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#16 – 3 Steps to Harmonic Analysis

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One of the most frequent difficulties when playing a song is to understand the relationship between chords (harmony) and what to play in each situation that presents itself. Although a knowledge of Harmony and Theory is always necessary and welcome, when putting them into practice it is very possible to encounter basic difficulties that do not let us visualize how to solve and apply the theory in the best possible way.

The three steps I describe below are a practical way of solving the harmonic analysis of a song, jazz standard or any harmonic cycle.


1- Where it comes from: it refers to a key, pre existing key signature, chord cycle or chord that precedes. This step gives us the guideline that we can cling to if it is a diatonic passage, or if it is an open key, or do not expect some diatonic logic in the sequence. In case the harmonic cycle is composed by some pattern of intervals, it will give us some guidelines to be able to visualize it and to differentiate it.


2- The moment in which it is: it refers to the mode/ scale that we can use in the chord in which we are momentarily. Combined with step 1 we can know if the choice we need is diatonic or we can modify it according to our taste and knowledge. In turn allows us to be able to anticipate step 3 and thus give some logic to our choice.


3- Where it goes: it refers to the resolution point and how to choose a mode/ scale according to where the chord is resolved.


In the various musical situations that come to us we can find the three steps together, as well as the combination of two of them, or one.

Here is an example of these three steps. The abbreviations are as follows: Step 1 (S1); Step 2 (S2) and Step 3 (S3).


I hope you can take advantage of these three steps for harmonic analysis and see you in the next post.