I want to use relative minors tastefully

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ericmknight1906, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Good day TB members,

    I would like to learn more about relative minors and how and when to apply them in a tasteful and appropriate manner.
    1st off, I want to confirm that I'm correct about relative minors. From what I've learned the root of the relative minor is generally the 6th note of the major scale. Is this correct? If not please correct me.

    Also, I would like a few examples of some songs that use both its major chord and its relative minor within the same song.

    I guess I'm looking to expand my creativity and different note ideas beyond a songs main scale progression.

  2. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Minors will get you into a world of trouble no matter how tasteful you are... But when they're your relatives, too? Forget about it!

    Sorry, couldn't resist.
  3. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    IMHO people don't really 'use' relative minors,
    at least not in the sense that you might replace
    choices you make for a major chord
    with choices from its relative minor scale/chord.
    you gotta support the chords, and ignoring the root is often perilous.
    (assuming this is bass line and not a solo)
  4. Yes that is correct.
    The progression could be C, Am, F, G7, C. That Am chord (the vi chord) coming right before the F or IV chord is explained in more detail below. Right at this moment I can not think of a song that has an relative minor chord in it. I play ole time classic country and our country is all major.
    Note ideas or chord ideas. If you want to throw in a relative minor chord, you should have a reason for doing so. Normally this is because you want to harmonize the melody - so the vi chord's notes will be found both in the chord and in the melody. When both the melody and the chord share like notes you have harmonization - the two sound good together. Chords in a progression are not random, each has a reason for being there. This can be to help the verse move from rest (I) to tension (IV), to climax (V7) and then back to rest (I) to end the verse or to help harmonize the melody. It's a balancing act, you need the chord to do both. True you can find the ones that sound good together, by just using your ear, or you can use a little theory and put them where they are needed. Inserting that vi chord just before the F does add some color and flavor to the progression, however, it still needs to harmonize the melody being used over it to justify it's existence - if it does not harmonize it may clash, which you do not want.

    Take a look at the following chart:
     If you are trying to harmonize the ........
    1 degree of the scale try I, IV, vi or ii7 chords of that key, as they will have the 1st degree note in their makeup.
    2 degree of the scale try V, ii7, iii7 chords of that key, as they will have the 2nd degree note in their makeup. 
    3 degree of the scale try I, vi, iii chords of that key. Ditto......
    4 degree of the scale try IV, ii, v7 chords of that key.
    5 degree of the scale try V, I, iii chords of that key.
    6 degree of the scale try IV, ii, vi chords of that key.
    7 degree of the scale try V7, iii, Imaj7 chords of that key. 
    Another reason for inserting a vi chord - and touches on that movement within the verse - the vi likes to move to a sub-dominate chord (the ii or IV). Another reason for inserting a vi chord - the iii normally drags the vi along with it. So if you had a reason for having a iii chord in your progression you probably also have a reason for having a vi in the progression, as in the classic turn-a-round iii-vi-ii-V7-I.

    Most of this came from www.musictheory.net - Lessons - common chord progressions. Worth a look.

    Now if you are talking about using the 6th note. The 6th note of the scale is neutral and does go well with major chord tones, R-3-5-6. Add a 2 and you have the major pentatonic - R-2-3-5-6.

    Good luck.
  5. colcifer

    colcifer Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    he he he
  6. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    Maybe if Jerry Lee Lewis is here, he can chime in...........
  7. Otso


    Mar 6, 2006
    For example, if we're using 7th chords, all the tones of the relative minor chord are consonant with the major chord, most of them are actually the same, because chords are "built in" thirds and the roots are a minor third apart.

    Cmaj7: - C E G B
    Am7: A C E G -

    The tone A is the 6 or 13 of the Cmaj7 chord and it is very consonant with the chord. By emphazising the structure of the minor chord instead of the major, you can hint at minor even when the harmony is major.

    Just some wild ideas... :D
  8. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    wow...songs with relative minors and majors in em? first tell us your favorite bands or music ...then we can start listing...you'll find literally thousands of songs use both ...most pop music where you hear a 4 chord form is using both from journey to katy perry to the eagles on an on.

    Don't Stop Believing - has both an E major and a C# minor

    Take it Easy - has both a G major and an Eminor.

    The pop song Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry is an example of a song that only uses one progression and uses the 4 principle chords in the key of C Major.

    Aminor, F major, C major, G major

    so it starts on the relative minor and the relative major is the 3rd chord in the progression.

    and FWIW ....the idea if "using" a relative minor tastefullly really only applies to music creation - that is writing a song or changing the chords to an already written song - maybe swapping in an Aminor where there was a C major and getting positive results in you ear! that is called reharmonization!
  9. Thanks for all who posted! Sammy. I will take a listen to the songs that you suggested just to give me an idea of what these type of minor/major progressions would sound like blended together. And by the way, my favorite bands are Earth Wind And Fire and Chicago...
  10. bassfuser


    Jul 16, 2008
    Listen to "With a Gun" by Steely Dan. I believe the song is in the key of G and the progression goes to an Emi to start the bridge. I think that is a common use for the relative minor, to shift the song to the relative minor during the bridge.

  11. G Hogg, that is a great example. I attempted to play along with it: It appears that the majority of the song was in Aminor progression, Then the bridge switched to C major. Perfect! thanks
  12. rondohd

    rondohd Guest

    Oct 29, 2009
    Pueblo, Colorado
    Forgive me but I choked on my Beer laughing out loud at this.
  13. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    I was all set with an SEC football joke, but I got here too late.
  14. bassfuser


    Jul 16, 2008
    I guess I should have checked the song out first. I was thinking G to Emi with Emi being the relative of G, but I guess the song is in Ami. It still goes to the Emi during the bridge which is diatonic correct for it to be a song in the relative minor of C.

    Not quite what I wanted to give as an example though.
  15. Is this what we are talking about?

    WITH A GUN - Steely Dan
    Intro :
    Am      Am/G Am     Am/G
    Verse 1:
    Am         G                F         G     Am
    I could be wrong but I have seen your face before
    Am           G              C                Dm
    You were the man that I saw running from the store
    Dm                        C                  Bb     
    You ordered money but you gave him something more
    Chorus :
           Gm   Am         Gm    Am
    With a gun      with a gun
    Am       Bb          C            Bb
    You will be what you are just the same
    Bb      F             G            A           G
    Did you pay the other man with the keys in the hand
       F         Em           Dm      G
    Or leave him lying in the rain
  16. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    in a major key, yeah, its the 6th scale degree. also relative majors... the third scale degree of a minor key.

    a tastefull way to use them? well, modulating to them for a bride is common. look into applied chords. there should be plenty of stuff about them on free music theory websites and stuff like that. V/vi is a good idea...

    also the simple "do ti la" bassline to get to a vi chord can work fine. reinforcing vi as a new tonal center can be easy after that.
  17. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Inactive

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    This thread is getting into trouble. Misinformation abounds...
  18. Audiophage

    Audiophage Guest

    Jan 9, 2005
    Tasteful usage of relative minors is usually more of a concern in composition or songwriting and not so much bass playing. Though, if you were soloing, on the bass, you could imply the relative minor of a major chord that you're playing. That would be a pretty tasty thing to do.
  19. miltslackford

    miltslackford Guest

    Oct 14, 2009
    It seems to me like there is a confusion about what 'relative minor' means which nobody has cleared up here.

    The term is used to describe keys, not chords.

    For example, if you make chords only using the notes from the C major scale you will get both major and minor chords - C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim. So in a major key you have both major and minor chords.

    Each major key has a 'relative minor' key. This means the minor key that shares the same 'key signature' as that major key. Because it shares the same key signature, the notes of that minor key will be the same as that of the major. So if your major is C, the relative minor in this case is A minor. A is the sixth note of C major. So you find the relative minor key tonic on the 6th note of the relative major.

    Chords are different. If you mean playing over a minor chord, that's just a minor chord, so there are ways to play over that. But a chord can't be 'relative minor'. The key is relative minor.

    Some people have also talked about substituting a major chord for a minor chord with a root a minor third lower. So for example, substituting a C major chord for an Am chord. This is a similar idea but it's nothing to do with keys it's just a 'chord substitution'. It makes sense in some ways to refer to this as a 'relative minor' but it's not where the term comes from, it's more like a convenient term but if you're learning about relative keys it could confuse you because the word 'relative' comes from the key relationship if those two chords HYPOTHETICALLY were keys..

    I would advise to read up on what relative keys are here

    Relative key - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    And understand that the term 'relative minor' refers first of all to keys.
  20. miltslackford

    miltslackford Guest

    Oct 14, 2009