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Chord Functions

Posted by Pigfarm80 
Chord Functions
December 07, 2017 12:22PM
Hello! I'm an adult learner with a question that I can't find the answer to online; likely because I don't know the right question to ask.

So, the question is concerning chord functions.

According to my handy chart, the chords in any given key will be I - ii - iii - IV - V - vi - vii (where of course the 1,4, and 5 are major chords, while 2, 3, 6, and 7 are minor chords).

So, in Cmaj (keeping this easy)... It would be Cmaj, Dmin, Emin, Fmaj, Gmaj, Amin, Bmin.

So here's my question: What happens if I START on Cminor?

How does that change the majors and minors in that chart?

I would surely appreciate any help. I hope this is a silly, simple question. Thanks in advance!
Re: Chord Functions
December 07, 2017 04:21PM
The minor mode (speaking in terms of the Common Practice Period) behaves much like the major. The two mutable notes (scale steps 6 and 7) have some effect. The main (diatonic) chords in minor i, the tonic, iv, the sub-dominant, and V, the dominant; these have the same functions as in a major key.

The v chord exists, but is not often used with dominant function because it lacks the characteristic half step going from scale step to step 8. The v chord is used as a target of modulation and for coloristic purposes.

In major, the ii chord is often used as a pre-dominant chord (similarly to the IV chord) before the V (or V7) chord. In major the ii usually appears in 6-3 form (second inversion) and also as a II or II7 or II63 or II56. In minor the diatonic supertonic chord is diminished and mostly appears in the ii06 form. (The ii0-V-i pattern even precedes the idea of tonality.) Chromatic alternations to ii or II or ii7 or II7 or their inversions is common.

The iii in major is rare outside of sequences The III in minor is common (and a common target of modulation) but has to be handled carefully not to evoke the feeling of III as the tonic rather than the i. In major the III or III7 is commonly used to trigger a sequence of seventh chords III7-VI7-II7-V7-I. (This pattern may be analyzed as a sequence of secondary dominants and elisions of the secondary tonics.)

The IV in major and iv in minor act similarly. Both may be chromatically to minor or major respectively for color purposes.

The vi chord in major is often used in sequences, especially vi-ii-V-I or vi-IV-V-I (goes back past Mozart to Vivaldi and earlier). The deceptive cadence V7-vi is common in major as is V7-VI in minor. The VI-vii06-V-i pattern occurs in minor similarly to in major. The VI in major makes a nice upper neighbor chord to the V even more so than vi does in major. (While not historically used this way, the VI in minor can be analyzed as a German Sixth and used that way; modifications of the VI7 can yield the French and Italian Sixths. These chords are freely used in major too.)

The vii0 in major acts as lower neighbor to the tonic or in sequence between the IV and iii chord and as a V7 (or V9) chord with the tonic omitted. These uses do carry over into minor. The VII (diatonic in minor) is used in major keys as a chromatic coloring element but rarely functionally. The VII in minor is often used as a secondary dominant to the III and appears in the cycle of fifths in minor rather often.

The cycle of fifths works nicely in major, I-iv-vii-iii-vi-ii V-I but even better in minor i-iv-VII-III-VI-ii0-V-i; the diminished ii chord occurs at the main cadence in a minor but in major, the vii0 must be handled a bit more carefully

Most of this is covered in texts on harmony. .
Re: Chord Functions
December 08, 2017 09:40AM
>eyes bulging out of head<

First off, thank you very much for your response. I appreciate the time you took to help me out.

I will say though, some of this deep theory is a little over my head. I've read through this a few times, and sort of get the gist, but I'd say this is college-level music theory, and I'm still in a "6th grade" sort of music theory. LoL!

I guess a simpler question, if you would humor me, is... I'm looking at these different chords in major going:
1-4-5 = Cmaj, Fmaj, Gmaj

what would the 1-4-5 be for Cmin, ??, ??.
By your reply, I'm GUESSING it's Cmin, Fmin, Gmaj ??

In application, I'm just sort of figuring out in my head chord progressions.

Judging by your response, this is likely a stupid question, but it's one that's got my wheels turning to no avail.

Again, thank you so much for your earlier response, and any help is much appreciated.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/08/2017 09:41AM by Pigfarm80. (view changes)
Re: Chord Functions
December 09, 2017 02:20PM
Pigfarm80 Wrote:
> I guess a simpler question, if you would humor me,
> is... I'm looking at these different chords in
> major going:
> 1-4-5 = Cmaj, Fmaj, Gmaj
> what would the 1-4-5 be for Cmin, ??, ??.

Unlike in the major key where all notes are fixed, the minor key is more complicated because two of the notes - the 6th and 7th - are variables. They can occur according to key signature or be raised by one semitone (half-step).

So, in C minor, you have both Ab and A-natural available, as well as Bb and B-natural.
This means that you therefore have both F major (F-A-C) and F minor (F-Ab-C) for example, as well a G major (G-B-D) and G minor (G-Bb-D), and so on.

You may have heard of different minor scales (melodic, harmonic, natural) which relates to this.

Having said that however, to keep things simple for now, and because you seem to be thinking harmonically, I advise you to stick to what we call the Harmonic Minor.
This is of the form: C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-B-C (in other words, it's according to key signature but with the seventh degree raised as above).

Using this, it gives the following pattern:
i-ii-III-iv-V-VI-vii (with the fifth and sixth chords being major).

Although there could be some occasional weirdness (resulting from augmented intervals), this should provide the most satisfactory starting point. Once you get to grips with this, feel free to modify some of the 6th and 7th degrees (as detailed above) to make things sound better.

Note however: Chord vii in a major key is actually a diminished chord; Bdim not Bm. The same is true of the seventh and second chords using the harmonic minor above. The third chord using the harmonic minor is what we call an augmented chord, and I would advise you avoid that for now.

Check out this textbook on Four Part Harmony.
Re: Chord Functions
December 09, 2017 09:40PM
Thank you, again. This makes much more sense. It's a little more manageable to what I understand thus far. I'm sure I'll be back soon with another oddball question! ;)
Re: Chord Functions
December 10, 2017 07:32PM
These are good questions. The only bad question is the one not asked.
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