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Old 06-26-2013, 11:31 AM   #1
PinkZepStones
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Question about "obscure chords"

I'm just starting to write music and already the lack of theory has held me up.

I'm starting the song on Bb9, its a prog/psyche song as that's my jam but I'm struggling where to go with it.

If you start on a chord like dim, or sus how do you define what key its in? Major or minor?

I don't understand where chords like this fit in? I've looked at both chord progressions in b flat major and minor and mucked about with chords in the key and none of them seem to fit or sound right with this b flat 9. Its not that they don't fit with what I want but they are in key, they just don't sound right at all?

Help me out someone!
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:02 PM   #2
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Personally, I think if you don't know theory, you shouldn't be using chords like that, but anyway.

The notes in a Bb9 Chord are

Bb, D, F, Ab, C
I III V bvii ii

So, as there is a flat seven, this chord would be chord V of Eb Major, so if you wanted to, you could resolve to an Eb Major, which may sound too happy, so a Cmin7 might work.

Suspended Chords lack the third, so one could say that they are neither major nor minor, as Sus4 Chords are made up of I IV and V, and Sus2 Chords are made up of I ii and V. This means that you can replace any chord in the key except for IV and vii (for Sus4) or iii and vii (for sus2) and you'll still be in key.
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:06 PM   #3
MattyBoy 1337
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Well, the first chord in the song doesn't have to be the key. You can start on any chord you want, even a non-diatonic chord, it's all up to you. What I recommend you do, is to leave the theory alone for a bit. Try to come up with a progression only by using your ears. Then once you've found some cool chords that go together, try to find the key. If you can't, put your progression up here and we might be able to help you.

You should never let theory dictate how you write. It's only a tool for understanding/naming/compartmentalizing what's already written.
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:07 PM   #4
JosephVincent
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You should really feel the next chord. Knowing theory is dandy, but if you let your inner ear guide you to your next chord, you won't go wrong.

IMHO, you should have a well developed inner ear if you're going to be writing prog music without the knowledge of theory.
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:30 PM   #5
PinkZepStones
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Good advice guys,

About using your ear, that's how I usually do it, I then shift around a certain area of the top two strings to work out what note it is that comes naturally in my head.

But though the advice about staying away from these chords although sound won't work, I'm too in love with the sounds of chords out of the standard set, they just sound so much better for what I want to do.

I was under the impression chords like bsus or b flat aug were literally just variations on a theme, that they'd all be in the same key as e major AND minor. Am I right to believe any kind of of chord like b flat 9 can only ever be part of another notes key and never the root note with its on set of following notes and chords?
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:49 PM   #6
JosephVincent
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Are you asking if B (b9) can be in more than one key where B isn't the root?
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:56 PM   #7
JosephVincent
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http://pathealy.bandcamp.com/track/mystic-gem

If so, I'd invite you to listen to work off of this album. He meshes chords that aren't diatonically related by playing common notes that would work in both keys.
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:58 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by PinkZepStones
Good advice guys,

About using your ear, that's how I usually do it, I then shift around a certain area of the top two strings to work out what note it is that comes naturally in my head.

But though the advice about staying away from these chords although sound won't work, I'm too in love with the sounds of chords out of the standard set, they just sound so much better for what I want to do.

I was under the impression chords like bsus or b flat aug were literally just variations on a theme, that they'd all be in the same key as e major AND minor. Am I right to believe any kind of of chord like b flat 9 can only ever be part of another notes key and never the root note with its on set of following notes and chords?


you can sort of derive your own scales. you'll always either end up with an existing mode of some sort, or just a crappy sounding scale though.

like if the characteristic note here is the flat 9, you can try locrian because it has a flat 2/flat9. but some modes have a tendency to pull toward the parent key more strongly than others, i find.

and my point about deriving your own scales is - if you're not familiar with locrian and don't want to bother, just try to come up with a selection of 7 or 8 notes as a scale on your own. you already know you want the 1, the b2, whatever else is in the chord when you say b flat 9 (major/minor?), and experiment.
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Old 06-26-2013, 08:01 PM   #9
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In my experience, the basic rhythm and feel of a song are what dictate the mood I want to evoke with the harmonies.

Jam on your Bb9 with varying grooves and rhythms, or decorating the chord in different ways. At some point, a destination will become clear. When it does, work it out and find a couple other chords to lead up to the change.

I mean, it'll probably be Eb, but still, take the journey of jam discovery.

Last edited by cdgraves : 06-26-2013 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 07-03-2013, 08:09 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by CelestialGuitar
Personally, I think if you don't know theory, you shouldn't be using chords like that, but anyway.


Yeah! These are elitist chords and are reserved for music theory snobs exclusivly. Stick to major and minor chords and don't even try and do something unique or unusual! And how, you might ask, are you supposed to learn music theory without asking these pertinent questions about chords and scales? Ha! Noob!

Oh, wait, that's exactly how I learned music theory...
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Old 07-05-2013, 08:33 AM   #11
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Bb could also be in the key of D minor. or C minor. Just start out with power chords until you find the right note. Then make a cool chord with it.
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Old 07-06-2013, 11:19 PM   #12
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I've found that when writing songs that use unique sounding chords it works better if you start with a chord you like the sound of - in your case the Bb9 - and then just focus on the bass notes of the next chords.

Basically just make a simple (or not simple) bass line and then start adding notes one at a time and just build the chords as you go. If you have a key in mind it can help you pick notes, but it's most important to just use your ear. When picking the notes of the chords I don't only think of how the chord sounds by itself, but also how the individual notes of the chords lead into the next chord. This is pretty much just voice leading - which is where you think of each note as a voice that leads into a note in the next chord. Of course, if you can figure out the key of the progression it can help you in choosing notes, but remember that out of key notes can sound very good and add some cool dissonant sounds.

When writing chord progressions I usually just figure out the names after the fact since their only real importance is in communicating your idea to another musician, and figuring out chord names is very good for learning theory.

I hope you understand what I'm saying, I'm usually pretty bad at explaining how I write stuff
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