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playing a maj 3rd in a minor key chord!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by scottfeldstein, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    I know nothing about music, but I have a lot of experience doing my know-nothing thing. If you know what I mean.

    Anyway. The other day I was recording a bass part I'd composed earlier that afternoon. It was for a cover of a song by Emerson Lake & Palmer called Battlefield. I do not know the original song and I chose to keep it that way by deliberately not listening to it. I just listened to the scratch tracks I was given, composed something, showed up to record it that night.

    Here's the thing. I'm playing, we're recording, everything's going good. Producer/guitarist is telling me he really digs what I'm doing. Later on, he picks up a guitar to do another track on the song. He remarks that he just realized the key! Haha! It's E minor!

    At this my blood runs cold. I'd been hitting the major 3rd of that E--the G#--twice through every verse of the song. I immediately seek clarification. And thus starts a weird discussion where we verify that the E is minor...but that the major 3rd sounds okay in this composition I recorded. More than ok, it sounds wrong to do it with the minor 3rd.

    What's up with that? Hopefully he'll send me a copy of the track so far so I can share it with you on sound cloud. But if anyone wants to hazzard a guess as to what's going on here, please do!
  2. Listening to Tarkus (Battlefield) the verses sound like they're in a minor key but when it does that walk up to the 5th, it almost sounds like it goes to a major. Jordan Rudess redid this song on one of his solo albums and he did it very well.
  3. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Wow. Yeah, so that's exactly what I'm doing! I hit the 1. Do a quick 5-1. Then it's a walk from the 3 to the 5.

    At some point very soon I'm going to listen to the original. Maybe right after I post my recording.
  4. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    i just grabbed my guitar really quick and listened to the original .....where the vocals come in sounds like an E7#9 ....hendrix chord ....contains both the major and minor 3rd .......

    could be the source of confusion ....again ...i listened quick....
  5. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
  6. In that clip, it's a minor walk up with the last 3 notes played chromatic. I would have to hear exactly what you did in order to hear if it works or not. Trying to hear it in my head with no bass around isn't working too well.
  7. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    I will post as soon as I receive!
  8. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    It's still Em all you have done is add an extension.

    E Maj#9th, or if you want,

    It depends on the context it's used in, such as a passing note, or does it define the root of the chord or does it reinforce one of a chords many extensions. You can even call it EMajb3 if you see it that way.
  9. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Not sure if anyone's following this anymore, but I have the preliminary tracks now. In the verse you can hear me doing the major third...in what seems to me like a minor chord. Thoughts? Bonus if you can hear me fire up the Source Audio Multwave Bass Distortion afterward. :bassist:

    Battlefield scratch tracks
  10. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    to me it is like you are doing some kind of anticipation by playing a note that fit the next chord on the last beat or a simple chromatic passing note.
  11. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Hm. So maybe it's coming off in my ear as the 6th of the next chord. I'll buy that for a nickel.
  12. It is the secondary leading tone of the dominant in Em. So, the dominant (V chord) of Em is B7 (using the harmonic minor as the song likely uses as Emerson was classically trained and in classical music this is almost always used). Normally, you take the dominant of the dominant (V/V) but it is also common in classical music to take the fully diminished seventh (leading tone seventh chord) of the chord. So we have the viidim7/V7 in this case. And guess how Bdim7 goes: B-D-F-Ab and Ab is of course enharmonic to G#.
  13. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    vii°7/V in the key of E minor is A#°7, not B°7. Nevertheless, it's a blues: probably not too many vii°7's of anything. Listening to the song, I think that E7(#9) or chromatic passing tones are the most plausible scenarios
  14. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yep. Just a passing tone. Don't think too much about it. It has as much to do with where you're going as it does where you are. Our brains are amazing. They fill in the blanks. Without this ability, I doubt much music would work at all.
  15. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    And that I think sums it up as well as anything has.
  16. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
  17. OMG. Of course! The secondary dominant of the fourth is the root dominant seventh. I don't know what I was thinking with my earlier analysis. I suspect I was in some altered state of mind that music theory doesn't mix with particularly well.

    This assumes the song is using a Harmonic Minor function, but that is more common than Aeolian Minor in classical music based rock, which ELP is an example of.

    Thank you for pointing out the obvious, friend.
  18. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Secondary functions have nothing to do with the mode of the primary key. The entire purpose of secondary functions is to emphasize tones other than the tonic, so it serves little purpose to be thinking in the key of the tonic when you're using a chord that belongs to the key of the subdominant or anything other than the tonic.

    Regardless, there are no secondary functions in the part of the song that we're discussing. It's a blues (no classical influence here; Greg Lake wrote Battlefield), so I7 is probably going to crop up but it won't function the same way as V7/IV. The chords we're supposed to hear are Em7, A, and B7 (check out the sheet music and listen to the tune), but if someone's playing G# while that Em7 is going on, nobody is going to blink an eye, because blues harmony encourages blurring the line between major and minor. E7(#9) as a non-functional sonority, or G# as a chromatic passing tone, is what we're looking at.
  19. I know what secondary functions are. I am no idiot when it comes to that type of stuff. I am sorry I indicated a lack of knowledge by my word choice. They serve to "tonicize" as the book I use says, and similar to your saying.

    I am just saying that you can interpret it as a secondary subdominant very easily and I am sure Greg Lake knew you could take the five of the four. But that's the beauty of it - you'll never know what the musicians actually did!
  20. Sloop John D

    Sloop John D

    Jun 29, 2012
    I haven't heard the song, but throwing in a major 3rd over a minor key tune suggests a brief deviation to the mixolydian mode, a common technique used by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. The solo from War Pigs is a great example. At the beginning of the solo, Iommi riffs with the major 3rd in what is otherwise a totally minor key song before going into a solo based on the minor pentatonic scale.

    If someone could post the chords of the song, it might be helpful for putting that major 3rd into context.