Anticipating Changes

Another common technique is to anticipate the next chord by preparing it with a leading chord. If you remember above we discussed the pull of the V – I movement, this means we can prepare for the next chord using it’s V chord or a diminished or half-diminished passing chord.

Let’s look at (probably) the most famous string of eight notes there has ever been; jazz cliche The Lick (which you can read more about here, from Ethan Hein’s blog).

Here’s the lick in A minor (the relative minor key to C major), pretty simple stuff.

Let’s start by using the V and i chords in A minor, E7 and A minor respectively. This gives the phrase natural bookends. If we chose another chord to finish on, it wouldn’t sound quite as compartmentalized, and needing additional notes or harmonies to finish it off.

We can build on this by preparing for the E7. In the key of E the V would be B, but since we’re in A minor let’s stick to the diatonic chords found in that key. The B chord in A minor is a Bº (B D F Ab), together this completes a ii V i progression in A minor.


I’m going to cover tritone substitutions in a lot more depth elsewhere, but the principle is worth discussing. A tritone is an interval composed of three (tri) tones, or six semitones if you prefer to think of it that way. So the tritone of G would be Db, C would be Gb, B would be F, A would be Eb and so on.

A common technique is to swap out the V chord in a ii V I progression with its tritone buddy, leaving you with a chromatic movement. In C major, we’d see D minor, G7, C major become D minor, Db7, C major.

This can be taken a step further, let’s look at a iii VI ii V I (E minor, A7, D minor, G7, C major), by substituting the A7 and G7 we are left with E minor, Eb7, D minor, Db7, C major. One Note Samba is a great example of this type of harmony:

Abide With Me

Now let’s apply a few of the above discussed harmonic techniques to something. I’ve taken the first eight bars to Abide with Me, as it’s not only a beautiful hymn but has some tasty chords. Here’s John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk’s Septet performing it in 1957:

Here’s the original changes in C major. Note our melody in relationships to the chords – it’s important note to drastically change the top line as it’s so powerful.

N.B I’m using the tenor suboctave clef on the bottom stave.

The first thing I’m going to do is fill it out with some jazzier voicings of the chords. All I’m doing is adding the seventh diatonic note of each chord (except in bar 8 where I’ve used the sixth note) and changing the inversion so the melody is on the top and the chord fills out underneath it.

I’ve snuck in a cheeky Bº chord in bar 3, leading from the G7 to the C∆. Bº is harmonically very close to the G7, in-fact you could interpret it is a G7(b9)/B if you wanted to.

In addition I’ve also anticipated the C chord in bar 7 with a G7, meaning we now have a ii V I progression before the D7 (V of G major) anticipates the final chord. We could have also substituted the G7 in bar 1 for an E7 which anticipates the A-7 in the next bar – as you can see, there’s a plethora of options.

N.B I’ve switched to the more conventional treble and bass clef.

Next I’m going to use diminished chords to join the dots, trying to channel my best Bill Evans. In bars 1 to 2, the Dº7 acts as a passing chord between the C∆/E  (C major 7 with an E in the bass, known as a slash chord) and the C6.

In bars 3 to 4 we use an Abº7 and cadence on the vi (A-9), which is sort of an interrupted or deceptive cadence (V – vi), as the Abº7 is a common substitution for G7. Bars 5 to 6 sees us start on an Eº7 (not something I often do), and the basslines leads diatonically to the F∆/A (E, F, G, A).

Lastly in bars 7 and 8 we use the same styled diatonic and chromatic movement to reach our goal of the new key, G major, preparing it with an F#º7.

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