Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lesson 13: Paradigms

Hey everyone.  It's been a long time, hasn't it?  Updates may end up being a touch.... sporadic for a while, but I swear I haven't forgotten about this.

So way back when, when I last posted, we had talked about single chord on chord tendencies, which is, as you'll recall, less hot than it sounds.  Now, that's great for songwriting and composition, and pretty ok for performance.  But it's pretty small and self-contained too, unfortunately.  When we start stringing them together a little more, before we get to, say, a whole song, we deal with Chord Paradigms.  Paradigms are.... ok, this is a really patronizing metaphor and I apologize, but think of them like combos in a fighting game.  You've got normal punches and kicks to be strung together, and that kind of works, but if you use certain combinations you launch a badass fireball at the audience.  Ok, it's also not a perfect metaphor.  Anyways, basically they're small, sort of self-contained, loose chord progressions.

I've only heard them referred to as Paradigms when I was at Oberlin, so this may be a very strange way of thinking about it, but I actually really like this way of doing it, because it gives a nice intermediate step that most people arrive at anyways formality and a name.  For instance, if you talk to a Jazz musician, they'll know what "Rhythm changes" means without needing to say "Ok, we'll go I-vi-ii-V twice and then we'll do a I-V7/IV-IV-viio/V-I-V-I.  Awesome everyone remember that and let's jam"  They'll be able to easily solo over that, they'll know good voicings, they'll understand how it sounds and how it feels just by saying "Rhythm changes".  Paradigms give you that freedom but in a more structured classical setting.  So for instance, if you learn what I-vi-IV-V sounds like and how to voice those chords, your workload is cut down from playing around with each chord in that line and its tendencies, and you can play around a little more with the specifics involved.

Now, unfortunately for me, a lot of this is not so much just learning from a book or blog like some of the other things I've gone over, but a lot of it depends on just listening to, noticing, and hearing all of these paradigms in use.  To that end, my next post is going to be a bunch of examples written in a variety of styles that sort of goes over these ideas, so you all can get practice in reading and hearing these.

But for now, let's take a glance at the most common paradigms:

This is used all the time.  All the fucking time.  It's the "Heart and soul" paradigm.  There are some common substitutions in here too, such as I-IV6-IV-V, which makes it a little more stagnant in my opinion, but also has a more uplifting sound to it.  Sort of.

I group these together because they're relatively similar, they're both ascending bass motion to V.  Again, some of these all I can do 'till I have examples is sort of list them, and you'll be able to hear them more when you actually see them in use.

You'll notice this one is only three chords and doesn't immediately lead back to I.  That's because while this is a common opener, sometimes it completes the Pachabel paradigm and continues the general motion(iii-IV-I-IV-V), or sometimes it just goes IV-V after that.... it's a common opening paradigm that has a lot of variation, one major one is practically it's own paradigm:

Descending bass line paradigm.  This happens everywhere, and again, is pretty much a variation on the I-V-vi

Now, as with the last one, some of these paradigms have common names.  "Descending bass" will tell you a lot, and sometimes it's just to V, sometimes we take it all the way to ii, then V, then I, but it's still all under the "Descending bass" paradigm umbrella.

Some of these are "Falling" or "Rising" paradigms.  For instance, Falling fourths would be I-V-ii-vi-iii-viio-IV-and then we could break to V-I, or we could break after the viio

You can sort of do this with any falling or rising interval.  Also you can go into or out of falling or rising intervalic paradigms, which is why I'm not just listing a few.  So for instance, if you get to ii some how, and are looking to get out of it, just fall by fifths and you get ii-V-I, which is a super common way to cadence.

Anyways, I need to do a lot of preparation before I'm ready with examples, but I wanted to get the primer out of the way now instead of trying to combine the posts and having a giant massive post.  Nest update we'll look more in depth at paradigms and how they interact with each other and how they sound and work in the real world.