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Virtual Progressions Part I: Simple Changes

You would be forgiven for thinking that this post must be situated in the cloud somewhere, or perhaps best viewed via a pair of apple googles in an augmented eyesore of a place. But fortunately, you would be wrong.

A virtual progression is the term I give for chord changes/progressions and cadences that are not actually in the music. This is common practise, at least in my experience, but it is not very well known because it is often implied or not thought of in such an obvious way.

Let me give you a simple example. You have a chord change from A minor to D minor. Now, on a most rudimentary level, the chord A7 can be added before the D minor chord. This doesn’t actually have to be played by anyone, just imagine that it is being played. Got it? Ok, now the virtual chord is playing and so now you can choose a scale or mode that fits over it, now that you have created a perfect cadence, a V- I or however else you want to think of it.

Its like putting on those dark glasses from the film They Live, you won’t know it is there unless you put on your lenses to see behind what is written. Lets take it one step further. Say over the same two chords, A minor to D minor, we now pretend a magic pixie has placed a ii V I, with the I being our D minor chord. That would now make it Eminorb5 – A7alt – D minor. Except its not there.

So really what it means is happening is that the scale choices you make over the imaginary chords are actually being played over the chord/s before the I chord. So if you play G Melodic (E Aeolianb5) over the Eminorb5 chord, which doesn’t exist, you are actually playing A Dorian b2 over the A minor chord. Then you could play Bb Melodic (A Alt/Superlocrian), over the make believe A7alt but really actually over the A minor chord, which would make it sound like A Altered/Superlocrian.

So, to recap, over A minor to D minor, a virtual progression could be:

A min – Eminb5 – A7alt – D min

And all of the scale choices would then actually be played over A minor. So that would actually sound, over an A bass note or A minor chord, as:

A Aeolian/Dorian – A Dorian b2 – A Altered – D Aeolian/Dorian

This is essentially how a simple virtual progression works, but I’ll get into the really interesting stuff in part II.

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