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In jazz, a constant structure is a chord progression consisting of three or more chords of the same type or quality.[1] Popularized by pianists Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, the combination of functional and nonfunctional chords provides cohesiveness while producing a free and shifting tonal center.[1][2]

Constant structure example[1]

For example, the progression Fmaj7–Amaj7–Dmaj7–Gmaj7–C13sus4[1] contains four major seventh chords (and one thirteenth chord), none of which are diatonic to the key of F major except the first.

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c {
  \clef bass
  \time 4/4
  <c e a>1_\markup { \concat { \translate #'(-4 . 0) { "C:   vi" \raise #1 \small "6" \hspace #6.5 "ii" \hspace #5 "V" \raise #1 \small "6" \hspace #6.5 "I" } } }
  <d f a> <b d g> <c e g> \bar "|."
} }

In contrast, the vi–ii–V–I or circle progression from classical theory contains four chords of two or three different qualities: major, minor, and possibly a dominant seventh chord; all of which, however, are diatonic to the key. Thus diversity is achieved within a stable and fixed tonal center.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Rawlins, Robert (2005). Jazzology: The Encyclopedia of Jazz Theory for All Musicians, p.131. ISBN 0-634-08678-2.
  2. ^ Schmeling, Paul (1 June 2001). "Reharmonization with Constant Structure Chords". Berklee Today. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  3. ^ Andrews, William G; Sclater, Molly (2000). Materials of Western Music Part 1, p. 226. ISBN 1-55122-034-2.