Theory Help/Putting it all together

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by lasdisc, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. lasdisc


    Jan 18, 2014
    I'm fairly new to the theory end so pls be nice! lol
    ;)What does it mean to know the chords of a major key?
    1.Maj 2. min 3 min, etc. What do you do with this information? Does this mean you can play a line starting on any scale degree and it would be in key? The guitar player plays a CMAJ TO FMAJ so if I play a line staring on a D and play a Dmin arpeggio it would be ok or do I have to play the arpeggio of the CMAJ then FMAJ, etc?
    I'm not clear how this all fits together! The same situation with the minor chords - the chords of the harmonic and melodic. Does the same principle go for these as well?
    How do you know when to use a particular scale in a progression? When do you use the harmonic , natural and melodic minor scales? What kinds of chords do they go with? The same question regarding the modes , MAJ pentatonic and minor as well as the blues scale. Sorry for the long winded thread I'm just looking for an epiphany and hope you guys could help me with that. I'm not so familiar with some of the theory terminology so any explanation in plain simple English for the basic Joe would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
  2. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Think of it this way: the chords of any given key are there to simplify your note choices and to provide direction and a system of tension and release. Rather than having seven notes at your disposal and trying to figure out how you should organize them, where they will sound the best and in what order, you can look at a chord and say "Okay, I really only need to give priority to three of those notes." If there ar multiple chords that belong to the same key, you can move from chord to chord, only worrying ablut three notes at a time rather than all seven. Take this progression:

    C F Dm G C

    That is all in the key of C major, so you can play a C major scale all the way through, but "stop" on the tones of a given chord while it's playing. You can play an F note while a C chord is playing, for example, but you'll probably want to move that F to E or G so that it fits with the chord.
  3. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    This site will give you the notes of all the scales you need right now.
    It will also give you the chords made from those scale notes. Yep chords are made from the scale's notes. Suggest you make a chart of the scales and chords on the keys you will probably run up on. Making your own chart is like making a cheat sheet, once made you know it and probably never need to cheat again.

    Here is how music thinks. The melody line and the harmony line (the chords) need to share like notes for harmonization to take place. If you have harmonization both lines will sound good with each other. So the songwriter will place harmonizing chords at specific spots in the song so harmony can happen. How many like notes do we need for harmonization? One per measure. Is that all? Yep. That is why we can follow the chords and pound out just the root notes of the chord and sound OK. Not great but OK.

    OK so the songwriter has placed the chords at specific spots in the song so harmonization can take place. So if I play the notes of those chords I too harmonize and sound good. Yep. Its not rocket science.
    Same principle for minor as major - sharing like notes gets harmonization. Getting harmonization makes both lines sound good together. I know I have not answered when to use the melodic scale and when to use he natural minor scale and I'm not even going to touch on when to use Phrygian. Its a long story that boils down to get your bass line from the chord tones, lock in with the kick drum and don't step on the lead instrument's toes. Just roots sound OK. Two chord tones sound better, beyond that it's all gravy, if you like gravy spoon it on.

    No need to get deep into theory right now. Play stuff that has already been written. Let the songwriter worry with all that theory stuff. Follow the chords he placed and play notes of the chord - or - the chord's pentatonic. The C major pentatonic scale has three notes of the C major chord (R-3-5) and two safe passing notes for color and flavor (the 2 and 6). So your bass line is well served with notes of the chord or the chord's pentatonic. I prefer notes of the chord, but, that is just me. You mentioned the chord's arpeggio - sure that works fine.

    If you still want to know which scale to use -- read on in the next post.
  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Major scale gives an upbeat positive sound. If that is the sound your song needs write your song using the major scale and the chords from the major scale.

    The natural minor scale is said to give a sad sound. So if your song is sad write it in the natural minor scale. C major scale for upbeat, Am scale for sad. Both have the same notes, and the same chords. with the C major scale the C-F & G major chords are the foundation for the harmony. With the Am scale the Am-Dm & Em are the foundation for the harmony. Am-Dm & Em will give the melody notes another sound not found when using the C-F & G chords. The chords used under a scale or mode contribute to the overall sound that is produced.

    I seldom ever use melodic minor or harmonic minor and will let others help with this. Melodic minor is the major scale with a b3. Harmonic minor is the natural minor scale with a 7 not a b7.

    The modes. Each mode has a signature sound if you need that sound use that mode. Modes normally work best played over a modal vamp of only one to two chords. Long story...
    • Ionian is the same notes as the major scale thus gives an upbeat sound. I'd probably not try and force the major scale into a mode. A mode is a mood of the major scale, kinda hard to make the major scale one of it's moods.
    • Lydian is one of the major modes. Its sound is so much like the major scale I seldom use it. Only note difference is the #4. You name the sound, I can not hear that much difference.
    • Mixolydian is the last major mode. Use it over dominant seven chords and you get a blues sound. Use it over a modal vamp and you will get a Latin sound.
    • Aeolian is the same as the natural minor scale and as such gives sad sound. If I want a sad sound I'd use the natural minor scale and a minor chord progression, i.e. I probably would not play the Aeolian mode - same reason I would not use Ionian as a mode.
    • Dorian is a minor mode and gives an attractive jazz sound. If I was going minor and wanting a mode's sustain, I'd use Dorian.
    • Phrygian another of the minor modes gives a Middle Eastern sound. If that is what you want grab a modal vamp and play Phrygian over it.
    • Locrian is the diminished mode. It gives a dark and tense sound. If that is what you want grab a modal vamp of the m7b5 chord and play Locrian over it.

    Why use the pentatonic scale? Short answer. IMO 5 notes lend themselves to improvisation where a 7 note scale ends up sounding like a scale exercise. A pentatonic has three chord tones and two safe passing notes, thus plays well as a harmony vehicle or as a melody vehicle.

    You decide what mood you will want and then use the scale or mode that gives that mood. Must say this, however, I see very little need for modes as a bassist. My job is to accompany the melody playing notes from the harmonizing chord. I'm to provide harmony and rhythm. Modes are best used by the lead guitar or keyboard - the solo instruments.

    Good luck.
  5. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Part of the story that I did not get into..... If you understand how to stack a scale you will understand what chords go with each scale. For example:

    C Major Scale stacked in 3rds (every other note) = the notes and chords 
    made from the C major scale:
    Notes	   Degree	Spelling		  Chord name      Function
    C		R	CEGB     R-3-5-7 	     Cmaj7	      I  (tonic)
    D		2	DFAC 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Dm7	     ii
    E		3	EGBD 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Em7	    iii
    F		4	FACE     R-3-5-7	     Fmaj7		     IV (subdominant)
    G		5	GBDF 	 R-3-5-b7	     G7	          V  (dominant)
    A		6	ACEG 	 R-b3-5-b7	     Am7		vi	
    B		7	BDFA 	 R-b3-b5-b7          Bm7b5	     vii (diminished)
    Sorry the function did not travel well from my computer - line it up yourself. 
    Why is the D chord minor? If you compare the DFAC to the notes in the D major scale the D major scale will have an F# and a C#. Your DFAC has the 3 and 7 flatted for a spelling of R-b3-5-b7 and that spelling makes a Dm7 chord. All minor chords will have a b3. All major chords will have a natural 3. Stacking the scale in 3rds automatically build the correct major, minor and diminished chords for that scale. And yes, for a major scale the chords will be major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished. For grins stack the Am scale (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). When stacking a scale I am always amazed how the major, minor and diminished chords just appear where they are supposed to fit.

    OK that's enough. Ask specific questions.
  6. lasdisc


    Jan 18, 2014
    Thank you for the reply!
    What is a "grin"?
  7. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    grin (ɡrɪn)
    vb, grins, grinning or grinned
    1. to smile with the lips drawn back revealing the teeth or express (something) by such a smile: to grin a welcome.

    2. (intr) to draw back the lips revealing the teeth, as in a snarl or grimace

    3. grin and bear it to suffer trouble or hardship without complaint

    4. a broad smile

    5. a snarl or grimace

    [Old English grennian; related to Old High German grennen to snarl, Old Norse grenja to howl; see grunt]
    ˈgrinner n ˈgrinning adj, n
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003