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Music theory and chords

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by MrBKerth, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. MrBKerth

    MrBKerth The Gypsy Bravado

    Apr 20, 2013
    Hi, I have a question that is probably pretty dumb for you educated musicians. If I or my guitarist plays a chord, must all the notes be in key or does only the root matter when it comes to staying in key?
  2. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    Well you can't be in Bb major if you only have Bb, you need Eb too. But then not every chord created from every degree of Bb major will have a Bb and an Eb.

    And many chords can be shared in various key. Like Bbmaj7 can be found in Bbmaj ( of course ) and also in Fmaj.

    So in the end you need a few chords or the melody or the bass line and see the the relation of the chords and the accidential that are always there.

    So you'll be in Fmaj if you only see Bb . Of course you can change key during a song.
  3. Babaghanoush


    Jan 21, 2011
    Ohio, USA
    No. Many, many chords contain tones outside of the major scale of the key you're in.
  4. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    """If I play a chord, must all the notes be in key"""
    NOTE! A chord has 3 notes or more & chords (ex: A minor7) can be found in multiple keys.

    A power chord (ex A&E 1&5 or Root 5th) or groups of them will not define a key nor do they offer a chord quality so the melody would need to be considered.

    """or does only the root matter when it comes to staying in key?""

    No! If your just playing roots one can go in & out of key using passing tones or put other notes of the chord in the root. It all depends.

    I'll suggest looking at some classics like Stairway to Heaven (the opening descending bass notes & over all chord qualitys), Little Wing (the F chord), the Beatles-Yesterday (check the chords & melody vs the key of F) or Del Shanon's Runaway (it is written using both A min & A Maj keys). Or even some real simple things like Ac/Dc tunes. They love using the Maj3rd /Min 3rd thing, 5ths or 3rds in the bass line , Sus 4 & passing tones in the bass all the time. Off the top of my head Back in Black & Are you Ready (intro & bridge section) have these quality's.
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    All the notes have to do is sound good against the chord. You can use any note you want, including notes that are completely out of the chord or chord scale, as long as you know how to place it correctly.
  6. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Well, this may be a little confusing, but I think it's important to understand that sometimes even the root note can be from outside the key.

    Let's use the key of C for example, because it's all "white keys" and the minute we introduce a sharp or flat it's clear we're "outside" the scale.

    Let's say you were going to play a progression moving from G7 to C. One substitution we could make would be to use a Db7 in place of that G7. This would not be common in rock, but it's almost a cliché in jazz. It works for various reasons, but one of the most easily-grasped is that G7 and Db7 have two notes in common (B and F).

    G7= G, B, D, F
    Db7= Db, F, Ab, B

    All right, now forget everything I just said. Don't try to digest it yet. You're not ready for that. To get to that, first you need to have a solid handle on "diatonic" harmony. Diatonic means that all of the notes involved are in the key of the song, which relates to your question.

    In fact, the short answer to your question is: no, all the notes do not have to be in the key, but if they are, the progression is termed "diatonic".

    If you take every note of the major scale and assign it a roman numeral, and keep to diatonic chords, you get this pattern:

    I major
    ii minor
    iii minor
    IV major
    V major
    vi minor
    vii diminished

    Notice that major chords got a capital roman numeral, where minors and diminished are in lower case. This is a common shorthand, so you can just say I, ii, iii, IV, etc.

    That list is definitely worth committing to memory. Once you have that down, you can start learning the theory behind the juicier notes.
  7. MrBKerth

    MrBKerth The Gypsy Bravado

    Apr 20, 2013
    Thanks guys. Reminds me of a Victor Wooten quote. He said something like the most important scale is the chromatic scale.

    I was just afraid what I'd been writing was musically haphazard and elementary (probably still is anyways :rolleyes:) since some of the chord notes and notes I was playing fell outside the key.
  8. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Nope, your ear is the ultimate arbiter. Music theory doesn't prescribe rules, it explains past practices. :)
  9. +1
  10. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    That doesn't work like you said ...

    Db7 should be : Db, F, Ab, Cb not B ...
  11. Theory wise it is correct to name it as Cb but technically it it still B
  12. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    enharmonic yes but it is still isn't the same thing.

    G7 : G,A,B,C,D,E,F or G,B,D,F
    Db7 : Db,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb,Cb or Db,F,Ab,Cb

    There is no B in Db ... if you're going to give a theory lesson, give it right.

    If he said : you can use D7 instead of G7 then yes that would work well because it is the V7 of a V7.
  13. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Oh good lord, I was trying not to confuse the issue! Throwing in concepts like Cb wasn't exactly going to help. :rollno:

    And while we're still at it, you might see Cb notated in a piece of music, but in 25 years of playing, I've never once heard a musician refer to that pitch as Cb, regardless of the key we were in. Ever. That's as esoteric as it is elitist.
  14. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    Sorry but stuff like that that give the impression that musician are just a bunch of idiot... it is elitist and esoteric to call it by it's proper name and give the right explanation for it ?

    If they would call it like it should be we weren't stuck with so many ways to right the same chord simboles or calling every groupe of three note a triplet ...
  15. zakedodead


    Sep 8, 2013
    Yes trying to force people to use an abstraction and then calling them " a bunch of idiot" is pretty elitist and stupid.
  16. seekir


    Jun 30, 2006
    New bassist here, more experienced with guitar; seems like there are many players who use "outside" leading or passing tones to spice up and liven their playing. Notes that suggest or even demand an approaching chord or resolution. Example: I've found some of Jack Bruce's lines that have chromatic movements 2 or 3 frets from the intended "destination" note. Other tunes routinely involve a half-step hammer-on or slide lead-ins to chord roots or other notes.
  17. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef Formerly "thebrian" Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    I agree with you Clef_de_fa. When you're talking chords, they are built in 3rds. The 7th of the chord is always expressed as a 3rd above the 5th. In the case of this Db7 chord, Ab is the 5th, and a 3rd above that will always be a C note of some type (even if it "sounds" B as in this case). If you expressed it as a B, most musicians would still get the point that intervolically, it's still a minor 3rd above the 5th (Ab), but calling it a B is calling it an augmented 2nd from a theory standpoint. If you were taking a test in a theory class, you would get it wrong.

    If you were reading sheet music, the 7th of a chord would be written as 1 "skip" (a line to a line, or a space to a space) up from the 5th of the chord. Otherwise, you'd have to write/read an accidental on the "B" every time you make a Db7 chord to make it a B natural (because Bb is already implied with the key signature). That gets confusing to readers because not only would the chord look funky when they're trying to read it, but also because consistent accidentals in the music indicate a key modulation (when there is not one in this case).

    I don't consider that knowledge "elitist" or "esoteric". It's something that is taught in most basic musicianship classes. Does it make you a better player? Probably not. Does it mean that you better understand the way chords are built. I think so.
  18. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    I like the cut of your jib.
  19. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef Formerly "thebrian" Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    If you're playing a song that revolves around a Db7 chord, and analyzing it for the purposes of notating it.. or if you're reading sheet music with a Db7 in it, then yes - it is a "Cb" and it would be written as a Cb on the sheet music. That's because B in any form is still considered a sixth above Db. A dominant chord such as Db7 does not have a 6th in the chord. It has a 7th. And a 7th above Db will ALWAYS be a C in whatever form (#, flat or natural).

    If you're just naming positions on your neck, and that's all you're doing, then yes, you'd call it a B. But when you are talking about the sound of that note in the context of a piece, then that note becomes relative to the key of the song and/or the notes of the chord. A 7th chord has a root, 3rd, 5th & 7th in it. A C of any kind will always be a 7th of a D chord of any kind (this example being a Db7).
  20. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    That doesn,t mean they aren't wrong