Gareth Montanarello

Cool Chord Progressions, Endings, and Modulations

This post is a short compilation of some of the chord progressions and endings I have been playing with recently. I was asked to make this post in a video format, but I'm doing it as a blog post because I also want to try out the score embedding function in Noteflight.

Jazz harmony was the influence for most of these, so each progression is pretty functional. Maybe in the future I'll do a part 2 with less-functional or modal examples.

The Examples

Minor IV Plagal Ending

This is one of the endings I can remember. It combines deceptive and plagal cadences before ending with a Picardy third. I usually find Picardy thirds obnoxious, but in this case, I think approaching it from a iv-7 takes some of the edge off. Ending on a major 7 also feels warmer* and more subdued than ending on a plain triad.

This ending works in major keys, too, in which case the bVI and iv chords would be the result of modal interchange. I prefer it in minor keys, and I also like adding extensions to each chord. The voicings here are pretty basic just for the sake of example.

*Side note- everyone says that major 7 chords are bright-sounding chords, but I one hundred percent disagree with that statement. To me, they are way darker than major triads or dominant 7 chords, but no one else seems to share this opinion. If you agree, please comment below, and if you don't agree, please comment below so I can tell you that you are wrong.

Gospel-ly Intro

I like this chord progression. It starts on I and then goes to V7/vi, which resolves to IV, a diatonic substitute for vi. After that, it tonicizes (or modulates, depending on what comes next) bIII through a ii-V-I. The I-V7/vi-IV movement is very Gospel-ly sounding (I think), and the shift from a major chord to a minor chord on the same root to start a ii-V-I is common in jazz tunes.

This example is in F and tonicizes Ab, another modal interchange chord. I added a b9 to the Eb7 because I like the chromatic voice leading from Bb-7 to AbMaj7. You could also play an A7(b5, b9, b13) as a tritone sub for Eb7b9.

Half-Step Modulation with a German Augmented Sixth Chord

I have yet to use this modulation in any real music, but I'm including it here because I think it's funny. You just take a German augmented sixth chord, which is enharmonically-identical to a dominant seven chord, and use it to modulate to bII. Here's a short example that modulates from D minor to Eb Major:

Subdominant Minor Substitute Ending

This is a variation of the"backdoor ii-V" that substitutes iv and bVII7 for ii and V7, respectively. I once had a jazz theory teacher who called this progression the "Subdominant Minor ii-V" since that sounds less "dirty" than backdoor. I think I'll stick with that terminology, too.

I call this ending the Subdominant Minor Substitute because I make a diatonic substitute of bVI for iv. The result is a triumphant-sounding bVI-bVII-I. I left the sevenths off the roman numerals because you have a lot of flexibility in regards to which seventh you use or whether or not you use a seventh at all. Here's an example in A:

You can hear this movement in many songs, but one of the more famous and endearing examples comes at the end of Whitney Houston's rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. It also forms the basis of Eric Clapton's Layla, the chorus from Sheryl Crow's All I Wanna Do, and countless others.

Minor Turnaround

I originally wrote this chord progression as a turnaround for a jazz tune in Eb minor. The first three chords draw attention to their root movements by keeping the upper notes the same, and the V7sus chord "resolves" to a tritone sub after passing through bVI.

The E7b5 should have been written with a root of Fb, but that also would mean using double flats for a few other notes, so I stuck with a root of E.


This post was originally going to be much longer. As I was writing, I decided to break it up into multiple parts for the sake of readability, so stay tuned for part two. I would also love to hear some thoughts or suggestions on what I have written, so feel free to leave a comment below!

31 Day Scale Challenge

Performance Anxiety Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

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