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.
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.