Neo- Clas­si­cal El­e­ments

Shaun Bax­ter analy­ses the nuts and bolts of neo- clas­si­cal rock, here fo­cus­ing on sec­ondary dom­i­nant chords, and the ‘ V’ as a pass­ing chord.

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Creative Rock -

Mod­er­ate/ Ad­vanced

LAST MONTH, we looked at the role of the V chord in the Phry­gian Dom­i­nant scale. A ‘ V’ chord is a dom­i­nant chord whose root note is a 4th lower ( or 5th higher) than the fol­low­ing chord ( G7 to C, etc). G7 is called ‘ V’, be­cause its root is based on the 5th de­gree of the fol­low­ing chord (' I'), and em­bod­ies the ba­sic prin­ci­ples of ten­sion and res­o­lu­tion in Western mu­sic: G7 ( V) [ ten­sion] to C ( I) [ res­o­lu­tion].

In mu­sic the­ory, this mo­tion is known as a per­fect cadence, and the G7 is re­ferred to as a sec­ondary dom­i­nant chord: a term that can be given to any dom­i­nant chord func­tion­ing as a V chord in this way. We can ex­ploit sec­ondary dom­i­nant mo­tion to lead the lis­tener from chord to chord by set­ting up a spe­cific type of ten­sion be­tween each one.

We be­gan with a two- chord pro­gres­sion, ( Am to G), then moved up to a three- chord pro­gres­sion ( Am, G, F); and now we are go­ing to use sec­ondary dom­i­nant mo­tion to lead to each of these chords: ( V of G) ( V of Am) ( V of F) F / D7 / G / E7 / Am / C7 / Here, the Am, G and F chords act as static events that sound set­tled when com­pared to the tense- sound­ing dom­i­nant 7th leading to each one. It is cus­tom­ary in jazz and clas­si­cal styles to heighten the ten­sion on the V chord to cre­ate greater con­trast be­tween V and I ( us­ing al­ter­ations such as # 9, b5 etc), thus in­creas­ing the power or sense of ten­sion to res­o­lu­tion. In Baroque and Ro­man­tic mu­sic ( some of the main in­flu­ences be­hind neo- clas­si­cal rock), this is of­ten achieved by us­ing the Phry­gian Dom­i­nant scale with its b2 and b6 in­ter­vals.

20th- century clas­si­cal mu­sic ex­panded to en­com­pass in­cred­i­ble lev­els of har­monic dis­so­nance and rhyth­mic com­plex­ity; but the Baroque and Ro­man­tic pe­ri­ods are rel­a­tively ba­sic in both note choice and rhythm.

Di­a­gram 1 shows some parental scales that we are go­ing to as­sign to each chord in our pro­gres­sion; from these, we are go­ing to de­rive a list of tri­ads and arpeg­gios that, har­mon­i­cally, rep­re­sent pri­mary colours when com­pared to other styles like jazz and rock fu­sion.

Note the use of the Phry­gian Dom­i­nant scale from the root of each V chord ( C7, D7 and E7), and the in­clu­sion of the tense- sound­ing b2 ( b9) in some of the arpeg­gios. This month's study is based around our new chord pro­gres­sion, and fea­tures many of the stylis­tic traits that we have stud­ied so far, in­clud­ing: Rhyth­mic de­nom­i­na­tions: The solo builds in stages: eighth- notes ( with some 16ths), eight- note triplets; then 16th- notes, then 16- note triplets.

Us­ing chord tones to cre­ate melody: If there were a longer time on each chord we could ex­plore the scale des­ig­nated to it, but as there are only two beats, or even one, for each chord, the em­pha­sis is on chord tones. This is more ar­tic­u­late, and al­lows you to con­vey the ‘ sound’ of the pro­gres­sion, even with­out the back­ing track. You may also find the melodies more ‘ ver­ti­cal’ on the gui­tar, as notes are of­ten ar­ranged one- note- per- string.

Pedal mo­tion: Where a note ( or notes) is re­peated dur­ing a pas­sage while other notes move around it ( or them).

Ap­proach notes: This tech­nique can be achieved via one or sev­eral notes, but when an iso­lated chro­matic ap­proach note is used, it is al­ways a semi­tone away from the tar­get note.

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