Alain Lefebure

12 Sep 2011
This paper compare the French to the English speaking pedagogy
Two approaches of the chords progression
Numerous questions about chords progression frequently raise in forum; revealing the failing of pedagogies. However weakness of a school for a given student may be a strength for another. In that perspective I'll compare the "English speaking world" school to the French school.
 With an over-simplification two ways of thinking come out. 
-1 The melody creates harmony. This was the prevailing idea in the baroque period , once known as Italian school from which the french harmony pedagogy derives.
 -2 The harmony creates the melody. This was the French school based on Jean Philippe Rameau's principles.
 Curiously ,this school was less admitted in France than in Germany where the Stufen (degree) then the Riemann' functional theories were evolved from Rameau's work and broadcasted to English speaking countries. 
The French harmony school
 A first significant difference between French and English is the choice of word: Although the word "Progression exists and has the same meaning in French as in English the "Chords progression" is a called " Enchainement d'accords " ( chords chaining up) which doesn't suggest a motion as the word progression does. The reason is the contrapuntal origin of the french harmony with a chords classification based upon intervals and correct voice leading rather than on the progression of fundamental bass. 
Rules of voice leading are mostly similar in both school besides hidden fifths rules that are often more restrictive in the French school.
 The french specificity is rather in the degrees and the chords classification (also determined by root motion). Degrees classification

 In minor the degree II is bad if not followed by V or IV-V 

The chords progression classification is based on Good,Mediocre (poor),and bad effect according to the number of common tones and the scale degrees of the progression. 
-Best progression uses the best degrees
 -Good degrees add variety to the progression but may blur the tonality or even sounds as another tonality by abusing of their usage
 -Bad degrees are only used on weak position followed by a best degree

 First choice of progression
  1. -By Third down or Sixth up except progression involving III degree in minor
  2. -By Fifth down or Fourth up
  3. -By Fifth up or Fourth down
    Progression of chords a fifth or a fourth apart are good when appear between Best and Good degrees
Second choice
  1. -Progression by second up or down between primary chords or from a secondary to primary chord ( only in that direction)
  2. -Progression by third up or Sixth down leading to a primary chord or eventually to submediant chord (VI ). the second chord may be a minor chord or diminished chord when place on a weak beat leading to a chord a fourth up or a fifth down of the first chord
Third choice 
1. -Progression by second Up or down and by third up leading to mediant chord Here there are some differences according to authors
2.- Progression by second up are good except when leading to III 
3.-Progression by second down VI-V is good
V-IV is good when the tritone is not in the outer part
I-VII is good if followed by I
others progression by second down a bad unless they are in first inversion.
 The English school 
Harmony rules stem from Rameau's theory on fundamental bass derived from thorough bass rules where chords depend upon bass movement.
 For short Disjunct bass motion implied a 5th chord while conjunct bass received a sixth chord. 
Jean Philippe Rameau demonstrated that
- CEG,EGC,and GCE,previously considered as three different chords were actually only aspects a single chord
- Tonality were based on two fourth down skips. -
-Function of a chord depends upon the following chord relation.

From those principles
 Simon Sechter spread the principle of the skip down by fifths of the fundamental bass creating the fifth circle ( Stufen theory) with progression toward the right that lead to more functional
 The position of the IV degree is a problem difficult to account for with that theory.

 Hugo Riemann reduced chords to three functions that call forth the substitution principle

 Chords classification is made of two groups 
1°) The primary chords or tonal group which consists of the I-IV-V degrees

 2°) The secondary chords which are the modal chords(III- VI) and the II-VII chords 

Another classification is a mixture of the fifth circle and the functional theory

 Arnold Shoenberg distinguished
  1. -Rising or strong progression called dynamic by Yizhak Sadai Progression by
    -Fourth up
    -Third down
  2. -Descending progression Static
    Progression by
    -Fourth down
    -Third up
  3. -Superstrong accented)
    Progression by
    - second up
    - second down

    Conclusion French school may appear freer : for example in cadence V can be preceded by the three predominant chords VI-IV-II in any order but this freedom leads sometimes careful pupil to difficulties to built a progression due to numerous exceptions that are exposed right away with the rules. Us school is more pragmatic and progressive but the prescribed direction may inhibit hurried pupil that will encounter some unexpected problem such a puzzling retrogression or elision. One school creates inhibition by excess of information and the other by lack of information so both approaches are complementary and should be an alternative to overcome difficulties



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