What are Harmonic Sequences?

A free video tutorial from Jason Allen
Ph.D / Ableton Certified Trainer
Rating: 4.6 out of 5Instructor rating
104 courses
249,272 students
What are Harmonic Sequences?

Learn more from the full course

Music Theory Comprehensive Complete: Part 10, 11, & 12

Learn music theory through this music theory course app, music theory exercises, and music theory tutorials.

08:10:41 of on-demand video • Updated April 2022

Master college-level Music Theory Class
Compose music in the style of the great composers
Create more emotional music using suspensions, resolutions, and non-chord tones effectively
Pitches and Pitch Classes
The keyboard layout
The 2 main clefs
Reading Rhythms
The main musical symbols you find in scores
The 4 main scale patterns
The 3 notes in any chord (and how to find them!)
Analysis projects of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and some modern music as well!
How 7th chords work
Keys and Key signatures
The circle of fifths
The 7 scale degrees
Compound meters
The 3 types of minor scales
Diatonic chord progressions
The 7 Modes
The 12 intervals
The 5 types of counterpoint
Writing melodies
Melodic embellishment
The 5 types of cadences
Harmonizing melodies
Figured bass
Harmonizing chorale melodies
Passing chords
Sequences by chords
Changing keys
Diminished chords and tonic expansion
Identifying phrases
Motives
Sentences, periods, and melody structure
Secondary dominants
English [Auto]
OK, so let's talk about harmonic sequences now. Now, we've looked at melodic sequences where we have basically like a repeating riff that we transpose in different ways. Right. Harmonic sequences are a little bit different and the line is a little more blurry than I'm making it sound right now. So there's, um, sometimes harmonic sequences are also melodic sequences. So we have a chord progression that's moving in a sequence. Um, and that usually not usually, but very often that has a melodic component or some kind of musical gesture with it as well. Right. It's very rare that we're just playing block chords in a sequence without some kind of melodic motive to go with it. Right. So keep that in mind as we learn these harmonic sequences, because out of context, it just looks like a bunch of black chords moving, but there's always actual music to be made with them. So what we're talking about with a harmonic sequence is something like this. This is the first one we're going to look at. OK, let's just do that space that out a little bit more with some dashes just so we can see what we're doing here. OK, so what do we have here? First of all, do we have every chord in the diatonic chord progression? Here's one. Here's to here's three, here's four. Here's five, here's six. And here's seven. And we also have a second one. So we do we don't need that. When we do a sequence, it doesn't have to go through every single chord. This is just a really common one that you do. Sometimes you go through every chord to go from one all the way back to one. So at first glance, this might look like a pretty random pattern. Right. But this is a pattern called a descending fifth sequence, OK? It's a pattern we see all the time. And there's a bunch of different ones, a bunch of different patterns. There's a descending fifth. You can have a descending fourth, you can have a descending second. You can have an ascending second. You can have an ascending fifth if you want. Um, there's a lot of different ways to do it. But what we're seeing here is think about it like this. Let's put some notes on this just to make this a little clearer, just for the first few. So if we're on one, let's say one, to see if we go down a fifth from C, so down a fifth, that's an interval of a fourth, remember? So that's going to put us on an F and that's going to be our four chord. And then if we go down another fifth, that's going to put us on a B. If we go down another fifth, that's going to put us on an E. If we go down another fifth, it's going to put us on an A. If we go down another fifth, that's going to put us on a D. If we go down another fifth, that's going to put us on a G. And if we go down another fifth, we're going to end up back on C.. That is a descending fifth sequence. Right? We just stepped through everything. And there's a couple of tricks to this and a couple different ways to do it. So that's kind of an overview of what we're looking at here. Let's get into the nitty gritty and start putting some notes on this so we can see it in action.