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applied theory question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by yodedude2, Nov 4, 2013.


  1. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    we are playing a new (to us) cover song that the guitarist brought in. he brought a chord sheet that shows the following progression in A minor: D/E ... G/A ... C/D ... F/G ... C and then F ... G ... Am7 to resolve to the tonic.

    so i am not accustomed to playing modes or scales, i normally approach a song by thinking about connecting through chord changes. i'm playing the seconds in the bass as suggested by the progression, and it sounds okay, but i'm thinking i can improve my playing by rationalizing the progression.

    so is it reasonable to consider the first four chords as 11th chords without a 5th or 3rd? it helps me to think of this as a 'temporary modulation' to C major and play through E11 .. A11 .. D11 ... G11 .. C .

    or am i cracked?
     
  2. FretlessMainly

    FretlessMainly

    Nov 17, 2010
    A couple of points:

    1. As you've written the changes, the first four chords are "add9" chords. I would first try the bass notes (after the /) up the octave to reduce potential clash in the lower register, unless that's the sort of sound the guitarist is going for. I don't know why you'd leap to calling them 11th chords; 11ths don't seem to come into play here and the thirds are called for by the format you've written the chords in.

    2. I don't see anything particularly scalar about this progression (other than perhaps the F G Am) and as for not being accustomed to playing modes, if you've played a piece in A minor, then you're in A Aeolian, so yes you are familiar with them (to some degree).
     
  3. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I also see add9 chords with the bass note being the 9.

    the progression moves up in 4th until the F-G-Amin
     
  4. FretlessMainly

    FretlessMainly

    Nov 17, 2010
    The question being: does the guitarist want the 9ths to be 2nds? In other words, are you playing the /E in the lower register or up an octave (or two)?

    To clarify:

    D9 = D F# A C E
    DMaj9 = D F# A C# E
    Dadd9 = D F# A E
     
  5. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    My guess is that the guitarist wants neither 9ths nor 2nds, but roots, and that he is voicing his chords like this:

    D/E = E A D F#
    G/A = A D G B
    etc.

    If that is the case, then they are essentially functioning as an E9sus4, A9sus4, etc.
     
  6. you should break down the melody before you look for a "scale" today. Look at the relationship between the melody and the chord structure (and the tonics) and that will give you an outline of what notes you can build a bass line on, and will help you find a scale to employ, if you choose to do so. Bass lines are not 100% dependent of the chord progression - they should reflect and support the melodic structure. But a rule of thumb is, if you see 9ths, assume major 7ths, and 6ths. And that leads to pentatonics. Ala Chuck Berry...

    Write out the melody, the spell the chord notes on staff paper under it. Then look for common tones and leading tones and non common, and try to construct your own melody from that. This will help you to keep and ear on the melody when playing.
     
  7. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    thanks for the help, y'all have given me some stuff to think about.

    here's a quick example...on the D/E, i am playing the 'E' note on the 'D' string while the guitarist plays a 'cowboy chord' D major with no E at all. i initially regarded the progressions as a series of 9th chords, but it seems really weird to me to think of playing the second/ninth as the bass note.

    also, there's no guarantee that the internet chord sheet is right.

    the tune is bouncy and we are a trio so there's room to percolate a bit of funkiness. i just tried the psuedo-modulation thing from a minor to c major and back to a minor and it seemed to work for me, but this is all just barely beyond my current grasp. again, thanks for the help, very thought-provoking.

    the tune is 'pretzel logic' by steely dan.
     
  8. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Ah. In that case, search for "mu major" chord.
     
  9. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    thanks, this is what i was trying to say when i referred to the chords as "11th" chords. 9sus4...i'll have to remember that!
     
  10. It's a cover - why aren't you learning what the bassist is already doing first?
     
  11. Bainbridge

    Bainbridge

    Oct 28, 2012
    I don't know the tune off-hand, but I can tell you what I see. It looks like you're potentially dealing with chromatic planing. What that means is that there is going to be some non-functional harmony in there, and it's not going to conform to the key/scale. It might not be planed, but it's still going to be chromatic and therefore have nothing to do with a scale. The progression itself looks like C major (with a deceptive cadence at the end there), though it could be modal (A natural minor). I don't know if that information will ultimately matter to you. Notice the cycle of fifths that's going on with the given bass notes: E A D G C F. To me, this suggests that the chords the guitarist is playing are meant to be heard as upper structure harmony (a chromatic cycle of fifths involving all dominant sonority chords is very common), but that might not be the case. It doesn't surprise me that this kind of harmony is coming out of Steely Dan. Since you know what the tune is, have a listen and see what fits.
     
  12. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    whoa...i did not know that. it's a whole new world. thanks, that's it exactly!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_chord
     
  13. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    general laziness and a wacky free-form approach to arranging the stuff ourselves.
     
  14. In this case you may cause yourself more work.

    :D
     
  15. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    correct. but sometimes it can be rewarding. we worked 'sympathy for the devil' into a psuedo-reggae tune and it wasn't too bad...
     
  16. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    What a GREAT tune!

    Steely Dan is a different world than The Stones, theoretically speaking.
    First learn what the bass does on the original (by ear, don't trust online tabs).
    Then see if you can come up with something you like better.

    You can always learn a lot by analyzing or learning parts from a Steely Dan song, no matter what you intend to end up playing on it.
     
  17. Bainbridge

    Bainbridge

    Oct 28, 2012
    Pretentious bullpucky?
     
  18. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    it appears to be nothing more mysterious than a sus2 , with some specific restrictions on the exact voicing.

    At any rate, slash chords almost always mean play the note after the slash in the bass.
     
  19. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    the score so far: today i've learned about 9sus4 chords, mu major chords, and chromatic planing. thanks talkbass brethren!
     
  20. Bainbridge

    Bainbridge

    Oct 28, 2012
    Welcome.

    I'm not sure I'm understanding you here. Harmonic rhythm is the rate at which chords change (one chord every four bars, versus two chords every four bars, versus four chords every four bars, versus a new chord every half bar, versus a new chord on every beat…), and while harmonic change dictates harmonic rhythm, the identity of those chords does not have any direct influence on harmonic rhythm. A change of harmonic rhythm changes the harmonic rhythm, whether there are "accented slash chords" or not.

    "Accented" is an ambiguous word, the way you are using it. If a harmony is accented, that means it is falling on the downbeat of a measure, or a metrically strong beat. Chord changes typically occur on the downbeat, and mostly but perhaps a little less on the strong interior beats of a measure, so I am disinclined to give any special significance to an accented chord change - unaccented is less typical and more hip. Have a look at a handful of bop heads, and you'll notice that there is a lot of avoiding beats 1 & 3. Downbeats are rhythmically stable, and therefore have no momentum. Now, if you had two sections contrasting each other with this dualistic rhythmic behavior, there would indeed be a perceived sense of change in harmonic rhythm, namely for the placement of the chord changes. Perhaps that is along the lines of what you're saying? Still, that could happen with or without moo chords.

    Another interpretation pertains to non-chord tones. We typically place chord tones on the downbeat - "play a chord tone on the 1" has been chanted a million times on this forum and many others. However, sometimes it is appropriate to place a non-chord tone when the chord changes. For example, the progression G D might have a D in the melody over the G chord, then go to E as a passing tone, ending up on F# when the D chord rolls around. An accented non-chord tone is when the non-chord tone is simultaneous with the chord change. The D would be the melody of the G chord, the E would sound at the same time as the D chord, before resolving to F#. In that case, E is an "accented passing tone" giving that dissonant crunch before resolving. There are some non-chord tones that are always accented, such as the suspension and retardation, others that are never accented, such as the anticipation, and the others (neighbor tone, passing tone, cambiata, apoggiatura, escape tone) can go either way. Since the changes in the OP contain that secundal sound that one might obtain through the use of accented non-chord tones, I could see reason behind referring to this corner of melodic practice. Still, I am not sure that this is what you are talking about.

    Perhaps I should substantiate my earlier comment. Only a Steely Dan adherent would ever refer to those chords as "mu major", and maybe somebody who stumbled upon the Wikipedia article because that is their primary source of music education. When I write a chart, I get flak from players and conductors (well, only one so far) for writing "Δ". I still have no idea what I'm looking at when I see "Σ" in Radulescu's scores (he uses it to indicate a technique, not a chord). I would be laughed out of the musical world if I wrote "μ" for add9. It's completely unintuitive and lacks the flexibility of its predecessor, which was in place long before Donald Fagen coined the alternate designation. Mind you, Steely Dan was doing it to be fun and weird and probably weren't trying to change the way that chord symbols are communicated or to contribute to Wikipedia's future Google hits. It's like the Jesus chord: a music joke. The joke is fine, but as soon as you start saying that the chord is different from that thing that it is, you are pretending. The only case I can think of in which a musician successfully and convincingly created such idiosyncratic terminology for extant sonorities would be Messiaen's modes of limited transposition. The kicker there is he didn't just take a whole tone scale and exclaim, "zomg its teh messian scale lol"; they form a closed system that is uniquely his, and there is a principle behind his conception of those modes. If the mu chord was used as a part of some secret cryptogram in the music of Steely Dan, then yeah, I would seriously accept it as something other than *just* an add9 chord. You really gotta commit to replace existing chord names, though. I remember somebody objected to me saying "the Jimmy chord" in one thread here, for crying out loud.
     

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