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help with figuring out Key

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by harley_ou812, Nov 14, 2005.

  1. Let me start off by saying i have been struggling with learning music theory but yet I am still trying. That being said I have just come up with a bassline that I am really digging. Now I would like to be able to expand off of it with guitar and all that but would like to figure out what key it is in and have been struggling. I know that the way it stands right now it should be able to be interpreted in different ways but I am not sure how. I am playing D G C D with passing tones of E and A. My first assumption would be it is a in the key of D something but I struggle with my modes. I would think D dorian would be ok to work out of but I am not sure of other options or even if thats the best option.
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well, first of all, D Dorian is not a KEY. D Dorian is a MODE of the key of C Major.

    Second, you may not BE in a key. A lot of stuff just moves around in the harmonic vocabulary of whoever is writing it and you kind of have to treat it as "modal" and move from chord to chord.

    The line you set up (and it's hard to tell without seeing it notated with the rhythm as well) all has notes from the key of C major/A minor. Without seeing WHERE everything is trying to resolve (notes and rhythm) it's hard to determine IF you are indeed in functional harmony land or in modal land or a combination of the two.

    As far as adding chords to the line, well what do you HEAR going on? You can try to use one chord over all the line or a chord for each seperate note. It just all depends on what you're hearing and what you're trying to acheive, sonically. See, music theory isn't RULES; it's just OBSERVATIONS. The tendency of certain sounds to move towards resolution or away from resolution. But it's not like _ you have these notes, you MUST use this chord. It's basically just up to how inventive you are.
  3. WOW.. just wow lol. I read your reply at first and was rather confused... then I thought for a second and it makes sense. I did mean in the key of C and playing out of D dorian. But I always kinda thought about it as I have a bass line and trying to use Music theory to decode what possible keys it Could be and try to build the chords based off of that.

    I know it sounds like I try using music theory as to giving me the answers to what to play. But I more have been trying to understand it as giving me more of a road map to find my way to different options. If someone hands me a chord progression I struggle trying to figure out where to go with it almost noodling around till i come up with something. I have been wanting to learn theory to narrow down the wrong ways.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Sure, if somebody gives you a chord progression, you can look at it and talk about function of the chords (fuctional harmony). But if you are given just single notes, you can harmonise those in a variety of ways. And then, given your choices for chords, you can talk about function. But looking at just the notes you named D is the tonic of D chord (major or minor), the 3rd of a major triad (Bb, and that can be a tonic major7th chord or a dominant 7th chord built on the 5th of key) the 3rd of a minor chord (B minor, which can be a tonic minor chord, the ii chord, the iii chord etc), the 5th of a major or minor chord, the 7th of a major 7th chord (Ebma7), the 7th of a dominant chord (E7), the 7th of a minor chord (E-7). Then you get into the tensions.

    Give that you have similar choices for every single one of the notes you named, you see what I'm talking about when I say " It depends"?
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'm delving into jazz a lot deeper than I ever did lately, and I've figured out two truisms of jazz that are constant for all of it, no matter what sub-genre:

    1. You can play almost any note over any chord as long as you do it the right way. Obviously if you're walking over a C chord, you're not going to play a bassline that goes F#-G#-A#-C# without any reference to the tonal center of C, but I could play a walking bassline that uses all those notes and more and never once make it sound like it's out of key.

    2. The only way to learn what's right and what's wrong is to hit a lot of wrong notes. When you hit the wrong note, it will feel like the most embarrassing moment of your life, but you'll learn more from that wrong note than a lifetime of right notes.

    There's nothing at all wrong with using theory to figure out what to play over chords. When you rigidly stick to it, though, you will play all the right notes, but you'll never take yourself out of that safe zone of right notes, and your playing will lack some zip. On the other hand, there is a world full of musicians who never take themselves out of the safe zone and many of them make a pretty good living. But it makes for some pretty stale playing if you don't do it now and then.