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Passing notes in chord construction

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Will Fly 27 May 10 - 05:30 AM
The Sandman 27 May 10 - 06:30 AM
greg stephens 27 May 10 - 06:36 AM
theleveller 27 May 10 - 06:59 AM
The Fooles Troupe 27 May 10 - 08:18 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 27 May 10 - 01:17 PM
PoppaGator 27 May 10 - 02:21 PM
Will Fly 27 May 10 - 02:21 PM
Will Fly 27 May 10 - 02:22 PM
GUEST,highlandman at work 27 May 10 - 02:45 PM
Artful Codger 27 May 10 - 06:42 PM
GUEST,andrew 27 May 10 - 07:13 PM
Dave MacKenzie 27 May 10 - 07:20 PM
Stringsinger 27 May 10 - 09:10 PM
Don Firth 27 May 10 - 09:57 PM
Don Firth 27 May 10 - 10:06 PM
GUEST 27 May 10 - 10:25 PM
Will Fly 28 May 10 - 03:53 AM
pavane 28 May 10 - 04:14 AM
Lox 28 May 10 - 05:33 AM
Will Fly 28 May 10 - 06:02 AM
Stringsinger 28 May 10 - 10:28 AM
PoppaGator 28 May 10 - 02:48 PM
Lox 28 May 10 - 03:12 PM
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Subject: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 May 10 - 05:30 AM

I regularly write out tablature and chords for guitar pieces that I post on YouTube, and the PDF for each piece is posted on my website. The PDF normally contains (a) standard musical notation (b) tablature (c) chord names underneath the tablature. My question concerns the absolute accuracy or otherwise of the chord names. As the melody line of a tune passes through the chord sequence, it changes the actual chord structure. If the note sounds through the chord, the change will be significant - if the note is short, the change will be insignificant. I sometimes wonder whether it is better to be strictly accurate in the chord names - i.e. taking into account each slight change - or whether simply to indicate the general chord name. Those users that read SN or tab will, of course, find all the notes - those who just want the chord sequence will get a lesser or more detailed view of the harmony - depending on how finicky I've been!

An example of four sequential chords & melody line in a bar:

0 0 2 0 2 0 = A7
0 0 2 0 2 1 = A+
0 0 2 0 2 2 = A6
0 0 2 0 2 3 = A7

The prevailing "main" chord in this bar is A7 - but it's tempting to be more specific and write A7 - A+ - A6 - A7...

Just curious if any other chord writers have a normal practice here. Mine is to keep to main chord except where the tune does impart a "significant" change to the chord.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 May 10 - 06:30 AM

I would have written a#5,instead of A+,Otherwise I would do the same,by the way yor guitar playing is very enjoyable


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: greg stephens
Date: 27 May 10 - 06:36 AM

Down to tempo as much as anything.The ear doesn't really notice dissonances if they happening fast, but starts thinking about them and rationalising them in to the harmony if it has time to cogitate. Play your example sequence reaonably briskly, and you'll just hear a little melody floating over an A7 chord. Play it very slowly and heavily(particularly on six wind or bowed instruments or voices) and that F natural on the second beat will sound like some kind of augmentation of the chord.
A secondary factor is the ear accepts movement logical movement in a part as not implying harmony change(by logical movement I mean something with a pronounced pattern, eg a rising or falling scale, chromatic or diatonic for example).So in this case, because we have a rising chromatic scale, we dont feel the harmony is changing. Like if you play a C chord on a guitar, in a bum-ching bum-ching sort of way, and lower the bass as you go, C/B/A/G. Now, in conventional harmonic lingo, when you hit the A in the bass you might think you are playing an Amin7 chord. But you arent, really. Your ear will inform you you are still playing a C chord, just embellished with a walking bass line.
In general, what you've got there is an A7, I would say!


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: theleveller
Date: 27 May 10 - 06:59 AM

"and lower the bass as you go, C/B/A/G. "

I read that and Mr Bojangles came into my head!

I really like a sus2/major/sus4 (or reverse) sequence.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 27 May 10 - 08:18 AM

"As the melody line of a tune passes through the chord sequence, it changes the actual chord structure. "

Ah - basically, and cutting a lot of corners in the explanation - :-) - there are two 'styles' of 'polyphonic music' (music with more than one pitch at the same time) - 'Eastern' & 'Western'...

Modern 'western' used to be just like 'eastern' but as the monks started to play around, and more importantly WRITE IT DOWN!, they shifted from a 'horizontal' form where 'vertical chords' were unimportant, and indeed unknown! to a formalized 'vertical chord' structure.... if you study church chant music history, you will see this develop...

Over your head? Sigh - which is why Greg's "The ear doesn't really notice dissonances if they happen fast, but starts thinking about them and rationalizing them in to the harmony if it has time to cogitate" explanation works.... :-)


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 27 May 10 - 01:17 PM

Are you writing solo guitar music or melody + accompaniment?

If the former, you might want to go for full detail, as that would warn guitarists where their fingers might have to go. (I'm not a guitarist, you'll know how they think).

If the latter, the added suspensions are going to happen anyway, and extra detail will just get in the way. A violin/accordion duo might want to play your stuff and they aren't going to thank you for telling them that the melody makes an add6 chord with the accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: PoppaGator
Date: 27 May 10 - 02:21 PM

The tab and the "dots" provide complete detail, showing every note you play, so it is in no way necessary to name a different exotic chord for each note.

Most guitar players ~ beginners as well as old-timers ~ think in terms of the chords "behind" the melody and/or bass line, and conceptualize a song as a series of relatively simple chords, each held for a while (normally, at least one or more full measures), which provide the foundation upon which a melody is built. I don't believe that too many of us think in terms of a "chord change" with every quarter-note or eighth-note of the melody.

I'm casting my "vote" for naming relatively few chords, and familiar chords at that, as opposed to naming a new chord for every different note of a tune.

The full set of "exotic" chords may be of interest to those especially interested in, and conversant with, music theory. But for the general population of players who want to learn your arrangements and techniques, the finely-tuned harmonic terminology is completely irrelevant.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 May 10 - 02:21 PM

Jack, it's mainly solo guitar music - my arrangements of jazz and blues tunes. The chords really constitute backup information to help out those who can't read SN and those who might struggle a little with the tab. It's simple stuff and I do tend to err on the side of chord simplicity much of the time because I'm aiming my arrangements and videos at - not beginners, necessarily - but those with some basic knowledge who want to improve their fingerpicking. It's always helpful to get comment on these matters from time to time from experienced people such as those on Mudcat.

And, Dick - thanks for the kind words on the guitar playing. It's always appreciated.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 May 10 - 02:22 PM

PoppaGator - my view as well.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 27 May 10 - 02:45 PM

To me, the chord names are used either as an aid to reading the more complex notation, or as accompaniment. Chord name notation just isn't up to the job of representing the "detail," as you call it, of even a guitar solo.
The guideline I use to determine when to let the melody note conflict with the named chord and when to incorporate it into the chord as a named variation: if the melody note blends in with the basic chord (like an added sixth or second) and is brief, I would ignore it; if it is going to clash badly with the simple version of the chord, even though it is on the diatonic scale, I would alter the chord to reflect it. For example, D natural against a straight A major chord is harshly dissonant, so I would alter the chord name to Asus4 to get rid of the C# in it.
Hope that makes some sense...
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Artful Codger
Date: 27 May 10 - 06:42 PM

I was taught not to pass notes in school.

I dislike chord tabs which leave out elements that I consider integral to the music, making pieces sound instead like flat I-IV-V7 songs. On the other hand, lots of folks don't understand the more complex chord spellings, even if they in practice use these chords, modified from basic chord tabs. A nice solution often used in lead sheets is simply to parenthesize the more advanced notations as alternative or optional chords. Then at least the folks who only know the basic chord spellings know that something more interesting happens there.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: GUEST,andrew
Date: 27 May 10 - 07:13 PM

As an A Cappella choir director and arranger,I'm well aware that chords which work with a guitar and voice, will often not work in a choir arrangement. The "clashes" can sometimes be too obvious and need to be removed.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 27 May 10 - 07:20 PM

I used to hate it back in the early 60s when I bought sheet music that had obviously been transcribed by a non-guitarist - keys transposed to a flat key, and blues given as I I6 I7 I6 .....

I like arrangements to show the chords an accompanying guitarist would play, rather than what the lead is playing, so even though I'm fingering Cs and Es, I'd still expect the arrangement to show a G chord.

Then again, if I'm playing bottleneck, if you play chords you'll come unstuck a I'm probably fretting anything between a six string G and A when the music would show A. Use your ears.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Stringsinger
Date: 27 May 10 - 09:10 PM

There are different views on this subject. Some jazz lead sheets just use basic chords such as a V7 and leave the player to select the extensions such as V9, V13, V alt, V7b9 etc.
I believe that the selection of the chord should be in harmony with the melody although in jazz, a reharmonization can be done that actually changes the tune (ex: Over the Rainbow
by Dave Brubeck).

Passing notes are generally not necessary to harmonize unless a specific pattern in the accompaniment is important to the arranger such as the C/C, C/B, C/A, C/G, shown above.
The selection of the bass note in the chord may or may not be important.

If you are dealing with a three-chord I,IV,V7 progression, I see no need to include a
harmony for a passing tone.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 May 10 - 09:57 PM

I would stick with the basic chords and not try to make the chord symbols reflect melody or passing tones. This could get off-puttingly complex. Let the written music and the tablature handle all that.

In Carl Sandburg's American Songbag, and especially in a sort of paperback supplement that came out some years later, The New American Songbook, above the melody lines of many of the songs, Sandburg (or somebody) put chord symbols for the (presumably) actual chords that Sandburg played. And they are a pluperfect nightmare to try to figure out.

Side note:   among other things, Sandburg used to work a lot on playing classic guitar and whenever he was in New York, he spent time with members of the New York Society of the Classic Guitar—and he knew Segovia personally. (An excellent book about Carl Sandburg entitled Old Troubadour: Carl Sandburg with his Guitar Friends, by Gregory D'Alessio, New Yorker cartoonist and editor of "The Guitar Review." Highly recommended.).

I'm well enough versed in music theory so that, more often than not, I prefer to ignore whatever chords are in songbooks and work out my own arrangements. But I was trying to learn songs from Sandburg's books before I learned all this, and most of the time I couldn't make heads nor tails of what he was doing. I pulled out my copy of The New American Songbag just a few weeks ago and although I can now figure out what he's doing, I find his chord symbols overly complex and basically unusable.

Keep it simple.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 May 10 - 10:06 PM

Another consideration:    I rarely sing songs in the same keys in which they are printed in songbooks, and I don't think I'm alone in this. Because of the structure of the guitar, it would rarely be possible to transpose one of Sandburg's accompaniments and keep the same added notes, passing tones, and such.

Just as an aside, I have managed a few times to work out guitar accompaniments that were so complex that they took my whole concentration to play, and I didn't have any left over to devote to singing the song. So—back to the old drawing board. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: GUEST
Date: 27 May 10 - 10:25 PM

I write just the most basic chord names, in capital letters, and then any added notes in lower case.
So, in the example given, I would write A7 - f - f# - g


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Will Fly
Date: 28 May 10 - 03:53 AM

There have been many, many debates on many, many discussion boards as to the relative merits of SN and tablature! I don't want to re-open all that, but just wanted to add that the writing of arrangements for fingerpicked tunes has arisen from demand. Some people, frankly, can't handle SN, and others dislike tablature - so I do both - and stick in the basic chords as an aide-memoire. My software of choice - Harmony Assistant - allows me to do this in a reasonably sophisticated and clear way.

I never use the I, IV, V style of chord notation when creating the sheet music, but it's a very useful tool to use when discussing theory and general principles of chord construction.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: pavane
Date: 28 May 10 - 04:14 AM

In my program FIND MIDI CHORDS, there are three levels provided, in which the program will show simplified or more complex chords, giving different weighting to passing notes in different cases depending on the option chosen.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Lox
Date: 28 May 10 - 05:33 AM

Will,

I agree - each to his own system.

But I think I understand your question not to be about that.

So here's my answer.

If you write chord symbols, then you are leaving it up to the guitarist to interpret and voice the chords as they choose, in which case all you need is the basic chord (A7, Dmaj7 etc) and let the melody indicate any relevant extensions.

The only exception would be a Sus4 chord where you ideally would prefer to avoid the clash betwen 3rd and 4th, so you would need to include the "sus" (A7sus, Dmaj7 etc)


On the other hand, if you are writing in Tab then the issue gets a little more complicated as it depends how you are using it.

If you have a song where the melody is sung, while the guitar accompaniment is spelt out in guitar tabs, then unlike chord symbols, you restrict the accompanist to specific voicings.

So there are two approaches.

1. writing for beginners, so that they can find chords by looking at the tab whlst singing the tune.

2. For more advanced guitarists when you want them to play exactly what you have written.

In the latter of these two, if the guitarist is playing the melody and the chords as part of one guitar piece, and you are writing in Tab, then the extensions will inevitably show in each tab.

Though from a stylistic point of view, I'm not sure if you would ever really need to write such dense blockish chords in succession as the harmony would sound very static. I might be more tempted to play the passing notes in isolation, and if more harmonic detail were required, I would use passing chords to ensure harmonic movement and interest.


Any use?


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Will Fly
Date: 28 May 10 - 06:02 AM

Cheers, Lox - useful indeed. :-)


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Stringsinger
Date: 28 May 10 - 10:28 AM

I wouldn't use the numerical notation (I, IV, etc.) in a lead sheet.

The only time to use a harmonization of a passing note is if it was essential to characterize the arrangement. This wouldn't be done so much in harmonizing basic folk song material but more in jazz tunes. Diminished seventh chords are useful to harmonize passing notes here.

Essentially, simple harmonies are preferable in basic folk tunes. I would eschew any chords that weren't major triads, dominant sevenths or minor triads (as in use for relative minors).
In a blues song, a IV7 would be acceptable.

Let the guitarist decide if extensions of the basic chords should be used and where.
Keep the chord progression in folk tunes basic and simple.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: PoppaGator
Date: 28 May 10 - 02:48 PM

One more minor point (another reason to Keep It Simple Stupid, i.e., KISS):

I find it very irritating when I have to stop working at learning/playing a song in order to find a reference (chart, etc.) just to look up an unfamiliar chord. Especially when I eventually learn that the specified chord is nothing more than a simple chord plus an obvious melody note.


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Subject: RE: Passing notes in chord construction
From: Lox
Date: 28 May 10 - 03:12 PM

"Diminished seventh chords are useful to harmonize passing notes here."

100% Correct, though I would add that there are many other types of passing chord as well.


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