As you learn more and more tunes, you’ll realize sometimes chords go from Tonic Family chords straight to Dominant, or sometimes they go from Dominant Family chords to Sub-Dominant. Python Graph Gallery (code) Here’s an overview of the 3 steps to define chord function within a key: So, let’s figure out how chords function within the key of C major: To emphasize again, it’s important to understand this process and not just the final result. There’s so much from music theory that can make you a better musician. Values are assigned to each connection, which is represented proportionally by the size of each arc. It’s everywhere. You can “know” the chords to a jazz standard or a common progression like a ii V I, but do you actually know how they sound? Use the same thinking as before. Pull it apart. This makes Chord Diagrams ideal for comparing the similarities within a dataset or between different groups of data. Next we’ll take a look at the Dominant Family. Now that you have an idea of how chord families work, the next thing to understand related to chord function, is that moving from chord to chord, there’s natural “voice leading” that takes place from one chord to the next…. As you can see, the Tonic Family consists of the tonic, the iii minor 7, and Vi minor 7 chords. In terms of … To discover these details, can you tell me the answers to the following 5 questions WITHOUT looking at any of the diagrams in this lesson or a piano? A chord's function is basically the role it plays within the key. Go through and visualize them to get them solid. What chord from the other six chords within a major key shares similar intervallic content and chord tones as the V7? Think about how the composer might have come up with these chords. Another important point you can learn from chord families is how diatonic chords can be substituted for one another. GUIDELINES. In fact, I urge you to reframe how you think about music theory. With all the tunes you’re working on, sit at the piano and play through the tune with 2 or 3-note piano voicings, and pay careful attention to the voice leading from one chord tone to the next. They’re very obvious when you’re looking at a diagram or the piano, but you need them in your mind to make the information useful…, I’m going to be real with you right now…I absolutely hated music theory in school…. Just because it’s not explained by chord function doesn’t mean it can’t be explained some other way. But in terms of harmony, the 3rd and 7th not only dictate whether the chord is major, dominant, or minor, they also define the primary voice leading of chord tones from one chord to the next. The Sub-dominant family describes chords that precede chords in the Dominant Family, or chords that move away from the tonic and typically transition to chords with tension. No longer think of it as disconnected rules that govern how music works. Always thinking “what if” is the key to the composer’s mindset and getting beyond the standard guidelines of jazz theory, because that’s actually what they are. The something could be a chord, a scale, a melody…. It’s like, okay, I just learned how chords function in a major key, but how come in the chord progressions going on in real tunes, chords don’t always function like that? The specific way the tension is set up and resolved comes from the idea of “voice leading” which we’ll explore more later. It’s quite common that the iii minor 7 or vi minor 7 chord is substituted for the I Major 7 chord. Use intervallic content, voice leading, chord families, and tension and resolution to better understand how each chord functions. Those technical names, tonic, supertonic, and so on, are what we mean by chord function. Chord function helps you with chord substitution. Then, deliberately go against, modify, or change how typical chord function might go. By trying things out and experimenting using the “What if” mode of thought combined with your knowledge of chord function, you can discover unique progressions that sound interesting or go behind the scenes of how a composer of a tune you’re working on might be thinking. Notice the overlap between the dominant and half diminished chord and how both contain a tritone. Do NOT use chord function to group multiple chords into one key so you can play ONE scale on all of them without knowing what’s happening harmonically, This right here is one the BIGGEST mistakes in jazz education. In doing so, you’ll improve your composition skills, and you’ll discover what makes a specific tune special in its own way, making it easier to learn, recall, and improvise over. Knowing this, if you had to guess what other chords besides the tonic that would be in the Tonic Family, what would you guess? Basic chord function does not encapsulate all of music theory. There’s nothing wrong with this and the way we hear or think through chords can vary greatly from person to person. But, in jazz, no one would ever play the chords this way because jumping from chord to chord like that does not only sound bad, it doesn’t aurally describe the voice leading from one chord tone in the first chord, to another chord tone in the next chord. This smooth voice leading is always present even in other progressions. The most important role in any key is the I chord. Let’s look at how this idea of using theory both predictably and unpredictably in All The Things You Are creates a unique composition. How many minor 7 chords are there in a major key and which chords are they in terms of chord function? Its most typical role is leading from the tonic to a strong pre-dominant (such as IV or ii). Remember, chord function in the context of a chord progression describes a whole lot more than what key a chord is in. Some things just sound great, and you can always use tools like intervallic content and voice leading to figure out why they sound great to you, even if you can’t determine an exact chord function. These are the only chords from harmonizing a major scale that contain a tritone because all of other chords are either major or minor 7 chords. Click Here. If chords functioned in a way that couldn’t use smooth voice leading that resolved tension by small movements like half-step or whole-step, you’d have these big leaps from one chord to the next, and the result wouldn’t sound logical, smooth, or what we hear as beautiful. Then, you’ll be able to apply the same process to more complex scenarios. The thing is, if composers strictly stuck with music theory to create everything they came up with, things would be very predictable, and that’s not what they want. What great composers do is use theory to set up the predictability, and then PURPOSELY go AGAINST where you’d expect the chord changes to go. This skill is extremely useful. Click the lovely button below to get started. What chord qualities of seventh chords are found in a major key? And then the 7th of G7 moves down by half-step to the 3rd of C major (E), while the 3rd of G7 carries over to become the 7th of C major (B). This type of diagram visualises the inter-relationships between entities. Not all chords in a jazz chord progression have to serve a specific function within a key, Being human, we want everything to fit into our nice little theoretical box, but sometimes when working on tricky tunes, like Wayne Shorter tunes for instance, it’s difficult to hear or to determine what the composer was actually thinking in terms of chord function. Whether you’re just learning how to improvise or if you’ve been playing jazz for a long time, chord function can still be one of those things that doesn’t quite make sense because it’s a very deep topic. But, take your time with it. And what chord in the ii V I precedes the dominant chord? Each chord was selected by the composer to move somewhere or to resolve from somewhere. With any jazz standard that you want to learn, aim to get a step beyond analysis. We’re free to compose or think about chords moving in any way, the sound being the most important. In future lessons will go through the process and details of harmonizing a minor scale, using borrowed chords, and a whole lot more! It is a point of rest. Things don’t just sound a certain way…they sound a certain way because of the intervallic content within the structure. But, you have to understand the concepts in a way that puts them into contexts that you would actually use them in without drowning in the sea of the theoretical.

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