This is an excerpt from my e-book, Four-Note Diatonic Triad Cells: Comprehensive Studies in Leading Tones. In this particular etude, I’m moving major triads around the circle of keys in their various inversions. Each triad is formed into a four-note cell that connects via leading tones to the next triad. If you look at the example above, you’ll see I’ve organized all twelve major triads into four-note cells (1-3-5-3 is the root position form, the repeated 3 being used to complete the cell) that connect diatonically from chord to chord by the 3rd of one chord voice leading to the root of the next.
In this etude, I’ve organized the major triads into their most common inversions, specifically: 1-3-5 (as in the example above); 1-5-3; 3-1-5; 3-5-1; 5-3-1; and 5-1-3. Each triad cell is connected by first a lower-neighbor tone (as in the example above) going through all twelve keys, then by an upper-neighbor tone (also going through all twelve keys).
The four-note cells are formed either by repeating one of the diatonic notes of the triad (again, like in the example above), or by adding an altered note:
In one of the cells I’ve also displaced the sequence of the inversion slightly, by adding an altered note before the last diatonic note of the inversion:
I did this to create an “enclosure” (upper and lower neighbor combined) to voice lead to the proceeding triad.
Aim at playing each pattern by ear, once you get the four-note cell formula in your ear and mind. This is a great way to strengthen, as well as expand upon, your aural imagination of chords moving around the circle. And of course, feel free to displace notes in the pattern to create variation and/or to better suit the range of your instrument. Click below to download the free pdf of this etude, and a midi file to listen to what it sounds like.