Throughout my mostly self-taught journey, across various instruments, I have found some patterns that are a lot less common than others (and haven’t been annoyingly overused. I’m looking at you, 1,5,6,4 (¬_¬) ). So grab your nearest chord-able instrument and let’s go. Sorry flautists. You’ll have to sit this one out.
A lot of these were somewhat surprising to me how well the evoked a specific emotion, and some of them that they could go together at all. For example, take resolving a subdominant major 4th into a minor 4th.
How is that even possible? The minor of a specific chord usually only exists in another plane of existence (or another key), and yet here they are, two chords completely opposite each other, working together.
I don’t even have a good analogy for that.
Major 4th into minor 4th
A good example of this would be the Steven Universe Opening Theme, also pretty interesting because it incorporates a major 3rd, which is very brave if you ask me. Another example would be “Silhouette”, by Owl City.
At 1:14, after descending with a Bb, Dm, Gm, Bb, he finishes with an Eb, resolved to Ebm. It communicates a very intricate and complex emotion, one mixed with sadness and regret, but somewhat of a resolve and acceptance.
Or even, in extreme cases, resolving a 2nd 7 into a 2nd m7. That can’t possibly work, right? But it does, weirdly enough.
2nd 7 into 2nd m7
Try this: Start by playing a little context, a simple C, G, Am, (80bpm, 2 beats each works best) then tack on the end D 7, D m7, G, C. I discovered this while listening to “Funeral for a Tree” by John Powell, for the movie “The Lorax”.
at 0:49, the song takes a turn from the first verse, and resolves into a major instead of a minor. This particular use of the relation makes an already sad song so much more heart-wrenching.
6,1,5,2M, and 4,6m,1,2M7
On a more positive note ♪, check this out. If you take a minor, then a tonic of the same key, add a major 5th and tie it all together will a good ol’ major 2nd at the end, it makes for a pretty epic sounding piece. Or, you could do a 4,6m,1,2M7.
I like to play that in the key of Eb, so that goes Ab,Cm,Eb,F7. Here’s AudioMachine’s “Transcendence”, using this group for the chorus.
Epic stuff, eh? I can’t really see this working out as well on an acoustic guitar, because nobody uses guitars for epic instrumental. It’s too soft. Not enough percussive resonance.
Now I’m curious to see something like that
Challenge from me: write and perform an epic instrumental with acoustic guitar.
The Descending Minor
A timeless classic, this one is hard to explain with words. It has to be played right, or it loses some of its value. As any guitarist or experienced pianist knows, chords do not always need to be played with their name as the base note, and in this case you really oughtn’t. The progression is 6,3M,1,2M,4,6,7M7,3M, but to simply lay them down like that would be super bland. Here’s how you do it properly:
I got this one from “Hushabye Mountain” as sung originally by Dick Van Dyke in the 1968 film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”
If you play around with it, you can even bring out “Once Upon a December”, from the Warner-Bros film “Anastasia”.
As you can see, the base (or bass, it’s true both ways) note is gradually going lower and lower, sinking the listener deeper and deeper into this mysterious, chilling realm. It carries a sense of wonder, like a secret place that only one person knows of.
Like a dream. A weird dream. ಠ_ಠ
So that’s basically it. That’s all I wanted to say today. Go out there and have fun with the knowledge I have imparted. If you come up with anything cool while playing around with them, be sure to let me in on it. I also probably missed a bunch of cool stuff, so feel free to leave those in the comments.
I’ll be here…