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Thread: Music Theory Questions- Ask Away

  1. #11
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    OK- We will start with Olarte's questions. We already talked a little about the major diatonic scale, but not the minors. If we take the the c major scale (C D E F G A B) and start it on the 6th note it looks like this (A B C D E F G). This is the natural A minor scale, which as you can see has the same notes as C major. The other two most common minor scales are called Harmonic and Melodic minor. They are just "spicier" ways to play in a minor key.
    A Natural Minor
    A B C D E F G

    A Harmonic Minor
    A B C D E F G# A

    A Melodic Minor
    A B C D E F# G# A (and on the way down) A G F E D C B A

    Remember above when we built chords by using the notes from the scale? Well, the harmonic minor scale is most commonly used for that. Using a G# instead of G makes our V chord E major (E G# B) instead of E minor (E G B). Which usually sounds better for V chords.

    Here are the common chords for A Harmonic Minor
    A minor (i)
    B diminished (ii)
    C major (III)
    D minor (iv)
    E Major (V)
    F Major (VI)
    G# Diminished (vii)

    The melodic minor is played differently on the way up than on the way back down. On the way up, the 6th and 7th notes are raised up a half step. On the way down they are the same as the natural minor. Note that both melodic and harmonic make sure to raise the 7th note up a half step. This is called the leading tone and it also happens in the major scale. It is the note "B" here C D E F G A B C. Try singing Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do and stoping on Ti. Our ears generally want to hear the resolution from Ti to Do, which is why harmonic and melodic minor are cool. They give you the minor sound but keep the leading tone.

    More on minor scales below when we get to modes.

    To address your other question, "Jazz" chords is a catch all term to describe the commonly used chords used by jazz musicians. This would include lots of chords that use more than just the root third and fifth and extend out to 7th, 9th, 11th etc...and their common alterations. One of the things that makes jazz harmony sound jazzy is the reliance on extensions and alterations of common chords. The other important technique would be the common substitutions that jazz musicians use on simple chord progressions. They often pack more chords into a form than the composer intended.

  2. #12
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    On to GoKidd

    When I talked about major scales above I mentioned that the space between notes is called an interval. The two intervals we need for this discussion are half step and whole step. A half step (h) is one fret or one piano key distance and a whole step (w) is two frets or two piano keys distance. It just so happens that the diatonic major scale has a specific pattern of intervals that you can use to build it: w w h w w w h. I will incorporate it into the C major scale C w D w E h F w G w A w B h C

    As you can see, I have listed the notes with the size interval between each note, either a whole or half step.

    This trick can be learned to slog your way through figuring out all the scales. Start on a note, count up the correct interval to the next note and continue your way all the way through the scale.

    By the way, this is the reason we have to use sharps and flats when we move to other keys!!!!! If we start a scale on D and just list the notes by using our knowledge of the alphabet, we get this:

    D E F G A B C D

    If you play these notes your ear will tell you that it does NOT sound like a normal Do Re Mi scale. Thats because its not following our WWHWWWH pattern. If I want a W between E and F, than I have to change the F to F#. If I want a W between B and C, then the C must be C#. That changes this scale to:
    D E F# G A B C# D

    Mind blowing, right. That is why sheet music in the key of D has those two sharps in the key signature. It is also why we have so many frets and why there are black keys on the piano.

    OK, now for modes. (I really should make myself a cocktail first) (OK, I'm back)

    Modes are just different kinds of scales that are based off of our diatonic scale. They are ways of using the scale in different ways in order to make a different musical statement. If we use C major as our starting point, we have these notes:
    C D E F G A B C
    If we re-write them starting on the 2nd note, we get
    D E F G A B C D
    This is the foundation for those appalachian songs I like such as Shady Grove. Instead of I IV V as the common chords, Dorian usually uses i VII, in this case Dminor and C. This is also the mode of "Greensleeves" and "What Would You Do With A Drunken Sailor) Go ahead and strum Dminor and C a little bit and see what I mean.

    We can continue this practice for all the notes of a major scale, here we go:

    CDEFGABC Ionian Mode also none as Major
    DEFGABCD Dorian Mode
    EFGABCDE Phrygian Mode (popular in Flamenco music and death metal)
    FGABCDEF Lydian Mode
    GABCDEFG Mixolydian Mode (sounds like blues/jazz/swing)
    ABCDEFGA Aolian (Natural Minor)
    BCDEFGAB Locrian

    Each of these modes uses the same notes and same chords, but it trains our ears to hear different notes as the important, home base notes. If you hear a song use Dminor C major and back again over and over. You hear Dminor as home. Just like there are 12 major scales, there are 12 dorain scales, 12 locrian scales etc...Don't stress out though, its not like I use these things all the time. But it does illuminate certain practices like the i VII i progression from dorian.

    We will put off chord shapes for a moment while I extend this to reach papplehead's question

  3. #13
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    We already saw that the common chord progressions are based off of the diatonic scale. A little review: If I line up the notes from a G major scale,
    G A B C D E F# G

    and I start building chords by using the 1st, 3rd 5th notes, then the 2nd, 4th, 6th notes then 3rd, 5th 7th etc...I will build all the common chords

    GBD - G major (1st 2rd 5th notes of g scale)
    ACE - A minor (2nd 4th 6th notes of g scale)
    BDF# - B minor (3rd 5th 7th notes of g scale)
    C E G - C major (etc...)
    D F# A - D Major
    E G B - E minor
    F# A C - F# diminished


    Weeeeeellllllllllllll, Ergo, Therefore...

    If you start with a modal scale (lets take the dorian mode of G)

    ABCDEF#GA and build chords using the same technique, you get:

    ACE - A minor
    BDF#- B minor
    C E G - C major
    D F# A - D Major
    E G B - E minor
    F# A C - F# diminished
    G B D - G major

    There are lots of common progression using these chords, try strumming:

    A minor A minor C major G major a few times in a row. Cool, huh?

    or
    A minor C Major G Major D Major

    So even though its the same chords and notes as the G scale, our insistence on having A minor as the first chord in the progression makes our ears focus on A dorian instead.

    You can do this for any mode and key!!!!!!!

  4. #14
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    To touch on Freackykit's question, each mode has its own melodic and harmonic character to it, that our ears here a difference in. The ancient greeks, who first mentioned this effect, believed each mode had a different emotional character as well and songs should be written so that the words and mode correspond. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_modes

    I somewhat agree, and most of the classical greats and modern pop songwriters do as well. (Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel of Mars by Gustav Holst come to mind) Think about "I will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor.

    Am Dm
    At first I was afraid, I was petrified
    G C
    Kept thinkin' I could never live without you by my side
    Am Dm
    Then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong
    E
    And I grew strong
    E7
    And I learned how to get along

    It would sound way less emotional if the aminor and dminor were replaced by major chords!

  5. #15
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    Which leads me to AcousticBuckeye's question about rules. Yes, there are common ways to do things. When they become so common that we start to notice, we often find ways to analyze and codify these things. That is when a practice becomes a theory. But, for every great song that follows the rules, there is another that breaks it! Our ears can honestly get used to almost anything, as long as we get the chance to hear it repeated a few times. Some of the greats are the ones that break the rules so much that we don't notice it's revolutionary anymore. When we were learning about Sonata form in college, (which is the way that most classical symphonies are organized) it was almost impossible to use Mozart as an example, because he was constantly breaking the rules and messing with listeners expectations. It was way easier to use a minor composers child's piano sonata to learn the form!

    Look at the the chords to She Loves You by the Fab Four


    "She Loves You"
    (J. W. Lennon - J. P. McCartney)

    Intro:

    Em
    She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
    A
    She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
    C G6
    She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah

    Verse 1:

    G Em
    You think you've lost your love
    Bm D
    Well I saw her yesterday
    G Em
    It's you she's thinking of
    Bm D
    And she told me what to say

    Chorus:

    [1: She says 3: Because] she loves you
    Em [xx5003 xx4002 xx2000]
    And you know that can't be bad
    Cm
    Yes she loves you
    D
    And you know you should be glad

    Verse 2:

    She said you hurt her so
    She almost lost her mind
    But now she says she knows
    You're not the hurting kind

    [repeat chorus]

    Post-chorus:

    Em
    She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
    A
    She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
    Cm
    With a love like that
    D G
    You know you should be glad

    Verse 3:

    And so its up to you
    I think it's only fair
    Pride can hurt you too
    Apologize to her

    [repeat chorus]

    [repeat post-chorus] G G/F# Em
    (...glad)

    Coda:

    Cm
    With a love like that
    D7 G G/F# Em
    You know you should be glad

    Cm
    With a love like that
    D [N.C.] G G/F#
    You know you should be glad
    Em6
    Yeah, yeah, yeah
    C G6
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

    Its actually kind of weird and spends a lot of time hiding the fact that it is in the key of G.

    So, learn the rules, understand the rules, but be ready to break them.

  6. #16
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    Maybe I will get to moveable chord shapes in a moment.

  7. #17
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    Thanks for all this information, Aaron. It's proving to be a very good refresher for me.
    ~ Kala Acacia Tenor (KA-ASAC-T)
    ~ Yamaha Guitalele (GL-1)
    ~ Mainland Cedar Concert (RC7-C)
    People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do. - Isaac Asimov

  8. #18
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    This is great stuff Aaron, keep it coming! BTW, I got both of your 2-chord songbooks, and they're really cool.
    If music be the food of love, play on! -Bill Shakespeare

  9. #19

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    Please explain the difference in a 1/2 diminished chord and a full diminished chord. That continues to perplex me!

  10. #20
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    Good Question, and it will also help me review a few things.

    Chords are just collections of notes. The intervals between the notes give each chord its own flavor. For these chords, we will need to examine the root, third, 5th and 7th tones.

    F Major 7 has F A C E which have a major 3rd, a perfect 5th and a major 7th.

    F Minor 7 has F Ab C Eb which is minor third, perfect 5th and minor 7th

    F7 has F A C Eb major 3rd, perfect 5th and minor 7th

    That brings us to the two kinds of diminished chords, the 1/2 diminished and the fully diminished. Both of them have F Ab and Cb which are a minor 3rd and diminished 5th. The difference is in it's 7th. 1/2 diminished uses a minor 7th while fully diminished uses a diminished 7th, which is one half step lower.

    F 1/2 dim7 F Ab Cb Eb you can finger it 1312
    F dim7 F Ab Cb D you can finger it 1212

    F 1/27 diminished is also called Fminor7b5 for your information.

    Both of these chords are what I call pivot chords, which are very spicy chords that help push a song from one part to another.

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