Lesson 9: More Lydian Dominant soloing and derivation of the Harmonic Minor

Tonnes more goodness in this week’s lesson from Master along with a very rock solid foundation into why the V – I is so key in music and why the dominant chord is so interesting. We spent a fair bit of time reinforcing what we’d talked about last week and then moved on to this:

There are three things that give the V- I progression such strong cadence and that feeling of resolution and musically being home and at rest, e.g. a G7 moving to C major 7.

  1. The G7 chord has a built in tritone – the b5 interval from the B note to the F note. This dissonance gives the chord this unnerving edgy feel. A C chord contains lovely intervals of thirds, perfect fifths (C-G) and a perfect fourth (B-E). Coming from a dominant 7 to this chord feels like home.
  2. The G7 chord contains the note B. In the key of C, B is the seventh degree and is a semitone away from the root note of C, i.e. going from B to C sounds as if it’s gravitationally attracted there – the B wants to move to C, at least our ear through hundreds of years of conditioning expects it to. This note is called the leading tone i.e. it feels as if it should lead back to the root.
  3. Moving from G to C in the bass is either a perfect fifth up or a perfect fourth down. A nice strong root movement.

Now, that’s all well and good when we consider a major V- I. How about the minor v – i (note deliberate lower case to denote minor chords), e.g. for the relative minor of C which is A minor? Consider the harmonized minor scale Amin7, Bmin7b5, Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, G7.

In this case, the v – i chords will be Emin7 and Amin7 (spelt E G B D and A C E G respectively). Try playing these chords in that order. Master demonstrated this to me and it was pretty apparent that the movement is not as strong as the Major V – I. Try it yourself – since both chords contain parallel types of intervals (they are both essentially the same shape just transposed) neither of them feels more like home than the other.

Classical musicians discovered this centuries ago. The reason for this weakness in the v – i cadence is that the Emin7 chord only has one of those crucial things outlined above – and that’s the root movement. No built in tritone and no leading tone (the topmost note in E minor is a ‘G’ which is a whole tone from the A root, whereas a ‘leading’ tone is a semitone away).

In order to rectify this, those oldies decided to take this small but significant step – they sharpened the 7th of the A minor scale, i.e. raised the G to a G#. This had the effect of introducing the tritone into the E chord (now an E7 and spelt E G# B D – tritone between D and G#) and also making the G more of a leading tone by reducing the gap between it and the root A to a semi-tone. This activity therefore increases the tension in the V chord so that when it does resolve to the A minor it feels that much more satisfy.

The resulting scale is known as the harmonic minor since it gives more startling harmonic results than the natural minor. A B C D E F G#. There are implications here of course: one is that you can now use the harmonic minor scale over a V – i such as E7 to Amin7) and secondly the melodic implications of having that big gap between the F and the G#; this historically led to the creation of the melodic minor in which the 6th (F) is also raised in order to smooth out melody lines which may have that big jump.

aharm

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2 Responses to “Lesson 9: More Lydian Dominant soloing and derivation of the Harmonic Minor”

  1. […] Tiger Spot wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptTonnes more goodness in this week’s lesson from Master along with a very rock solid foundation into why the V – I is so key in music and why the dominant chord is so interesting. We spent a fair bit of time reinforcing what we’d talked … […]

  2. I really like what you guys tend to be up too. This type of clever work and reporting!
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