ArticlesBlog

Harmonic Sequences Explained with a Disco Parody

Harmonic Sequences Explained with a Disco Parody


Want to know how musicians use short two chord
patterns to create longer progressions with more than four chords? Then you’ll want to know about harmonic
sequences. Walk this way! This is Music Corner: your source for nerdy
thoughts on music. I’m David Kulma. I’ll get to harmonic sequences in a minute,
but first, you need to know about sequences in general. A sequence is a way of repeating a musical
gesture, but instead we start each repetition on a new note. For example, let’s make a melodic sequence
out of the first three notes of “Frère Jacques.” I play the first three notes, and then play
the same shape starting a note higher, and again a note higher than that, and so on. I just played a tonal sequence, where we modify
the intervals to stay in one key. On the other hand, a real sequence keeps the
exact same intervals for each chunk. But how do we do this with chords for harmonic
sequences? We’ll start with two chords as our basis
and build from there. The music I played at the beginning, Pachelbel’s
Canon, is built in just this way. Cellists know this in their blood. Let’s look at the progression and bass line:
D, down a fourth to A, up a step to B, down a fourth to F sharp, up a step to G, down a fourth
to D, up a fourth to G, up a step to A, and it begins again endlessly. This really is the song that never ends. Did you see the pattern? Down 4 Up 2. The end breaks off the sequence to restart
the cycle. This pattern of down a fourth and up a step
results in a descending third from chunk to chunk. So theorists call this a Descending Thirds
sequence, because of the third from D to B and B to G. That’s a cool harmonic sequence, but let’s
look at one that has captivated more musicians for centuries. It goes Down 5 Up 4, which results in a Descending
Seconds sequence. But it has a more well known name: a Descending
Circle of Fifths sequence, because we go around the circle of fifths in one direction for
the whole sequence, except we take a huge shortcut to stay in the same key. Now I could easily find a great example of
this progression in classical music, but I think disco is a better choice right now. At first, I was drained, I had had enough. Kept thinking I could never figure out this
theory stuff. But then I spent so many hours studying music
all night long, I grew strong and I learned how to play this
song. And now I know this tonal space.
I can now write this chord progression on an analog clock face… Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and
my silly theory parody are in A minor. After a brief piano intro, we start on an
A minor chord for four beats and keep this harmonic rhythm until the end of the sequence. We go counterclockwise around the circle of
fifths down a perfect 5th to a D minor chord, up a perfect fourth to a G major chord, down
a perfect fifth to a C major chord, and up a perfect fourth to an F major chord. Now we take the shortcut to stay in A minor
by going down a diminished fifth to a B diminished chord, and we go up a perfect fourth to an
E major chord where we lengthen this dominant chord to eight beats to be a whole normal
phrase length, which leads us back to start the sequence over again with the man from
outer space. Now that I’ve shown you two possibilities,
go make your own harmonic sequences! Thanks for watching Music Corner. I hope you found this video helpful in your
music studies. If you have a little extra money, consider
dropping me a dollar over on my Patreon account. For $1 a month you get access to behind the
scenes info and you can come to me with your theory questions there. I would love to help you succeed. I’ll see you next week, music nerds. And remember “Long live the Avant- Whoa! Love live the Avant! Avant-Garde.”

Comments (9)

  1. I show you a couple of harmonic sequences through Pachelbel and Gloria Gaynor. Ask me your theory questions here in the comments. How can I help you?

  2. Very informative, as always. The best thing is the visual representation to help us with the mathematics behind it.
    I'd be very interested in a full series of covering the different scales and how they've evolved throughout history and cultures. I'm curious about the historical significances in why we tend to prefer different scales (and rhythms, etc.) in different cultures and epochs.

  3. David Coal Mine Lmao

  4. Please post more videos I just discovered the exact channel I wanted as a composer.

  5. In the following 1-4-1-5-1 turn-around sequence in the key of D major: D major to G major to D major to A altered (A,E,G,C#,F) returning to D major, would the A alt. chord be named an A7#5, A7b13 or A7 augmented? I'm a musically ignorant guitar player and have had no luck posing this question to music theorists. Would omitting the 5th "E" from the chord make any difference? Any chord naming rules I may use for this, and other instances where altered notes are used?

  6. Love it, man! Great parody of that disco song and absolutely fantastic content! Just discovered you but you definitely deserve as much recognition as the other music theory greats on youtube like Neely or Beato! I do hope to see more videos in the future. Thank you so much!

  7. Is it just me, but WHAT??????

  8. In an old video you put out, you mentioned a textbook, but I couldn't understand the name. It was in the first music harmony from a number of years ago. What was the textbook?

  9. hahahaha "i will suicide" hahahaha

Comment here