3 Strategies to Produce Strong Chord Resolutions...

Resolving chord progressions with strength is how musicians use musical intervals to help phrases lead songs back to their tonic chord. It can be applied to any chord progression.  And, once a musician understands this important movement, they can use it to their full advantage...

If you don’t already know, the 7th degree is referred to in harmony as the Leading Note because it leads back to the tonic.

The leading note is a half step away from the tonic. When strong chord movements resolve, they will use half steps.

In single note applications it is easy to understand the half-step theory because you only have to think about playing from one note back to the tonic. When you play with chord resolutions it gets a bit more complex since multiple tones will be aligning around the chords.

Single leading Tone:

Chord Resolutions:

Whenever a chord progression is being played or composed, we are searching for interesting ways to resolve back to the tonic. Not every chord resolves directly to the tonic, (V-I), sometimes they will resolve indirectly, (IV-I).

Chords that Resolve Directly to the Tonic
The chord that resolves to the tonic the best is formed from the 5th (V) degree of the scale, (the Dominant Degree).

The reason that this chord is the strongest is because it contains the leading note (7th degree). This "pulls" the sound back "home" to the Tonic chord.

In the Key of C, "B" is the leading tone because it is the note just before the Tonic of "C."

Study the chart below...

The Dominant Chords formed from the 5th degree resolve better than the basic major chord because the b7 note is added in the dominant chord. This lowered 7th tone resolves to the third of the tonic (in this case E), and the B is also still a part of the chord awaiting its resolve to the C.

Look at the chart below to see the notes resolve in a key of "C" (II-V-I) resolution:

Because the V chord resolves so nicely to the tonic (I chord), many songs end with this progression because it is such a strong ending for songs.

The diminished 7th chord also resolves nicely to the tonic because it is formed from the leading note (B). In the key of C, a diminished 7 can be built upon the "B" creating a,  "B diminished 7" chord which contains the notes B, D, F, Ab.

This resolves nicely to the tonic because the B resolves to the C (and Bb if you are playing a C7), the F resolves to the E, and the Ab resolves to the G.

Look at the chart below...

Chord resolutions are one of the most important areas of song writing and composing. Once you understand the movements, you'll achieve incredible results.

Study the intervals and get to know how chords can resolve. There are options and there are various chord voicings. The way the chord is voiced on the neck will also play a role. So with the rhythm of the piece.

Have fun, experiment and create. Over time you'll discover your own favorite chord movements and your favorite resolutions.


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