A question about chord progressions/keys

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by dubstyle5000, Jan 24, 2005.

  1. dubstyle5000

    dubstyle5000 Guest

    Jan 24, 2005
    Milwaukee, WI
    This is probably an really easy one so I figured I'd ask it while I'm still a newbie and get it out of the way.

    Is it common for a chord progression (written by your guitar player) to contain notes from the key of the song?

    For instance, if a song is in Amaj, will the chord progression be likely to contain the notes from the Amaj scale? Is it just as likely to contain notes from outside of that scale?

    It's amazing how long I've gotten by without knowing the answer to this.

    I guess the real question I'm asking is...

    Does the key of a song have an impact on the chords that can be chosen to create that song?

    My gut instinct is telling me no, because I'm sure if I sat down and played some bass lines to some songs I know, I would find a song in the key of Amaj that contained some chords outside of the Amaj scale. But then I thought perhaps I would come to find that the song was not in fact in the key a Amaj at all...

    I hope this isn't all nonsense. I just need a push in the right direction with this. Thanks again!
  2. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Yes and no.

    First, let's look at the notes of A major.

    A B C# D E F# G# A

    Most diatonic chords (chords that fall within a key/scale) are built of triads. A triad is the most basic chord, and its built by stacking diatonic thirds, like so:

    I A major: A C# E
    (the C# is a major third above A [the root] and the E is a minor third above the C#. All the other chords follow the same pattern with intervals of major and minor thirds).

    ii B minor: B D F#

    iii C minor: C# E G#

    IV D major: D F# A

    V E major: E G# B

    vi F# minor: F# A C#

    vii G# diminished: G# B D

    Notice that I labelled each chord like this:

    I ii iii IV V vi vii

    That's a standard way of looking at chords to show how they relate to the tonic and whether they are major or minor. So if you think of changes as "ii V I" instead of "Bm E A" it's easier for you to transpose changes to other keys.

    Now let's add sevenths to all the basic triads above, again by adding the next note a diatonic third above the 5th of each triad:

    I7 A major 7: A C# E G#

    ii7 B minor 7: B D F# A

    iii7 C minor 7: C# E G# B

    IV7 D major 7: D F# A C#

    V7 E dominant 7: E G# B D

    vi7 F# minor 7: F# A C# E

    vii7 G# half diminished 7: G# B D F#

    Remember above when I said "Yes and no"? Particularly with 7th chords, things can get a little tricky. For instance, the IV chord is diatonically a major seventh, but people often use the dominant form of the chord, which would be D7 in this case: D F# A C. This is common in blues and in a lot of pop/country/rock. That C is not diatonic to the key of A major, but it often works fine, and in a IV7 I change (cadence) the movement from C (the dominant seventh of the D7 chord) to the C# (the major third of the A major chord) is a nice little bit of voice movement.

    That's a lot to chew on for now- think about it, and I'm sure there will be lots more good stuff later in this thread.
  3. This is the way I understand it.

    Some songs are diatonic and others are non-diatonic. The diatonic ones would have chords that all come from the A major scale (using the same example you did.) Songs can also be written non-diatonically, which means that all the chords in a song (or a certain part of a song) did not come from the A major scale.
  4. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    But it's never random. There is always a logic (even if the songwriter doesn't know the logic- remember, music theory is a way of explaining why things sound good, not a set of lines you have to color inside).

    To understand non-diatonic chords and shifting tonal centers, let alone harmonic substitutions, etc, you first have to really understand diatonic chords and their use.
  5. dubstyle5000

    dubstyle5000 Guest

    Jan 24, 2005
    Milwaukee, WI
    Thanks guys. That helped, but you're right Lyle, that's a lot to chew on. I think for now I want to concentrate on learning the modes. I'm really sketchy on those right now. Maybe a better understanding of modes will help me to further understand groove construction.
  6. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Honestly, modes won't be very helpful to you right now. It's much better to approach modes once you've really gotten diatonic harmony down. It's rare that you'll be playing fully modal pieces, but you'll find lots of places where you want to mix up Mixolydian and Ionian or major pentatonic over a V7-I change. But in order to know what mode to play where and when, you have to understand and hear the background harmony, and if it is diatonic or not.

    Really work on this. Make flashcards if you need to. Find a learning buddy. Get to where someone can say "vi of Bb major" and you can call out "G minor 7" instantly, for example. This is the real world knowledge you need before you can really incorporate modes.

    As to grooves, get a metronome or drum machine. Timing is essential- and I don't mean playing flashy fast stuff. I mean can you play solid quarters at 60 bpm? How about whole notes at 60bpm? How are your eighths at 90bpm? How's your swing feel at 100bpm? These are more important than your 32nd notes at 160bpm.
  7. dubstyle5000

    dubstyle5000 Guest

    Jan 24, 2005
    Milwaukee, WI
    Hey Lyle, thanks once agin for the input. That stuff makes a lot of sense. I appreciate the advice. I always, ALWAYS, practice with a drum machine so I got that covered. :cool: Tempo has never really been an issue with me. I learned by playing a lot of Punk. I just want to be able to expand off the rote now with a little more capabilty so I'm trying to get a feel for which notes are "safe". I figure the best way to go about that is to understand chord construction.

    Trouble is, I think I understand and then something (like the quote I pasted) throws me through a loop :confused: .

    Let me see if I have this right...

    The sixth interval of the Bb maj scale is a G. It's a minor 7 because the triad in which the G is built off of has a minor third and a perfect fifth?

    Geez, I hope that made at least a little sense?!
  8. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    You're making it harder than it is. A chord with a minor third and a perfect fifth is just a minor chord. You have to add the seventh to know if it's a minor 7. So you go up a diatonic third from the fifth, end up at the F in this case, and yes, it's a minor 7.

    All the notes in the triad chords and the basic seventh chords are a third away from each other.

    A major chord always has a major third from root to third and a minor third from third to fifth.

    A major seventh chord always has a major third from fifth to seventh.

    A dominant seventh chord always has a minor third from fifth to seventh.

    A minor chord always has a minor third from root to third and a major third from third to fifth. At this point in your learning, you'll usually only encounter minor 7s, so you'll usually find a minor third from fifth to seventh in a minor chord.

    A diminished chord always has a minor third from root to third and another minor third from third to fifth.

    A half diminished chord (which you will find on the seventh degree of a key, speaking diatonically) has a major third from fifth to seventh.

    A fully diminished chord (which you won't encounter in pure diatonic harmony) has a minor third from fifth to seventh.

    This is so much easier to communicate at a piano, or if I could write it on a staff for you.

    But your logic is on the right path. To find the vi of Bb, you go up a diatonic sixth from Bb, which lands you on G. You go up a diatonic third, which is Bb. Up another diatonic third, which is D. Up another diatonic third, which is F. So that gives you G Bb D F, or Gm7.

    Once you can name a chord given it's interval to the root in any key, many doors will fall down. Then it's time to look at common tones shared between chords, and then at voice leading. Once you are familiar with all of these, and can really think of them musically (ie, incorporate the ideas into your playing without analysis), you are ready for modes.
  9. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Whoah... Good stuf!!

    I sorta rolled my eyes when I read the initial question (Like too-arrogant old-guys do) - "well, like duh!", or something like that. Now that I read the responses, I lower my head.

    I guess I needed to ask the question, but Dubstyle is wiser than me.

    Well - here I go again: you guys are chasing me off! I'm going off-line right now, AND PRACTICING MY BASS!


  10. MicceO


    Aug 12, 2004
    Yep, really good stuff, things that I'm working on right now, thanks.

    But maybe one question that has bothered me a bit longer: Why do you have to think chords as thirds; two thirds one upon the other.

    Why can't you simply say: root, third and fitth?

    :confused: :confused: :confused:
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think the one thing to bear in mind is that as a bass player, you can not just take notes from what you think is the key and play them at random!

    As bass player, constructing a bass line, you have to outline the chords and how they move - you can effectively ignore any notional key, as long as you play the chord progression! :)
  12. Well. you *don't* have to--it's just a convenient way of thinking about them for some purposes. You can also say, root-3rd-5th (or 1-3-5). It's not an either-or thing--you don't have to choose between the two.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Because that's how you build chords - so add another third and you have the 7th of the chord, add another and you have the 9th, then 11th, 13th - that's how you build up chords!

    If you understand this principle, it makes the extended chords less daunting.
  14. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Right. I wasn't going to hit the guy with extensions just yet, but stacking thirds lays the foundation for them.

    And my personal teaching belief is that too many people get caught up on "scales" when intervals are the key. If you approach everything through intervals, then there is no difference between chords and scales. It's also why I think every musician should have a keyboard handy.

    It's so much easier to get your mind around intervals with a keyboard layout. On bass, stacking thirds quickly gets difficult, while on keys they're right there and it's easy as pie.

    I'm not saying that keys are a superior instrument for performing, but as a study tool keys are incredibly helpful. Even a $75 Walmart special cheesy synth with small keys will help.
  15. Not always--what about 6 and 6/9 chords?;)

    Personally, I've always found the 1-3-5-7-9-11-13 angle more useful in most cases--the very use of the term 13th, for example, presupposes this way of thinking about the chord tones. But's that's merely individual preference on my part.
  16. I agree, having some familiarity with a keyboard layout can be very useful indeed. I have zero facility on the thing--my attempts to play would frighten animals and small children--but understanding it visually has been very helpful.
  17. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Technically, it's not individual preference. Add 9 and add 11 chords, 6th chords, and sus2/sus4 chords mean that the underlying has no seventh, unless it's otherwise specified. A 9th or 13th chord means that the underlying chord is dominant.
  18. I know. By individual preference I just mean that I find it easier to think of chords as being constructed at various intervals from the root, rather than as sequences of thirds (or seconds or fourths or whatever). Sorta the way I find it easier to think of planetary orbits in terms of distances from the sun, rather than as distances from each other.;)
  19. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Hey whatever works. ;)

    But one should be able to do both. As a guitarist, most of my voicings stem from the knowledge that the bassist or keyboardist has the root covered. So I'll gladly omit the root from my voicings, and often the fifth as well. So it's important that I know the intervallic relationships between all the other notes.

    And thinking in terms of thirds isn't that handy when physically playing the bass, though thinking in terms of sixths is (inverted thirds).
  20. MicceO


    Aug 12, 2004
    Really good and interesting stuff here!

    When it comes to intervals, somehow I feel that it is easier to see a certain interval on the fretboard than on the staff. Haven't got a keyboard at the moment.

    So, what I'm trying to do is to learn the fretboard so that whenever I take two whatever notes, I'm able to tell the interval. Hope this is useful! I've also learned the "9-rule" from TB (if 5 from here to there then 4 from there to here)and hope it is still valid today...

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