Key theory

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by PanteraFan, Jul 12, 2001.

  1. Hi. I just wanted to know about the theory of Key signatures(if there is any). I mean, I know how most keys are constructed (R,3,5), but I want to know, are keys relevant to the important notes of a scale? For example, take the Aminor scale. It has a flatted 3rd, 6th and 7th. Because these notes differentiate this scale from the Major scale, are these therefore the notes that dictate the key? Or is it all just as simple as R,3,5?

    BTW, I'm not asking for a full explanation, a website link will be fine. However, if you feel the need to teach, go right ahead!
  2. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    To best understand keys, it would be helpful for you to do a search and find the Circle of Fifths that Gard (I believe) discussed thoroughly and clearly a few months ago.

    You will see from the Circle of Fifths (or Fourths, if you go around the other way) that keys are scales based on the number of sharps or flats they contain. You state that keys are based on root, third, fifth and that isn't exactly the whole story. Each key has its own number (or none, as in C major) of sharps or flats.

    For example

    C sharps or flats
    G major= one sharp
    D major=two sharps
    A major=three sharps

    F major=one flat
    B flat major=two flats
    E flat major=three flats

    You also need to know what notes are sharp or flat in the key. For example, G major has one sharp which is F sharp. F major has one flat which is B flat.

    The relative minor keys also each have a certain number of sharps or flats.

    Check out the search feature and see where the Circle of Fifths has been described in detail. This will give you a much better undertsanding of what keys are and how they are constructed. It will also help you understand how to interpret the key signature at the start of a peice of written music.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    JO is of course dead right there - I must say I found it hard to grasp this concept until I started studying Jazz and the thing that realy brought it home to me was Mark Levine's Jazz theory book. I have studied music before and even started an Open University course but it was really "dry" and never sunk in; but Levine's use of examples you can hear and play really brought these concepts to life for me.

    I also think that playing Jazz allows you to explore what all this really means, whereas in most other forms of music apart from "Classical" you don't get to do this comprehensively.
  4. Well, after looking at that I can see how wrong my head was screwed on. I thought that if I was playing under, say, an F#Min chord, then the only thing that would fit in key would be F#(R),A(3), and C#(5) scales/arpeggios, and then I could take the R, 3 or 5 of those scales and play more stuff!

    Well, at least now I know that there are only so many keys, and I understand resolving of chords a whole lot better.

    The way I can see this working for me is if my guitarist writes a riff but we don't know who to finish it to get it to sound right, I'll take a gander at my COF and see the best way to make the sequence resolve....
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    There are usually a fair number of scales you can play over one particular chord - not just straight major/minor and modes thereof; but also things like pentatonic scales, diminished, altered scales etc. I think one of John Goldsby's lessons in Bass player mag listed out all the possible choices for each type of chord - but then you could always play some chromatic, non-scalar notes as well!
  6. Just to make the waters a bit more muddled...

    I have a tendency to see keys and chords as the same thing. In reality, a scale can be thought of as a chord arranged in step-wise fashion instead of in stacked thirds:

    C major scale: C D E F G A B (C)
    C major 13th chord: C E G B D F A

    Same notes, just rearranged. You can do this with any note in the "key" as well, for example:

    F Lydian (4th mode of C major): F G A B C D E (F)
    F major 13th,#11: F A C E G B D

    I'm pretty comfortable with thinking this way in diatonic scales, but really need to get out to the non-diatonic stuff more often. Lucky for me, I don't get called on to deal with altered chords/scales too often! :D Anyone wants to trip me up, just toss a G7#5 in front of me and tell me I gotta solo over it! :eek:
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    But it's OK if it's Gmaj7(#11) ? :D
  8. Sure! Just use G Lydian...right??? :D

    G maj7#11 = G B D F# C#
    G Lydian = G A B C# D E F# (G)

    It's that damn Lydian Dominant stuff that trips me up! :( (Yeah, I know, it's only ONE note different...)
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Or C Major Pentatonic?
  10. Uh...I dunno about that:

    G maj7#11: G B D F# C#

    C major pentatonic: C D E G A

    Might have a clash with the C/C#?

    I tend to think of pentatonic scales as arpeggios actually, a major pentatonic is a 6/9 arpeggio, minor pentatonic is min7,11.
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    C/C#...sounds 'good' to me. ;)
    Depends on how the chord is voiced!
    One specific tune that comes to mind is "My Old School" by The Yellowjackets(Greenhouse album?); anyway, there's a bar of G/G# somewhere...our guitarist played some kinda G Barre chord over my G# (played on the E-string).
    Phyuck! Louisiana mud!
    I really prefer guitarists with Steve Khan's mentality...voice the chords on the D-G-B-E strings, allow the bassist to play/alter those 'notes'.
    (Even better when there's NO guitar/piano!) ;)
  12. ...and there's maybe something WRONG with Louisiana mud?!?! :p ;) There's a dude in Baton Rouge that uses the stuff for painting, amazing work and colors.

    I think Bruce and I were more discussing melodic choices over harmony, not harmony itself. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules melodically either. But we are thinking "inside" the harmony, so the C/C# dichotomy isn't necessairly going to fit into the scope of our discussion.

    Mind you, I dig the idea of the b9 in the bass, do it all the time...sadly my bandmates don't have quite the sense of harmonic adventure I do, and accuse me of making a "mistake"!!! :rolleyes: It's especially effective when you're using a fretless and you can get that quarter-tone between the root and the b9, get that extra "someone sucking a lemon" effect out of your harmonic choices. :eek: :D

    I'm with you 100% on the chording guitarist stuff, back before I was "saved", and I played our skinny-stringed bastard child, I was of a like mind in my choices for rhythm parts. I made it a point to leave room for the "boss" (the cat playing the big strings) to have his say. Sadly, most of the pelican gunners I have worked with since that time didn't have quite the same sense of space in their playing.
  13. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...I figured that Louisiana comment would get ya! ;) How are the Saints lookin'? Ricky or no Ricky(I see they drafted a RB in the 1st Round again)?

    Amen to the rest of your post; b9s & the fretless comments(microtones, I'm PLAYING microtones, dude!)are on the money.
    Ditto for guitarists takin' up too much space(especially when their rhythm chops ain't all that). ;)

    Harmolodics, anyone? ;)
  14. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    JimK -

    "My Old School" is on the 'Like a River' album. The 'Jackets are my favorite band :)
  15. JimK -

    Careful, this is veering towards being off topic!!! The Saints are gonna use Ricky and Duce as a 1-2 punch, totally different running backs, both excellent though. Plus, with Ricky's tendency to get injured it's a good idea to have two good RB's. And the mud painting thing is for real, astonishing stuff. I'll try to hunt down a website later for you if you're interested.

    As for the microtonalisim, they just never understand, do they? :D And man, we need more guitarists that can actually play rhythms (luckily the guy I work with now is pretty good at it, just gotta work on the 10 minute solos!!! :eek: ;) ).

    Oh, and I forgot to comment on the 'Jackets. My wife is a HUGE fan, we listen to them constantly. Amazing band, and isn't it cool to be married to someone with actual musical taste? :D I'm a lucky man.

    (P.S. - Still diggin' that CD? :D)
  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    ...I don't usually 'play' AABA, I ain't gonna post as such! ;)
    DEFINITELY still diggin' your cd; the Wonder tune is awesome, I love that kinda stuff of re-inventing tunes. The Afro-Blue Band(a Latin collective with Jerry Gonzalez, Mark Levine, Melton Mustafa, etc) has a cd out which does that to certain Jazz 'classics'(eg, "Impressions" in a Latin vibe).
    If I ever get lucky enough to play again with guys who like doin' different s***, I'm gonna trot out my Latin version of "Come Together"(I played the main groove for the guys in 'my' Country band...they're all Beatles' fans & yet they didn't really 'get it'). ;)
    Hopefully, I'll get some thoughts together & resurrect your thread!
    BTW, it's cool to have a wife that's into something decent; my ex was one of those who, if she wasn't into 'it', 'it' must suck! ;)

    ...thanks; is "Dewey"(the Miles 'tribute')on that one also? I dig that tune, too.
    So who's playing drums with the 'Jackets?
    (Staying 'off-topic') ;)
  17. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Yeah, man, Dewey is on that CD. I really dig "man facing north" (the first cut on that disc) my band used to do that tune.

    Marcus Baylor is drumming for them now, but according to the website, ( ) he's just "sitting in".

    How about other favorite 'jackets tunes?

    Out of town
  18. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Well, if you like "Capetown", ya should also like "Savannah"...right?
    (Both from Blue Hats?)

    I like Politics alot...
    "The Spin" is way cool; "Geraldine", too.
    "Revelation" from Shades(ever hear the Robben Ford version from Talk To Your Daughter? I think it's Haslip & Colaiuta playin' with Ford on that album).
    Hmmmm...Colaiuta would be "perfect" for the 'Jackets.

    If you want to fire up a 'Jackets' thread, I'm there! ;)
  19. jazzbo

    jazzbo Guest

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Saw them live last year. Peter Erksine signed my "Heavy Weather" vinyl copy. I was nervous he'd feel weird about signing something for an old band, but I didn't have a YellowJackets CD on me. Very very cool guy. I wanted to ask him a million Jaco questions, but etiquette prevented it.
  20. You know, whenever I post anyhing on theory, it mutates into a jazz discussion...

    Am I being told something?:D