Do you love R&B music? If you do, then you know how important the chords are in creating that soulful sound. R’n’B and Neo-Soul genre. How to learn to produce the “right” sounding chord progression? You probably already know that 7, 9, 11, 13 chords are used most often, but in this article, we want to organize your chord progressions into understandable schemes. You can use these chord schemes in your tracks and improvisations. Let’s go
The harmonic patterns used in R’n’B are generally quite simple and no different from those used in “regular” pop music. The difference is that these schemes don’t have simple triads, but 7, 9, 11, 13 chords, with alterations and added tones.
With these chords, the standard T-S-D (I-IV-V) scheme is easily transformed into R’n’B:
C F G > Cmaj7/9 – Fmaj7/9 – G11
This is an example of transforming standard chords into an R’n’B style. You can find a huge number of such examples on the Internet, but in our blog, we will dive deeper. Suppose you learned 7, 9, 11, 13, but still can’t build a beautiful chord sequence. Next, we’ll talk about the problem of “laying out” these chords.
Neo Soul and R’n’B Guitar Progressions
There are simple rules that will help you build a “good” sounding chord progression. Note that this theoretical knowledge will not make your music “less lively,” but on the contrary will give you the ability to think more broadly.
Layout of chords
You may have seen many times that many pianists playing R’n’B style show us an abundance of chords with a large number of notes.If you try to play the pianist’s chords on the guitar, you will hear “monster chords” that don’t sound as beautiful. Let’s see why:
Chords 7, 9, 11, 13 in full form (with all the notes) are usually not taken (well, maybe except for 7 chords).
First of all, the tonic and the fifth of the chord are omitted, of course, if there is a tonic in the bass. Here are examples:
– For the exposition of the 7th chord, it’s third and seventh will suffice
– For the 9th chord, you need the thirds, sevenths, and ninth,
– For 11, 13 it is allowed to omit not only tonic, fifth, but also third – that is, the 11th chord will have its sevenths, ninth and eleventh.
We recommend that you practice at this point by playing various sequences with the seventh chord, ninth chord, and eleventh chord with the tonic and fifth (or third) omitted.
A little tip to make your practice of this part more R’n’B and Neo soul sounding:
Don’t forget that the style of R’n’B music itself is derived not only from harmonic intricacies.
In jazz, there is a concept called “off-beat”. This term refers to rhythm and means “avoiding playing in a beat” – syncopation, displacement. In addition to off-beat, you can also talk about ‘off-harmony’ – avoiding direct declaration of functions, the desire to obscure them with superstructures, to color them with alterations…
R’n’B inherited these aspirations not to be straightforward, unambiguous. Hence the approaches to playing, including harmony. Back to harmony
Practice RNB chord progression
How will your aspirations sound in practice? You have to take a tonic – say, a C-major chord – a C-E-G. What does a jazz (r’n’b) musician do? He at least shifts the C to B – otherwise it’s boring, corny, too straightforward. If it’s still boring, he shifts G to A or E to D.
That is, the message is – C major tonality, C in bass – why denote the obvious in the upper voices; let’s play around, let’s give colors!
Use your ear when trying to achieve the sound you want. The notes can be arranged in any order, as long as you are happy with the result. If you don’t like it, you need to arrange the notes differently.
What progressions are used in R’n’B and Neo soul music other than “Tonic – Subdominant – Dominant” ?
There are many such progressions, and here are some that you can create on your own.
Variations with basic functions (in major and minor):
T S, S T, T D, D T, T S D, S T D , D T S, etc. A very large number of RnB songs are written using only basic functions.
Develop the above schemes with parallel chords.
A parallel chord (relative key) for a major chord is a minor chord a minor third lower. For example, for C it is Am, for F > Dm, G > Em, etc. Skipping the theory, let’s say that parallel chords are as if minor versions of corresponding major chords, that is Dm is just a sad F 🙂 These chords can be used to supplement harmonic schemes.
For example, in the scheme T S (I IV) we add parallels – we get T Tp S Sp (I VI IV II) or for example in the scheme T S D we replace a pair of functions with parallels – T Sp Dp (I II III). Thus, the number of chord progression variations is very large.
What intervals are used between chords?
If we look at chord progressions in terms of “interval length,” we see that there are possibly three such intervals:
Seconds (minor second or major second)
Third (minor third or major third)
Fourth (perfect fourth or augmented fourth)
Based on this we conclude that the distance between the two chords cannot be greater than the augmented fourth and be less than the minor second.
In a progression, each successive chord will either go higher or lower. Consequently, from each given chord we can go to the next chord that will either be a Seconds/Third/Fourth higher or lower by any of these three intervals. Consider the chord movement in more detail. Consider the chord movement in more detail.
Chord shift to Fourth.
This is the most “long-range,” powerful, “sweeping” move. On this interval, the three main functions of key are located apart – the dominant is fourth below the tonic, and the subdominant is fourth above the tonic.
The character depends on the direction of the movement – the move on fourth up is active, assertive, extroverted; the move on fourth down is introverted, rolling back.
The number of moves on the fourth up can be as high as possible – up to seven moves in a row. For example, a very popular progression, I IV VII III VI II II V I, is based on seven moves per fourth up (for example, Am Dm G C F Hdim E Am in A minor).
The number of downward moves can theoretically be seven as well, but due to its more passive nature, more than 2-3 in a row is usually not practiced. The “pendulum” variation IV I V I (in C major – F C G C) can also be used.
A move to third
It is characterized by softness due to the fact that when moving in thirds (in any direction), the two notes of the chords remain in common. This creates a “succession of moods” play – moving up or down in thirds, major and minor alternate: C Am F Dm / Am C Em G.
The character also depends on the direction of the movement – omitting the details, let’s say that moving down in tercets is more “condensing” and calmer, while moving upwards is “inspiring” and “less logical.” As a result, the number of moves in thirds downwards is practiced up to 2-3 in a row, and upwards 1-2.
Moves on the second
The moves per second should be divided into two groups: 1) minor second 2) major second, because they are fundamentally different in nature.
First of all, it should be said that the minor second is the most functionally significant interval, despite the minimal movement. With the help of this interval in the European musical system the basic method of art action ‘creating tension – releasing tension’ is realized to the maximum. The Minor second carries out through itself the course of ‘instability – stability’ D > T (Bdim > C). The second minor second (F > E) carries out the move S > D.
The minor second chord moves have a bright, pronounced functional character. There are few places for such moves – only two in major: (III IV) and (VII I is rare) and up to three in minor: (II III), (V VI) and ([SUP]#[/SUP]VII I). In character, the upward moves are active, the downward moves are passive, but still functionally pronounced.
Moves for a major second. The major second is the antagonist of the minor second and is the most neutral interval. The chords in the major second have an unexpressed character. A major second move has a sense of neutrality, which, however, decreases with the increase in the number of moves. For example, compare G F G and G F G Am.
To be continued…