Piano Power: Major Scale Chord Functions
By Richard Prokop, Greenacres Press, Inc. [12-17-2001]
In the previous article, we covered the major scale chord functions of C, G, D, A, E, B and F major. We will continue now with the chord functions of Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb and F#.
Functions in Bb Major
Since Bb Major has a Bb and an Eb in its key signature, all B’s and E’s are flatted in the example below. What are the names of the iii and vi chords in Bb Major? Also, what is the function of A diminished in Eb Major?
In the Eb Major example below, what are the names of the IV and V chord?
Note: Eb Major has Bb, Eb and Ab in its key signature.
Functions in Eb Major
In the example below, what is the function of D Major in the key of Ab Major? Also, how does C minor and F minor function in Ab Major?
Note: Ab Major has Bb, Eb, Ab and Db in its key signature.
Functions in Ab Major
Let’s take a look at the chord functions of Db Major.
Note: Db Major has Bb, Eb, Ab, Db and Gb in its key signature.
Functions in Db Major
What is the enharmonic equivalent of Db Major and what would the chord functions look like in that key? As you recall, an enharmonic equivalent of a note is one that sounds the same while having a different name. Referring to the Circle of Fifths, (at the bottom of the article, Diatonic Scales Part I: Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths), we see that C# Major is the enharmonic equivalent of Db Major. The other enharmonic equivalents are B-Cb and F#-Gb.
Take a look at C# Major below and compare it to Db major above.
Functions in C# Major
You’re probably looking at the C# Major series and saying, "Why would someone choose to write in C# Major when they could have chosen Db Major instead? After all, F minor (F-Ab-C) and Bb minor (Bb-Db-F) are much easier to comprehend than their enharmonic equivalents, E# minor (E#-G#-B#) and A# minor (A#-C#-E#)."
Well, your point (if it is your point) is well taken. Generally, a composer will select Db Major over C# Major because it is easier for the performer to read. However, a common convention that I’ve seen many times is for a composer to stay in sharps if the piece is originally written in a sharp key. For example, a composition may begin in A Major and at some point modulate to C# Major. Suddenly, you’re looking at seven sharps, (B# and E# included), and saying to yourself, "Yikes! How am I going to read this?"
The next enharmonic pair of chord functions consists of Gb Major and F# Major. Here’s how they look together:
Functions in Gb Major
Functions in F# Major
Finally, we have the enharmonic pair of functions of Cb Major and B Major below.
Functions in Cb Major
Functions in B Major
Things To Do
1. Copy the above chord sequences (as well as those in the previous article: Major Scale Chord Functions) onto a piece of manuscript paper.
2. While playing the individual triads at the keyboard, say the function, the name, and the and the individual notes of the triad out loud.
Example: One; B Major; B-D#-F#. Two; C# minor; C#-E-G#; Three; D# minor; D#-F#-A#…etc.
3. Rewrite each chord sequence in the first and second inversions.
See article: Triads - Part 2
4. Repeat Step #2 using the inverted triads.
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