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... or from anyone who has an insight before I get lost. I've been practicing a "Key of the Week" (which has become a key every three weeks) and one of the things I have been doing is working through voicings of the chords within the key: I chord, ii chord, iii, chord...etc. Simple enough. I am also practicing jumping from the 1357 voicing to a closed voicing (7935). So here is what I'm noticing: when I voice the 1357 of the minor chord, the Abm7 in Gb, B and E for example, it voices the same way as a ii, iii, or vi. But when I voice it as a 7935 the added ninth can be different (????). For example, in the key of Gb, the (7935) Abm7 (ii) chord voices Gb, Bb, B, Eb, using the notes in the Gb scale, but in the key of E the Abm7 (iii) chord voices (7935) Gb A B Eb, using the notes in the E scale (?). My conclusion is that a dorian minor of Gb voiced like this has a different flavor than a phrygian minor of E voiced this way. Am I looking at this correctly or have I missed something?


Drew Johnson Mon, 10/01/2012 - 10:16

You are right to say that dorian voicings have a different flavor than phrygian. But there may be a different way to look at this whole thing. Look at the chords in terms of function. If you are going to play diatonic voicings, think about where they point and what there function is. Lets talk in the key of Cmaj for theory purposes....

Let's look at all of the diatonic chords with there full extensions that occur without any alterations and think about where they point.

The I chord is obviously home. This chord is spelled C E G B D.

The ii chord can extend all the way to the 13th. D F A C E G. In the triad (D F A), all of the notes want to resolve downward by step. The upper structure if played alone will sound just like the tonic chord, but if played over a D bass note, will sound as the upper extensions of the ii chord

The iii chord is a lot like the I chord. Often iii can be used as a substitution for the I chord because of how many notes it shares in common. This chord is spelled E G B D. Notice it is the exact same as the I chord, only missing one note (C). Playing a 9th over this chord requires some kind of F. If you play an F natural it is going to sound like a V7 chord (which is not the goal). One option would be to play an F#. This would produce a Lydian sound (remember iii is usually a substitute for I). This can be a hip sound, but is not necessary. If I am playing diatonically, I avoid landing on an F over this chord unless I purposefully want to create tension.

The IV chord is a lot like the ii chord and functions similarly. This chord is spelled F A C E G. Notice just as the iii chord was the same as the I chord without the root, the IV chord is the same as the ii chord with out the root. The F and A want to resolve downward. You can also hear the C wanting to resolve down to B in a jazz idiom.

In the V chord every note points home. This is why this chord is used to create the most tension. In modern music many notes are altered to add even more tension for our 21st century ears. But comparatively speaking diatonically, the V chord creates the most tension. The V chord is spelled G B D F A. G points to C. B points to C. D points to C. F points to E. A points to G. So every note in the arpeggio points to a note in the tonic triad.

The vi chord either precedes a ii chord or is used to tonicize the relative minor. (A minor and C major have the same key signature, and are therefore called relatives).This chord is spelled A C E G. A common progression is I-vi-ii-V-(repeat). This progression is called a turnaround, because it is cyclical and can repeat itself endlessly.

The vii (diminished) chord is a lot like the V chord. This chord is spelled B D F A. As you can see, every note of this chord functions just as the V chord does.

SOOO does this simplify things? When I am playing diatonically in the key of C, if I play diatonic chords those are the notes I am aiming for, but unless I am altering the chords in a way, I will use the notes of C major. I avoid certain notes like F over a iii chord (in C major) unless I am using it as a passing tone. In general i think of diatonic sounds in 3 colors. 1- home (I chord and iii chord) 2- suspension or pre dominant (ii chord, IV chord, vi chord) 3- dominant (V chord, vii chord).

ya dig!?

Babu Mon, 10/01/2012 - 10:56

In reply to by Drew Johnson

Just a little thing : Vii is a half-diminished chord , m7b5.

Gary Rich Mon, 10/01/2012 - 13:18

Thanks Drew, not only did you answer my immediate question but you gave me another way to consider what I'm doing with my "key of the week" (month) study. I printed this to carry with me for a few days to read and absorb more thoroughly. I'll be back here if I need any clarification.