28 Ways to Create Great Segues: Segue #5
By Jon Nicol
Segue #5 - “Using the "Five Chord" to Transition to Songs in Different Keys Welcome back for the 5th of 28 Ways to Make Great Segues. One might think I planned the fifth segue to be one utilizing the "Five Chord." But honestly, I'm really not that bright. Before we dive in, let me offer one warning and one encouragement.
The warning: We are going to start to wade through some music theory. I'm going to try to walk the line between over-explaining to accommodate absolute novices and under-explaining to not bore those who have some theory background. If you need more, keep checking back for a series I'm working on called "Music Theory That (Actually) Matters."
The encouragement: You might be thinking, "We're only at segue #5 and there are 28 - this could take months. It's as bad as that freshman-year relationship I just couldn't quite break off." Don't worry. The next few "ways" will be a more intense because they deal with modulations from one key to the next. But once we move away from musical segues, they'll move much quicker. You'll spend far less time on this series than you did in that first college relationship. With less drama, too.
The "Five Chord" in the traditional numbering system is designated with Roman numeral "V". Gaining massive popularity outside of Tennessee is the Nashville number system. It designates chords with Arabic numbers. So the "five chord" is simply 5 in the Nashville numbering system. Personally, if I'm charting out a song, I'll go with the Nashville numbers. But the Roman numerals seem to get less confused with interval and tension numbers. So occasionally I'll use the Nashville numbers, but mostly I'll designate the chord with a Roman numeral.
So what is the V chord? Every key follows the same formula of Major & Minor chords, which built on each of the intervals in the key. Look at the chart below. You'll see that in the key of C, the V chord is G.
"Key of C" chords
The V chord of the new key can be used to bridge to the I chord of the song. So if you're in the key Eb, and the next song is in the key of C, you could simply play a G major chord and it will help take the ear from Eb to C. It's still pretty choppy. Let's keep exploring this. To create even more aural sympathy for the target key (in this case, C), use the dominant version of the V chord. The V chord becomes a "dominant 7" when the 7th interval of the chord is added. In the key C, the G chord becomes a G7 when the 7th interval above G is added (an f natural). The G7 chord contains the G triad as well as the "flat 7." (A third built diatonically above the 5th)
7th = f
5th = d
3rd = b
The dominant 7 chord is unstable. It feels like it wants to move somewhere. Why? The b and the f in the G7 chord create a "tritone." A tritone is an augmented 4th or a flat 5th. Click here to hear what it sounds like. Icky, huh? It becomes a lot more tolerable with the root and 5th added, but it still naturally wants to resolve:
The b and the f are the unstable notes. The tritone the two create wants to resolve: the b wants to resolve up to the c and f wants to resolve down to the e.
If all this is about is as understandable as quantum physics, take heart. It's all learn-able, and, believe it or not, it's actually useful (sometimes).
So let me get really practical: In order to use this transition, all you need is to determine the V chord of the key you'll be going to. Take a look at this chart.
Going To or
V Chord of that key:
If you're in the key of D and moving to E, the V chord of E is B. So playing B as a transition chord will help move the listener's ear to the key of E. For example: Let's say we're ending Beautiful One (D) and moving to Here I Am to Worship (E). The first song will end with Beautiful One, my soul must sing, holding out a D chord. Let the final chord ring out for a few beats then play a B or B7 for a measure and move into the verse or intro of Here I Am to Worship. There are endless variations of the V chord transition. Here are some more common ones:
Vsus4 (R, 4th, 5th) Example: Gsus4 (g, c, d)
This is also called simply sus. Two related variations of the sus4 is "add4" and "add11." We don't have time to explain the difference. Bottom line, the suspended 4th interval replaces the 3rd. This chord helps draws the listener's ear to the key because of the 4th. The 4th of the Vsus4 chord is the root of the new key.
The V7 is often a little too bright, so the sus4 can be added to that as well:
V7sus (R, 4th, 5th, b7th) Example: G7sus (g, c, d, f)
Adding the sus4 softens the harshness of the dominant 7 chord by removing that tritone that we talked about earlier. But still gives enough dissonance to want to resolve. You will often see this chord as a IV/V (4/5) e.g. C/D: it's a C triad (c,e,g) with a D in the bass. The notes spell out a D9sus chord, which is the same as a D7sus with an added E (the 9th of D). Another variation of this hybrid chord that creates a V9sus is the 2m7/5 e.g. Am7/D. This simply now contains the 5th of the V7sus. Using this hybrid chords like this allows the arranger to spell out more exactly how they want the chord to be played.
V7sus to V7
Use a combination: Resolve V7sus4 to the V7 before moving to the root chord of the new key. (Or resolve Vsus to V, then to the root.) This progression creates movement within the chord: the sus4 resolves down a ½ step to the 3rd (which also then resolves up a ½ step to the root of the new key). Try this progression moving to the key of E from D:
This resolve from the Vsus7 to the V7 is a way to move people along in a less harsh fashion. Sometimes you want to do the big Barry Manilow key change, and sometimes you don't. In the next post, I'll add a few more tricks to our new found "Five chord," creating even more of a sense of movement as you transition from song to song in different keys.
October 5, 2009Tweet
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