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Our composition expert explains a simple technique which will help you create deep house chord progressions with ease.

Practically every genre of music relies on its own set of techniques, tricks and quick cheats to help create a distinctive sound. One of the trademark characteristics of deep house is its use of jazz-influenced minor and major 7chords, helping to give tracks a strong chord-led feel. In this article we’ll explain exactly what 7 chords are, how to construct them and finally how to use them in your own productions.

A 7 chord contains the root note, the 3rd, the 5th and the 7th of the scale. Going back to basics, a scale can either be major or minor. The difference between major and minor scales can be seen and heard here:

The presence of the major or minor 3rd determines which note forms the corresponding 7th of the chord. As shown above, in a natural C minor scale, the 7th is a Bb, whereas in a C major scale the 7th is B. So, the C major 7 chord would contain C, E, G and B:

While the C minor 7 chord would contain C, Eb, G and Bb:

7s in deep house

Let’s put this theory into practice with a very basic four-bar deep house loop. In our first example we hear just two chords: an F major 7 and an E minor 7. Here in the piano roll for the loop we’ve colour-coded the notes: root (purple), 3rd (blue), 5th (yellow) and 7th (green).

The result is a very simple but effective chord progression:

Masters at Work

Now let’s look at a more complex example. This time, we’ll focus on the MAW Dub mix of Masters At Work’s deep house classic ‘To Be In Love’, first released in 1997 and remixed and re-released countless times since.

Here we’ve transcribed the string loop from the intro, colour-coded as before: root, 3rd, 5th, 7th. Notes highlighted in red aren’t in the basic chords, but are added on top to form a simple melody.

The string loop on its own sounds like this:

By concentrating on the lower notes here, we can see that the basis for this chord progression is the sequence F minor 7, Ab major 7, C minor 7. To make the progression cleaner and easier to follow, we could even get away with deleting some of the notes:

And here’s how it sounds:

The chords essentially sound the same, but they’re now a lot more clearly defined and will also be easier to mix. Notice that the 7th from each chord is left in.

Putting Theory Into Practice

In our final loop we have a simple minor chord progression A minor 7, E minor 7, D minor 7, colour-coded as before: root, 3rd, 5th, 7th:

All the chords are still constructed using the root, minor 3rd, 5th and minor 7th, but we can see that the structure has been changed slightly. For the A minor 7 chords, we’ve moved the 7th down an octave. Altering the chords’ structure in this way keeps the notes closer together, helping the loop ‘flow’ and creating the descending E, D, C melody on top.

To help you get started creating your own progressions, here’s a list of all possible major 7 chords. To convert any of them into the minor 7 chord of the same root, simply lower both the 3rd and 7th a semitone.

Adding a few 7 chords into your progressions is one of the simplest tricks you can use to give your tracks an authentic deep house feel.

Author Oliver Curry
27th June, 2012

Passing Notes is sponsored by

Spitfire Audio

Spitfire Audio is a British company founded by two film composers looking to revolutionise sampling.

They set about recording the world’s finest players in the best locations in order to capture samples of unrivalled quality. Used across the music, gaming and film industry, Spitfire has become the go-to for producers and composers looking to add truly authentic sounds to their works.

With offices in Central London and a growing workforce of experienced music, film and recording professionals, their revolution continues.

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