Messing with chords

Came up with a tune, and played with the chords.


I was experimenting with chord changes the other day and just popped out with a tune when I tried to make the bass line move in a certain pattern. Here’s a video of it.

The chords go like this:

F: i | VI | VII | v | VI | iv | (stuff) | V
F: t | pR  | dR  | d  | tV | p  | (stuff) | D

Interesting to note is that the first ♭VI and the second ♭VI have a different harmonic function: The first one is a predominant and the second is a tonic.

The spot where I wrote “(stuff)” is where I came up with a bunch of chord sequences to try out. Here’s a video of those different sequences. Explanation is below the video.

I took the second to last measure and played one of the following:

  1. V (D)
  2. ♭VII (dR)
  3. ♭III (tR or dV)
  4. ♭VII (dR) and ♭III (tR or dV)

Then I took the last measure and played one of the following:

  1. V (D)
  2. IV V (P D)
  3. ii V (Pr D)

I played each combination of these chord choices. All of them sounded at least decent, but my favorite was the combination of the two last choices. Here’s a list of those combinations, in the order that I play them in the video.

Group 1:

| iv | V | V 
| p  | D | D
| iv | V | IV V
| p  | D | P  D
| iv | V | ii V
| p  | D | Pr D

Group 2:

| iv | bVII | V
| p  | dR   | D 
| iv | bVII | IV V
| p  | dR   | P  D
| iv | bVII | ii V
| p  | dR   | Pr D

Group 3:

| iv | bIII  | V
| p  | dV/tR | D
| iv | bIII  | IV V
| p  | dV/tR | P  D
| iv | bIII  | ii V
| p  | dV/tR | Pr D

Group 4:

| iv | bVII bIII | V
| p  | dR dV/tR  | D
| iv | bVII bIII | IV V
| p  | dR dV/tR  | P  D
| iv | bVII bIII | ii V
| p  | dR dV/tR  | Pr D

I didn’t like the sound of the second and third combinations in Groups 1 and 2, or the first combinations in Groups 3 and 4. Here’s a possible explanation: The second and third combinations in Groups 1 and 2 went from a predominant to a dominant, and the first combinations in Groups 3 and 4 went from a tonic to a dominant.

4 thoughts on “Messing with chords

  1. I liked group 4 the best and group 3 second best. How do you think your old time fiddle playing influences your piano playingm and vice versa? Have you ever thought about messing around with jazz fiddle?

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    • I’m not sure how much my fiddle playing influences my piano playing. It’s possible that it affects the kinds of chord changes that I prefer, and it might affect how I improvise melodies, but I don’t know to what extent.

      Vice versa, though—I would say that my piano experience has helped me a whole lot in my journey learning to play fiddle. I took piano lessons for about three or four years before I started playing fiddle. I learned a lot of music theory from those lessons, and it enables me to approach my fiddle music with a mind for analysis, both towards the rhythmic structure and the chord progressions. Applying a little bit of math to certain tune structures is pretty helpful when I’m trying to play for contra dancers, for example. Knowing how chords work—as well as being able to identify chords by ear–is something that helps me to know which improvisations will sound good in a fiddle tune. Accompanists also appreciate it when the fiddler can actually help them with the chords!

      I have indeed thought about messing with jazz fiddle. In fact, I’m already doing it! I’m in a jazz class at college right now, and I’m playing fiddle in the class. About a month ago, I posted a recording of me playing a couple solos for the jazz standard Autumn Leaves during one of those classes: https://coldjazz.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/some-real-jazz/

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