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Old January 30th, 2012, 09:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Autumn Leaves chord progression

I'm starting a new thread for this and cross-linking it to my previous thread on the cycle of fifths.

In the key of Bb, Autumn Leaves goes;

Cm7 F7 BbMaj7 EbMaj7 Am7b5 D7 Gm and resolves back to Cm7

This all follows the cycle of fifths (fourths) until it gets to the Am7b5, which should be Ab according to the cycle. I notice however that the preceding chord EbMaj7 is directly opposite Am on the wheel.

I know this must be significant, I just don't understand why.

Anyone?

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Old January 30th, 2012, 09:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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In the key of Bb - A is the diatonic 7th - not Ab. There is always a tritone betwen the 4th and the 7th in any major key - its the one exception to the diatonic cycle of fifths....
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Old January 30th, 2012, 11:02 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Nothing revelatory to add other than 'the circle' is a groovy thing!

Being able to think forward in 4ths and backwards in 5ths ... at the speed of thought ... in the key you're in or in the key you're going to is one of the things that will make you a considerably better musician.
Learn your diatonic chord scales - Bb Cm Dm Eb F G Aš

*I tend read/think of the circle counter-clockwise.
I like thinking in 4th's - which I consider to be 'forward'.
Autumn Leaves to me is a progression of 4ths moving forward.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 11:19 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Also, isn't the D7 a non-scale chord? Shouldn't it be Dm7?
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Old January 30th, 2012, 11:40 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Jazz uses II,III and VI chords practically as often as it does ii, iii and vi. I would not try to box a song/tune into a scale or set of notes. Let the melody dictate whether a 2, 3 or 6 chord is major or minor. And you can change them up in a song, too.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 11:45 PM   #6 (permalink)
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This is where you need to understand the 'small' or secondary implied keys within the bigger overall main structure.
It's really in the key of Gm at that point. Which is the relative minor of Bb but as we've pointed out in countless threads past ... in Gm you'll have an F# leading tone, the M3 of a D7.

*If you just improvise in Bb major over Autumn Leaves you're not really gonna sound that great. There's a lot of stuff going on in that tune. There's a reason Jazzers continue to record this tune.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 01:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by w3stie View Post
Also, isn't the D7 a non-scale chord? Shouldn't it be Dm7?
Should be or shouldn't be are not particularily useful ways of approaching this stuff. There are certainly 'rules' but they are more 'rules of common practice' rather than indisputable 'laws' of what should or shouldn't be. The one and only real rule is 'does it sound good/musical'. All other considerations are subordinate to that one 'law' of Musicland and a lot of so called rules and rituals can be happily broken in order to obey that single law.

But to answer your question, yes, in a diatonic setting the chord would be Dm7 but there's absolutely no reason why we have to adhere to diatonic 'rules' when composing unless that's what we want in a composition. We can step outside of diatonic harmony at any point to change keys or add interesting new tensions and/or resolutions. Of course there are guidelines toward doing those sorts of things that make the probability of producing good music more likely.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 08:46 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Last edited by historicus146; January 31st, 2012 at 09:28 AM.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 11:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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a bit off-topic, but:

ha-ha! you should have seen Jim "Octatonic" trying to explain this one at the pub the night before the London TDPRI jam... to a bunch of total theory know-nothings (including me). We sure had a good laugh at least, trying to decipher what he was explaining. I remember losing the plot around the "parallel modulation".
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Old January 31st, 2012, 01:47 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Can't add much to the very good posts here other than to drive home the fact that "Leaves" is very much a minor key tune, and minor is a more complex entity than just "the major scale starting on a different degree..."
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Old January 31st, 2012, 07:33 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Thanks for all the help. I can see how you get the D7 from a G minor harmonic scale. I don't see how or why you can decide to switch from using a Bb scale (F7, BbMaj7) to the Gm scale. I guess I'm looking for reason or logic rather than just, "It's jazz, it doesn't have to make sense."
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Old January 31st, 2012, 07:51 PM   #12 (permalink)
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1. Because it sounds good. That is more important than anything theory tells you.

2. Bb to Gm is a common move, since those two keys are relatives (i.e. they contain the same notes).

3. On the question about where the D7 comes from, it's been common for a long time to turn the v chord in a minor key to a dominant. D7 to Gm is perceived to be a stronger movement than Dm to Gm.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 07:54 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by czgibson View Post
1. Because it sounds good. That is more important than anything theory tells you.
Well actually that's the whole purpose of 'theory'. There's no other reason for it to exist but to provide a guideline or a template of what sounds good.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 08:13 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Well actually that's the whole purpose of 'theory'. There's no other reason for it to exist but to provide a guideline or a template of what sounds good.
Yes, you can think of it that way. I think of theory above all as an attempt to describe and codify what musicians do.

Whether something sounds good or not is always the crucial thing, as you mentioned above. I can't imagine someone listening to, say, 'Inca Roads' by the composer sitting on the right in your sig and then consulting a theory book to check whether it's good or not.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 09:40 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by w3stie View Post
Also, isn't the D7 a non-scale chord? Shouldn't it be Dm7?
Yes, it's a non-scale chord, but it's also not. It's what's called a Secondary Dominant. That means it's V7 of "X". In this case V7 of vi. Most, (but not all), chords in a key can have secondary dominants. It helps emphasize the arrival of that particular chord, even if it is only temporary.

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1. Because it sounds good. That is more important than anything theory tells you.
My, what an enlightened and erudite viewpoint.

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Originally Posted by czgibson View Post
3. On the question about where the D7 comes from, it's been common for a long time to turn the v chord in a minor key to a dominant.
The V chord of a minor key is actually a dominant7 chord.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 10:04 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Yes, you can think of it that way. I think of theory above all as an attempt to describe and codify what musicians do.
Not only can I think of it that way but I do. Yes it's codifying what musicians do but the important distinction is what kind of 'what' that musicians do is being codified and I would say that it's the good and useful stuff that has stood the test of time. In other words the crap is not codified (well I guess it sort of is by default I suppose).



Quote:
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Whether something sounds good or not is always the crucial thing, as you mentioned above. I can't imagine someone listening to, say, 'Inca Roads' by the composer sitting on the right in your sig and then consulting a theory book to check whether it's good or not.
That would be absurd and would be the worst abuse possible of theory. I can't imagine anyone actually doing that either.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 10:37 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Theoretically, 'Inca Roads' falls into some pretty basic theory 101.

Zappa played by 'the rules' a lot - he was harmony and theory junkie. Sometimes very advanced but he really never strays too far from stuff you actually can find in theory books. He was a little quirky from the rhythmic standpoint and of course lyrically he was out kinda out there but harmonically ... nothing too weird.
*Steely Dan and Wayne Shorter are light years ahead of FZ from a harmonic standpoint.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 10:38 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Yes, it's a non-scale chord, but it's also not. It's what's called a Secondary Dominant. That means it's V7 of "X". In this case V7 of vi. Most, (but not all), chords in a key can have secondary dominants. It helps emphasize the arrival of that particular chord, even if it is only temporary.
Thanks Joe-Bob. I looked up Secondary Dominant on wikipedia. Sigh. It just gets more and more obscure
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Old January 31st, 2012, 11:07 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I learned of Autumn Leaves when my roommate and bass player had his buddies over to jam one day in college. They were all Univ. of North Texas Jazz Studies guys. I just played self-taught bluesy rock guitar and studied music ed. at the less prestigious college next door. So I usually let them just jam and I'd stay out of their "hippy ways". Anyway, I heard them play Autumn Leaves and thought it was cool, so they showed me the progression. I still play it on the piano at school as the kids are coming in to class sometimes.

Anyway, I always just thought of it in C minor with some altered secondary dominants and what I technically refer to as "jazzy chords". w3stie, are you calling it Bb because more of the notes fit into that scale or is there a more technical reason for it? I really am curious. I guess I never really thought about a song starting with a ii-V-I.

Joe-Bob, you said the V chord of a minor key is a dominant7 chord in response to another post. I have two comments/questions about this:
1) minor keys naturally have a minor v chord, we alter the leading tone to make it a major V chord - how do see it differently? Harmonic minor?
2) a V chord cannot be a dominant7, only a V7 can be. Roman numerals only imply a triad.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 11:13 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Sorry, it's not really a difficult concept. Basically, it's just a V7 of the next chord. I didn't read the whole article, I just scanned it, and at least some of it is wrong.

The natural resolution of chords is down by 5th. V7 resolves to I. G7 resolves to C.

So, if we start on C in C major, the natural order of the chords would be:

I - IV - viidim - iii - vi - ii - V(7) - I

We start on C and go through all the chords.

C - F - Bdim - Em - Am - Dm - G7 - C

We don't always go through the whole set, it's often short-cut to ii - V7 - I, or, Dm - G7 - C.

So, for the chords that are a perfect fifth apart, we can strengthen the push to the next chord by making the chord a dominant chord, V7, of the next one in the series.

Starting with:

I -- IV - viidim - iii --- vi --- ii --- V(7) - I
C - F --- Bdim - Em - Am - Dm - G7 -- C

We can change C to C7 and it pushes us to the next F chord. We can also change Em to E7, and that would push more strongly to the Am chord.

If we took it to the extreme and did them all, we would go from:

C - F - Bdim - Em - Am - Dm - G7 - C

to:

C - C7 - F - B7 - E7 - A7 - D7 - G7 - C


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