Chord Progression #2

Basic Modulation in Jazz

The chord progression is the backbone of western civilization music. The harmony created by chords provide added expression to the melody. Jazz harmony consists of a set of typical progressions directly derived from the European classical music tradition.

The goal of the jazz accompanist is to compliment the soloist’s ideas while outlining the given chord progression clearly. As we know, most jazz improvisations use and outline the harmony as a foundation for melodic ideas

This chord progressions series demonstrates the most common progressions found in jazz. They will help you hear and understand the recurrent harmonic traits found in traditional jazz repertoire.

Jump to a page:
Chord Progression #1: Major Harmony
Chord Progression #2: Basic Modulation [you are here]
Chord Progression #3: Minor Harmony

Modulation to IV

How about a fermented fifth modulation in K sharp fridgemyan? (-;

The IV chord being the closest related tonality (in relation to the I key) it is the most common “destination key” in classical and jazz music. Loooots of jazz standards incorporate a modulation to the IV. Let’s use a little imagery to describe this :

We’re staying home tonight:
I (home); II (away); V (further away…); I (home). As in C, Dm7, G7, C.

Tonight, let’s hang out with the neighbours:
I (home); II (…); V (…); I (home???); IV (at the neighbours). As in C, Dm7, G7, C7… F!

It seems like human ears like this friendly neighbour that is the IV! When the modulation is established, we feel “like home” almost immediately. Let’s look at a musical example to clarify all this. Play the following progression on the guitar:

Chord Progression - Modulations

This type of progression can be found in the standard tune “Cherokee” by Ray Noble and in many, many, many others songs! As you can see and hear, the I chord becomes dominant right before going to IV. This is the heart of the modulation. You can also notice the IV minor right before going back “home” to the I.

I will not go into theorical details here; if you are interested more in harmony look up this  “No Nonsense Guide to Jazz Harmony”.

Bluesy Modulation the IV

Believe it or not, the very common blues progression contains a modulation to the IV key. The I chord is obviously dominant right before going the IV (It’s a blues!). Here it is:

Chord Progression - blues in C

Try embellishing the fourth bar of the blues with some alterations (such as b9, #9, b5 and #5). It creates a tension that is released when establishing the IV (as in C7(b9) to F7). Here’s that jazzier blues:

Chord Progressions - blues in jazz

It is even possible to use a II-V-I in the key of the IV to create an even clearer modulation in bars 3, 4 and 5. To go to F, we use Gm7-C7:

Chord Progressions - blues in jazz

Study the blues progression. It is worth more than you might think at first. See all the blues lessons on this website here. To further convince you that blues is important, listen to Oliver Nelson’s recording “Blues and the Abstract Truth” (1959, Impulse).

Blues and the Abstract Truth

The Bird Blues

Ih… and I almost forgot to mention: check out the “bird blues” progression. It’s a common thing that Charlie Parker played a lot on during the bebop era. Listen and play tunes such “Blues for Alice”, “Chi Chi” and “Freight Trane”.

Key of C :

Cmaj / / / / | Bm / E7 / | Am / D7 / | Gm / C7 / |
F7 / / / | Fm7 / Bb7 | Em7 / A7 / | Ebm7 / Ab7 /
Dm7 / / / | G7 / / / | Cmaj / A7 / | Dm7 / G7 / ||

The “bird blues” progression still modulates to the IV of the key, but it has that major-to-minor melancholy type of sound. Check it out!

You think it would be possible to modulate to the IV minor? (and to any other minor keys also?) Really?!

Continue to Chord Progression #3: Minor Harmony —–>

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