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Now that you’ve
drawn a basic Chase chart with Nashville Numbers and the harmonic scale of a
particular key, the last step is to draw arrows from one chord to the next chord inside the circular harmonic
Draw the arrows in the order that they occur in the chord
progression of the song.
Never mind the melody. Never mind the time signature. Never
mind the tempo. Never mind the meter.
In a Chase chart, the only thing of interest is the chord
As discussed earlier in this chapter, there are four kinds of chord
1. Fifth progressions, up and down
2. Third progressions, up and down
3. Second progressions, up and down
4. Chromatic progressions, exiting and returning.
(If you happen to be a physics aficionado in search of mnemonic
for fifth, third, and second progressions, up and down, Ellie Sue at
the Dodge City Horse Store claims Ms Puma remembers them by
associating them with up and down quarks,
anti-up and anti-down antiquarks, and up and down escalators, respectively.
Apparently, she associates chromatic progressions with all other flavours of fermions. Hope this helps.)
The key to the effectiveness of a Chase chart lies in recognizing
and understanding the significance of the visual patterns the arrows
make. Each type of chord progression has a distinct visual pattern.
Recognizing the patterns of the various chord progression types is
important because each type of chord progression has advantages
you can exploit and disadvantages you can avoid.
Figure 66 below maps the visual patterns of fifth progressions, up
and down. The chords around the outside happen to be in the key
of C major / A minor in this example. However, you could plug in the
chords for any key you choose.
• Fifth progressions down: the arrows go clockwise around the
• Fifth progressions up: the arrows go counterclockwise around
Around the inside of the circle, the Nashville Numbers always
remain the same.
that “fifth progression” simply means a progression of two chords whose roots
are five scale notes apart. Figure 66 below shows the Chase chart patterns of
fifth progressions down and up.
FIGURE 66 Chase Chart: Fifth Progressions, Down
fifth down is the strongest chord progression in harmony. In the Chase charts of
examples of GSSL songs, you’ll see sections of the above patterns
everywhere—especially fifth-down patterns.
fifth down has one main drawback. Because it’s so powerful, everybody uses it.
It’s the most commonly used type of progression. Safe and familiar. A string of
fifth-down progressions sounds so familiar as to create an effect of
predictability—but it’s a comfortable predictability.
Fifths up, on the other hand, are usually weak progressions. But
not always ...
Fifths up to the tonic from the IV chord, and fifths up from the tonic
to the V7 chord, have considerable power, owing to their special
relationships with the tonic chord (as discussed in snoring detail
earlier in this chapter). Figure 67 below maps the Chase chart
patterns of fifths up, to and from the tonic.
FIGURE 67 Chase Chart: Fifths Up, To and From the
that in Figure 67, the arrows in the “minor key” diagram point downwards on the
page. But those are still fifth-up progressions—the arrows go counterclockwise, the fifth-up direction.
Fifth-up progressions that do not involve the tonic tend to be weak
FIGURE 68 Chase Charts: Fifth Progressions Up,
Away from the Tonic Chord
Clunky sounding chord progressions are often found to have
consecutive fifth-ups, away from the tonic. Not always, but more
often than not.
Secondary dominants apply only to fifth down progressions.
Discussions of secondary dominants often get complicated and
need. It’s completely straightforward:
A secondary dominant is a V or V7 chord of a harmonic degree
other than the tonic chord.
Figure 69 below, the A7 variant chord in place of the default chord Am becomes
the secondary dominant of the D-based chord that follows. The progression A7 – D
is a fifth down progression. The chord A7 is the secondary dominant of D.
D7, the variant chord in place of the default Dm, becomes the secondary dominant
of the G-based chord that follows. The progression D7 – G7 is a fifth down
progression. The chord D7 is the secondary dominant of G7.
A variant chord
is a chord having the same root (letter-name) as the default chord at any of the
seven positions around a circular harmonic scale. For example, in Figure 69
below, at the Ilm position, Dm is the default chord. However, you could
substitute any other chord beginning with the letter D at the IIm position, such
as D7, Dsus4, Dm7, D9, D13♭9, or any of 30 or more other “D” chord
variants. (Chord progressions are combinatorial.)
In Figure 69, the default chord in the IIm position is Dm. To make
this a secondary dominant, you substitute the variant chord D7 in
place of the usual Dm chord. The chord D7 then become the
secondary dominant of G7.
FIGURE 69 Chase Chart: Secondary Dominants
Secondary dominants are also called tonicizations (discussed in
Chapter 5) because they briefly make the next harmonic degree
chord the tonic. Examples coming up will show you how secondary
dominants are used in songs.
Figure 70 below maps
the patterns for third progressions, both “up” and “down.”
In a Chase chart, the visual characteristic of a third progression
is that the arrow goes across the circle, skipping two chords on one
side of the arrow, and three on the other.
and other chord progressions except fifths crisscross the circle in all kinds of
patterns, as you’ll see in the examples coming up.
FIGURE 70 Chase Chart: Third Progressions, Up
Third progressions, up or down, tend to be pretty weak, because
the two chords that make up a third progression have two notes in
common. For example, the chord C major consists of the notes C,
E, and G. The chord A minor consists of the notes A, C, and E.
the other hand, the fact of having two notes in common makes third progressions
sound pretty smooth, which has its advantages. The familiar third-down
progression C – Am, for example, sounds remarkably smooth.
Third progressions involving a major and a minor chord can
sound quite palatable because of the major-minor mood contrast.
well, third progressions sound stronger if one of the two chords in the
progression is altered such that the two chords no longer have two notes in
common. For example, the progression C – Em is a typical third progression with
the two chords having two notes in common:
• C chord = C, E, G
Em chord = E, G, B.
Em to E7 removes one of the notes in common: E7 = E, G♯, B, D. Also, as a
seventh chord, E7 contains the tritone (like all seventh chords), so it’s
conspicuously dissonant, adding to harmonic interest.
Chord progressions by thirds have opposite directionality to
progressions by fifths:
• Thirds down progress counterclockwise
(e.g., C – Am)
• Thirds up progress clockwise
(e.g., C – E7)
Repeat: this is exactly the opposite of fifth-progression
Thirds down tend to be more popular than thirds up.
Figure 71 below maps the Chase chart patterns for second
progressions, up and down.
In a Chase chart, the visual characteristic of a second
progression is that the arrow skips one chord in the circle.
Chord progressions by seconds have the same directionality as
progressions by fifths:
• Seconds down progress clockwise
(e.g., C – Bº)
• Seconds up progress counterclockwise
(e.g., C – Dm)
FIGURE 71 Chase Chart: Second Progressions, Up
progressions, both up and down, have a lot of power (almost as much as fifths
down) because the two chords in the progression have no notes in common. For
example, the chord C major consists of the notes C, E, and G. The chord D minor
consists of the notes D, F, and A. So the progression C – Dm marks a significant
harmonic change. It’s a strong progression.
The main disadvantage is that clumsy use of second
progressions can blur the sense of tonality.
In general, in any Chase chart, the closer the arrows are to the
edge of the circle, the stronger the progression: fifths first, then
seconds, then thirds.
A chord whose root lies outside the diatonic scale of the prevailing
key is a chromatic chord. In a Chase chart, a chromatic chord is
located outside of the circular harmonic scale.
The visual pattern shows an arrow connecting the exit chord of
the harmonic scale with the chromatic chord. Another arrow
connects the chromatic chord with the return chord of the harmonic
scale (Figure 72).
Visually, the chromatic chord is usually positioned between the
exit and return chords. Sometimes the same harmonic scale chord
is used as both exit and return chord. This is represented by two
side-by-side arrows pointing in opposite directions.
FIGURE 72 Four Chase Chart Examples of
Chromatic Chord Progressions: Exit Chord Is the
Less frequently, the exit chord of a chromatic chord progression
is a chord other than the tonic. Figure 73 below shows some
Four Chase Chart Examples of
Chromatic Chord Progressions: Exit Chord Is Not
Like second progressions, chromatic progressions stand out.
Chromatic chords are foreign to the key. They command listener
tonality can easily fall apart with clumsy handling of chromatic chords. That’s
why it’s prudent, when introducing a chromatic chord, to return to the harmonic
scale quickly, usually within a bar or two. If this doesn’t happen, it probably
means the tonality (key) is changing (modulation).
OF THE GENERAL
Figure 74 below maps
the general pattern of a chord progression in a popular song or any other piece
of music—from the humblest folk song to the grandest symphony.
Typically, the chord progression begins with the tonic chord, then
progresses to several other chords and chord variants, and finally
finds its way back to the tonic via the V7 chord:
I – [any number of
other chords] – V7 – I
Chase Chart: General Pattern of a Chord
Progression, Major Key
In a minor key, the chord progression typically starts with the VIm
chord and finds its way back to the VIm chord via the III7 chord
(Figure 75 below):
VIm – [any number of
other chords] – III7 – VIm
Chase chart: General Pattern of a Chord
Progression, Minor Key