Question on Arpeggios (Theory)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Dan Kahanamoku, Mar 21, 2011.

  1. Dan Kahanamoku

    Dan Kahanamoku

    Apr 17, 2008
    Let's say I'm creating a bass line to a song that's in the key of E major. The main chord progression of the song is simple, just E major, Ab major, C# minor and B major. So...

    E - Ab - C# - B

    I wanted to use a lesson on creating bass lines with arpeggios for this one. The question I have is that the arpeggio shape for the Ab is a minor (being that it is the 3rd of the major scale) but the chord in the song is an Ab major.

    So I shouldn't arpeggiate that Ab as a minor, I should arpeggiate it as a major? But that then uses a C, which is not part of the E major scale.

    Can anybody shed some light on this?
  2. funkybass


    Oct 19, 2006
    Well Ab isn't a part of the key of e. If there is an Ab in a particular song you are playing and it's a Ab major, just arpeggiate as normal.
  3. My knowledge of theory is limited, but I think if you play an Ab major instead of the Ab minor, you are changing keys somehow. Arpeggiating the Ab major chord would necessarily have a note that is not in the E major scale. That shouldn't be a problem, though, if that's the sound you are going for. You should play the notes that fit the chord.
  4. Dan Kahanamoku

    Dan Kahanamoku

    Apr 17, 2008
    Sure about that?
  5. Earthday


    Sep 22, 2005
    New Hampshire
    Don't think of theory as rules. It is not "wrong" to play something outside of a key. Nothing is ever "wrong" or "right" in music. In this case, yes, the C found in the Ab chord is outside of the key of E, so your chord progression is not in the key of E. And that's fine, music does not need to be strictly in a key.

    "Theory" would probably say you are switching keys to Ab major when you move to that chord, and then back to E when you're playing the E again.

    So I'd say try arpeggiating both major and minor and see what sounds better. I'm guessing major will sound better since that's the underlying chord, but it all depends on what sound you're going for.
  6. Dan Kahanamoku

    Dan Kahanamoku

    Apr 17, 2008
    This is helpful thanks. But I'm confused how Ab isn't in the key of E major. Isn't it the 3rd?
  7. Yes there is, but it's a G#, not an Ab.
  8. MysterMunky


    Jan 14, 2008
    El Paso, TX
    To keep it all correct theory wise, the Ab major chord should be written as a G# major chord, assuming you are in the key of E. Now that i've satisfied my OCDness, here's a usable answer.

    That being said, if you have a series of chord changes, you aren't limited to a specific key. Each time you change chords, you enter the tonality of the new chord. So you can keep the Ab major chord and arpeggiate it as major.
  9. Dan Kahanamoku

    Dan Kahanamoku

    Apr 17, 2008
    Also, I'm aware of the "no right or wrong" business. But sometimes I like to dig into some theory and see what I can see, ya know?
  10. Dan Kahanamoku

    Dan Kahanamoku

    Apr 17, 2008
    This I do not understand. Theory... :scowl:
  11. Earthday


    Sep 22, 2005
    New Hampshire
    He means Ab major, the chord isn't in the key. The note Ab is. For a chord to be in a key it has to be made up of only notes in that key. Ab major contains a C which is not in the key of E major, so Ab major is not in the key. Ab minor would be, because it has Ab, B, and Eb. All notes in the key of E.

    And yes, if you want to be theoretically correct you should be calling it G#, not Ab. Major and minor scales always have each "letter" represented at least once. E, F#, G#, A, B, C, D# is the correct way to say the notes in E major. E, Gb, Ab, B, C, Eb, E doesn't represent F and represents E twice.
  12. MysterMunky


    Jan 14, 2008
    El Paso, TX
    The reason Ab is "wrong" in the key of E is that there are no flats in the key signature. Typically, you keep flats in flat keys and sharps in sharp keys.

    G#/Ab tomato/tomato. I know it sounds the same, but on paper it technically isn't the same note.

    Theory can be a dirty dirty game sometimes.
  13. The easiest way is to consider that each letter note can only be used once, and in order.

    The key of E goes like this:

    Notice that there is an A natural in there, it wouldn't make sense to have the A appear twice, one being flat, and one being natural.

    Look up "Circle of Keys" or "Circle of Fourths/Fifths" for more info on this.
  14. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    Don't mix sharps and flats, that's all. There is no Ab in E major. It's a G# because G# is the third, and you want every note in the scale to have a different letter name.

    The G# chord is minor in the key of E major.

    Also try not to get down on theory. You won't get anywhere without it. You need it to properly communicate with fellow musicians, and you need it to understand what notes to play, and why. It's not as hard as it seems, but you need to study, and you need to understand how scales and chords are built.
  15. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    Pretty good explanation. Some corrections are required however. The key of E has 4 sharps and they are F#, C#, G#, D#.

    Using this information, the notes in the key of E are:

    E F# G# A B C# D#

    The third chord in the key of E is a G# minor. But a major III chord is a fairly common chord change. It's not strictly diatonic however since it contains a B# (C) rather than a B natural. I know that this probably sounds like blah blah to some. LOL. But it does make sense once the foundational knowledge is in place.
  16. wait a minute ....the third of E maj is a G# minor 7.....G#,B,D#,F#is it not.....
  17. Doh... my bad. Sorry bout that. :D

    Been too long since I've done any theory, guess I need to take my own advice and refresh myself on some of it.
  18. Back a couple of post the G#/Ab thing was being tossed around. Perhaps this will help.

    The flat and sharp notes are the in-between notes. Look at the piano keyboard. Those black keys between the white keys are the sharp and flat keys.

    One key with two names. I know, why would they do that? Good questions, you can take that up with the old guys that decision was made hundreds of years ago.

    C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, etc. etc.
    Now which name do you call it. Well that depends on a couple of things.

    1. In piano if going up scale from the white C the next black note would be called C#. Coming back down scale from the white D note the same black note would be called the Db. Again, those old guys had to call it something and they decided to do it this way, so take it up with them. LOL

    2. The rules for what notes are in a scale go like this.
    a. Do not have sharps and flats in the same scale.
    b. Account for all notes, i.e. A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
    c. Do not duplicate notes, i.e. do not have both A, and A# in the same scale. ​
    That rule dictates what we call the note, i.e. G# or Ab. The E scale already has some sharps in it so we would use the G# name instead of mixing in a flat name. Plus Ab would give us two A's.

    Now back to the OP ---- your Ab is not a minor chord and should be treated as a major chord. Here is a scale chart that may come in handy. Using this scale chart and then the skip a note method we will make the chords for those scales. That should clear up several things for you.

    Major Scale Chart
    C D E F G A B...............Notice the C scale has no Sharps
    G A B C D E F#.............and the G scale has one, the F#
    D E F# G A B C#...........and the D scale keeps the F# and
    A B C# D E F# G#.........adds the C#. Then the A scale keeps
    E F# G# A B C# D#.......everything and adds the G#. See how
    B C# D# E F# G# builds on it's self.
    F# G# A# B C# D# E#
    C# D# E# F# G# A# B#
    F G A Bb C D E.............Look what happens with the flat scales
    Bb C D Eb F G A...........F has one the Bb, then the Bb scale keeps
    Eb F G Ab Bb C's self and adds the the Eb. Same thing
    Ab Bb C Db Eb F G.......the sharp scales did...
    Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
    Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F
    Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb
    Memory pegs:
    See God Destroy All Earth By F#irey C#haos. Order of the scales with sharps.
    Fat cats go down alleys eating birds. Order of the sharps.
    Farmer brown eats apple dumplings greasily cooked. Order of the scales with flats.
    The key signature is showing three sharps. What scale has three sharps? C has none, G has one, D has two, A has three. Which sharps? Fat = F#, Cat = C# and Go = G# so the A major scale has three sharps, F#, C# and G#.

    Natural Minor Scale Chart
    A B C D E F G ................Notice how the 6th column of the
    E F# G A B C D................Major scale becomes the 1st column
    B C# D E F# G the minor scale and how the 7th
    F# G# A B C# D E............column of the Major scale is now the
    C# D# E F# G# A B..........2nd column in the minor scale. And
    G# A# B C# D# E F#........yep, the 1st column in the Major scale
    D# E# F# G# A# B now the 3rd column, etc. etc.
    A# B# C# D# E# F# G#....Ask your self why? Hint, think relative minor.
    D E F G A Bb C
    G A Bb C D Eb F
    C D Eb F G Ab Bb
    F G Ab Bb C Db Eb
    Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab
    Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb Db
    Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb Gb

    Look up the E major scale. No Ab in the E major scale. Yes I know you are talking about chords and not notes. OK lets take the E major scale and make the chords for that scale.

    E Major Scale = E, F#, G# A, B, C#, D#. And to make the chords that go with this scale you stack the scales 3rds, or gather the chord notes from the scale skipping every other note. E skip a note G#, skip a note B, skip a note D# and get the Emaj7 chord made of these notes E, G#, B, D# OK now compare those notes to the E major scale and find that they are the 1-3-5-7 notes of that scale. The natural 3 and natural 7 tells us this chord is major and a maj7 chord.

    That fish thing - using skip a note make the other chords that are in the key of E major. Making your own chart will help clear up some of the things you have missed. Let's do the A chord together. A, skip a note C#, skip a note E, skip a note G# so we get A, C#, E, G# now compare those notes to the A major scale, and we get the 1, 3, 5 & 7 degrees of the A major scale or the 1, 3, 5, 7, chord spelling for the A chord. The 3 and 7 again are major so this is the Amaj7 chord. To perhaps understand skip a note s litte better, look how the B chord becomes a dominant seventh chord, i.e. see how the b7 comes into the picture.

    Ask specific questions..... Good luck.

    Something to check out your chord chart to see if you did it correct.
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    the one thing i absolutely hate hate hate when i get a new sheet of music on my gigs is when people mix idioms. in the key of E, it's G#, not Ab. period. the sooner you quit mixing idioms, the better off you will be.
  20. MysterMunky


    Jan 14, 2008
    El Paso, TX
    Yes! You are spot on JimmyM! I wish more people knew that!

    To the other posts; earlier when I mention that the chord should be G#, you can use a major, which would be a borrowed chord. The third is a note, not a chord. The third is a G#!