What’s the most important chord progression that you need to know as an improviser?
That’s a good question! Previously we explored some common chord relationships that you’ll encounter as an improviser, however the most important chord relationship that you need to know is V to I.
The Dominant/Tonic relationship is at the foundation of Western music from Baroque concertos, to Mahler symphonies, to Louis Armstrong, to Coltrane, to the Beatles. In nearly every standard that you’ll practice or perform as an improviser, you’re going to encounter the V7 to I chord relationship.
The Blues, Rhythm Changes, Stella by Starlight, Giant Steps, All the Things You Are…it all goes back to V7 resolving to I. If you haven’t already worked on this dominant to tonic relationship, it’s time to get started.
For many players, the most common way to access the Dominant 7th to Tonic sound is with the Mixolydian mode:
or a Bebop Scale:
The other common rule that many players also fall back on for V7 to I is the natural voice-leading motion between these two chords. Coming from an analytical perspective, the voice leading “rules” of the V to I relationship are resolving the 7th of the V chord to the 3rd of the I chord:
and the 3rd of V7 to the root of the I chord:
This is a fine place to start conceptualizing these chords in your mind and your ear, however … Read More