How to use Passing Chords
It’s one thing to know about passing chord and it’s another to know how to use passing chords.
One common statement Instrumentalists use often is, how can I use passing chords? So we made up a few simple steps on how to use passing chords.
- USING MINOR CHORDS
In music, generally, Minor chords are the second chords one would get familiarized with: first is major, second is minor. Inadvertently, many of us who do not even know a bit about this chord, use it in a lot in our progressions. What an irony of life!
The formula for forming a basic MAJOR triad chord is 1 3 5, otherwise known as do mi sol(d m s). I believe you should be able to form a major chord on all the keys by now. Conversely, the formula for building a minor chord is not really different. It is 1 b3 5. Simple!
As simple as ABC!!! 1 b3 5..1 b3 5…1 b3 5!!! Try to get that once and for all. The b in front of the 3 means flat, and what does flat mean? To move down by a half step. Look at your major scale. You could build your chords on each degree of the scale by skipping notes i.e in the key of C major (A.K.A Aminor), C E G has in-between notes as D and F, that is the 1 chord and it is a major chord. Also, on the second degree, the chord is D F A, or re fa la, and this is a minor chord. Check it out! You actually play a minor chord when you substitute your 4 chords (fah, lah, and doh) with the 2 chords (re fa la) or 6 chords (la do mi). If you check the chords built on the 2, 3, and 6 degrees of any major scale, they are always minor chords. That is because they follow the 1 b3 5 formula.
Here is the trick: On the major scale, the 1st chord is Major
2nd chord is Minor
3rd chord is Minor
4th chord is Major
5th is Major
6th is Minor
7th is diminished. As passing chords, Minor chords are not that different from major chords. They have similar usages. In music, any chord in the can be used as a passing chord to another, but are commonly used according to the circle of fifths and fourths. Let us now use a minor chord as an example of a passing chord. For example;
We have a progression that is flowing from the 1 to the 5, which is 1-5-1-5…like Apiapia. To add a minor chord as a passing chord between the 1 and the 5, we could quickly add in the 2min chord to result to this: 1-2-5. This sounds better. But if you need more color, you could add the 6min before the 2 and 5. So now, instead of a 1-5 or 1-2-5 progression, it is 1-6-2-5, and this sounds far better. In this case, you have to be
faster and smarter.
- Another hint is that, if you have a progression going from 1maj to 3min, you could add the 2min in between. Again, if the progression is between the 1 and 5, you could add the 6min. Try to experiment and see what works best for your piece. Conclusively, using the circle of fifths, your 2min serves as a passing chord to 5; 3 to 6; and 6 to 2. That is the idea. So try to play around with this cool trick.
- USING DIMINISHED CHORDS AS PASSING CHORDS
Diminished chords are awesome for passing chords: they resolve just fine. The formula for constructing a diminished chord is 1 b3 b5. Examples are Bdim – B D F, Cdim – C Eb GB, etc.
Diminished chords resolve to a semitone before or after them. Therefore, they are good at passing chords in this nature. What do I mean? In the key of Cmaj, the chord of the seventh degree A.K.A Bdim strongly wants to resolve to the root chord. So, in a progression of maybe 1-4-1-5, you can incorporate a Bdiminshed chord as a passing chord in between the 5 and 1. Also, in a progression to the 4maj chord, you can add a 3dim as a passing chord before the 4maj. Also, in a movement from a higher octave to the 6min, you can add #6dim(b7dim), before the 6; but from a lower pitch, you can use a b6dim(#5dim). In the popular 1 b7 6 b6 4 5 progressions, the b6 is mostly used as a diminished chord.
- USING AUGMENTED CHORDS AS PASSING CHORDS
Augmented chords are also awesome chords when used as passing chords. Naturally, like diminished chords, augmented chords always want to resolve. A lot of people do not use this chord, and that is because they do not know about it. The most basic and popular use of augmented chords as passing chords involves adding it in-between the motion between the root and the
] sixth(relative minor). For example, moving from 1maj to 6minor, an Aug chord can be added in between. So, it would be: C E G – C E G#(C Augmented chord) – C E A ( A minor chord in 1st inversion) From the above, CEG is moving to CEA, but adds the CAug chord as a passage to the CEA. If you noticed, the G# wants to resolve to A because it is an accidental note. Other examples: G Augmented(G B D#) can pass to Eminor; C#Aug can pass to A#minor and so on.
- USING THE DOMINANT SEVENTH(7th) AS A PASSING CHORD
The Dominant seventh belongs to a group of chords named seventh chords. These chords are used a lot in Jazz and they add a lot of
flavor to songs. Using a dominant seventh chord to pass to another chord makes complete sense. Most dominant sevenths are used according to the circle of fifths. Therefore, a dominant seventh chord can resolve to a fifth below it or a fourth above it. For example, in the key of C, Cdom7 can pass to 4maj. People use this a lot. Ddom7(D7) can pass to 5maj. Example:In a 1 6 4 5 progression, you might use: 1 6 4 2dom7 5. The 2dom7(ii7 or D7) serves as a passing chord, and it resolves well. Edom7 can pass to the 6min and so on.
Another way of applying a dominant chord is that a dominant seventh chord resolves to a major or minor chord above or below it, but preferably above, by most people. For example, still in the same key of C major(for simplicity), F#dom7 can resolve (and therefore be used as a passing chord to G major), C#dom7 can be used to pass to D minor… and so on. I hope you understand all that we have discussed.