minor key progression

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ics1974, Jul 14, 2013.

  1. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    Just wondering if you guys view minor keys from the minor scale or from the major scale? For example if the progression was Am Dm Em would you see this as a i iv v progression in the key of Am or would you view it as a vi ii iii progression in the key of C?
  2. It depends really. Some songs I view as minor, and some songs I take back to major. I'm sure there's some real technical, theory related way to tell, but mostly if the first chord is a minor than I say it's the minor key.
  3. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Inactive

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Depends on the melody and the resolution. If those were the chords then they are tonisizing(SP?) Am, because they do not have cadential resolution of G7 to C.

    If you were to put them as Vi ii iii on a music theory test, given no other chords, you would be counted as wrong.

    As i said, let the melody be your guide.
  4. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Are you playing an F natural or an F# over the Em? Given the progression you indicated, I would generally think Aminor, but it could technically be in more than one key depending on how you treat each chord.
  5. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    F natural.
  6. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    Here is another example I came across. The progression is Am-F-G
    Do you see this as a i VI VII progression in the key of A minor or iv-IV-V in the key of C?
  7. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Inactive

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Basically Am F G can be seen as follows:

    Am - Tonic (i)
    F - VI (which functions as either an extension of tonic, or as an in complete iv m7 chord (Minus root but inclusion of third and seventh give the illusion of predominant)
    G - because its root and third surround the A, they collapse to it, causing the same as dominant resolution to Am. While it does not work as well as using a G#dim or an E7 chord, it can be heard in the progression (And remember, this is all about what you hear anyway) as the chord of tension before resolution.

    On top of that, the bottom like is you keep bringing up progressions that resolve back to Am. So regardless of what you do, as long as that is your chord of resolution, then you are in Am.
  8. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    Thanks. I have been reading about the Nashville numbering system today, how does it apply to minor keys?
    Using my example. if the progression was Am Dm Em would it be a i iv v progression in the key of Am or would it be a vi ii iii progression in the key of C?
  9. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    That's not a chord progression that can be analyzed in a key context. Since there is no cadence of any kind, it can be considered purely modal harmony. If you are using F instead of F# throughout, then it's just a series of chords built around A Aeolian. If the E chord were major or dominant, then you could say A Minor, but it's not.

    And the other example, Am-F-G, can be analyzed as A Minor. You have I-, bVI, and bVII. The bVII chord has a dominant function. It's not as strong as the V chord, but it still works in that context.
  10. AngelCrusher


    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    The easy answer is honestly just to use your ears and the song will tell you what the key is.

    I get sent songs all the time with no chord progression or key info and I am expected to write a bass line to them.

    Listen to where the song is resolving.

    It sounds like you are still over thinking things. If you sit down with any progression you are talking about and just play it over and over, it will all make sense.
  11. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    In order to get a better understanding about your question, lets read the following notes:

    "In music theory, a scale degree is the name given to a particular note of a scale to specify its position relative to the tonic (the main note of the scale/ a key "center"—the tonic triad)."

    "The traditional form of tonal music begins and ends on the tonic of the piece, and many tonal works move to a closely related key, such as the dominant of the main tonality. Establishing a tonality is traditionally accomplished through a cadence, which is two chords in succession which give a feeling of completion or rest, with the most common being V7–I cadence."

    Now, let's look at your progression.

    In your mind, you have either C or Am as I - the tonic,
    I don't see any C chord. Your progression starts and ends without any C major chord; therefore, we are going to forget C as the Tonic, unless you showed us only a small part of your chord progression.


    In your case, you or we just assumed that it started with Am as the tonic (I), moved to the subdominant (iv) and went to the dominant (v).

    But what if it is : | Am (iv)/Dm (vii) | Em (I) | ?
    I mean, what if your progression ends with Em?
  12. Nice, this is insightful. Thanks. :hyper:
  13. Tom-Phil


    Nov 29, 2010
    Hamilton OH
    Even with the number system, the approach might differ from song to song. I'd say, whatever helps the band, as a whole, to develop a common language on a song, is right.
  14. I almost understand this, I guess I'd like some clarification.

    I agree it is A Aeolian right through, with the F natural. But that is also "A natural minor", so why isn't that "A minor"? Is a real "minor key" the harmonic minor? The melodic minor?

    Adding confusion to this question is that A harmonic minor has an F, not an F#; the harmonic minor does have a G# instead of a G (making the V-chord a dom7), but a post above suggested it was the F/F# that determined this question. Which is odd, since that determines whether the IV-chord is major/minor, rather than the V-chord.

    The melodic minor has both F# and G#, but if we're naming something as a "minor key" why wouldn't harmonic minor be the beast rather than melodic minor? Then again, a previous poster did say it is all about the melody.

    So suffice it to say I am confused. :help:
  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    This is one of those cases where notation is superior to English in clearing up ambiguity.

    From notation perspective, A Aeolian = A minor = A natural minor (= C major) ; all the same notes.
    the "real minor key" , if there is any , would probably be the one that the key signature indicates, which would be Amin ( C maj.)
    Even if the song has an E7 ( using a G#) , the key signature is usually still A min (C maj) and the #7 is almost always indicated as an accidental .

    You are not as confused as you think. G# makes it A harmonic minor.
    Melodic minor is a very rarely the "key" of a piece,
    when discussing a chord progressions or key signatures.
    again, from the perspective of notation: there's only the 12 major keys (and 12 relative minors)
    Harmonic and Melodic minor are perhaps best be thought of as simply scales, but not keys.

    to answer your first post, i would consider Am Dm Em either A minor,
    or -since in some genres ,A minor is assumed to be a Harmonic minor, I might specify A Natural Minor

    All this thinking can be useful for learning, or composition, but If you're trying to communicate to other musicians, simply communicating the specific chords is sufficient.
  16. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Listen to what sounds like the note the progression sounds "finished" on. That is the tonic note. If the corresponding chord with the tonic as its root is major, then the key is major. If it's minor, then the key is minor.

    If somebody tells me that something is in the key of A minor and gives me the chords Am Dm Em, then I say it's i iv v. vi ii iii makes no sense - tonality is a psychological phenomenon, not an arbitrary numbering system.
  17. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    I'm a little bit confused too, because:

    "The ascending melodic minor scale can be notated as
    1 2 ♭3 4 5 6 7 8
    While the descending is:
    1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8

    "Melodic minor scales in which the sixth and seventh degrees are raised in ascending order and restored in descending order. The descending order produces the natural minor."
  18. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Ah, yes: classic Phrygian cadence.
  19. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    An interesting point:

    "In music, the subtonic is the scale degree below the tonic or, more specifically, the flattened seventh (♭VII): the lowered or minor seventh degree of the scale, a whole step below the tonic..."
    "The subtonic appears in three forms:
    (3) as the chord ♭VII in both ♭VII-I cadence.

    "For example, in the A minor scale (white keys on a piano, starting on A), the subtonic is the note G (in C major this would be B♭); and the subtonic triad consists of the notes G, B, and D (in C: B♭-D-F). In music theory, the subtonic chord is symbolized with the Roman numeral ♭VII for a major triad built on the note, or ♭vii for a minor triad."

    "In jazz, the flattened seventh is also used as a substitute for the dominant, V, especially in the Backdoor cadence,[5] ii-♭VII7-I, where the subtonic is used for the dominant seventh. ♭VII is in this case a pivot chord borrowed from the parallel minor (its dominant seventh). V7 and ♭VII7, the subtonic seventh chord, have two common tones, in C: GBDF and B♭DFA♭."
  20. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    The harmonic minor scale is just a melodic tool that came into being because of the necessity of raising the 7th of the scale to accomodate the introduction of a dominant V chord. Without a V or other dominant function chord, which the OP's first example doesn't have, there is no dominant-to-tonic harmonic movement. That's why we can look at those chords as just being modal. Sure, you can put roman numerals above them (I-, IV-, V-), but there's no functional harmony going on.