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Back Cycling

     This harmonic device is basically a method to create small chord progressions, or just one chord that will lead to a target chord. This technique implies that you consider first the target chord and then figure out what chord could be used before it, and thus the term “backcycling”.

Consider that at some point in a chord progression, you have a Dm7 and that you wish to apply this technique using it as a target chord:

     The natural dominant chord of Dm7 is an A7. In turn, the 2nd degree from where this secondary dominant chord belongs to would be an Em7 so this chord would be played before the A7. But before finally moving to the A7, we also use the French sixth as a predominant chord. All put together, looks and sound like this:

     We could continue to backcycle although sometimes it may be best not to add so many chords. But in the end of the day, your intentions and your ear should be your guide. At this point it is worth saying that anything; from chromatic approach chords; to augmented sixth; secondary dominants; or chord substitutions; can and should be considered while using this technique.

     Because you have been experimenting with different chord formations and increasing your chord color palette, you should be knowledgeable of how each chord sounds and makes you feel in different musical contexts. The reason why it is so important to train your inner ear is because you will be able to make better decisions and have a better grasp of what is going on in your head. This will make sure you stay close to your original intentions and not deviate from them as you go along.

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2 thoughts on “Back Cycling”

  1. “Backcycling” seems to be another term for tonicisation. In the example above, the D minor chord is approached by a 2 – 5 progression to make the D minor chord feel like ‘home’

    1. Hi Robert, it is similar in essence. The main difference is that you can have this ongoing process of tonicization for each chord that you add and create a large string of functionally related chords before the target chord. In other words, it’s like creating a cycle of tonicization processes 🙂 I hope it helps, happy composing!

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