~ 2 ~ II ~ ii ~ supertonic ~

~ Two ~ Dorian ~

~ major 2nd ~

'So often in our music ... the penultimate pitch.'

~

Theory names and what we find on Two: Thinking diatonically, a whole step up from our tonic center pitch lives Two, home of all things of the Dorian minor mode. Its theory names generally include such as; the supertonic, Two or Dorian, which all directly designate the second scale degree of our 'through the tones' major / minor diatonic scale. Examine the diatonic position of the supertonic Two. Example 1.

wiki ~ who's on second
scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
chord # / quality
Imaj7
ii-7
iii-7
IVmaj7
V7
vi-7
vii-7
VIII
diatonic 7th chords
CEGB
DFAC
EGBD
FACE
GBDF
ACEG
BDFA
CEGB

A coolest part of Two. Here in Essentials a very cool aspect of Two is a pure conjured theory of how the more traditional mainstay One / Four / Five chord progression, found throughout all of our musical styles, morphed into the sleeker jazz motion of Two / Five / One, becoming the new cadential motion through the 1930's and forward.

Of course both progressions have been equally available all along, but as the tempos got brighter, and modulations more numerous and daring, Two / Five wins the day in jazz. More on this idea and theory in my next book, The Evolution of American Harmony.

From the second degree we also get one of our three chord types; the minor 7th, as built from the diatonic major scale. In diatonic minor, our Two chord type is altered to half diminished, sometimes referred to as that mysterious sounding "Tristan" chord of 19th century European Romantics.

wiki ~ Tristan chord
wiki ~ Romantic Era

The Two chord is also commonly found in stepwise motions between One and Three. As One and Four figure into all of our musical styles, no surprise that 'stepping' our way there is very, very common.

Where in history. We do have a bit of a link to the ancient Greeks with the Dorian mode. Although tenuous in that little documentation remains, even a hint can reveal shadows to pursue from within the ancient mists. More recently in medieval times, we have what we commonly term as the church modes which includes the Dorian mode.

wiki ~ Dorian mode

Interval. The theoretical distance between One and Two is a whole step we term a major second. Example 1a.

Melody. One very common place we can find the second scale degree in melodies is in the pick up to the beginning of the line. In this old American classic it also closes out the phrase. Example 1b.

Two as a key center. As a key center, upon the second degree of the diatonic scale we locate the Dorian mode. Overall minor in its tonality, Dorian is a core color of American jazz both in composition and blowing. Examine the pitches of D Dorian as extracted from the pitches of the C major / diatonic scale. So, a scale within a scale? You guessed it. Example 2.

scale degrees
root
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
scale formula
1
1
1 / 2
1
1
1
1/2
major / Ionian
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
scale formula
1
1 / 2
1
1
1
1 / 2
1
minor / Dorian
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D

Notice how we've simply reshaped our core scale formula to create Dorian by moving the first whole step interval to the end of the group? This creates the minor third interval between the root pitch D and its third F. The second key Dorian aspect is found on its 6th scale degree. In Dorian mode, this interval is a major 6th above the root, forever solidifying its unique personality, i.e., minor 3rd / major 6th. Into the wayback we go and find this essential Dorian 'like' melodic gem. Example 2a.

Dorian like melody? Recognize this melody? "Scarborough Fair" has been with us almost all along. Learn it here if need be and bask in an essentially Dorian modality. I say essentially here in that while the pitches line up for Dorian, it could very well be more natural minor with a 'borrowed' pitch from melodic minor. Here's the entire 16 bars. Do note the Bb chord that opens the second phrase. And there in lies our rub :) Example 2b.

wiki ~ Scarborough Fair

Nice line yes? Sure has withstood the test of time. So a theory rub here. In measure seven we've a B natural in the melody with a Bb major chord in measure 9. Is this a problem? Well yes and no. Yes in that Bb is not diatonic to D Dorian so it raises a question or two as to its exact theory. No in that in 'borrow' mode, we have any and all of the 12 pitches we might want to make it sound the way we want, not the theory. Artistic license and all that.

borrow mode

So, be it as it may, this is the sort of thing that we theorists enjoy to figure out, to look for new harmonic solutions, write another song of our own ... that captures this magic. Its all good. Fortunately, the 'art' does not have to be created in perfect theory terms. For if it captures the essence of the art in our hearts, then surely we be groovy and have won the day.

True Dorian melodies. Paul McCartney's essential love song "And I Love Her' is just a stunning idea that captures Dorian's depth of heartfelt sincerity of undying love and steadfastness of character and purpose. This could be a more modern Tristan and Isolde.

wiki ~ Paul McCartney
wiki ~"And I Love Her"
wiki ~ Tristan and Isolde

Our American jazz composers found the modes in the later 50's and into the 60's. Luckily for us, we've solid examples of the Dorian essence from master American jazz composers. John Coltrane's "Impressions" and "So What" by Miles Davis are two, and surely among the most played of this modal literature in our jazz library.

wiki ~ Miles Davis
wiki ~ "So What" song

Impressions. If there was ever a Dorian energy capture in the early 60's it is rather easily found in this melody. If you're any kind of bluesy rock aggressive leaning louder metal to blues tasty country jazz player with an enthusiastic bass and drummer, and you're band needs a new song to go wild with, try Coltrane's "Impressions." Find some of the original recordings and behold.

wiki ~ "Impressions" instrumental composition

Super robust and probably unbreakable too, originating any version even vaguely reminiscent of the original sets in motion a potential of expression level you've probably never experienced before, unless you've played the tune of course. Again, especially true if you get to play with impressionable, exciting musical cats. For Coltrane's melody can easily unleash Dorian's ancient natural melodic powers.

Some of our guitar heros from the 60's cite the influence of Mr. Coltrane's modal work in their own development. It surely did for my bandmates and I during college days. We probably played it almost every show that we could for a couple of years. Heck, folks used to dance to this music it was that much fun :)

wiki ~ Carlos Santana #influences
wiki ~ John McLaughlin #influences

Harmony / the triad on Two / stepwise motion. We'll often find the Two chord knitted in between One and Three in our diatonic stepwise motion using triads. In this next idea we get both an ascending and descending example such as in the classic pop song "Lean On Me." Simply stepwise diatonic motion from One up to Four and then back to One. Example 5.

wiki ~ "Lean On Me"

Roman numerals. In this last idea we used upper and lower case Roman numerals to designate our chords. We find this type of labeling of the chords more in academia that in common practice. Knowing the key of the music, while players often talk about a One chord or Four for example, in writing out charts we most often use letter name chord symbols. The Roman numerals come into play when we're analyzing the music or harmony of a song. Upper case denote major chords, lower case minor. This way of designating chords can be at the advanced high school to college level theory.

Harmony / Two as a chord type. The minor triad built on the second degree of the major scale, when we add its 7th, becomes a chord type. One of three possible core configurations of intervals, the ii-7 is a cool and sleek middleman between the restive tonic and its dominant chord tension.

As part of the essential Two / Five / One cadential motion, the Two chord sets in motion our initial direction or tendency to move towards a tonic stability. Examine the intervals of our Two chord type and a few of its common moveable, root position voicings. Example 3.

Two chord type intervals
common ii -7 / Two chord voicings

Two / Five / One. The Two / Five / One chord progression is an essential component of so much of the American sounds we love. While stylistically it mostly lives in the jazz world, it does make its way into pop and occasionally in blues and rock. Loved by players for its sleekness and substitution flexibility, Two / Five / One is perhaps our best way to cadentially and convincingly change key centers, i.e., to modulate, especially even at a moments notice. Here in C major using core, root position voicings. Example 4.

wiki ~ "Moment's Notice" composition

Evolving Two into Five / Five of Five. Another popular component found on Two is what we term a Five of Five motion, simply a cycling of dominant chords (V7 chord type) by interval of the perfect fourth often termed 'backpedaling.' 'Five of Five' means just that. That each chord is the Five chord, built on the fifth scale degree, of the chord we are moving towards. Thus our root motion becomes; the pitch D is the fifth scale degree of G, G is the fifth of C, C is the fifth of F etc.

In our American musics, we can hear this motion originating in the Ragtime era and carried forward. Standard songs such as the a bit later (1925) "Sweet Georgia Brown" are created with an extended Five of Five harmonic cycle. Two's musical component features. Example 1.

wiki ~ "Sweet Georgia Brown"
wiki ~ Ragtime

V of V. Five of Five is simply a first evolution level move away from diatonic harmony. All we are doing here is morphing our diatonic Two minor 7th chord into a Five 7th chord, dominant type chord. This motion most like originates in the American music during the ragtime era. In popular songs such as Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin, we hear this Five of Five as well as other diatonic chords in the progression morphed from a Two minor 7th type into a dominant Five 7th type and vice versa.

wiki ~ Scott Joplin

We'll see this Five of Five motion eventually evolve into the diatonic Two chord in later decades as tempos accelerate and there is more modulation within a composition. Composers now a days can recreate olden times sounds (cliche) with using this type of harmonic motion. There is also a ultra modern jazz version of this concept whereby all of the chords in a song are converted to dominant chords in the soloing sections. Here's just V 7 of V7 to One motion first followed by its softer, diatonic Two / Five / One version. Example 6.

modern dominant substitution

In this next idea, we'll cycle V7 chords by the interval of a perfect fourth. This forms the common harmonic cycle or 'bridge' section of what jazz players know as rhythm changes. Example 6a.

In this next idea, we simply precede each chord with a V7 chord a half step above our target chord. This is part of our harmonic modernization process that has some current vogue in jazz over the last couple of decades or so. Here we use the basic Two / Five / One motion to get a sense of the possibility. Example 6b.

Well almost every chord. It's hard to make sense of these elements in cadential motions as that's really not their intent. Which is more directed to obscure the tonal direction or aural predictability and suspend the tonal gravity created by a composition's tonic center.

In this next evolution of Two in its Five of Five role, each of the chords become dominant type chords. Once the inversion / colortone process kicks in, and we bump up the tempo to over 200 or so, it becomes what I often term the chromatic buzz. Example 6c.

Perhaps the most complex? The first two measures of this last idea is near the top of where our harmonic progressions have evolved these days. We've ridden the V7 color to the outer limits while still retaining a sense of tonal center. What's missing from the last few evolution examples here is of course a melody, which in itself can be the decider of all these things about tonality, direction and the story line of the music.

So we get this level of V7 of V7 of V7 in the theory and everything that shakes out in between to harmonize our melodies. For any one pitch or phrase of our melody can dictate what the chord will be. Cats will often call this 'harmonizing the melody' and its been solidly around now for nearly 500 years.

Written chord and what gets played. For advanced cats and depending on the gig, what is written and what gets played might not line perfectly up. In the last ideas we might see vanilla V7 chords written, but really hear anything but that in the realization of the written symbols. Its just what it is in the performance of modern jazz, all depending on who is in the band.

In deciphering the tones to what they actually are in theory, two essentials prevail; the ability to spelling chords and understanding their basic inversions. Are you cool with these two theories? Struggle through their learning process till you get it and chances are they'll be yours forever :)

In the minor tonality. In a minor key our diatonic Two chord takes on a unique coloring, mostly essential to the jazz artist. Diatonically based on a diminished triad, not sure if I've ever really seen its use. Most often we add its seventh to create the 'half diminished chord' or '-7b5'. Its also fairly common to see inversions of this chord in the blues as a substitute voicing. Here's these versions of Two / Five / One in A minor, our relative minor key to C major. Examine their letter name pitches and chordal sound in resolving motions to One. Example 7.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
chord # / quality
i-7
ii-7b5
IIImaj7
iv-7
v-7
VImaj7
V7
viii
diatonic 7th chords
ACEG
BDFA
CEGB
DFAC
EGBD
FACE
GBDF
ACEG

Kind of 'dirgey' huh? Although there is a bit of a gospel amen quality to it all. While both minor Two chords share the same diminished triad, the difference of course is in the quality of the 7th. Which in this case adds a major 3rd interval to the mix. The half diminished 7th or 'min7b5' is not uncommon, especially in blues and jazz.

We'll surely come across this half diminished chord down the road a bit. As you can probably see from the root B in the last example, this half diminished chord is also the diatonic chord built on Seven in our major keys.

Review. So lots of cool and important components built upon and generated from Two. Its close proximity to One generally means we'll bump into as we come and go from the tonic. When we move it up an octave and it becomes the 9th, it'll also have some cool and potentially absolutely essential spots in the music we love to create.

"What we play is life."

wiki ~ Louis Armstrong
1
#1
b2
2
b3
3
4
#4
b5
5
#5
b6
6
b7
7
8
b9
9
#9
-10
10
11
#11
12
b13
13
b14
14
15
#15
Footnotes:

(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001