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Lesson 159: Sequence

What Is Sequence?

A sequence is the restatement of

  • a motif or
  • a longer
    • melodic
    • harmonic or
    • rhythmic passage
at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice.

In this lesson we are going to look at how sequence can be used in harmony and/ or rhythm. The use of melodic sequence is talked about in my lessons on motif and motivic saturation.

Example 1: Beatrice by Sam Rivers

In Sam Rivers' beautiful composition Beatrice, sequence is utilized extensively:

  • in the melody
  • in the harmony

The sequences in the harmony are:

Fmaj7 - Gbmaj7 - Fmaj7 - Ebmaj
Dm - Ebmaj7 - Dm - Bbm7
Am7 - Bbmaj7 - Em7b5 - A7 - Dm

The roots of the chords form a sequence: first a scale tone, then a half step up, then back to the original tone and then down. The sequence is not literal, the ending is always different and that makes it more interesting.

Example 2: Giant Steps by John Coltrane

The changes of Giant Steps are the following:

|Bmaj7 D7    |Gmaj7 Bb7   |Ebmaj7      |Am7   D7    |
|Gmaj7 Bb7   |Ebmaj7F#7   |Bmaj7       |Fm7   Bb7   |
|Ebmaj7      |Am7   D7    |Gmaj7       |C#m7  F#7   |
|Bmaj7       |Fm7   Bb7   |Ebmaj7      |C#m7  F#7   |
The second four bars are a sequence of the first, starting on G instead of B. In the second half of the tune, the chords go through the same two bar progression, starting in Eb and then sequenced to the keys G and B and finally back to Eb.

Example 3: Pachelbel's Canon Progression

In Pachelbel's Canon the chord progression is:

D - A
Bm - F#m
G - D
G - A

So, the roots of the chords go a fourth down, then up a scale step and again a fourth down and so on...

Example 4: II - V - I or II - V Sequences

The chord progressions of lot of jazz standards have an abundance of II - V - I's or II - V's that change the key center temporarily.

More Examples

Listen to the following tunes:

  • All the Things You Are by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern
  • The Chicken by Alfred James Ellis
  • Hotel California by The Eagles
  • Innocent Mental Mood, Episodes I and II by Tomas Karlsson
  • No Me Esqueca aka Recordame by Joe Henderson
  • Summer Pursuits by Tomas Karlsson
  • The Q.L. Suite by Tomas Karlsson
  • Tune Up by Miles Davis
  • Turn Out the Stars by Bill Evans

2016 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.