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Harmony and chord progressions


(@simonhome-co-uk)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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Hey people,

Can anyone recommend me some good booksDVDs on harmony theory? I'm thinking more about chords, rather than scales which I know like the back of my eye lids. I know the basic principle of how to harmonize the major, minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor scales to get their corresponding chords; but I'd like something that would expand upon creating progressions, the role that each chord has, extensions, substitutions etc.

I ask because I've run into two problems trying to find them myself. First is that often these topics are covered in general theory books, which have a lot of redundant material for my purposes, making it difficult to pick out just what I want to learn (which can be off-putting). The other problem is that, when I find a book specifically dealing with harmony, they're almost always jazz-centric. I'd really be coming at this from a prog metal point of view.

So can anyone recommend anything? I'd prefer books as they're more in depth and better for reference purposes, but if a DVD does the job, then it's all gravy.


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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Joined: 15 years ago
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A friend recommended to me the book Harmony by Walter Piston. It is a basic reference at conservatory level here. It is not guitar-oriented but it shows all about harmony. Try to borrow a copy to see if you are looking for.


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(@hbriem)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Big question.

Well, harmony and music theory really is the same whether you're into prog/metal, jazz or even punk or hip-hop. You just don't necessarily have to use all of it.

Prog/metal will typically use simpler chords (3-note) or even powerchords (2-note) than jazz with its 4- 5- or even 6-note chords. The reason is distortion. Metalheads like it and jazzers don't. Distortion will amplify the overtones at the expense of the primary and this gets very muddy and dissonant with a lot of notes.

--
Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com


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(@simonhome-co-uk)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 678
Topic starter  

Well, harmony and music theory really is the same whether you're into prog/metal, jazz or even punk or hip-hop. You just don't necessarily have to use all of it.

Yeah, what I meant though was that the teaching itself is geared towards jazz. e.g. emphasis on II-V-I progressions etc. Because jazz is the only modern music form that consistently makes use of more or less all music theory, it is the genre through which the theory is often taught. It's what the writers of these books would have studied at their respective music institutes. However, such instructional materials by no means have to be jazz orientated. It's just that most of them are...unfortunately, for people like me.
Prog/metal will typically use simpler chords (3-note) or even powerchords (2-note) than jazz with its 4- 5- or even 6-note chords.

Metal in general uses 2 or 3 note chords only. However it is fairly common for progressive metal to make use of more elaborate chord forms. This is usually during calmer sections, to avoid the distortion problem you mentioned. For instance there could be one instrument (clean guitar or keyboard) playing a progression, while another instrument does lead over the top. This could be described as the Dream Theater approach (Examples: Octavarium, Under a Glass Moon). Another approach would be Animals as Leaders, who pretty much fully integrate these more elaborates chords and progressions into their songs throughout (Examples: On Impulse, The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing).

Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of how I'm looking to apply this stuff, and why I'd prefer something less geared towards would-be jazz players.


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(@noteboat)
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I used Piston's Harmony in college. But if I were trying to learn on my own, I'd probably go with Harmony and Voice Leading by Edward Aldwell & Carl Schachter. Like most college level textbooks, it's a bit wordy in spots (and pretty darn expensive - my secondhand copy was close to a hundred bucks)... it focuses on classical music, but gives a pretty solid background in the mechanics of chord motion.

Most metal players are either completely uneducated about music theory or they have a traditional (i.e. classical) education. Unlike jazz, classical music tends to stay pretty simple - because it's hard to manage altered 7th chords if you're orchestrating for an ensemble of a hundred or so musicians.

The main difference between classical music and metal is the use of dissonance. Metal tends to use a heck of a lot more of it than Mozart did. But metal has a fair amount in common with some of the 20th century experiments in "art music".

So I'd start with Aldwell & Schacter. After that, get a copy of "Twentieth Century Harmony" by Vincent Perischetti. That gets into some of the more avant-garde techniques, like tone clusters and whatnot. Neither is directly applicable to metal, but I think they're a better path than something like Levin's Jazz Theory - you'll get an understanding of how chords move by moving voices, and food for thought with what the more edgy classical composers (Webern, Berg, etc) have done with dissonance.

I suspect that's close to the path that the 'educated' metal players have taken - folks like the Great Kat (who's a Juilliard grad). The alternative would be to get a few books on basic theory that include chord structure, listening a lot, and charting out the types of progressions used by artists you like - and I suspect that's the approach taken by most of the "uneducated" metal players.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@krah13)
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Joined: 9 years ago
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I believe that the book that can work for you is "Jazz Theory" from Mark Levine. I know that it is "jazz-oriented" but I think that it's a must-read for every musician. It is a huge book, it has a lot of information, it is not guitar oriented and it’s a book that you can use as a reference for a lifetime.
I believe that the study of this book, with a combination of working on some "classic" chord progressions ( that can be found in many Real Books) can give you great results in understanding harmony and even composing music.
So, I advise you to take a look at the first chapters in the book and start learning some easy songs like Autumn Leaves etc.
I think that you can also “try” to enjoy music from different genres. Allan Holdsworth is listening to the music of John Coltrane and the guys in Sepultura are listening to Brazilian Music.

Krah13
http://www.lost-in-guitarland.com


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