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How To Fake Harmonic Motion

How To Fake Harmonic Motion
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    hey, welcome to 12tone! check this out: (bang) sounds pretty cool, right? it's got a lot
    of motion, and plenty of weird-looking chords that seem like they'd make it really hard
    to analyze.
    now what would you say if I told you that, from a theoretical perspective, it's actually
    just two chords? it's basically just Eb major to Bb7 and back again.
    so why does it sound like so much more?
    well, let's step back for a second and talk about line cliches. we've looked at these
    before in a couple different song analyses, but I figured it was time they got their own
    video, so let's do this.
    line cliches are a technique for creating a sense of harmonic motion without actually
    changing the harmony, at least not very much.
    they're a pretty simple idea: you take a chord, like this Eb major, then you pick one note
    in that chord and start to drift it up or down a half step at a time.
    for instance, if we picked Bb, the 5th degree of the chord, it'd move up to B, C, Db, and
    so on, all while the other chord tones stayed the same.
    if we instead picked Eb, the root, we'd take it down to D, Db, and C. we could also start
    on G, the third degree of the chord, but since it's between the other two it's hard to decide
    which direction it should go, and since the third degree plays such an important role
    in defining how that chord sounds, we tend not to base line cliches off it.
    it loses too much of the chord's identity, which defeats the purpose.
    the most common line cliches, though, are usually based on minor chords, so if we take
    Eb minor and do the same things, we get this (bang) and this.
    (bang) these again create a sort of mixed sensation where the harmony feels like it's
    moving forward, but it also feels like it's sitting still.
    as a brief side-note, moving a half-step at a time like this is called chromatic motion.
    that term will come up again later, but first, what are these actually useful for?
    well, the big thing is to make chords last longer.
    often, the sense of motion in a piece of music is driven by changing chords, and line cliches
    give you a way to do that without actually changing the underlying harmony.
    you're cycling through a lot of different versions of the same chord instead of going
    to new ones.
    this means you can write whole, long sections out of only a couple actual chords, like we
    talked about in the Hey Bulldog video, where the entire chorus is actually just B minor
    and E minor, but they still manage to create this long sense of rising tension thanks to
    line cliches.
    but there's another benefit to playing chords slowly, which we talked about a couple weeks
    ago in our four-chord loops video: if you play each chord for long enough, you break
    down the harmonic structure of the piece and allow yourself the freedom to experiment more
    without being bound to something like a key center.
    line cliches are like the ultimate slow-playing technique: you can make a single chord last
    for like 10 seconds, or even longer, without feeling like you've just stopped moving.
    one of my favorite ways to exploit this comes from one of the major line cliches we saw
    earlier: (bang) this pattern ends on a dominant 7th chord, and as we've discussed elsewhere,
    dominant 7th chords really want to resolve.
    they have a strong, directional pull toward any chord whose root is a perfect 5th down,
    so we can take this Eb7 and resolve it to Ab major, at which point we can turn around
    and start another line cliche: (bang) this time ending on Ab7, which again wants to resolve,
    this time to Db, where we can start another line cliche, and we can continue through this
    cycle indefinitely, moving through every possible key without ever really feeling lost.
    but let's go back to that thing from the beginning.
    (bang) this is called an Omnibus progression, and it's the same basic idea, except this
    time we have two lines moving away from each other.
    we can ignore the Eb chords at the beginning and end: they're not important right now.
    what we're interested in is the five chords in the middle, starting with the Bb7. the
    notes are arranged such that D is the lowest, then F, Ab, and finally Bb on top.
    those middle two notes are going to stay perfectly still: every single one of these chords has
    an F and an Ab in it.
    meanwhile, the D in the bass and the Bb on top are going to switch places: the D walks
    down to a low Bb while the Bb goes up to a high D. if we just follow those two lines
    we get this: (bang) which almost looks like the notes are running away from each other.
    once they swap places, we have our Bb7 again, and since it still wants to resolve to Eb,
    we can break the chromatic motion and go back to our I chord, making this just an elaborately
    decorated dominant resolution.
    but we don't have to stop there.
    we can keep going as long as we want, even going through the entire octave and ending
    back where we started: (bang) you may notice, though, that this ending feels less like a
    resolution than it did before.
    I have a couple theories on that point.
    the first is simply a matter of voicings: our moving lines have gotten so far away from
    the inner voices that the entire thing starts to feel somewhat hollow, weakening the overall
    harmonic cohesion.
    my second theory is that we've just been sitting in this complex, chromatic weirdness for longer,
    so our ears aren't expecting a sudden return to standard functional harmony.
    I'm not really sure which of those factors is to blame, although I suspect it's a mix
    of both.
    to avoid this extreme stretching, though, we can also spread the rising line out between
    our voices.
    the bass should still do the entire descending part, or it loses that omnibus feel, but we
    could, say, do something like this (bang) where there's always one voice moving up,
    but we switch around which one it is in order to create a more coherent harmony, and when
    we get to the end, we still have a pretty strong resolution.
    it's not quite as striking as the version where one line does the whole thing, but it's
    not as confusing either, so that's nice.
    plus, this one has a bunch of dominant 7th chords along the way, and you can stop at
    any of them you want, giving you a nice handy tool for smoothly switching keys.
    anyway, that's basically it, but before we go, I did want to mention that the academic
    talk I did a while back is online now! actually it's been online for a while but I forgot
    to actually mention it in a video.
    I made it unlisted 'cause I wasn't sure how many people would care, but there's a link
    in the description if you want to check it out!
    so yeah, thanks for watching, and thanks to our Patreon patrons for supporting us and
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