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#1544065 - 10/26/10 02:30 PM Please help me with jazz harmony!  
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 4
kancre Offline
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kancre  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 4
Hello!

I have a good grasp on "traditional" harmony and understanding of some more "advanced" concepts such as secondary dominant, tri-tone, diminished chords, ...

I'm trying to expand my knowledge on jazz harmonies by taking simple songs and analyzing them. I try to figure out myself what the basic harmony is, and how I could derive the jazzy harmonies that are actuallay used from that.

I'm writing here because there are parts I really have a hard time understanding and I hope that you can help me!

Today I'm posting the 3rd phrase from "O Little Town of Bethlehem", arranged in this way:
[Linked Image]

The first two phrases were OK but I don't quite get this one.

We are in F major.

Bar 1: Fmaj7: Ok, that's really the most expected and obvious chord to start with (Imaj7)
Bar 1: Bb7: Ok, that's the IV chord nothing too fancy. Except it's a dominant 7, which is slightly unusual... But that sounds fine because it leads somewhere special on Bar 2.

Bar 2: A7: Here starts the trouble. The sus is just a sus resolving, that's nothing fancy. But how/why did we land on a major A chord (III)? My ear tells me that at this point the tonal center has shifted away from F (to A basically?) That's an acceptable explanation to me, and the Bb7 - A progression makes sense as moving down a half-step is really a V7-I in disguise (after a tri-tone sub).
So my understanding is that the Bb7 is the pivot chord shifting the tonal center from F (where it's the IV chord) to A (where it's the IIb chord, i.e. a sub for V7-I).

Bar 3: Bb/A and Bb/D: seriously this is the bar where I get totally lost. Ok, the descending bass line is nice but not obvious. And what are all those Bb chords if the tonal center is A (IIb ??). The progression goes back to A in bar 4, so is this bar just a fancy V7 of A with a nice bass line?

Bar 4: A9sus: We're back at I (supposing the tonal center is A at this point)
Bar 4: A7: resolving the suspension
Bar 4: C11: moving to the V7 of F, which is the obvious way to bring the tonal center back to F, which starts the next phrase in a very obvious way.

Can someone correct my analysis? Also any suggestion on material I could use to better understand this stuff is welcome!

Thanks for your help! I'll soon be back with other chords I don't understand!

Last edited by kancre; 10/26/10 02:31 PM.
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#1544125 - 10/26/10 04:02 PM Re: Please help me with jazz harmony! [Re: kancre]  
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,803
Studio Joe Offline
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Studio Joe  Offline
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Posts: 1,803
Decatur, Texas
Originally Posted by kancre

Bar 2: A7: Here starts the trouble. The sus is just a sus resolving, that's nothing fancy. But how/why did we land on a major A chord (III)? My ear tells me that at this point the tonal center has shifted away from F (to A basically?)


Here the tonal center shifts to the relative minor (Dminor). A7 is the dominant of Dminor and resolves to Dminor. The phrase ends in A7 before modulating back to F.

Last edited by Studio Joe; 10/26/10 04:06 PM.

Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
#1544140 - 10/26/10 04:51 PM Re: Please help me with jazz harmony! [Re: kancre]  
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 4
kancre Offline
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kancre  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 4
Thanks!

I am so stupid. The relative minor is a trick common enough! And I had that feeling that the final A7 was not really at rest... Of course not since it's the V7 of Dminor!

Now the phrase makes much more sense to me and many harmonizations are possible! Still I'd like an explanation of bar 3.

With the realization that we're in Dminor, I can harmonize it in many ways: 1. The "strongest" one probably being: | Dm Gm | A7 (i-iv-V7).
2. Using Gm (iv) for the whole bar works as well, but it's not very satisfying.
3. Doing a nice descending bass: | Dm Am7/C Dm/B Gm/Bb | A7
4. Using Bb (VI) for the whole bar. This sounds a bit too bright and boring to me.

But now how do you exactly understand the arranged 3rd bar above?
Is it just option 4 (VI - Bb) all along with a special bass line A-G-D? That's what the chord symbols seem to imply and it now makes more sense to me. Although I'm amazed how much the bassline and color tones change the "feel" of that Bb (VI)... I wonder how one could come up with that - I would love to!

Last edited by kancre; 10/26/10 04:59 PM.
#1544147 - 10/26/10 05:11 PM Re: Please help me with jazz harmony! [Re: kancre]  
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,803
Studio Joe Offline
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Studio Joe  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,803
Decatur, Texas
Kancre, I can't read your example well enough to analyze it. I looked at the song in my hymn book and it is evidently not the same arrangement.

In my book, the 3rd full measure of your example is just a portion of the relative minor scale (no chords).

Can you post a more readable score?


Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
#1544151 - 10/26/10 05:18 PM Re: Please help me with jazz harmony! [Re: kancre]  
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 4
kancre Offline
Junior Member
kancre  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 4
Sorry, the image service I uploaded this to don't allow hotlinking, but if you click on the image you get the full resolution. It should be clear enough!

#1544190 - 10/26/10 06:04 PM Re: Please help me with jazz harmony! [Re: kancre]  
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,803
Studio Joe Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Studio Joe  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,803
Decatur, Texas
Ok, now I'm stupid. I didn't think of that.

I printed it out and played through it. I'm not into this kind of jazz. The chord symbols seem to be accurate but as for as analysis, You need a jazznik's opinion.


Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax
#1544196 - 10/26/10 06:12 PM Re: Please help me with jazz harmony! [Re: kancre]  
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 4
kancre Offline
Junior Member
kancre  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 4
OK, thanks.
Your comment about the relative minor was an eye-opener and much appreciated!

#1546202 - 10/29/10 11:50 AM Re: Please help me with jazz harmony! [Re: kancre]  
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 10
-ls Offline
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-ls  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 10
Berlin
Looking to the picture you've posted here, I wouldn't say it modulates to D minor. I'd say it's a simple progression entirely based on F (either major or minor).

The analysis would be:

| Imaj7 SubV7/III | V7sus4/VI V7/VI | IVmaj7 IVmaj7 | V7/VI V7sus4 | [...]

The Bb7 comes from the fourth degree of F melodic minor scale, but, in this particular case (even though it still comes from the same place), it has a different analysis, for it resolves one half-step bellow giving the chord a dominant function.

The analysis of the A7sus chord is also less complicated than you might think. When you built chords from the F major scale, the third degree of it would be an A-7, right? Besides the note C within the scale, the note D is also there available to be used. So, if you, instead of using the third of the A-7 to built the chord, use the fourth you'd have built an A7sus4 using the same notes from the F major scale, without any alteration; that means this chord also comes from the F major scale. You might also find, based on the same principle, an G7sus4, A7sus4, C7sus4 and D7sus4... all these chords also belongs to the Fmajor scale. More info: the A7 is resolving to Bbmaj7; this progression - dominant chord resolving half-step above - is a deceptive resolution that comes from minor harmony; in this case, it is based on D minor (it is the V7 of D- resolving on the bVImajor7 chord of the D minor scale).

As for the Bbmaj7/A and Bbmaj/D... well, these are all inversions of the IVmaj7 chord from the F major scale.

Hope it helps.

=))

Last edited by MrPancinha; 10/29/10 12:06 PM.

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