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Quick Theory Question: G major chord in A major key?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Joce, Mar 29, 2015.

  1. Joce


    Jul 20, 2005
    Hi TB,

    I hope this is the right part of the forum to ask this question, so here we go:
    I'm learning Roy Orbison's "You got it" on guitar atm and because my ears are pretty bad I rely on chord sheets and youtube-videos to learn songs. From these the changes are (scale degrees in A major key):
    The Verse: A G D (I ? IV)
    The Pre-Chorus: A F#m C#m E (I vi iii V)
    The Chorus: A C#7 F#m D (I III7 vi IV)
    So, I figured out that C#7 in the chorus is/would be the V7 in F#m, the minor parallel to A major. That I can understand, but what's the G major chord in the verse doing in a A major key?
    Now, if we looked at the verse in D major it would go V IV I.
    So, theoretically speaking, is the verse in a different key or is there some sneaky way to get a G major chord in a A major key?
    Pretty sure I'm overcomplicating this, but I like figuring out the theory in chord progressions to learn what progressions sound like regardless of key.
    Thanky you very much for your help!
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    It's not in the key of G, that's why it sounds different. It's a kind of harmonic trick or temporary implied key change. Note the root of the chord, G, isn't even in the key of A major, it's A's minor 7th. There's the trick, we're in A major, but the G is implying A minor (it would be the 7th chord in A minor, whereas G# diminished would be the normal 7th chord in A major). I think that's more or less correct. ;) "Dominant 7th", I think, is the term to read up on? I'm rusty.
    punchdrunk and gfaulkner like this.
  3. I think you got it.
    I was thinking backdoor dominant, as in, Dm-G7-AM or something.
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I don't know about any of that backdoor dominant stuff, too kinky for me! :roflmao:
  5. Kinky :D
    But yeah, I think you explain it better than I can.

    Your NOT overthinking it, in fact, you got me thinking of it. As a musician, I never apologise for wanting to understand music. I never understand why a musician would tell another musician not to learn about music. :unsure:
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2015
    Joce likes this.
  6. Joce


    Jul 20, 2005
    That's what threw me off in the first place. But the implication of A minor sound logical. Thank you and all the others for the replies!
  7. JamPlay


    Aug 9, 2012
    JamPlay Berklee
    What key is the tune in? What chord feels like home, like the resolution? In this case, A is home, the home key.
    The A major scale has the same formula as any major scale...
    whole step whole step half step whole step whole step half step and now you are back to the root..
    You Got It has the ubiquitous chord scheme for the verse which can be analyzed as I bVII IV
    The natural VII of the scale would be G# following the maj scale formula above. So the G natural is referred to as the bVII, the flatted seventh...and here we have the popular major chord, major triad built on each of these root notes I bVII IV
    Hope this makes sense... Codifying chord schemes gets your ear in touch with the fretboard.. It's a great ear training mexercise figuring out tunes and organizing the chord progressions.
    While you are getting the chord progressions together, don't forget to work on the groove too!!
    joebar and Joce like this.
  8. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    The other common non-scale trick is to be playing in a minor key, say Am, and in the beat or two before the pattern comes back around to the top, there's the V (5th) chord, E, which should normally be Em, but is instead, E Major, whose major third (G#) is the major 7th leading back to the Am - common everywhere from blues turnarounds to old hymns. Lots of blues bass "turnarounds" use that major 3rd (off the V) / 7th (off the key root) in the pattern.
  9. Joce


    Jul 20, 2005
  10. Joce


    Jul 20, 2005
    That would be harmonic minor then, right? Orbison actually uses this in the chorus. The C#7 is the V7 of F#m, the relative key to A major.
  11. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Yeah, it's all connected, like a big matrix, reminds me of a college math course. :) Gotta brush up.
  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I-bVII-IV That's a very commonly used progression in rock, but is also heard in modal folk music so it's been used for hundreds of years.

    A couple of examples:

    Do Ya (ELO)
    Sweet Home Alabama
    Gloria (Van Morrison)
    Too Hot To Handle (Otis Redding)
    Hey Pocky Way (Meters)

    Those are just off the top of my head.
  13. friendlybass


    Jul 19, 2012
    Yeah its a bVII (flat 7) which has dominance. Its a modal thing that became a blues thing became a jazz thing became a rock thing or whatever. Bach even used it sometimes so don't worry about. My experience with theory, if it doesn't sound like poopie to somebody there's a music theory thing to explain it!
    Ray man likes this.
  14. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    OT I know - To our guitarist the key of the song is the first chord he plays, 99% of the time he is correct. For the other 1% I used to try and correct him but he would just glaze over. Life is too short to waste trying to educate those that don't want to learn.

    On songs where he uses a capo he omits the key from the set list completely because that totally confuses him. :***:
    jmac likes this.
  15. Songwriters take liberties. Some of those liberties are based upon the old saying, if it sounds good it is good, other times it's based upon advanced theory. I go along with the if it sounds good it is good and do not try to get into the why. And theory is something I love getting into, but I take the songwriter at his word until it does not sound good - to my ears. When that happens I change it.
  16. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    Quick Theory Question: G major chord in A major key?

    My Theory is if it sounds good then play it.
  17. KAD5866


    Mar 27, 2015
    There is actually a simpler explanation that predates rock and roll by a few hundred years. ;) The resolution of IV to I is, in classical theory, referred to as a Plagal Cadence. Think of the "Ah-Men" that ends many church hymns. So, we have a Plagal Cadence from D to A, prepared by a secondary Plagal Cadence from G to D. Now I doubt very much that Roy Orbison was thinking "cascading Plagal Cadences" when he wrote this progression, so at the end of the day, the final analysis becomes "if it sounds good, do it!" :thumbsup:

    joebar likes this.


    Mar 29, 2006
    Good explanation, rusty or not.
    I hate to admit to theory ignorance, because I do have some acquaintance with it, but your explanation goes with with what I was thinking as I read the original post.
  19. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Yeah, I took a lot of theory as a kid, but that's been over 30 years now. ;)
  20. squirefan


    Nov 22, 2009
    Lansing, Ks.
    Don't condemn me for not knowing my theory, but aren't all of the roots of the chords named in the OP in DMaj.?
    Would that be the key?

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