Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Gmaj or Emin

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Fire-Starter, Jan 2, 2004.


  1. Fire-Starter

    Fire-Starter Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2002
    MINNESOTA
    could someone explain the diff between playing a song in the Key of Gmaj or E minor, I played the Gmaj scale and I know that E (the 6th degree of that scale) is also called its rel minor, but whats the diff as far as someone saying a song is written Gmaj or Emin, the notes are the same in both keys as far as flats/sharps are concerned..ie both keys only have one sharp (f#)

    My guess is that it would have something to do with progressions etc,,but I am not sure, this is one of the disadvantages of not having a teacher, but I will get what I can for now.

    I am just trying to put the theory I have learned so far to practical understanding, so forgive me if this sounds silly:meh:

    please advise, and thanks!

    Peace!
     
  2. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    A song in G major will probably end on a G chord and a song in E minor will probably end on an E minor chord - 'resolving to the tonal centre', would be another way of expressing that.

    You'll also find a different set of chords - the Em song will probably feature Em and Bm, whereas the G major song is more likely to spend more time round G and D (chords based on the root and fifth of the respective keys).

    Of course, it's not always easy to tell what key a song is in - with a lot of the lines I've worked on with my band, the bassline is made of one or two repetitive riffs and so I'm left not not being sure of the chords until I spend more time listening to what the other instruments are doing... and some songs just defy description.

    Wulf
     
  3. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks!

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    It's like Wulf describes. Key is defined by the V-I motion. So if it's in G, you'll likely see alot of D7-G progressions. If it's Em, it should be more of B7-Em(harmonic minor) or Bm-Em(natural minor), the Bm-Em is not as strong of a resolution, though.


    Chris A.:rolleyes: :bassist:
     
  4. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    The real clue is if it uses B or B7, not Bm!

    In answer to the question, the difference between G and Em is the tonal centre. Even if both keys have the same notes, the question is, which one is the tonal centre? What seems to be root note, G or E?

    The concept of the tonal centre is a difficult one to explain. It's the key that sounds like 'home', really. It's difficult to put into words, but it's something you learn to recognize.

    One clue would be the presence of D#s (in this case). When a piece is in E Minor, according to the key signature, the 7th (D) is natural. However, very often, in pieces in minor keys, the 7th is sharpened, turning chord V into a true dominant chord (e.g. in E minor, sharpening the D turns chord V into B rather than Bm).

    Going by the key signature, chord 5 in E minor would be B minor (B D F#). Turning that D into a D# turns chord 5 into B (B D# F#), or B7 (B D# F# A). Dominant chords very often have the 7th added, as it creates a greater 'pull' to the tonic (as the 3rd of chord 5 - D# - resolves to the E, the 7th - A - resolves to the G of chord 1, which is E minor).

    So, D#s, or B7 chords, are a good indicator that you're in E minor (or at least, you've modulated to E minor).

    I see Wulf has leapt right in there with the old look-at-the-last-chord approach. Lots of people seem to advocate this, but personally, I cringe when I see people recommend it ;) I also mumble under my breath when I see people say things like "G major will probably end on a G chord and a song in E minor will probably end on an E minor chord" :D

    Music doesn't always do that! For a start, there's quite a lot of music that's in a minor key but ends on the tonic major (e.g. in E minor, ending on an E major chord). Back in the middle ages, you had to do that, or people would start slitting their wrists :D There are also songs in major keys, that end on the relative minor (e.g. in G major, ending on E minor). And then there's plenty of music that ends on some other chord, not necessarily even related to the tonality of the piece. And then, there are songs that fade out ;)

    Besides which, you shouldn't have to wait until the end to find out what key it was in! You wanna be able to hear the tonal centre much sooner than that. Imagine if you're playing in a jam session! You're not gonna wait till the end to find out what key you should have been in, right?

    Forgive me, but looking at the last chord always seems to me to be such a crude way of doing it.

    IMO you should learn to recognize the tonal centre without resorting to that.
     
  5. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    Sometimes with stuff like this, it is really easy to tell the difference. All that theory will tell you the answer, as well as having an intimate knowledge of every note in the song. But to me, the easiest way is to listen to it.

    Does it sound minor? Chances are, its minor.


    (this kinda goes back to recognizing the tonal center that wulf and moley were talking about)
     
  6. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    It depends a lot on the context of the music. For example, at the moment, the place I play most from music other people have written out (as opposed to by ear or from my own transcriptions) is at church. Most of the music is clearly diatonic (heck, most of the contemporary worship stuff uses variations on I IV V vi) and the 'last chord' is pretty reliable. Most of the pieces we use fit on a single sheet and so you can easily glance at the end.

    However, it's certainly true that it's far from an infallibly useful rule. It's not as advanced as the idea of learning to recognise the tonal centre off the bat but is a concrete step in that direction (as long as you remember that at some point you have to leave that step behind to progress).

    Of course, another factor you have to bear in mind (which you may want to 'blinker out' if at an early stage of learning) is that if someone writes down a chord progression for you, there's no guarantee that it's 'right'. That's certainly the case with contemporary christian worship music, where you might buy the music book to go with the CD but find a whole bunch of discrepancies (many of which are down to attempts to write the music so it fits neatly in the books and is relatively easy for the average church music group to pick up).

    Wulf
     
  7. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    :D
     
  8. Fire-Starter

    Fire-Starter Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2002
    MINNESOTA
    Does this "recognizing the tonal center" concept work in jazz also, as the keys can change from measure to measure?
     
  9. Aaron

    Aaron

    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    Of course, but there are many tunes that have shifting tonal centers (Giant Steps, for example), just as there could be shifting tonal centers in any other genre. When the key changes, it might not necessarily be changing the tonal center, but briefly borrowing from an other key.
     
  10. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago

    The important thing here is, when the tonal center shifts, you have to shift with it.

    We struggle to define 20th (and 21st!) century music using a system of keys and tonal centers that was developed some four or five hundred years ago. As moley said, music doesn't always do that! Modern blues-based musical styles -- rock and jazz among them -- use scales and chord progressions that were unheard of back then. If a blues song is in E, for example, most of the D's in the melody will be D naturals, and most of the G's will be G naturals (even though the rhythm section is playing D#'s and G#'s). That doesn't mean it's not in E -- it means the singer (or lead player) is using a different scale than the rhythm section is using! This polyphony is part of our lexicon now, and it ain't all in that second-year piano theory book. There's lots been happening in music these past few centuries.
     
  11. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Here's a link, and my post from the link:

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?threadid=69772&highlight=minor+scales

     
  12. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    While modes and modal playing are a big part of music, it must be pointed out that they are NOT the ONLY thing! Modes are all part of the major scale, and plenty of juicy sounds happen that cannot be defined as part of any particular mode. Harmonic minor, for example, isn't just one set of notes, but uses the lowered and raised sixth degree, and lowered and raised seventh degree, depending on what else is is happening at the time. Lots of Yiddish music (think "Hava Nagila", which incidentally begins on the 5th degree of the scale and the V chord) is in a harmonic minor that uses the lowered 6th and raised 7th exclusively -- that is not a mode! The diminished scale -- very useful for playing over that 7b9 chord -- is also not a mode.

    It's also important as a bassist to understand that bass in modern music doesn't necessarily use the same scale that the melody is using. For example, a 7b9 chord may suggest a diminished scale in the melody, but bass should use mixolydian (dominant) mode under that in most cases. Unless you're soloing, in which case you ARE the melody!

    When you study modes, be sure to realize that, while it's a good start, it's NOT the universe!
     
  13. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    "Giant Steps" is a series of ii-V-I progressions in three keys -- Eb major, G major, and B major. There have been many debates on what key the tune is "really" in, but the fact is that it simply changes, and doesn't really have to "declare" a key. Again to quote moley, music doesn't always do that!

    A more recent (though I'm admittedly showing my age) and simpler example is the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold your Hand". The verses are in G major, but then the bridge section ("...And when I touch you...") goes | Dm | G7 | C | Am |. The Dm-G7-C is a ii-V-I that clearly outlines the key of C. So bass (and everybody else, in this particular case) would definitely start playing within the C scale as soon as the Dm happens. At the end of the section ("... I can't hide...") there's those C - D7's, returning to the key of G.

    That's a "shifting tonal ceter". Whether it's borrowed or a real change is irrelevant -- ya gotta go with it!

    This also points out that you need to look two or three chords AHEAD of the chord you're playing right now, to figure out how to handle the chord you ARE playing. For example, if the chords after that Dm had been Em7b5 - A7, you'd have wanted to play the D harmonic minor scale (rather than the C major scale as in the Beatles tune).

    Yo, Fire-Starter -- Any of this making sense?
     
  14. Fire-Starter

    Fire-Starter Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2002
    MINNESOTA
    Yo, Fire-Starter -- Any of this making sense? [/B][/QUOTE]

    It kind of makes sense in the sense that if I had to apply these things daily in my playing it would come together much more, but I play with guys who dont have much theory background, for example, we will learn a new song from an artist, and when we come together to practice, I know the keyboard player has changed a few chords because I will say "thats not a b natural there its suppose to be a b flat, but if I play the b flat it clashes with his chord, so he says "I know, but I could not figure out the right chord so just play the b natural, sometimes it frustrating because I figure whats the point if we are all gonna take a song home, learn it, then one just changes the chords to what-ever he wants in the progression regardless if its wrong, I think if I were in a situation where people were applying all that was talked about so far it would make more sense to see whats going on and why, I wish I could just sit down with you guys here at TB live and go through this stuff, maybe we could start a forum where we have videos of people here who know this stuff giving demos??:meh: I appreciated the responses:)
     
  15. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Ouch. Welcome to the other side of music: Reality.

    You can learn all the theory you want, but the fact remains that you have to play with *other people*. People all have their little things. You kind of have to play with people who are at a similar skill level to yours, and there are gonna be situations like you described. It's part of playing music that you have to maintain a positive relationship in order for there to be music in the first place. Even in playing something "wrong" (defined as "not on the original recording"), you can still learn something. Take from this "B natural - B flat" situation the understanding of what the two different chords sound like in this situation. And try to realize that it's not necessarily "wrong", just "different". Perhaps you can figure out what the chord IS on the recording, and ask your keyboard player to try it. Or maybe you can get the chords off OLGA or someplace. Google for "[songname] chords" and see what comes up.

    ALWAYS take the opportunity to play with people who are better than you -- it's then that you find out what you need to work on, and get to play things that sound good. Sure, you're gonna crash once in a while, but those musicians expected that. Don't sweat it. The more often you do that, the quicker you'll improve, as long as you take a moment to try and figure out what went wrong. "The person who never makes a mistake most likely isn't doing anything." Applies to music, business, and life.

    Stay at it. You clearly have the passion. You'll get there. Strive for the widest variety of musical experiences, and you'll become a well-rounded musician.
     
  16. Fire-Starter

    Fire-Starter Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2002
    MINNESOTA
    ELI..I see your point, I think one of my problems is I like things to be in order, and I have a hard time sometimes bending the rules, I am like that with everything, "if it has rules, stick to them, use exception only when needed":cool: I know music is very creative and should not be handled with such a straight edge, I could be wrong:meh: Thanks much:D

    Peace:)

    BTW..Thanks for those links, they are very useful!
     
  17. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Every style of music has "rules" or conventions; they differ from style to style. What you can get from these conventions is that if you follow the rules of a certain style, the music you make will sound like that style. Elton John certainly followed a lot of the old-school theory, and we call his music "classical-based". Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, and Dizzy Gillespie wrote another set of rules -- we now call that "bop". So did Lennon and McCartney; that's called "British invasion". So did Paige and Plant, and that was the foundation for metal. So nobody has "the" rules. And in today's age of multi-stylistic fusion, who's to say what's "right" or "wrong"?

    Or in the words of another famous dude, "Judge not, lest ye be judged..."