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Descending Minor Cliche


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Minor Line Cliches
by Rich Scott

Minor Line Clichés (vi-vi(M7)-vi7-vi6) are often used to provide a feeling of movement when a “I” chord is used for more than one or two bars. The most widely known use of the minor cliché progression has to be the 1937 standard My Funny Valentine verse shown below in the key of “C”:

Am = x07555 Am(M7) = x06555 Am7 = x05555 Am6 = x04555

Other examples of the classic minor line clichés are the 1975 hit Feelings, the bridges to Michelle (1966) and More (1963), and the verse to Into The Great Wide Open (1991). Variations of the minor line cliché are based on chord substitution and the use of declining bass lines.

A popular chord substitution is to substitute (in the Key of C) the “D” chord for the “Am6” chord. Below are several song examples that employ this technique:

Am-Am(M7)-Am7-D Chim Chim Cheree
Am-Am(M7)-Am7-D6 A Taste Of Honey
Am-Am(M7)-Am7-D9 This Masquerade

One of my favorite chord substitutions, based on a great guitar progression, is noted below. You will want to try this in place of other minor line cliché progressions.

Am(add9) = x07500 Am9(M7) = x06500 Am9 = x05500
Am6/9 = x04500

Adding declining (A-G#-G-F#) bass lines (in the key of C) to minor line clichés create an even more interesting progressions. A great example of a minor line cliché with a descending bass line is the 1973 hit Time In A Bottle verse shown below.

Am = xx7555 Am(M7)/G# = xx6555 Am7/G = xx5555
Am6/F# = xx4555

Another example of a minor line cliché with a descending bass line is the 1969 What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life. If you add chord substitutions to minor line clichés with a descending bass line you get the 1972 rock classic Stairway To Heaven opening verse which is shown below which substitutes the “Am9/G#” chord for the “Am(M7)/G#” chord and the “C/G” chord for the “Am7/G” chord.

Am = xx7555 Am9/G# = xx6557 C/G = xx5558
D/F# = xx4232

Try inventing your own minor line cliché. I like playing the following progression over the My Funny Valentine: Am-E7/G#-C/G-F#m7b5.

Click below for the best in free Minor Line Cliche lessons available on the web.

Line Cliches (pdf/Berklee Music)
Minor Line Cliche (Django Books)
The Line Cliche (
The Minor Walk (Olav Torvund)

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