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BlackPanther

One or two questions regarding some jazz stuff.

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Ok, so I had made a post before about getting into jazz and whatnot, still a long ways to go though, especially listening to some of the stuff here or anywhere. But one question I have is - is there any particular reason why the II-V-I chord is popular? And why doesn't it start on the one? Is it because it resolves on the one chord, or are there no hard pressed rules in chord or melody structure when it comes to scales? Are these legit questions? Figure I would ask you guys since this is where I feel most comfortable, and since I feel this is stuff that should be automatically known or something, especially for how long I've been doing music. But yeah, help please =D.

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1) If it starts on the 1, it could resolve towards a basic triad. Sure, that's fine. I think that a II-V-I chord is just a) more harshly dissonant for a particular feel (I-II-V sounds more pleasantly dissonant IMO, and I believe it works well in intimate songs with ethereal textures), or B) the timbre of the sound used to write chords typically sound less clashing, even on pleasantly clashing harmonies, on open chords. Overall, I think it's somewhat of a famous "base" chord that ends some jazz songs.

2) A II-V-I chord does actually resolve, but without actually trying this at home I couldn't tell you what it can resolve to. It may need one more note, then, to give a clearer direction. I think if it were to resolve, it could "resolve" into another dissonant chord of a similar nature, which could go on until you reach a chord that actually can resolve more cleanly.

Edited by timaeus222

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1) A II-V-I chord does actually resolve, but without actually trying this at home I couldn't tell you what it can resolve to.

apart from III-V-I...

II-V-VII, dominant?

am i misunderstanding this and you're talking about something more complicated?

anyway, i suppose jazz people are attracted to layered fourths because you have a lot of options to move on from there. the more ambiguous the better.

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The most basic harmonic relationship (in both classical music and jazz) is the relationship of V to I. Books have been written about why exactly this is the case, but that the relationship is important can pretty much just be taken as a given. One of the ways jazz fleshes the V-I relationship out is by duplicating the V-I harmonic motion with chords that aren't actually V and I.

For example, II moves to V by going down a fifth just like V moves to I by going down a fifth. You can extend this even further backwards to get progressions such as III-VI-II-V-I. The short version, II-V-I, is particularly popular because it works as a turn-around -- you can extend a given chord by playing a quick II-V-I progression on it (using the chord in question as your I) and you end up right back on the chord, so you can use the gesture just to fill in space that would otherwise have had no harmonic change in it.

Things get even more interesting when you start changing chord qualities. For example, if we're in the key of C major, II-V-I will be minor-major-major, or minor-dominant-major since a seventh is typically added to the V chord. We can take the idea of imitating V-I for things that aren't V-I even further and change II from a minor chord to a dominant seventh chord (like the V), which makes the relationship between II and V even more like the relationship between V and I.

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Just to clarify, you are talking about a chord progressions, correct? II-V-I "chord" doesn't have any meaning.

Also, are you talking about Ionian or Lydian? Because in Ionian (traditional major), the chord is ii, not II (minor, not major). The supertonic chord is major only in Lydian. It doesn't really matter for the rest of this post, but just pointing it out.

The reason the ii-V-I progression is popular is because its a simple exercise in basic chord theory, the circular progression. Chords lead in root motion up a 4th/down a 5th. Because ii leads to V, it is said to have predominant function, because it leads to the chord with the dominant function (V). The dominant then leads up a 4th to the tonic chord I.

If you start at the tonic, you can build the most tonally satisfying chord progression by using the circle.

I - IV - vii^o (^o = diminished) - iii - vi - ii - V - I = Ionian circle of chords

For sake of clarity, I'm going to assume we are in C major. We could be in Lydian, Mixolydian, whatever, the concepts still apply. The chord qualities change slightly, and in modes lacking a leading tone, the v chord (now minor) going to i or I can be a colorful result if you do it properly. For instance, my favorite chord ending is that of To Zanarkand's which is a v7 to a I (and that I is actually the V of the original key of the song, because it modulates halfway through).

This doesn't change with 7th chords. 7ths in chords resolve down by step. ii7 (D F A C), the 7th of the chord resolves downward by step, which ends up being the leading tone (B), which is the major third factor of the V chord (and D is a common tone, so it stays played in both chords). If you use V7, you keep the D and F common tones. The A changes to a G, the C changes to a B. Next, G remains in place while B, the leading tone, resolves to C. F, the 7th of the chord (even if it's not the top note of the chord, it is still the 7th) resolves downward by step to the E, and the 5th (D) can resolve downward to the C or upward to the E (equidistant pulls in either direction with equidistant travel).

ii7----V7-----I (or I7)

D ---- D ---- E (or C)

F ---- F ---- E

A ---- G ---- G

C ---- B ---- C (or B)

If you want to resolve to an I7, just preserve the B instead of resolving it to C. Because your chord contains the 7th, it is therefore dissonant and will prompt the song to continue (or you can end it there if you want).

Study this song, it explains in a nutshell exactly how to use 7th chords effectively.

P.S. Another note, like Moseph said, in Lydian, the supertonic chord is II7, not ii7, it forms a dominant (major-minor) 7th chord and leads strongly to the V chord exactly the way V7 leads to the I chord.

Edited by Neblix

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Just to clarify, you are talking about a chord progressions, correct? II-V-I "chord" doesn't have any meaning.

i thought he meant a single chord. example in C: D (II), G (V), C(I)

idk if that is correct terminology but it's the only way i see the post making sense.

regardless, the circle of fifths stuff is still good info.

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i thought he meant a single chord. example in C: D (II), G (V), C(I)

idk if that is correct terminology but it's the only way i see the post making sense.

regardless, the circle of fifths stuff is still good info.

Yeah, that was my assumption too; if II-V-I is referring to an actual chord progression, then I can more clearly see why it's a common chord progression.

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Yes, II-V-I refers to a progression.

Also, are you talking about Ionian or Lydian? Because in Ionian (traditional major), the chord is ii, not II (minor, not major). The supertonic chord is major only in Lydian. It doesn't really matter for the rest of the reply.

Particularly in jazz theory, chord numerals are sometimes written without the uppercase/lowercase distinction. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I think it may be because jazz theory often deals with extremely brief tonicizations where bass motion is more important than chord quality, which is often changed improvisationally.

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Particularly in jazz theory, chord numerals are sometimes written without the uppercase/lowercase distinction. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I think it may be because jazz theory often deals with extremely brief tonicizations where bass motion is more important than chord quality, which is often changed improvisationally.

That makes sense; didn't know that tidbit. Thanks!

Yeah, that was my assumption too; if II-V-I is referring to an actual chord progression, then I can more clearly see why it's a common chord progression.

A chord built on 2^, 5^, and 1^ simply collapses to a suspended chord, so it is easiest to think of its resolution as such. Since sus2 "chords" (in classical theory, sus chords are not actually chords, but nonharmonic tones accented to later be resolved) are inversion of sus4 chords, you could resolve it two ways. You can collapse the 1^ to be under the 2^, in which case the 2^ resolves upward to 3^. (1^ 2^ 5^, C D G, resolves to C E G) You can also do this with 7ths, just stack more 4ths and play with it.

Similarly, you can have the 2^ collapse to above the 1^ (5^ 1^ 2^, G C D), and then the 1^ resolves down to the 7^. ( G B D ). Again, stack more 4ths, get more colorful chords. The more tones in a chord, the funner resolutions get.

Edited by Neblix

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So let's assume we're in C major. Keep in mind that II-V-I is really ii-V7-I in most cases. There's common alterations to that scheme, but ii-V7-I is sorta the "standard jazz progression." II-V-I is an unfortunately common way to write the progression, but it's a bad practice because it's really nonspecific. ii-V7-I is the most common way to do it, but you can alter those chord to your heart's content.

ii = D F A C (minor 7th chord)

V7 = G B D F (dominant 7th chord)

I = C G E B (major 7th chord)

A basic "rule" in tonal music is that the chord of the fifth tone of a major scale, the dominant, resolves well back to the chord of the first tone in the major scale. This goes for triads and 7th chords. So let's look at that.

V7 --> I = G7 --> Cmaj7 = G B D F --> C E B G

The 7th tone of a major scale is called the "leading tone" because it leads very strongly back into the tonic. In this case, it would be B leading strongly into C. Since C is the tonic, leading back into it provides a strong sense of resolution of the chord progression. So that will sound nice.

In "normal" jazz voice leading, the 7th of one chord leads well into the 3rd of the next chord, likewise the 3rd leads well into the 7th, and that sounds particularly nice in ii-V7-I progressions because it fits the movement of the notes in the chords. The 7th of G7 is F. The 3rd of Cmaj7 is E. So that's a half step distance, almost like the F was a suspension which was just waiting to resolve into that E, and it sounds good when it does.

The root and the 5th of the G7 chord, G and D, don't really strongly resolve in any direction. The G doesn't move anywhere, and the D is a whole step away from C, so there's not a ton of tension there. So the pleasing quality of V7-I is from the movement of the 3rd and 7th. And that's actually very, very common in jazz.

Apply those same principles to ii-V7 and you see the same pattern of resolution. The root and 5th movement from ii-V7 is sorta ambiguous. The 3rd of Dmin7 resolves into the 7th of G7. The 7th of Dmin7 resolves into the 3rd of G7.

Playing these chords in block form in root position is also not doing the progression justice. Try this: DFAC -> DFGB -> CEGB -> CEFA and so on. I threw in that last chord as just another example of 3rds leading into sevenths. You can keep cycling through that forever. You're essentially just moving the root of each chord up a 4th each time.

In fact, that's another important point to make. A lot of jazz moves in 4ths. It doesn't have to, but it's very common to see progressions move like that to create a string of very pleasing resolutions as described above and slight modulations at times before the progression does something a little more unpredictably jazzy.

So look at a ii-V7-I. The reason you don't start on a I is because you are resolving INTO the tonic, into the I chord. And you are doing it by moving in 4ths. The root of ii is a 4th from the root of V7 is a 4th from the root of I. If you started on I and moved in 4ths, you'd get I-IV-bVII. Not exactly as pleasing as ii-V7-I, but not bad. Also, there's not nearly as much harmonic variety. Those are all maj7 chords. ii-V7-I is three very different qualities of chord.

When I'm talking about moving in 4ths, I'm not talking about quartal harmony which is a totally different thing. That's constructing chords by stacking 4ths rather than 3rds, which is a super jazzy thing to do; it's like automatic Coltrane Mode. I mean that you are moving the roots of the chords by a 4th.

One way to use ii-V7-I is to simply use it at the end of progressions to lead you back to the tonic because it does so about as strongly as music based on 7th chords can just as IV-V-I does in music based on triads. So x-ii-V7-I might just be the best progression in jazz, where x is equal to any combination of notes creating a 7th chord. Go!

You can also create little harmonic runs by doing cycles of ii-V7 or V7-I. So like Dmin7-G7-Amin7-D7 would be an example of a ii-V7 cycle. The first ii-V7 is in C major. The second is in G major. WTF MAN, YOU CHANGED KEYS. Yeah, that's jazz, and changing keys is particularly pleasing when you go to a new key which only has one accidental different from the original key. So from C (no accidentals), modulating to F major (one flat) or G major (one sharp) would sound nice because there aren't too many differences to jar the listener. Also, it's jazz, so fuck it. Modulate 3 keys away from time to time.

Modulating is a great way to abuse ii-V7-I and milk that great progression without it sounding stale in the same key over and over. It's also an essential part of jazz. You know how when you're listening to jazz and there's this sudden shift in the feel of the track for a few bars even though the progression doesn't *really* change to your ear much? That's key modulation.

What's an easy way to modulate? Well, a dominant 7th chord strongly pulls to anything a 5th below it for reasons I've already discussed. So if you want to modulate into G major from C major very smoothly, play a D7 chord which contains F# in it just like G major's key signature, and then resolve that D7 (the V7 in G major) down to a Gmaj7. Ladies and gentlemen, we have departed C major and arrived at G major. This principle is called secondary dominance in case you want to read about it more, and the roman numerals for it are V/x where x = the roman numeral of the chord in the original key. So in my example, the D7 chord would be an alteration to the ii chord of C major, making it a V/ii chord rather than a ii chord. That V/ii implies that we are using a ii chord of one key (C major) as the V chord of another key (in this case, G major because D is the dominant/5th in a G major scale), and the spelling of D7 (D F# A C) reflects that. That is how you spell the V7 chord in G major.

But wait, isn't the ii of C major a D MINOR 7? How can you just play a D7 and pretend like you even give a shit about theory? How can you make that sound good? Write your melody in such a way that it works with a D7 chord better than a Dmin7 chord when you move into that chord so that the modulation goes down smoothly. So maybe instead of having an F in the melody when the D7 plays, play an F# instead, something to have that altered chord make sense. In fact, whenever you alter a chord, and any alteration to the I-ii-iii-IV-V7-iv-vio/ framework is fair game in jazz, you should do it in such a way that it makes sense with your melody. So alter your melody in a similar manner.

Or don't It's jazz. Fuck it.

Sorry my answer was so brief, but I hope that addressed just about anything you could ask about ii-V7-I and how to use it!

Edited by ectogemia

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That's some good additional jazz context, thanks Ectogemia. Sorry if I ninja'd a lot of that, though. :tomatoface:

This principle is called secondary dominance in case you want to read about it more, and the roman numerals for it are V/x where x = the roman numeral of the chord in the original key. So in my example, the D7 chord would be an alteration to the ii chord of C major, making it a V/ii chord rather than a ii chord. That V/ii implies that we are using a ii chord of one key (C major) as the V chord of another key (in this case, G major because D is the dominant/5th in a G major scale), and the spelling of D7 (D F# A C) reflects that. That is how you spell the V7 chord in G major.

This is not how to notate secondary dominance in harmonic analysis. You're supposed write the chord function, followed / by the key it functions in.

For example, D7 in C major is V7/V, because it is the dominant 7th chord of the dominant (G major)'s key. It's shorthand to tell you what is being tonicized.

Or is this another thing that's specific to jazz theory?

Edited by Neblix

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That's some good additional jazz context, thanks Ectogemia. Sorry if I ninja'd a lot of that, though. :tomatoface:

No prob.

This is not how to notate secondary dominance in harmonic analysis. You're supposed write the chord function, followed / by the key it functions in.

For example, D7 in C major is V7/V, because it is the dominant 7th chord of the dominant (G major)'s key. It's shorthand to tell you what is being tonicized.

Or is this another thing that's specific to jazz theory?

Don't know what else to say except nope :P Maybe you're confusing it with something else? Woopz, just caught that last line after the edit. Maybe it is specific to jazz theory, iono. I'm not terribly interested in stuff that isn't jazz theory, haha.

Irrefutable Source

Edited by ectogemia

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That source supports what I say. :P

400px-Secondary_Dominant_Chords_In_C_Major.svg.png

Look how the C major chord is notated as "V/IV", it is the I chord, but with tonicizing the IV, it is the V. Hence, V/IV. Not V/I, as you implied in your post.

Look how the A is V/ii, because A major is the dominant of d minor, which is ii in C major. It's not V/vi, as you implied.

Look how the D is notated as V/V, exactly how I said it should be, and not V/ii. (I said D7 is V7/V in C major)

etc. etc.

Edited by Neblix

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You know how when you're listening to jazz and there's this sudden shift in the feel of the track for a few bars even though the progression doesn't *really* change to your ear much? That's key modulation.

So, like

? Or something else?

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So, like
? Or something else?

Yes, Zircon does this kind of stuff a lot, probably because of his background as a jazz fusion keyboardist.

The takeaway is that once you learn chord functions, keys don't really become a set of restrictions anymore, they instead become qualities, and how well you understand chord functions determines how easily and often you can modulate keys without having it sound like you're just playing different scales sequentially.

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Yes, Zircon does this kind of stuff a lot, probably because of his background as a jazz fusion keyboardist.

The takeaway is that once you learn chord functions, keys don't really become a set of restrictions anymore, they instead become qualities, and how well you understand chord functions determines how easily and often you can modulate keys without having it sound like you're just playing different scales sequentially.

Thanks. Yeah, these days I have an idea of what sounds good, but not the intuition to do what sounds good from an analytical standpoint; rather, I straight-up improvise sometimes, and I either get something good from trial-and-error or I get a happy accident. Ecto's post helped a bit in that regard. I'd have to actually go through and create examples to internalize it, but yeah, it makes sense.

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It doesn't sound like rocket science but any recommended place to start from scratch with those "chord functions" ? I already know intervals and what makes minor/major/7th chords.. but this looks way more interesting

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That source supports what I say. :P

400px-Secondary_Dominant_Chords_In_C_Major.svg.png

Look how the C major chord is notated as "V/IV", it is the I chord, but with tonicizing the IV, it is the V. Hence, V/IV. Not V/I, as you implied in your post.

Look how the A is V/ii, because A major is the dominant of d minor, which is ii in C major. It's not V/vi, as you implied.

Look how the D is notated as V/V, exactly how I said it should be, and not V/ii. (I said D7 is V7/V in C major)

etc. etc.

Yeah, I fucked it up. Oops. That's what I get for being hasty + a DIY musician.

Edited by ectogemia

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It doesn't sound like rocket science but any recommended place to start from scratch with those "chord functions" ? I already know intervals and what makes minor/major/7th chords.. but this looks way more interesting

If you can read music fine, then look up 4-part voice leading. It is the most naturally intuitive way to study 7th chord and triad functions.

The reason voice leading is important is because if you just played these chords on the keyboard in closed root position, the chord functions actually become destroyed.

For example:

In a 7th chord, the 7th interval tone of that chord resolves downward by step, but it never appears that way unless you just play the straight 7th chord that's a scale step downward. If you don't resolve each tone of the chord in its own right (hence "voice leading", treating each "voice" in the chord as its own line that leads to the next note), you get a disjunct resolution and it's not as harmonically rich.

If you can't read music well enough, I do suggest learning, but if you don't want to, I'm not sure if there are many resources that demonstrate these principles in piano roll. Generally intervals have almost no meaning in the piano roll (a diminished 7th and a major 6th look the same for example, so it's harder to identify the functions of what you're dealing with), and intervals are really important in voice leading.

Yeah, I fucked it up. Oops.

I have been there so many times.

Edited by Neblix

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It doesn't sound like rocket science but any recommended place to start from scratch with those "chord functions" ? I already know intervals and what makes minor/major/7th chords.. but this looks way more interesting

Yes. Learn the roman numeral (figured bass) notation for major and minor scales, both for triads and for seventh chords. Then you'll know how each chord in an unaltered scale will sound, and that makes writing progressions easier. It also helps drive home the relativity of all the scales and how writing within a scale is essentially just using chord tones and whichever 2nd between these tones you want will suffice. By changing the chord tones of a chord in a given scale, you are changing the scale(s)/pool of notes which would sound best over that chord.

Example: Play a I chord in C major (chord tones = C E G B), but add a #11. Now you're playing C E G B (D) F# which means F is no longer really in your scale because you've sharped the 11 (which is sorta kinda the same as the 4th, or F), and F# is -- so you're now playing a C Lydian scale (1 2 3 #4 5 6 7) rather than a C Ionian (major) scale. And that's how to use modes!

That was pretty theory heavy, so if you have any questions you need to ask to clarify, ask away.

Edited by ectogemia

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Example: Play a I chord in C major (chord tones = C E G B), but add a #11. Now you're playing C E G B (D) F# which means F is no longer really in your scale because you've sharped the 11 (which is sorta kinda the same as the 4th, or F), and F# is -- so you're now playing a C Lydian scale (1 2 3 #4 5 6 7) rather than a C Ionian (major) scale. And that's how to use modes!

So you're saying whenever people say "Oh, I played the [insert letter here] [insert mode here] scale," they're really saying "I sharped the note in the [insert letter here] scale that corresponds to [insert mode here] mode"?

Edited by timaeus222

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So you're saying whenever people say "Oh, I played the [insert letter here] [insert mode here] scale," they're really saying "I sharped the note in the [insert letter here] scale that corresponds to [insert mode here] mode"?

Quick rundown:

Diatonic scale - C major

Ionian starts on C

Dorian starts on D

Phrygian starts on E

Lydian starts on F

Mixolydian starts on G

Aeolian starts on A

Locrian starts on B

Sure, you know this already (I think). But look at the scale patterns, just by comparing D dorian to D minor, E phrygian to E minor, F Lydian to F major, etc.:

Ionian - Major

Dorian - Minor with a raised 6^ (thus affecting all chords with 6^) - no leading tone, dominant must raise the 7th for strong leading

Phrygian - Minor with a lowered 2^ (thus affecting all chords with 2^) - no leading tone, dominant must raise the 7th for strong leading

Lydian - Major with a raised 4th (thus affecting all chords with 4^)

Mixolydian - Major with a lowered 7^ (thus affecting all chords with 7^) - no leading tone, dominant must raise the 7th for strong leading

Aeolian - Natural minor - no leading tone, dominant must raise the 7th for strong leading

Locrian - Phrygian with a lowered 5^, or minor with a lowered 2^ and 5^. You can not resolve in Locrian mode (the 5th of the tonic chord is flat, and therefore a tritone), so I advise you don't tonicize with a Locrian scale, or if you do, leave out the flat 5^ (or raise it when resolving). Back centuries in the days of modal music, Locrian didn't even exist for that reason. It was recognized more recently out of desire to name an all naturals scale starting on B.

Edited by Neblix

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Looks like this thread is slowly becoming sticky-worthy. This is a shit ton of reasonably well-organized jazz theory.

Not really jazz theory, actually I think only a small amount of jazz theory has been covered here. We've been focusing on secondary dominance, modes, and modulations, and these things are all centuries old.

But yes, it is a nice grab bag of theory tidbits from multiple perspectives.

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