Learn to improvise. 2003-2004. Lesson 11: design of a scheme.

A scheme is of crusial importance. In existing schemes we often see the same groups of chords that belong together. We can use these miniature schemes conveniently as building stones.
In the first place, these are the 3 primary chords (root, dominant seventh and subdominant) of a current key. For example C, G7 and F belong to each other, because they are of key C. We often see them together in schemes, in one order or another:
G7 C, of C F C, of F G7 C, of C F C F C, of C G7 C, of C G7 C F C G7 C C, etc.

This does not only hold for the initial key, but also for the temporary keys that are passed. If starting from the initial key C, the key Dm is used, we see: C A7 Dm (so A7 and Dm together).

The common way to enter a new key definitively is with the dominant seventh. Sometimes it is interesting to delay the confirmation by first using the subdominant (Gm) preceding to A7 Dm; so sometimes we see: C Gm A7 Dm. At the moment that you hear Gm, you feel in which direction it has to go, but only at A7, you feel sure the root will come.

All this holds for all temporary keys we use.
Which keys are eligible for modulation?

The easiest jumps are fourths or a fifths (with every modulation only one tone changes). Take as an example the scheme of Mister Sandman from lesson 05:
C B7 E7 A7 D7 G7 C

The first jump from C to B7 sounds more unusually then the others, because it is not a modulation of a fifth.

During B7 the current key is E or Em. The scheme leaves this ambiguous (the melody may give decisive answer, but we leave this out of consideration). Before the scheme takes time to reveal whether it is a minor or a major key, it already rushes on towards the next key by giving E7. Also there we don't see, whether the key is A or Am at that moment. This kind of ambiguity - leaving the answer open - occurs in every kind of art: in literature, the visual arts, etc.

It shows similarities with delaying the confirmation of the key, but then in an extreme form: the confirmation will never come.

Keys differing in more then one tone, are less related to each other. The further apart the relation is, the stranger the modulation will seem, e.g. in case E7 is left out in the scheme of Mr. Sandman.

The keys which are passed in Mr. Sandman successivily, may be: C Em Am Dm G and C. We can also make a scheme without uncertainty of the keys, by confirming them with their root. For example:
C B7 Em Em Am E7 Am Am Dm A7 Dm Dm D7 D7 G G7 C...
Also here the keys are in succession: C Em Am Dm G and C.
Building a scheme, it is good to take into account the keys that are used. The next step then, is to work it out in chords. Mind herewith the number of measures necessary for the musically logical course. Add diminished or augmented chords for piquant effect, e.g. by replacing seventh chords with them. Check if the scheme gives melodic possibilities.
HOMEWORK: Design a scheme, write it big and improvise on it. (You can borrow ideas, like miniature schemes, from existing schemes, e.g. in songbooks.)

[Sorry, temporarily I cannot make MIDI-examples]
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