Reply To: Mel June Office Hours follow up – podcast on chord changes
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I like your description of how you listen to the chord changes in music as stories, Mel. It’s an apt analogy. You might be interested (or might not… 😉 in a software program called Mapping Tonal Harmony by mDecks. It’s available as an app for iOS devices as well as a full desktop program. Here’s a link to the App Store version for iOS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/mapping-tonal-harmony-pro/id566767002
A bit on the pricey side as apps go, but it’s an incredibly powerful piece of software. I was taking jazz guitar lessons for a few years, and learning all these jazz standards. As you said, there are recurring patterns that show up again and again. The ii-V7-I pattern is often referred to as the most important musical progression in jazz. Think of the tune “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” The last line of the verse ends with a ii-V7-I. And it shows up all over the place, in song after song, in different ways. If you can learn how to solo over the ii-V7-I, you can play passable jazz improv.
MTH allows you to visualize these musical patterns – it turns chord progressions into a visual map, showing how the chords move away from the calm shores of the song’s tonal center, linger and meander around islands of harmonic tension – even dissonance – and then return home. I gained a lot of insight into how music works by playing around with this software and watching the many instructional videos posted by mDecks. (Many of these are available in front of their paywall on YouTube.) The other cool thing about MTH is that it serves as a great practice tool – you can enter chord progressions, pick a music style, and it will play a backing track for you to solo over or play along with like (Band In A Box if you’re familiar with that). There are lots of other options for this type of automated backing track creation, but I like the visualizations that MTH displays along with the music.
There’s also an incredibly rich set of mathematical relationships that appear when you start looking at how scales and chords relate to each other. That’s a whole other level to explore. Music is such an infinitely deep and rich ocean of complexity, beauty and harmony. It never bores me.