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Cool/interesting chord progs, scales, cadences, etc.


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A lot of learning how to write music is experimenting, but not every possible idea is going to come to one person. So I thought I'd start a list of nice-sounding patterns I've found recently which are sorta out of the ordinary major/minor, I-IV-V sort of thing and aren't exactly things you'd find in a typical music theory book. Got anything to contribute? If we can get enough fresh, organized ideas coming in, I'll start updating the OP to catalog them.

VI-VII-I cadence

Ex. C E G - D F# A - E G# D (root position voicings)

or G C E - A D F# - G# B E (cooler voicings)

I stumbled upon this while I was improvising a while ago, but as cool as I thought I was for finding it, I realized that it's in video games ALL OVER THE PLACE, so it's probably just a pattern beaten mercilessly into my brain over the years that made its way out through my keyboard one day. I heard two of them in two separate tracks within 10 seconds of one another in Diddy Kong Racing the other day. Really common sound in VGM.

VGM example:

fuck it...

The Nobuo Suspension

Basically, this is playing a sus4 with a root which is normally a minor chord in a major scale (ii, iii, or vi) and resolving the 4 into a MAJOR third of that chord rather than the minor third which lies in the original major scale. Lots of potential for modulation, major/minor key changes, or just general cool effect.

Seems to sound best with the vi chord of a major scale. Actually, it's a major version of the vi chord, so a VI, but it starts as a sus4 chord before resolving into the major third instead of the minor third, so it's ambiguous while it's suspended which makes the C# resolution particularly surprising to the ear. Really, really neat-sounding way to transition into new parts or modulate into a new key.

Ex. Key of C Major

vi = A C E --> Amin

VI = A C# E --> AMaj

VIsus4 = A D E --> Asus4

So play a progression in C, but for the second-to-last chord in a phrase, play A D E (Asus4) before resolving the D into a C# to play your final chord, A C# E (Amaj). Now move into a new key containing A C# and E or stay in the old one, your choice :P

This works well enough with any sus4 chord which has only notes of the original key.

Nobuo Uematsu uses this all the time, and it's pretty common in JRPGs in general I think because it has really grandiose sound to it.

VGM example:

-- happens at 0:20

Mixolydian Pentatonic

I've been experimenting with modes a lot recently, and I've stumbled across some cool scales and melodic patterns. This is possibly my favorite. Dunno if there's another name for it, but I think this one works.

Ex. 1-3-4-5-b7

or C-E-F-G-Bb

It has a really cool virtuoso prog sound, sorta like something Steve Vai would play. Works nicely over chords in the Mixolydian mode. So flat your 7 in a major scale, make chords from that altered scale, and you're good to go.

VGM example:

-- The first several bars

Lydian Pentatonic

Another useful modal pentatonic scale. Pentatonic scales are awesome for writing the bulk of rock solos. These two "outside" pentatonic scales let you abuse that strong pentatonic sound without coming across as cliche with the standard major pentatonic and minor/blues pentatonics.

Ex. 1-2-#4-5-6

or C-D-F#-G-A

VGM example:

-- The first several bars Edited by ectogemia
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Just two days ago I made up my first victory theme out this:

B minor, C major, D major, E major.

(B, D, F#), (C, E, G), (D, F#, A), (E, G#, B)

Unusually for me, as I'm typically slow as shit in making music, I composed the chord structure in the time it took you READ those four chords. I'd never even done a victory fanfare before. Something I was quite proud of indeed.

https://soundcloud.com/meteoxavier/victory-fanfare-version-2

Now whether or not I orchestrated it correctly is another question.

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Okay.

So... I used this progression to modulate down an octave. ...Yes, down an octave. o_o I started in C and ended up in Bb. xD

+ = add

- = omit

Cm7(-5)(+8)(+12)(+15) --> Bmaj9(-5)(+12)(+15) --> Bbm11(-3)(-9)(+8)(+12)(+15) --> C11sus4(+8)(b10) --> Bb7sus4(+8)(b10)(b14) --> Am6(-5)(+8)(b12)(+15)

---------------

EDIT:

C Eb Bb C G C --> B Eb Bb Db Gb B --> Bb F Ab Bb Db F Bb --> C F Gb Bb C Eb Gb --> Bb Eb F Ab Bb Db F --> A C F A Eb A

---------------

Ironically, it seems like my next 6 chords are identical aside from the first chord being a Bb chord instead of a C chord, so I changed keys without changing 5 out of 6 chords. SNEAKY. (The last four chords essentially resemble intervals that go down a M3, up a M2, and down a m3)

https://app.box.com/s/ix4pdipb06v9bq6p6r2e

(I think some notation is probably unconventional. I'm just referencing notation from a book of jazz sheet music, but obviously these chords are beyond 11ths so there's some guessing >.> I also don't know how to notate when I've simply added a root note an octave up for voicing or shifted a fifth up an octave)

Edited by timaeus222
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Here's a simple tiny chord change that I use in some jazzier settings, and that I've heard in several VGM songs.

Basically, simply changing the quality from a major 7th to a minor 7th can make an interesting yet simple change that can take a song all kinds of places! You can alter a melody to fit with the chord change to make it snazzy, you can keep going on with the new key or change back, etc. Lots of options.

Example:

From: C E G B

To: C Eb G Bb (Add some extended harmonies for added richness)

VGM example:

Summers from Earthbound:

I believe Costa Del Sol from FFVII uses a bit of this as well, though it also alters the root that the bass is playing. Another option for added interest.

Edited by Amphibious
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no I mean the whole thread. :oops:

D: Music theory definitely isn't essential to writing music, but man, it makes it way, way quicker and easier to write and gives you a framework for understanding and explaining conceptually what you'd otherwise just be hearing abstractly.

musictheory.net is a really good intro, and coursera.org has REALLY nice free theory courses as well, plus it has courses on production, recording, jazz, and so on. I've learned a ton from coursera.

Edited by ectogemia
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Well, then I'll include an audio example.

https://app.box.com/s/ix4pdipb06v9bq6p6r2e

Sounds like descending chromaticism for the most part. When notes in chords move in a discernable pattern like that, it's generally easier to make dissonance sound cool. I think it falls under the subject of voice leading....?

D: Music theory definitely isn't essential to writing music, but man, it makes it way, way quicker and easier to write and gives you a framework for understanding and explaining conceptually what you'd otherwise just be hearing abstractly.

Semantic nitpick: theory is the abstraction. Hearing is the real thing.

Edited by Nase
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no I mean the whole thread. :oops:

Oh. :P Yeah, I get about half of this, and then the other half (getting it down quickly vs. slowly interpreting it) is just *whoosh*

EDIT: I'll post the actual notes soon, since my notation is weeeeeird.

C Eb Bb C G C --> B Eb Bb Db Gb B --> Bb F Ab Bb Db F Bb --> C F Gb Bb C Eb Gb --> Bb Eb F Ab Bb Db F --> A C F A Eb A

http://www.noteflight.com/scores/view/72f311e2cd57ac4a8594f3cccfe8d20fc8c3019b

Edited by timaeus222
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C Eb Bb C G C --> B Eb Bb Db Gb B --> Bb F Ab Bb Db F Bb --> C F Gb Bb C Eb Gb --> Bb Eb F Ab Bb Db F --> A C F A Eb A

http://www.noteflight.com/scores/view/72f311e2cd57ac4a8594f3cccfe8d20fc8c3019b

Cmin7 - Bmaj9 - Bbmin7 - Ebmin6add9 - Bbmin7add11 - F7

Seems to be in the key of C minor or Bb minor. That second chord isn't in the parent scale, though. The F7 suggests it should cadence back to Bb as the tonic rather than C, so that's how you ended up in Bb on the last chord. Secondary dominance weeeeeeeeeeeeee

Edited by ectogemia
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Cmin7 - Bmaj9 - Bbmin7 - Ebmin6add9 - Bbmin7add11 - F7

Seems to be in the key of C minor or Bb minor. That second chord isn't in the parent scale, though. The F7 suggests it should cadence back to Bb as the tonic rather than C, so that's how you ended up in Bb on the last chord. Secondary dominance weeeeeeeeeeeeee

No wonder it worked! Yeah, you're right, these chords, aside from the Bmaj9, are in C minor and Bb minor (I said sometime earlier that I modulated down a whole step from C, so yeeeeep!).

Secondary dominance... ah, okay. You're saying that since F is the dominant in Bb minor, it should naturally cadence back there. I see what I did there! Bb->Eb->Bb->F->Bb. :D

Edited by timaeus222
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Okay, how bout this?

I whipped this up in like 5 minutes.

Howboutthis_zpsda8f8cb7.png

Basically, i VI VII. Just use a lot of Sus2 or 4 for the last two chords and chromatic ascent back to the tonic. I know it's not interesting, but I think it kinda sounds cool

Here's that shit played back trance style

http://tindeck.com/listen/bics

Posted on my long inactive tindeck account, because this isn't worthy of soundcloud.

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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The Nobuo Suspension

Basically, this is playing a sus4 with a root which is normally a minor chord in a major scale (ii, iii, or vi) and resolving the 4 into a MAJOR third of that chord rather than the minor third which lies in the original major scale. Lots of potential for modulation, major/minor key changes, or just general cool effect.

Seems to sound best with the vi chord of a major scale. Actually, it's a major version of the vi chord, so a VI, but it starts as a sus4 chord before resolving into the major third instead of the minor third, so it's ambiguous while it's suspended which makes the C# resolution particularly surprising to the ear. Really, really neat-sounding way to transition into new parts or modulate into a new key.

Ex. Key of C Major

vi = A C E --> Amin

VI = A C# E --> AMaj

VIsus4 = A D E --> Asus4

So play a progression in C, but for the second-to-last chord in a phrase, play A D E (Asus4) before resolving the D into a C# to play your final chord, A C# E (Amaj). Now move into a new key containing A C# and E or stay in the old one, your choice :P

This works well enough with any sus4 chord which has only notes of the original key.

Nobuo Uematsu uses this all the time, and it's pretty common in JRPGs in general I think because it has really grandiose sound to it.

VGM example:

-- happens at 0:20

Don't you think it's a bit premature to name this after Nobuo, since it's just a simple exercise in theory (resolving a 4 -> 3 suspension, and/or chord mixture, take your pick or don't because it's both)? :tomatoface:

EDIT: In this example, he's modulating to iv from i (cadencing on IV). It's not a foreign/borrowed VI in a major key like you were describing. He changed keys so that resolved chord is the new I.

But yes, resolving to I when you're in a minor key has a cool sound. The earliest evidence I can think of this is the intro of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Edited by Neblix
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