# Did I discover what a tonal center is?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by AndyMania, Jan 18, 2012.

1. ### AndyMania

Jan 3, 2010
Hey Guys,

Tell me if this is right or not.

I did an expiriment where I took a chord, which was Dmin7.
(Played as arpeggios obviously)

I played it first as a ii chord from the key of C. Emphasizing the 6th and 5th. I noticed the overall "C" sound.

D-E-F-G-A-B-C

Next, I played it as a Dmin7b5.(vii of key of Eb)

D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C Emphasizing the Eb, Ab and Bb.

This gave me the overall sound of the Key of Eb.

I tried this Dmin7 in all possible chord combinations.

Am I onto something?

-Andy

2. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
almost!
It has to be said that Dmin7 is NOT Dm7b5.
You functionally changed chords by lowering the 5th, it's not just an extension or alteration.
But still , technically correct:
C is a possible key center for Dmin7 ,
similarly Eb for Dm7b5.

to explore possible tonal Centers for Dmin7,
you can start with the harmonized major scale pattern and look for the minor chord postions:
I(maj7) ii(min7) iii(min7) IV(maj7) V(dom7) vi(min7) vii(min7b5)
so ii, iii and vi are possible positions for a Dmin7 chord.
then just figure out which major scale has D on its 2nd, 3rd, or 6th note.

3. ### AndyMania

Jan 3, 2010
Mambo,

Thank you sir.

Dmin7 can be:

The iii in the key of Bb
The ii in the key of C
The vi in the key of F
The vii in the key of Eb

I think thats it for Dmin7....

4. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
playing the Dmin7 (DFAC) in the key of Eb (Eb F G Ab Bb C D) is problematic because of A vs Ab.
So as you figured out, have to flat the 5th of the dmin7 chord to make it Dmin7b5 (DFAbC).

But flatted 5th changes the basic function of the chord, so you can't functionally group the vii in with ii,iii, and vi.

IOW, I wouldn't think of Dmin7b5 is being simply some interchangeable, alternate 'type' of D minor chord. It has a different job.

5. ### MalcolmAmos

My understanding of tonal center........

Walk your G string one fret at a time while listening to the music being played. When what you are doing and what the music is doing come in sync (sound good together) you've found the tonal center. Look down at what note that happened on - that is your key, aka tonal center, aka tonic note/chord of what you are listening to.

It's not just one chord or one note it's the total sound being produced. What is the tonal center of that sound.

C major or A minor both have the same notes and same chords. If the music revolves around the major chords the tonal center is going to be C major. If the music revolves around the minor chords the tonal center is going to be Am.

Like I said, that's tonal center as I understand it.

6. ### sammyp

Aug 20, 2010

you got it ....what you need to hear this stuff is little jams or tracks that sit on the Dm chord ....then you will not hear the parent major scale!

7. ### kr0n

Feb 4, 2009
When playing a riff of any kind, when you get to the end you can actually HEAR when you land on the tonal center. It feels like a "good place to stop". If you end up choosing the wrong, it doesn't feel right and you need to venture a little further to find it.

It feels like all the tension is resolved and a plateau is reached.

Of course if the riffs become more complex and long it's easy to change the tonal center, which is in your head as majority of western hemisphere are tuned to major scale, so you might end up changing it.

Your ear pulls you to the tonal center. The notes you choose emphasize the center and point towards it.

8. ### Saxn

Oct 23, 2010
Nashville, GA
Nice way of putting it! I used to tell my brother that the tonal center is "home"... and the 5th was your "home away from home" And if you're playing over the "I chord" (or "i chord" as the case may be) and you're LISTENING then you can hear that powerful pull towards "home". Your ear will tell you when you get there. I promise.

9. ### AndyMania

Jan 3, 2010
Mambo and Sammyp,

So what exactly is the function of the vii?

Also, how can I put this new knowledge to musical use?

10. ### sammyp

Aug 20, 2010
The vii only really has one function.....it leads back to the I chord. Its a more complex version of the V chord.

11. ### Mike Dunbar

May 29, 2009
Nashville Tennessee
The vii half diminished seventh ( commonly called the min seven flat five ) is my favorite chord. Sometimes it leads to the one chord, but often it will lead to a major three I use it in "Yesterday," "Desparado," and "Georgia." On the bass, going from a one chord to a seven half dimished then a three major and six minor, I'll play 1...7437 6... The 1 is under the one chord, the 74 are under the 7halfdim the 37 are under the 3maj and the 6 is under the 6min.

12. ### theretheyare

Sep 4, 2010
Brooklyn, NY
Endorsing: Arkham Vacuum Tube Amplification
Yes, you ARE definitely onto something! And that you discovered it yourself, rather than replicating something from some book, is what makes this so valuable and fullfilling.

There are no absolute truths here- Typically, matured players mix several approaches into any given solo or part they come up with. The approach you stumbled upon is one of many valid ones, as to how negotiate tonality.

What you did (to think of a scale as an extension of an arpeggio) can be tweaked in many exiting ways. For example you could experiment with:

1) superimposing this scale change over different tonics. As you discoverd your self, Dm7 gives an "inside" (see below) flavor over C major, confirming that key, and Dm7(b5) scale gives an inside flavor to EbMajor, confirming that key. You made a, in effect a modulation happen, this is how for example classical composers modulate (going form key 1 to key 2). So you can ask yourself: what keys can I modulate to if I change other notes in the scale?
2) next to playing inside (picking the "correct" notes over a given chord, or "coloring within the lines") , exploring playing outside (notes that are NOT "correct" for the given chord.). For example, playing in a modal idea (say, having a dm7 go on for 16 bars) can be less than exciting if all everyone get to do, is playing the notes in the dorian scale. So how about using dorian (dm7) as a basis for a modal bass part, and throwing different notes to spice the whole thing up? For example, listen to John Coltrane playing "Impressions": - IMO, you only need to accentuate the swap from Dm7 to Ebm7, and back- in between you can go anywhere you want.

Just some ideas, hope it helps. Play, use your ears, have fun!

13. ### tZer

If you really want to experiment with how chords function, sit down at a piano and do your experiments. While you can hear some of how chords work on a bass, you can put a more complete context around what you are doing on a piano and you have the added bonus of it being the most literal, and IMO the easiest to understand way of all.

I've done what you are describing with my Jazz Theory book close at hand so I can take a topic, read what the books says about it's function then see and hear what that means both musically and scientifically or mathematically (for lack of a better way to describe the nuts and bolts of stacking notes).

14. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
That's basically true, as far as major scale functionality goes. However a true vii(m7b5) chord is the least likely of the major scale chords to show up in practice.

The min7b5's most common function shows up in jazz as the ii(m7b5) in a harmonic minor ii(m7b5)- V7 progression.

Aug 20, 2010