This specific chord progression, played in this specific way, completely changed how I approach playing the guitar, opened my eyes to the beauty and elegance of voice leading seventh chords, and ultimately inspired me to build Glorious Voice Leader:
To break that down further, we’re starting on C. Harmonizing C as a diatonic seventh chord in the scale of C major gives us a Cmaj7 chord. Next we’d move down a fourth to F. Harmonizing F as a seventh chord gives us Fmaj7. Next we’d move to B and a Bm7b5 chord, and continue until we arrive back at C.
For something that’s basically a glorified scale exercise, this chord progressions sounds good. It’s almost… musical.
One of the most interesting aspects of this chord progression is how, when properly voice led, the voicings fall smoothly down the scale. Try it for yourself. Pick any starting voicing of Cmaj7, and this miniature version of Glorious Voice Leader will fill in the rest of the progression:
At every transition in the progression, the root and third of the current chord stay where they are, but become the fifth and seventh of the following chord. The fifth and seventh move down a scale degree and become the root and third of the next chord.
Compare that to the same chord progression, but harmonizing each scale note as a triad, rather than a four-note seventh chord:
Without the gravity of the added seventh to pull it down, the progression tends to rise upwards. The third of the current chord moves up to become the root of the next chord, and the fifth moves up to become the third of the next chord. Only the root stays stationary, becoming the third in the next chord.
If we look closely, there isn’t much difference in the voice movement between the seventh chord and triad versions of these progressions. In fact, of the voices that move, there may be more total movement in the seventh chords. However, the two stationary voices help make the seventh chords feel more cohesive and interlocked.
This chord progression is a world unto itself, and can act as a jumping point into almost every area of music theory and study. I found the voice leading in these chords so fascinating that I dedicated hundreds of hours of my life to building Glorious Voice Leader, a tool designed to help you study and explore voice leading on the guitar.
What does this progression inspire in you?