constructed. The notes of a Major Scale have already been given numbers and they are also known as 'Degrees' of Scale. Their technical names are given in Figure 4.

Figure 4.

The starting base for 'Middle of the Road' music (or Standards as they are called) uses three basic chords, formed upon the TONIC (Root Note), the DOMINANT 5th Note and the SUBDOMINANT 4th Note of the scale. Music written in the Key of 'C' Major (the 'C' Major Scale CDEFGABC) will include a Major Chord formed upon the Tonic ('C' Major), a Seventh Chord formed upon the Dominant 5th Note ('G7') and a Major Chord formed upon the Subdominant 4th Note ('F' Major). Prove this information by studying a very simple arrangement in the Key of 'C' Major, when the three chords of 'C', 'G7' and 'F' are basically adequate to accompany the melody.

Referring to the 'Musical Ladder' (Figure 3), these three 'Keynotes' 'G', 'C' and 'F' are grouped together. The middle one of 'C' being the name of the 'Key' of the music and also the Tonic Note of the scale.

Further chords added to a relatively simple 'Standard' type of musical arrangement will be within the immediate location on the Ladder of the Keynote of 'C'. The chords of 'Am7' and 'Dm7', formed upon the next two Keynotes UP the ladder from 'G', combine HARMONICALLY in this Key and are in familiar use with the chords of 'C', 'G7' and 'F'.

Play a Chord Progression where 'Discords'; 'Am7', 'Dm7', 'G7' are followed by a 'Concord' of 'C' by starting on the Keynote of 'A' on the ladder and moving down one step at a time to the Keynote of 'C'. The chord leading into the 'Concord' on the Tonic Keynote will always be a Seventh Chord, not a Minor Seventh Chord.

Figure 3. The Musical Ladder adapted from the Circle of Keys

The 'Discord' Minor Seventh Chords provide a more subtle change of tone colour for the sweeter types of music such as Ballads and Waltz's etc... as against the Seventh Chords (still Discords) which create a cleaner, sharper, purer tone effect which is highlighted in music such as 'Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue'. This tune also uses the 'E7' Chord formed upon the Keynote one up the ladder from 'A'. There are however no hard and fast rules to the composers or arrangers use of chords and their progressions, but as I am talking of the very basic construction of written music my method can apply to every Major Key of Music.

Experiment by finding another arrangement in the Key of 'Eb' Major for example, which establishes the Keynote of 'Eb' on the ladder. Follow the same procedure, identify the three basic chords of 'Eb', 'Bb7'and 'Ab' and also included in the music will usually be the chords of 'Fm7' and 'Cm7', the two further steps up the ladder from 'Bb' as before.

To create a melodious Left Hand Chord Progression, start at the top of the Musical Ladder to play an 'F#' Chord. Add a Seventh Note of 'E', and play 'F#7' to its resolution of 'B', which is one step down the ladder. Add a Seventh Note of 'A' to play 'B7' to its resolution of 'E' etc. Following this procedure through each Keynote of the ladder to 'Gb' will bring you back to the starting point of 'F#', ('Gb' Enharmonic).

To create a smooth finger movement between the chords, play them all between the octave 'F' to 'F', creating inversions as necessary. If playing a pedal board instrument, play the Keynote as the pedal note.

In the ascending form, each step of the Musical Ladder progresses by Dominant Fifth Notes of the Scale i.e. 'C' (1) to 'G' (5); 'G' (1) to 'D' (5) etc.

In the descending form, each step of the ladder progresses by Subdominant Fourth Notes of Scale i.e. 'C' (1) to 'F' (4); 'F' (1) to 'Bb' (4) etc.

Ascending from the Keynote of 'C', the Sharps (#) are built upon and added to the 'F#' of the 'G' Major Scale and each new added for each Keynote is the new Number Seven, or Leading Note, of the new Scale (Figure 3). Their formation on the stave as a Key Signature is also built upon the 'F#' of the 'G' Major Key Signature, (Figure 2).

When descending the ladder, the Flats (b) are built upon and added to the 'Bb' in the 'F' Major Scale and each new added 'b' for each Keynote is the new number four, or Subdominant Fourth Note, of the new Scale (Figure 3). Their formation on the stave as a Key Signature is also built upon the 'Bb' of the 'F' Major Scale, (Figure 2).

Figure 5.


Music is written like a letter, with commas, full stops and phrases representing sentences. Left Hand Chords are selected and arranged in these musical sentences, or phrases, to flow correctly, to blend in harmonically and to create an ending. A 'Cadence' is an ending to a musical sentence and appears in three forms: Perfect, Plagal and Imperfect.

A PERFECT CADENCE will use a seventh chord built upon the Dominant Fifth Note followed by a Major Chord formed upon the Tonic Note (5 to 1).
(A) 'G7' Chord followed by the 'C' Major Chord.
(B) 'Bb7' Chord followed by the 'Eb' Major Chord.

The simplicity of using the Musical Ladder can now be appreciated by recognising that the two Keynotes upon which these chords are formed are one above the other on the ladder. The chord on the upper Keynote with a '7th' added, moves down one step to the next Keynote to form a Perfect Cadence, or Ending (5 to 1) — G7/C and Bb7/Eb

A PLAGAL CADENCE will use a Major Chord formed upon the Subdominant Fourth Note followed by a Major chord formed upon the Tonic Note. Now the order is reversed and the Major Chord of the lower Keynote of two on the ladder, moves to the next Keynote up the ladder to play a Major Chord on the Tonic (4 to 1).
E.g. 'F' Major Chord moves up to the 'C' Major Chord - C/F.

The IMPERFECT CADENCE, also called a 'Half Close', suggests that although the chords of the music indicate the end of a phrase there is more to follow. The two simplest chord formations to give this effect are:

(A) A Major Chord on the Tonic Keynote followed a Major Chord on the Dominant Fifth Keynote (1 to 5).

(B) A Major Chord on the Subdominant Fourth Keynote followed by a Major Chord on the Dominant Fifth Keynote.
(A) 'C' Major to 'G' Major - G/C
(B) 'F' Major to 'G' Major C/G/F

Most music will end on the Major Keynote Chord. Use the Musical Ladder to embellish and extend a simple ending by identifying the Keynote Chord, step one rung down the ladder to the Subdominant Fourth Note and form a Sixth or Minor Sixth chord upon this Keynote. Then move back to the Major Keynote and form a Sixth Chord upon it.

In Figure 5, the music ends on the 'F' Major Keynote Chord. The extended ending chord of 'Bb6', or 'Bbm6' are followed by the 'F6' Chord.

C / F (Major Keynote Chord) / Bb (Extended Ending Chord)

The melody note of 'F' can be maintained for the extended ending as it occurs in all the chords. The original 2 Bar ending formed a Perfect Cadence (5 to 1). The extended ending is a Plagal Cadence (4 to 1). Now experiment in other Keys of music, creating your own endings by following the same procedure.

Series - "Making Notes"

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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Jun 1982

Donated & scanned by: Stewart Lawler


Music Theory


Making Notes

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 (Viewing) | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

Feature by Brenda Hayward

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