Learning some musictheory

Discussion in 'The Cellar' started by Wenander, Apr 2, 2020.

  1. Wenander

    Wenander Active Member

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    What should I look into if a want to understand what determines what key a song is in?

    If i have a song with for example a B, A, D, F# and E powerchords.. What key is that song in then?

    What do i need to learn?
     
  2. Dogs of Doom

    Dogs of Doom Moderator Staff Member

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    basic music theory.

    scales
    triads
    inversions

    When you look at the major scale, spelling out the power chords mentioned, you could be in either Dmaj or Amaj.

    Amaj

    A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G# (repeat)

    Dmaj

    D-E-F#-G-A-B-C# (repeat)

    if you knew of the power chords were meant to be maj or min, you'd easier be able to figure out the scale (key)...

    The C# is also played in your progression, given that when you play the power chord of F#, C# is the 5th (power). The only note that you aren't giving clue to playing is whether it's a G, or G#, which would tell you the key...
     
  3. Wenander

    Wenander Active Member

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    Hmm ok.. Basic music theory. Well ill start with the three things you mentioned.

    The chords i said was just something as an example.. Not an actual song i know.

    Thanks for the help.
     
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  4. Michael Roe

    Michael Roe Well-Known Member

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    Make one of these!
    I made this in about the early 90's to help with that question. It use to look much better and had lots of color coding that showed up better. It is just a slide rule for Major/Minor scales along with all the modes. It also shows the modes for that scale from low E to high E in tab (sort of), at top left and right of the longer sliding part.
    B Minor/D Maj:
    Scale B.jpg

    E Minor/G Maj:
    scale E.jpg
     
  5. Wenander

    Wenander Active Member

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    Wow thats really cool. Sure have the time now at home
     
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  6. Kinkless Tetrode

    Kinkless Tetrode Well-Known Member

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    That would probably be in the key of A depending on the progression.

    E is the dominate of A.
    D is the sub dominate of A
    F# is the 6th of A major

    B is a 2nd or a 9th of A major and should be a minor triad but this a modified type of II-IV cadence movement if it's in A and in that sequence, but using secondary dominates. A II-IV cadence is common in a jazz vamp because the IV (sub dominate) of the II is actually the V (dominate) of the base chord. So you get this constant resolving cadence (dominate then to the base chord) going on but the base chord is always changing. The constant resolution gives a feeling of movement with out moving away from the tonal center of A. It rocks. An example of this type of thing is Led Zeppelin's the ending section of the song The Ocean on Houses of the Holy.

    Another thing about just going back and forth between B and A (such as in You Really Got Me) in a kind of a backward I-II chord movement, is that the VII chord is actually good substitute for the IV chord. This substitution is called a "secondary dominate." So you get a I-IV movement at the start as in classical music or the first chord change in a 12 bar blues, but you get a IV-I resolution when you go back. Since these are secondary dominates of each other they should have major triads and not minor triads so you don't worry about getting the voicing of minor intervals correct and you can just slam power chords.

    Another example of building a simple song on this type of thing is the Rolling Stones Start Me Up. It's I-IV cadence then IV-V (IV being the VII of V) then V-I resolution.

    But another way to look at the chords in the OP is that is actually in the key of E and using a series of I-IV movements or chord changes common in a blues progression, but overall working backwards from B to E.

    B is the V of E so it starts on the dominate instead of the base chord if its in E and eventually goes to the base chord (think Sweet Home Alabama).
    A is the VII of B but it can be a substitute for the IV of B so it is giving a I-IV movement.
    Then D is the IV of A once again I-IV movement.
    F# is a secondary dominate to E once again a modified I-IV movement and giving the final overall resolution, but the movement from D to F# is not awkward because it is the major 3rd of D.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2020
  7. junk notes

    junk notes Well-Known Member

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    You mention "basic" so will try to accommodate, less the Berklee, GIT red tape.

    Adding to Dogs of Doom;
    Is the chord minor or Major?
    Identity

    Since power cords are made up of the root and 5th, you have to treat each first note it as a scale. Within each chord there are no 3rds for the chords identity.

    To be a basic chord you need a root, a 3rd and a 5th.
    Based on only the five notes presented, Diatonically you are in the D Major key unless other chords added would modulate to a different key.

    So ALL the chords in your progression could follow diatonically in the key of D having one sharp. I your case the chords are as follows:
    D Major
    E minor
    F# minor
    G Major
    A Major (or Dominant 7th)
    B minor
    C Diminished

    These are the Diatonic chords to your song, expanding your writing abilities.
    The diatonic formula can and is applied for any of your songs. Once you have understood this basic tool.
    To recap; Maj - min - min - Maj - Maj - min - Dim can be used for basic song writing in any of the twelve keys, then you can add your fancy chords like 9th's 11'ths and so forth.
     
  8. Kinkless Tetrode

    Kinkless Tetrode Well-Known Member

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    There is a distinction between scales and chords. Scales are one note at time. Chords are multiple notes at a time. Arpeggios are notes from a chord played one at a time.

    Whole songs are usually based on chord progressions. Riffs are usually based scales.

    With either your going from a base note to another note to create tension and then to a dominate note or chord to go back to the base note resolving the tension. Think base ball. You go to 1st base, then to second base, then third, and then finally back to home plate.

    With most music you have two basic resolutions. These are the IV chord back to the I or the V back to the I. The V chord is the most common chord to go back to the I so it is called the dominate chord. The IV chord also sounds good going back to the I so it is called the sub dominate.

    These are the chords you use in a 12 bar blues progression. I then IV then back to I, then to V, then to the IV, then back to I, then quickly the V back to the I and start over.

    Another common movement in either a riff or a chord progression is a leading tone. With this you start one note below the key note or dominate and step up into the note your hitting.

    With European Classical music the notes of chords match the notes from the scale of the key.
    In American music such as blues, jazz, and rock, the majors and the minors are rather ambiguous. We play fast and loose with those rules. Anything goes and any point in between.
     
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  9. Wenander

    Wenander Active Member

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    Thanks for the visual description....think i get it .. still all this is confusing to me...hehe
     
  10. junk notes

    junk notes Well-Known Member

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    From the posted replies, where basically?
     
  11. Wenander

    Wenander Active Member

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    well pretty much everywhere...i need to take a course and learn this stuff from the ground up
     
  12. Sapient

    Sapient Well-Known Member

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    From what I've always known you can't determine the key simply by the notes; unless you have all of them. ?? Then again the arrangement could be modal so all the notes might mean nothing to the aeolian mode of the scale.

    In short, I believe you are supposed to "hear" the key (the "tonic") that the music resolves to. It's completely an ear thing. But, if the music is written it's noted on the staff bar by the #'s or b"s.
     
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  13. Dogs of Doom

    Dogs of Doom Moderator Staff Member

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    start w/ the major & minor scale.

    Then, think of the root note as "1". 1 is the root. then, as you go up the scale, each note is the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc...

    So, now, when you play a chord, you use the scale, to find out what the chord is. Chords are generally triads. Triads are "tri" = 3, so it means 3 notes played together to form a chord.

    Let's use C major, since there are no sharps/flats.

    The Cmaj scale is:

    C-D-E-F-G-A-B
    1-2-3-4-5-6-7

    for further understanding, that scale repeats. The root is 1. When you get at the end of the scale, you can either continue w/ the numbering system, or start over at 1.

    so, you could equate 1 w/ 8

    so as you'd have 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
    an octave up would be 8-9-10-11-12-13, etc

    So, to play a Major chord, you use the major scale & play notes 1-3-5:

    C-D-E-F-G-A-B
    1-2-3-4-5-6-7

    C-E-G forms a Cmaj chord. G is the power note (in a power chord). Now, as M Roe's slide scale illustrates, you can slide this theory up/down chromatically, using 1-3-5, & using junk notes addition, you'll note that the next chord in the key of Cmaj, is Dmin (2-4-6), then Emin (3-5-7), etc., etc...

    When you play simple power chords, you are removing the color of major/minor, which makes the music more generic, but, can be easier to improvise melodies & be more creative in other ways.

    This is probably a lot to take in at once. Just mull over this for a bit. Read everything here, like you have a puzzle. Put the pieces of the puzzle together. They have to go together, to give you understanding...
     
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  14. Wenander

    Wenander Active Member

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    okey i´ll start with major and minor and look at what you written here. thanks
     
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  15. Kinkless Tetrode

    Kinkless Tetrode Well-Known Member

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    Try playing along with some AC/DC recordings. Don't mess with what Angus is doing but concentrate on what chords Malcolm is doing.
     
  16. JParry335

    JParry335 Well-Known Member

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    All good advice so far but I don’t think we’ve established a baseline for where you are now. Humor me for a minute and let me ask some very basic questions. Without knowing this, it will all sound like mumbo jumbo to you.
    #1. Do you know that western civilization music consists of 12 tones?
    The musical alphabet consists of natural notes (no sharps or flats) A, B, C, D, E, F and G. At that point it all starts over. A, B, C etc.
    That’s only 7 notes you say! And you are correct. Notice I called them “natural” notes.
    There are some notes in between some of these which are sharps and flats.
    Some of these notes can be called either depending on what key you are playing in.
    So, the twelve tones are; A, A# or Bb, B, C, C# or Db, D, D# or Eb, E, F, F# or Gb, G, G# or Ab, now were back at A.
    #2. Do you know where all the notes are on your guitar?
    This is one of the most important and frequently overlooked or under stressed aspects of learning music theory.
    If you can answer these two questions we will all have a better idea of how to get you going in the right direction and make some sense of what data you’ve been given so far. It’s not that complicated if one has the rudiments at their command. We all began from where you are.
     
  17. Wenander

    Wenander Active Member

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    #1 i know the notes of western music.

    #2 i know some notes here and there. My musical theory on the neck stops at E minor penta shapes down the neck...
     
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  18. junk notes

    junk notes Well-Known Member

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    There are six Pentatonics in each key. Three minor and three Major. Jazz guys rip this up.
    Excellent for Rock, Metal, and Prog with right hand technique. Incorporate Holdsworth - Halenesque left hand and you are killing it.
    The hidden is easily revealed when you have a fretboard in front of you whilst practicing.
     
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  19. JParry335

    JParry335 Well-Known Member

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    Excellent! Good start.
    Since your thread is titled Learning some music theory if you don’t mind I’m going to proceed with the rudiments which will give you the foundation to ultimately answer your own first question about how do I know what key a song is in and what chords belong in that key. If you feel that I’m not helping at all don’t hesitate to say so. A lot of folks are offering great advice but the way it is being presented will usually be of more help to someone that already has some understanding of theory in their grasp.
    Another basic here. From any note, anywhere on the fretboard to the very next note (up or down on the same string) is 1/2 step. Any notes that are two frets apart (on the same string) are a Whole Step apart.
    A Major scale (which is the basis of everything musical) is constructed as follows; Let’s use the key of E Major as the first example. We will play the notes of the scale going up (from headstock end towards the bridge) one string.
    You can use either your first or sixth string as they are both E.
    W, W, H, W, W, W, H.
    W = whole step (2 frets). H = half step (1 fret).
    Hit your open E string for your first note. Then next note is 2 frets above.
    This note is F#.
    The next note is again 2 frets above. This note is G#.
    The next note is 1 fret above. This note is A.
    The next note is 2 frets (whole step) above which is B.
    Next is whole step, C#.
    Next whole step, D#.
    Last is 1/2 step, which puts us on E. You should be on the 12th fret at this point.
    The notes in the key of E Major are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D# and the octave of E.
    As an exercise, pick any note anywhere on the neck. As long as you know the name of that note, follow that same sequence and you will hear the major scale for that note or in this case Key.
    This is much faster to facilitate in person than in writing but if you really work at this and understand, the things to follow such as chords and song structures will make a lot more sense.
     
  20. nickfox

    nickfox Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget to check out Rick Beato on youtube. His music theory lessons are top notch and he's really interesting.

    n
     

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