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Old 07-16-2015, 07:55 AM   #1
KrisHQ
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Help me understand this simple progression!

Hey everyone!
I wanted to do some chord analyzation, and ran into a little obstacle! That's where you come in!

Example (Chorus)

Take a listen to this chorus, and then hear my analysis.
NB: They are playing in Eb tuning, so but for the sake of simplicity I'll refer to as they were playing in standard -> Gb/F# becomes G. Hope you can still follow me. The actual key is not important, it's the chord progression I'm interested in.
The chord progression is very common, in the key of Gminor.
It starts on the tonic (root) playing Gminor
Then goes to the 6th step of the minor scale "VI" (submediant)
Falls to the 4th step of the minor scale "iv (subdominant)
Goes to the 7th step "VII" (subtonic)
And then cycles starting with the tonic again.

I - VI - iv - VII

I hope that's right. Now for the more tricky part!

Example (Solo Section)

The chorus ends on the tonic our "Gminor" chord in they key of Gminor.
The solo section however, starts with a "G#/Ab" major chord?
But that chord is not within the key of Gminor, since that step is only a half step.
Next chord is our familiar iv chord, which is a "Cminor", so that's cool (with the bass playing the fifth, I believe)
Then we have a small descending part, where it briefly touches the 3rd step of our Gminor scale, the III chord (mediant). So that's also fine.
But where does that G#/Ab (can't figure out that system) chord come from?
Finally the solo ends on the dominant chord in our Gminor scale. But not really..
What would've been Dminor is in this case a Dmajor, I believe.
But! I've heard that there is something about this being common, since it now has a leading tone leading to the tonic. (What's this move called again?)
It does however not resolve on the tonic, but proceeds to play a "Eb" chord our VI familiar from the chorus. Then it goes to the VII and then I. So it again resolves on our tonic in the key of Gminor.

Now. That's a lot of information, I hope I made sense.
By biggest problem is that weird "G#/Ab" chord, that does not fit the scale.
And then I can't remember what it's called using a major dominant in a minor scale, I believe it has something to with parallel keys?
Another thing that I find a little weird is the solo in that part. When playing over that major chord, it certainly doesn't sound major, but rather something like Phrygian or Harmonic minor, which are both minor scale/modes?

So.. What is going on here?
I've tried my best to explain how I see it, it might be totally wrong (and probably is), but I really hope someone can shed light on it!

One last question: How does playing power-chords affect all this? I've heard that in some cases, minor/major won't have an influence, since the third does not appear in power chords..?

Thanks in advance!

Last edited by KrisHQ : 07-16-2015 at 08:10 AM.
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:28 AM   #2
jongtr
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D major is the normal (conventional) V chord in the key of G minor.
You could regard Ab as a borrowed chord from G phrygian, although here it seems to suggest a key change to Cm - at least until the D chord arrives. (In phrygian mode, the bII chord would usually resolve back to the tonic.)

Anyway, seeing the Ab as coming from G phrygian is an example of "parallel keys" ("modal interchange").

D major, meanwhile is the true dominant of G minor. The solo at that point uses G harmonic minor - which you could say is the derivation of the chord: G minor scale with raised 7th degree. (You could say it's "borrowed from G major", the parallel major key, but it's actually a part of normal minor key harmony.)

Going to Eb instead of Gm is a "deceptive cadence". (In fact they use a common aeolian mode cadence to get to Gm: Eb-F-Gm.)

As for power chords: yes, in isolation they are neither major nor minor (although distortion gives them a slight major flavour), but in a context such as this we tend to make assumptions.
Eg, the chords G5 and Bb5 together will suggest the G5 is minor and the Bb is major - because Bb is the 3rd of Gm, and the D in G5 is the 3rd of Bb major.
IOW, we assume that chords in a sequence will share a scale - because that's the case in most music - so we'll infer that kind of relationship between neighbouring chords, unless told otherwise. I.e., unless we hear a clear G major and Bbm.

Last edited by jongtr : 07-16-2015 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:45 AM   #3
NeoMvsEu
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Please stick with all caps for Roman numerals unless you're going to use them right.

Lowercase ones are minor, uppercase ones are major.

So first progression, i-IV-iv-VII

Solo progression, Ab-c-Bb... ending in D? That sounds like a modulation to C minor ending in a half cadence in the original key. (ends in V)

V-VI is a common deceptive cadence.

Power chords are a nearsighted way to look at the overall composition. The piece is more than just guitar; why should the chord interpretation be limited to just one instrument? Look at the entire orchestration.

You should read about cadences and non-diatonic chords, as well as modulations, particularly in popular music.
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Old 07-16-2015, 09:03 AM   #4
KrisHQ
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@NeoMvsEu
Sorry for the numeral confusion! I'll remember to be more specific
Where do I start reading about cadences, non-diatonic chords etc.
I suppose I just youtube or google the stuff.
In regards to power chords, yes, I know that there are more instruments going on. However, some pieces are probably written USING power chords, which could then open up to some major/minor things.

@jongtr
Strictly following music theory D major wouldn't be the "right" V chord of Gminor. But what you're saying, is that it's more frequently used right, becoming the normal?
However, doing that little switch has to have some kind of name or term? Borrowing from the relative major/minor?

Ok. So either borrowing from the G Phrygian (which would make sense) or modulating to Cm. How to know which one is "correct"?
And I don't think I understood what you meant by this part:

"D major, meanwhile is the true dominant of G minor. The solo at that point uses G harmonic minor - which you could say is the derivation of the chord: G minor scale with raised 7th degree. (You could say it's "borrowed from G major", the parallel major key, but it's actually a part of normal minor key harmony.)"

So D major is the most frequently used dominant because of the leading tone to the tonic, right? But he's still playing a harmonic MINOR scale over a major chord. Is it because the raised third from the D major is present in the G harmonic minor scale?

Thanks a lot you two

Last edited by KrisHQ : 07-16-2015 at 09:08 AM.
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Old 07-16-2015, 10:11 AM   #5
jongtr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisHQ
@jongtr
Strictly following music theory D major wouldn't be the "right" V chord of Gminor.
Depends what music theory you read, I guess. Any book on classical harmony will tell you the V chord in a minor key is major. It's conventional.
Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisHQ
But what you're saying, is that it's more frequently used right, becoming the normal?
Yes. In fact, it's been used so frequently, for a few hundred years, that it's become normal, and is in all the theory books.

It's not always done. If you use a minor v chord (or a major VII chord) in a minor key, you have what's often called "modal" sound.
So to use Dm or F to resolve to Gm is a kind of "aeolian cadence".

The issue here is not what's "wrong" or "right" in terms of usage (anything that sounds good is right ); it's about what we call the various practices, how we define what's going on.
Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisHQ
However, doing that little switch has to have some kind of name or term? Borrowing from the relative major/minor?
It's called harmonic minor.
That is, the practice of forming a major chord on the V step, in order to have a leading tone to the tonic, is called harmonic minor - because it improves the cadence, the harmonic function.
Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisHQ
Ok. So either borrowing from the G Phrygian (which would make sense) or modulating to Cm. How to know which one is "correct"?
Whichever one makes most sense of the music, for you.

I'd agree with NeoMvsEu "Solo progression, Ab-c-Bb... ending in D? That sounds like a modulation to C minor ending in a half cadence in the original key. (ends in V)"

(The term "half cadence" means an ending on the V chord. In this case, Cm-D is a classic half cadence in G minor. C-D, or Am-D would be a half-cadence in G major. If the D was at the ending of a section, that is.)

The "phrygian borrowing" is an alternative view, if you feel the key centre is still G in the solo. My ears suggest it sounds more like C, so the "modulation" interpretation works for me. (As I said before, the fact the Ab is not used as a bII, resolving back to Gm, argues against the phrygian idea.)

But it all depends on how you hear it, where your ears tell you the tonic is. Interpreting chord function is always about determining the key chord first; and then numbering other chords in relation to that. But often in music, the sense of key centre shifts (there's a modulation) and you need to re-number chords accordingly. There is a sense (in my ears) that the key has shifted in the solo, and Cm begins to sound more like the tonic; which makes Ab the VI.

The clever thing is that in the 2nd part of the solo, the Cm becomes the iv of G minor again (as it's followed by D). That's what's known as a "pivot" chord, belonging to both keys.
Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisHQ
And I don't think I understood what you meant by this part:

"D major, meanwhile is the true dominant of G minor. The solo at that point uses G harmonic minor - which you could say is the derivation of the chord: G minor scale with raised 7th degree. (You could say it's "borrowed from G major", the parallel major key, but it's actually a part of normal minor key harmony.)"

So D major is the most frequently used dominant because of the leading tone to the tonic, right?
Yes.
Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisHQ
But he's still playing a harmonic MINOR scale over a major chord. Is it because the raised third from the D major is present in the G harmonic minor scale?
Precisely.
If you want to think of the scale in relation to the D, you'd call it "D phrygian dominant". D Eb F# G A Bb C. But really it's a "G minor scale", because that's the key in question.

IMO, it's best not to think of harmonic minor as a scale in its own right. It's merely an occasional alteration to natural minor, for the purposes of improving a cadence. You don't get songs written in harmonic minor (or melodic minor for that matter).
You do sometimes get music which makes a lot of the "phrygian dominant" sound, such as flamenco - which is why it often gets called "Spanish phrygian".

Last edited by jongtr : 07-16-2015 at 10:22 AM.
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Old 07-16-2015, 11:05 AM   #6
KrisHQ
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Okay. Awesome!
Gotta give you credit for you explanations, they're seriously good. Makes a lot of sense.
However, there is one last thing..
If it makes sense that the song modulates to Cm instead of Gm in the solo, how does it makes sense to call the scale he uses G harmonic minor (or natural minor with alterations)?
I know we determined that the Dmajor chords raised third (from the minor) matches the G harmonic, but if the key is now Cm, wouldn't the scale technically be called something in relation to Cm?
D phrygian makes sense in comparison to the chord itself, but not the key..
I might just be confusing myself now..
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Old 07-16-2015, 12:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jongtr
Anyway, seeing the Ab as coming from G phrygian is an example of "parallel keys" ("modal interchange").

No, no, no, it's not. The Ab is merely a non-diatonic chord.

It has nothing to do with modal interchange. (You cannot mix modes and keys, bud.)
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Old 07-16-2015, 12:19 PM   #8
NeoMvsEu
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Actually, I just noticed you linked the song. Love SW.

I'm surprised you didn't ask about the part that starts at 1:38, because that's the exact chord progression of the guitar solo. Anyways.

roman numeral analysis
Notes:
  • bII chords are called Neapolitan chords. They are used as pre-dominant function chords. (Dominant is V usually, though vii° can also function thus.)
  • There is a pivot area. Seriously, read about modulations. This happens when chords function in both keys, a transition per se.
  • This entire section can be seen as a prolongation of the predominant function as opposed to a pure modulation.
  • It's V (C#), not v (C#m) because the E# (C# chord = C# E# G#) provides further incentive to resolve back to tonic (F# minor = F# G# A B C# D E F#. The E has been raised to E#, adding further instability to the note. The instability most easily resolves in the same direction, upwards to F#).
  • Harmonic minor notes are used in harmonic contexts, but the piece is in F# minor. Not natural, harmonic, or melodic. Plain minor.
  • As Sam said, don't mix modes and major/minor.

Last edited by NeoMvsEu : 07-17-2015 at 04:15 PM.
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Old 07-16-2015, 02:05 PM   #9
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Hi KrisHQ,

It's very common to take a chord in a progression from one key, and then briefly use that chord in the context of a different key (by surrounding it with other chords from that new key) and then return.

So, with Gm - Ab, you've got a major and a minor a semitone apart. If you think about chords from major where does that happen? The answer is at iii and IV of the key. So, you could then say that at this part of the tune, Gm is at iii, (so ii is Fm, and I is Eb). And then for that part play out of Eb. (but see below).

Similar idea ... where do you find two minor chords a tone apart? Answer: ii and iii. Therefore you can find I. Ditto, where do you find maj and maj a tone apart (IV and V). Therefore you can find I.

Once you start looking for these, you can orientate yourself (key-wise), and see when something has changed key.

However, with the above, a really common trick is as follows.

Over Gm, play Gm pentatonic, G Aeolian. Then over Ab (the IV of Eb), play Fm pentatonic (from the ii of Eb) or F Dorian licks. So you can literally take a favourite pentatonic (even minor blues( lick and just drop it down a tone (from G to F), and this sounds great. Try it.

(If you like Jazz, great example of this is George Benson's "World is a Ghetto".)

cheers, Jerry
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Old 07-16-2015, 02:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazysam23_Atax
No, no, no, it's not. The Ab is merely a non-diatonic chord.

It has nothing to do with modal interchange. (You cannot mix modes and keys, bud.)
IMO, it depends how strict you want to be with the definition of "key".
While I agree with you in principle, a lot of modern music (in rock at least) doesn't seem to recognise the key/mode distinction.

In this particular case, I wouldn't argue for a phrygian borrowing. (I was following the OP's mention of "parallel", but probably shouldn't have.)

But I think there are other examples (not many, granted) where you can find what seems to be a minor key with phrygian flavours. Or rather, where that would be (IMO) a suitable description.
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Old 07-16-2015, 02:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KrisHQ
Okay. Awesome!
Gotta give you credit for you explanations, they're seriously good. Makes a lot of sense.
However, there is one last thing..
If it makes sense that the song modulates to Cm instead of Gm in the solo, how does it makes sense to call the scale he uses G harmonic minor (or natural minor with alterations)?
I know we determined that the Dmajor chords raised third (from the minor) matches the G harmonic, but if the key is now Cm, wouldn't the scale technically be called something in relation to Cm?
No, because the key is back at G minor on the D chord - and arguably on the previous Cm too.

It would be good to look at the notes he's playing on the Cm chord before the D (I haven't). Is there an Ab or an A? If there's an A, is there also an F# instead of F?
IOW, the scale on the Cm could be C minor (with the Ab), G minor (with A and F), or G harmonic minor (with A and F#). Any of those could work. Adding A or F# would of course signal the approaching return to G minor (before the D makes it obvious).

Last edited by jongtr : 07-16-2015 at 02:15 PM.
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Old 07-16-2015, 02:47 PM   #12
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Historically we can look at the Neapolitan as being a borrowed phrygian behaviour and modal interchange is a valid interpretation of it. In fact in some texts bII is only referred to as the Neapolitan if it's in first inversion, otherwise it's called a phrygian II.
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Old 07-16-2015, 02:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazz_rock_feel
Historically we can look at the Neapolitan as being a borrowed phrygian behaviour and modal interchange

Et tu, jizz_rap_feels?
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Old 07-16-2015, 03:02 PM   #14
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Old 07-16-2015, 04:07 PM   #15
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Old 07-16-2015, 04:18 PM   #16
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Old 07-17-2015, 03:44 AM   #17
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Just listened to the excerpt ... missed that. Great track. Don't know these guys.

So, ignore my last message. (Rather try it, but it's incorrect for this track)

They are using G prhygian chords when the video first kicks in (Gm, Ab/G, Ab/G, Gm ... Gm, Ab/G, Fm/G, Fm) ... but the descending lick is G Aeolian. They're playing around.

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Old 07-17-2015, 05:32 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerrykramskoy
Just listened to the excerpt ... missed that. Great track. Don't know these guys.

So, ignore my last message. (Rather try it, but it's incorrect for this track)

They are using G prhygian chords at that point (Gm, Ab/G, Ab/G, Gm ... Gm, Ab/G, Fm/G, Fm) ... but the descending lick is G Aeolian. They're playing around.

cheers, Jerry

Where are you getting these chords?
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Old 07-17-2015, 07:07 AM   #19
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The chords of the solo (the section we were discussing) are these (transposed up from their half-step downtuning):
|Ab - - - |Ab - - - |Cm - - - |Cm - - Bb|
|Ab - - - |Cm - - - |D - - - |D - - - |
Bass on the roots all the way (except for a 5th on beats 3-4 of the first Cm).
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Old 07-17-2015, 08:15 AM   #20
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It's cool to see these different viewpoints. However, it can also be slightly confusing!

Using the Ab is either utilizing a non-diatonic chord. Could also be viewed as borrowing from the G phrygian? So, how does these differ? I suppose non-diatonic chords simply mean chords that are not in the scale of the current key. But that practically means ALL other chords? Doesn't seem very precise.

When hitting the Cm chord right before going to the D (where the G harmonic minor lick happens), that Cm chord right there becomes a pivot-chord? Why exactly is that? Because it fits keys Gm AND Cm?

Going from the D to the Eb is a deceptive cadence, where instead of resolving to the tonic, it rather "continues" to keep the flow? Are the VI chords usually used as such, and are there other chords that can also fill that spot?

Is that correctly understood?
I suppose I'll read more on: Cadences, Pivot Chord Modulations and Non-Diatonic Chords.
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