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3 note vs 4 note chord progressions/Church modes

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Joined: 10 years ago
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Okay so I'm trying to make sense of chord progressions.

From what I've read a major scale chord progression is:
M m m M M m d

And a natural minor chord progressions just picks up from the 6th note so it's:
m d M m m M M m

However when I hear people talking about chord progressions using church modes I see them say a major scale (Ionian) chord progression is:
M m m M Dominant m b5(b7)

I'm having trouble understanding why the chords are different, is it because they're going from a three note chord to a four note chord? for example 135 to a 1357 chord? And if so what is the reasoning behind this?

Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342

It does get very complicated, or at least, I think people make it more complicated than it is.

Let's look at it in C major. That last note is B.

Basic chord construction tells us to use every other note, so the basic "135" build there is B-D-F. All on the white notes.

A simple minor chord has a minor third between the root and the 3rd - B to D is a minor 3rd so that chord is minor. However, the 5th in the chord of Bm is F# and the chord we've just built uses F natural - a flattened 5th above B

D to F is a minor 3rd. So the chord we've built uses stacked minor thirds.

Because we're using stacked minor thirds/ the 5th is a semitone lower than a regular minor chord build would give us - we call this a diminished chord. Bdim. Nice and simple.

If you continue the standard build, you get a set of notes which is B-D-F-A. Take the B-D-A bit of it and you have Bm7. Put the "F" back and you have Bm7 but with a flattened 5th, giving us the Bm7b5 name that we see so often.

Taking just the B-D-F bit, we have a standard Bdim chord. Add back the "A" and we have Bdim with a 7th - Bdim7 - I'm ready for Noteboat to correct me on this one because I notice a standard Bdim chord using the standard shape on the guitar neck has an Ab in it so there's an extra step there which I can't properly write down.

The "Xm7b5" naming convention really comes from jazz - if I've read my stuff right - not sacred music.

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As Alan said, the difference is how many notes you use to harmonize the scale. Harmonized in three notes they're all simple triads; harmonized in four notes they're all sevenths.

But you might be setting yourself up for further confusion if you call it a "chord progression"; "progression" implies movement, and in music that comes from tension and release. F-G7-C is a chord progression, because you build and release tension. C-Dm-Em isn't - it's a series of chords without a tension. If you repeat C-Dm-Em (or any other series without a tension) over and over it's commonly called a "vamp".

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