Compose dreamy music – unlocking the magic of two major chords (Pt.2)

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Major chord progressions – dreamy, upward music [EX.2-2-C]

This post was brought to you in collaboration with our partner site Behind the Score. Discover the Harmony Secrets of Modern Film and Video Games.

View the music scores (PDF) and audio files used in this article.


In this follow-up to Dreamy, Upward music: Major Chords a Whole-Step Apart – Pt.1, we’ll be showing you how to effortlessly create a dreamy and uplifting musical atmosphere using only two major chords. We’ll use two major chords positioned a whole-step apart and played sequentially, such as D major to E major or A♭ major to B♭ major.


In Ex. 2-2-C, we chose light, gentle orchestration to capture an uplifting sentiment: quiet strings, arpeggiated harp chords, light winds, and bell percussion. Flute and celesta play a melody in the first eight measures, doubled by viola an octave below. Meanwhile, subtle string chord tremolos fade in and out, creating energy while maintaining harmonic support throughout.  Quiet, mid-range horns enter at the key change in m. 10 to bolster the sound and add a subtle sense of nobility (❷). At this point, the celesta takes over the melody, with some doubling from the piano.

Dreamy Chord Progressions
Ex. 2-2-C mm.10 – 12

*The audio plays the entire composition, with a key change (m.10) occurring at 0:18 





At the beginning, we added an introductory measure before the piano entrance. Violins quietly sustain the 5th (A) of the tonic chord (in octaves) to set the mood, continuing through the next eight measures. Later on, at the key change, violins sustain the root (D♭) of the new tonic chord. In both cases, the violins function as a pedal point. By sustaining a member of the tonic chord, they help us hear the harmonies in the context of the tonic chord (❶). 

Ex. 2-2-C mm. 1-3 (WWs / Glockenspiel / Vln.1 / Vla.)


Incidentally, this violin pedal point occasionally provides a little harmonic tension. For instance, in m. 3, the “A” in the violins becomes a little dissonant during the harmonic shift when the melody plays G♯. The minor 9th interval between the two notes creates friction, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This tension yearns to resolve, and as listeners, the interplay between tension and resolution keeps us interested. 


More Two-Chord series:

Creating Suspense, High Tension: Minor Chords a Half-Step Apart


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This post was brought to you in collaboration with our partner site Behind the Score. Discover the Harmony Secrets of Modern Film and Video Games.