# Relative Minors and vi degrees, etc...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Jeb, Dec 28, 2002.

1. ### Jeb

Jul 22, 2001
USA
I heard a song titled "Its a fine fine day for a reunion (or something along those lines)" by Tony Carey and found the bass line interesting enough to pluck away at it some tonite. And some theory related questions came up.

The song seemed, at first, to follow an Fm progression, but I'm sure the song is in the key of Ab.

Which brings me back to the topic. The sixth (vi)degree of any scale is that scale's "relative minor." What is the true significance of that statement (as simple as you can describe it please!) and how can I use it to be a better bass player?

2. ### jazzbo

Aug 25, 2000
San Francisco, CA
A major scale is a series of notes determined by the intervallic relationship to one another. Let's call it 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. This series of notes can be used to create melodies or harmonies, (harmony most specifically when those notes are played as triads or extended chords). Within that series of notes creates an infinite number of possible melodies, but certain patterns, (e.g. resolving the 5 to the 1, or root), are more common than others.

By taking that same series of notes and beginning on the sixth degree, you create a whole new series of notes, with different intervallic relationships. That being said, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, when played as minor, is 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7.

You see, C major (C-D-E-F-G-A-B) is a neat little major scale where A is the sixth degree and functions as such, (the importance of chord function cannot be understated). When you play modally, (A-B-C-D-E-F-G), you're not just playing a Cmajor scale from a different starting point, you're playing an Aminor scale, which is an entirely different thing. The 5 of this scale is no longer a dominant chord, it's a minor chord. The 2 is no longer a minor chord, it's a diminished chord. The 7 is no longer a diminished chord, it's a dominant chord.

You can use this information to become a better bass player by training your ear to know the difference between minor between major between phrygian between dorian between minor-melodic. You can also train yourself to be able to play these scales, thus increasing your musical vocabulary, so as you play with others, you can express yourself based upon a full vocabulary and a plethora of options

3. ### PacmanLayin' Down TimeStaff MemberGold Supporting Member

Apr 1, 2000
Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
In the underline lies the wisdom.

Great post!

4. ### just_a_poser

Apr 20, 2002
>>The 5 of this scale is no longer a dominant chord, it's a minor chord

I thought it stayed dominant, or that's how it's usually played, even though that didn't actually stay true to the scale.

5. ### PacmanLayin' Down TimeStaff MemberGold Supporting Member

Apr 1, 2000
Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
Most chord progressions use the Melodic or Harmonic minors for the parent scales, thus making the V chord dominant. (the ii chord is then a m7b5)

6. ### TJC

Jun 28, 2002
Los Angeles
Why is it that the harmonic or melodic minors usually act as the parent scale instead of the natural minor? I would think that the natural would somehow "fit" better because it has more notes in common with its relative major.

Is it because in using harmonic or melodic minor to make the V chord a dom7, you create a progression that has more in common with the relative major (even while it has less actual notes in common with it)?

7. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
Sort of. In much of western music, it's the leading tone of a scale which makes the tonic seem as strong as it is. When you hear a raised 7th, it just begs to resolve to the tonic of the key by half step. With natural minor, there is no leading tone, so the v chord is a minor chord, meaning it is no longer dominant function (i.e. - it no longer "wants" to resolve because its strongest tendency tone has been altered). Raise the 7th of natural minor, and you've got a real live dominant chord again.

So why not raise the 7th of minor keys in the key signature? Several reasons, actually:

1) Doing so would necessitate learning an extra 12 key signatures, instead of letting the existing ones do double duty for both major and minor;

2) Because not ALL diatonic chords in a minor key typically use the raised 7th. The imi7, III, and bVII chords in any minor key use the flatted or unaltered 7th, and if you made the raised 7th the norm, you'd still have to add accidentals to the music in order to notate these harmonies.

3) Because it is common for music to "shift" back and forth between the relative major and minor tonal centers, sometimes to the point where there is some debate about what key a song is really in.

8. ### moley

Sep 5, 2002
Hampshire, UK
I hate it when you guys get in here and answer theory questions exhaustively before I get there

9. ### Bruce LindfieldUnprofessional TalkBass ContributorGold Supporting Member

Well, I'm not sure they have answered the question asked exhaustively - so OK you should know all this stuff to be a good musician and of course this will help you be a better bass player.

Well all the stuff Jazzbo, Chris and Pacman talk about seems very daunting when you first start out and it is hard to sort the "trees from amongst the wood"!!

So the fact that the 6 chord is the relative minor does help you - it can help you decide which scale might fit over a 6 chord and it also make you realise that although there are loads of scales and theory to learn, there is a lot to be got out of minor scales in different positions on the neck.

So - you can use different modes of this one scale and have enough material to make an interesting solo over any chord sequence - as long as you realise that it is - for example - the 6 chord, that you are dealing with.

This "significance" made a big difference to me when I was starting to play Jazz and was getting lost with the greater variety of chords and more complex sequences.

10. ### Roark Haver

God, I love this site. It is so worth \$20 to support it to keep this kind of information out there for people to have access to.

Thanks!

Oct 28, 2002
Harbor Beach,MI
This whole part is exactly where I'm at....so if you just play any note from Cmaj all the way through as it is you're getting minor scales(modes)...but if you lower the vi degree of the major scale you're getting a natural relative minor which is a whole new series of minor type scales?there is only one relative minor for every major scale?

so in a way you can say its like layers...the first one would be the major scale...and then the second would be minor scales...and then the third layer would be relative minors?and so on and so on with other types of scales?....thats how I picture it...kind of like a book...page 1..page 2 etc.....

12. ### moley

Sep 5, 2002
Hampshire, UK
I really don't understand what you're trying to say/ask there "but if you lower the vi degree of the major scale you're getting a natural relative minor" ... huh? You don't lower the 6th degree of the major scale to get the relative minor...

I can answer one of your questions though - yes there is only one relative minor for every major scale.

Oct 28, 2002
Harbor Beach,MI
Oops!...I meant to say begin on the 6th degree...got really confused...you start on the vi degree of the major scale to get the relative minor right?

14. ### moley

Sep 5, 2002
Hampshire, UK
Well, you start on the 6th degree of the scale to get the relative minor in Aeolian form, yes.

But, whichever form it's in (natural, harmonic, melodic etc.) - the relative minor is rooted on the 6th of the major scale.

15. ### pepito

Feb 20, 2003
Buggtussle, Illinois
Right! To find the relative minor of any major key, find the sixth degree of the major scale. Build the relative minor scale begining on the sixth degree, using all the same notes as are in the relative major.
For example. C maj= CDEFGAB. A is the sixth degree, so it is said to be the relative minor. a min= ABCDEFGA. See? all the same notes, in the same order, just beginning and ending on A rather than C.
This results in a kind of minor scale called the "natural minor." It has a lowered third and seventh. The order of whole and half steps is WHWWHW. The natural minor scale is rarely used as is. The Animals' House of the Rising Sun used it in the bass line, though. Usually, the natural minor is altered to either achieve a leading tone, or a V7 chord, or both (as in A melodic or harmonic minor). Be aware that you can build other scales that are also relative to another key. Sticking with C maj., you can build another kind of minor chord starting on the second degree of the scale, D. DEFGABCD, also has a minor qualtiy, but has a different order of whole and half steps. Try figuring out the order, and analyze how it is different than A (natural) minor. Build a scale on the fifth degree you get another kind of major scale, but with a dominant (lowered) seventh, as opposed to a leading tone.

16. ### PanteraFan

It's all relative to the parent scale is what I'm getting from this. The only way to tell if a scale leads to a dominant/minor/diminished whatever chord is to compare it to the scale you're building it off. Just because you're doing a line in E, which is the third of C Major and the fifth of A Minor, doesn't mean you can play it over the same chord, it depends where the song is coming from, and where it's going. Maybe even where you want it to go.

Am I right, or totally off the ball here?

17. ### moley

Sep 5, 2002
Hampshire, UK
I don't know, I can't understand what you're trying to say!

I don't get what you mean? Play what over what chord?

18. ### PanteraFan

Well, if the line you're playing is taken from the Phrygian mode of C Major, it won't sound right if the song moves to the relative minor. E is the third of C Major and the fifth of A, thereby it corresponds to different modes (Phrygian and Mixolydian respectively). The tensions will sound different after the change to the relative minor.

Or am I wrong?

19. ### moley

Sep 5, 2002
Hampshire, UK
Ahh I see what you're trying to say. And yup, you're wrong

Well - actually that depends on what form of the minor scale you're talking about.

If you're talking about natural minor - you're very definitely wrong. Because, any major scale and its relative (natural) minor - share the same notes, so, by definition, any mode of that major scale will fit with the minor scale.

With harmonic minor, the phrygian scale on the 5th (e.g. E Phyrgian in A minor - the example you gave) - may or may not work. You could say that *theoretically* it doesn't - because it has the G natural, whereas harmonic minor would have the G#. However, G natural against G# can work fine - it just depends on the piece, really. In Jazz for example, if a tune is in A minor - you can perfectly well play a G natural over the E7 chord.

However, I'll point out one thing to you - you mentioned the "phyrgian scale of C major". I can tell from what you said that what you meant was the 3rd mode of C major - i.e. E F G A B C D E.

However, you must understand, even though that scale is formed by playing C major from E to E - it is a *different* scale. In your head - don't tie that scale to C major *too* much - it is a scale in its own right.

This has been emphasised before (more than once I've seen Pacman say "the wisdom is in the underline" ) - you gotta realise E Phrygian is not just some version of C Major, it's a scale in its own right. I say think of that scale as E Phrygian, not as "the phyrgian mode of C major".

And generally, modes aren't referred to in the context of their parent scale. That scale is not usually called "the phrygian scale of C major" (IME) - it is called E Phrygian. That is because it is a phrygian scale (s-t-t-t-s-t-t) that starts on E.

Saying "the phrygian scale of C major" is very ambigous - it could be read as meaning C Phyrgian. Which is something different - it is C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C etc. etc.

So - in conclusion, E Phyrgian would work in A Natural Minor, and can also work very nicely with A Harmonic Minor. Not with A Melodic Minor, really, though (the F/F# clash).

So, in deciding whether to play E Phyrgian in the key of A Minor - you gotta ask yourself - which form of minor tonality are we using here? Natural, Harmonic or Melodic? If it's natural - the giveaway is the F natural and G natural - if Harmonic, the giveaway is the F natural and G#, and if Melodic, the giveaway is the F# and G#.

Does that make sense?

20. ### PanteraFan

This part doesn't as posted by Jazzbo:

"You see, C major (C-D-E-F-G-A-B) is a neat little major scale where A is the sixth degree and functions as such, (the importance of chord function cannot be understated). When you play modally, (A-B-C-D-E-F-G), you're not just playing a Cmajor scale from a different starting point, you're playing an Aminor scale, which is an entirely different thing. The 5 of this scale is no longer a dominant chord, it's a minor chord. The 2 is no longer a minor chord, it's a diminished chord. The 7 is no longer a diminished chord, it's a dominant chord."

I take this to mean they have the same notes, but different contexts/tensions. Unless the part about the chords changing their 'flavour' lines up with the original, i.e. the 7 of C Major(B) is a diminished chord, and the 2 of A Minor(B) is also a diminished chord. If that's the case then I can see how relative minors are related to their parent majors, as the chord 'flavours' stick to the specific notes in question.