Learn to improvise. 2003-2004. Lesson 12: keys in chord schemes.
The homework of lesson 10 to harmonize Brother John had as a result
that nobody stuck to the exact melody of the song, used it as a theme to
elaborate it melodically and harmonically. Otherwise it would have
been unbearable unmusically. Apart from that it turned out that
everyone accompanied his melody. Nowadays we are not satisfied any
more sitting at the piano and repeating a same melody over and over
again without any accompaniment. We need more voices. As we don't
compose but improvise we limit our pretensions. A composer doesn't
have to restrict himself to chords and schemes. He can try out every
note and put it on paper. To improvise, however, we need tricks and
expediencies to find our way quick in our music.
Chords help us to predict quickly how certain accompanying notes will
harmonize with the melody note.
Chord schemes give an interesting flow even before we have made a
Keys warn in time for scale alien notes in the melody and give by their
modulation fascinating turns in the harmony.
Designing a chord scheme it is useful to mind the temporary keys. If
there are too few of them (sticking in the key of C) the scheme may be
boring, and if the relation between the keys is to far away, the logic of
the flow may be hard to understand.
As an example here is the chorus of the song 'Some of these days' in the
initial key C. The chord scheme has 32 measures:
E7 E7 Am Am E7 E7 Am Am A7 A7 Dm Dm D7 D7 G G7
C C7 F F A7 A7 Dm Dm F F7 C A7 D7 G7 C C
The temporary keys are successively: Am (italic), Dm (italic and
underlined), G (underlined), C, F (thin), Dm (italic and underlined), C,
Dm (italic and underlined), G (underlined), C.
The first modulation, which is left out here, is from the initial key C to
its relative key Am, of which the root is note a. From there we go to
keys of which the root is every time a fourth further away: d, g, c, f.
Once we have arrived in key F we continue with its relative key Dm.
The next jump of key Dm to chord F is ambiguous: Dm and are relative
keys, F belongs to the initial key C and the chords Dm and F are often
each others replacement. After that, some modulations of fourth
intervals go fast to the end: d, g, c. So all modulations are logic: fourths,
relative keys, etc.
As the scheme has 5 modulations there are many fascinating turns.
As the scheme is repeated over and over again there is a structure.
As every repetition gets another melody there is variation.
Click to hear an example
In case people play together and they stick to the keys (in other words to
the scales), valid at a certain moment, then it easy to fulfill good
Click to hear playing together (initial key G)
Refinement of the design is possible by checking if short melodies in
the bass can be made.
Piquant effects may be obtained by replacing a seventh chord by a
diminished-seventh chord or by replacing a common major chord by a
E.g. the chord F7 in the scheme is such a case. It could have been F, but
also Cdim7, and may be Fm, and who knows, perhaps C+ can pass the
At the end of the design one can try to make some melodies to the
scheme in order to be sure it is suited for an improvisation base.
HOMEWORK: Design a chord scheme which contains more than one
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