Beginner to Advanced
The harmony found in pop and rock songs is often dismissed as ‘simple’ because a song may have only a few chords and those chords might not have long, complicated names. It can, in fact, often take a considerable theoretical knowledge in order to adequately understand a seemingly ‘simple’ song. Like the english language with its various roots, popular music harmony is layered with different concepts and influences and it can be difficult to grasp all of its characteristics and its seeming inconsistencies. Ironically, when a pop song is dismissed as simple, it is often because it has a hidden complexity. Because the harmony does not appear complicated, it’s mistaken for being unsophisticated. This article will explain a very particular harmonic concept that should offer considerable insight and make sense of the music you know or will encounter, as well as providing tools for your own writing. do remember that we are focusing on one particular concept in this article, and by doing so we can dig deep into its implications. It is, of course, just one concept in the complicated world of pop harmony so it’s best to integrate (rather than replace) what you already know with the ideas here. Technical playing demands for this article are kept at a minimum so that we can focus on theory rather than technique.
We are all familiar with the idea of playing in a key so, for example, if we are in C major, then we are using notes and chords from the C major scale, and C is our root – a sort of gravitational resting point that feels like a kind of home. most of us are also familiar with the idea of modulation; that is when a key changes at some point in the tune. a modulation means the root of the scale (and sometimes the type of scale) is altered. We might, for example, move from C major to e major, or C major to a minor. In short, we are switching from one key to another key. however, there is a harmonic approach that