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Theory Questions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Melf, Sep 8, 2003.


  1. Melf

    Melf

    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    1) The most important-what are melody and harmony, and how do they tie into the music? I've been following the other thread which is meant to explain melody but I'm still lost. I know melody is not the rhythm, but that's all I understand. I don't know the difference between harmony and melody at all.

    2) (I'm thinking I have this right, if I'm not please correct me). Take a melodic minor scale-C minor, for instance. In the melodic minor scale, when it's ascending, it'd only be the E that's flat. But when it's descending, the B and A revert to being flat as well. Why is the melodic minor organized this way? How would this relate to music? Say if I wrote a piece in C melodic minor, then does that mean I can use C, D, E, Eb, F, G, A, Ab, B, Bb, and C? Or would it be only when I was going down the scale, or at least, more down the scale than up, when I could use A and B flat?

    3) Keys. If something is in the key of C, then that means I can use C major, minor, melodic minor, and harmonic minor and still be musically "correct" right?

    4) Relative minors. Say I was in the key of C, then that means I can use A minor and still be musically "correct", no? But A minor is in a completely different pattern than C major, so it should sound somewhat different than the C major scale unless I make a really odd riff, right?

    5) I know any instrument can be used for anything. But when bass pounds out root notes of the guitar chords, is it being a rhythmic, harmonic, or melodic instrument? I know this ties into question #1, and that guitar can be used as anything as well, so just take "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas as an example--it doesn't have a bass part, but if the bass played exactly what the guitar played, would it be considered rhythm or one of the other two? I'm thinking one of the other two.

    Sorry this is so long; thank you for taking the time to read it.
     
  2. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Lots of questions... let's just throw out a few answers to get you going:

    1. Think of a piece of music written down - the harmony is what you get by taking a vertical slice at a particular point in time; the melody is a line of notes over a space of time... go back to that thread and ask a bit more if you want it expanded.

    2. You're right about the construction of C melodic minor... to stick strictly to that scale, you would see whether the previous note was higher or lower to figure out whether you're going down or up. However, unless you're composing as a purely theoretical exercise, you'd use your ear to make the final decision about what is the 'right' note.

    3. If a song is in C, that generally means C major. If someone says it's in C and means C minor, they probably need a few theory lessons themselves. When giving the key, you need to specify major or minor... the exact choice of scale (remembering that there are also all the modes, exotic scales, etc) comes down to the details of the tune and what sounds good to you...

    Wulf
     
  3. Melf

    Melf

    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    So if a song is in C major, then only the notes in a C major scale can be used as the notes. But if it's in C minor, then any of the minor scales can be used throughout the song, even on top of each other, and it'll still be musically "correct"?
     
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Who cares, it's just an arbitrary definition in this case - but what is the point of knowing - how does it help you with anything?
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    No and no - key can change - even a 12-bar Blues changes key - but you don't have to be "correct" in thsi way - interesting things happen when you try to break these rules! ;)

    Staying diatonic in one key is a 'sound' that you choose - but you don't have to do this - in fact, often it can sound pretty boring, static and dull. But just adding one odd note to a riff, can often "make" it!! :)
     
  6. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Nb. 'diatonic' means 'clearly within the key' (I'm sure there are more technical descriptions but I don't have a music dictionary to hand).

    Assuming you are playing a song that is clearly in C major throughout (ie. using chords like C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G7 and Am) you could just play notes from the C major scale throughout but, as Bruce points out, that will be pretty bland.

    The 'safest' notes will be those that act as the root, third, fifth and seventh of the given chord (eg. CEGB for C, DFAC for Dm, etc). You'll get more tension with the notes from the scale that don't 'fit' (DFA for C, EGB for Dm, etc) and even more tension with notes that don't belong at all (eg. g#). Experiment with mixing tension and release (safe notes) and you can start to build interesting melodies...

    Wulf
     
  7. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    No problem! Hope I could help.
     
  8. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I guess so, but I always think of Dorian as a main minor scale. That could just be the jazz influence though.
     
  9. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes, in practice, you're right. I didn't include Dorian simply because it isn't generally called a minor scale, it's called Dorian, and I didn't really want to confuse things.
     
  10. Melf

    Melf

    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    Thank you very much sirs! Everything has been cleared up, I appreciate it:) :cool: