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#1
I just learned the solo to Highway To Hell it's all in A minor pentatonic. But a couple of times Angus slips an F# in the solo (thus raising the sixth and adding it to the solo). I was wondering if someone could explain why this note works and what the theory behind it is. I never noticed this before in blues/rock solo's usually it's mostly the blue note that is added to the scale.
#2
AC/DC has a tendancy to jump between minor and major scales. Probably the chords progression lends itself for both minor and major so he slips it in
#3
well, what i can come up with is Am is the relative minor of C, and F# is the flat 5 of C, making it a blues fifth of C. depending on how he uses it though (im not intimately familiar with the solo), he could just be using it as a passive tone or run in.
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#4
Thanks for your answers they both sound like good reasons for why this solo works. It's just so hard to incorporate stuff like this in your own solo's when you don't exactly understand when you can bend the rules like he does.
#5
Quote by PhrygianDominan
Thanks for your answers they both sound like good reasons for why this solo works. It's just so hard to incorporate stuff like this in your own solo's when you don't exactly understand when you can bend the rules like he does.

i know how you feel. sometimes you just need to go with your ear. thats actually one of the notes i incorporate sometimes with my solos, which is why i know the theory behind it.

and if im not mistaken, its also the 13? another way to look at it
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#6
Without looking too much into this, i think i should point out that F# is a heavy chord tone in the riff (being the root of D/F#).

I agee that the solo is very 'A minor' like. So i will have a look and see if i can add to the above.


edit - ok, i am going to say the song is firmly in D. Due to the riff consisting of 3 maj chords G D and A.
The solo 'looks like A Minor' but actually omits the 3rd, therefore it appears to be D Major Pentatonic. I haven't checked note for note, so i may be proven wrong, but i think it is a fair explanation.
Last edited by branny1982 at Dec 25, 2009,
#7
The solo is played over A5 to D to G5 to D. The Minor 3th (C note) is not omitted it's played 4 times, it would have been a good theory however so thanks for your input.
#8
Quote by PhrygianDominan
It's just so hard to incorporate stuff like this in your own solo's when you don't exactly understand when you can bend the rules like he does.


If it makes you liek hoty shit man that sounds frickin sick, then, and only then, may you bend ....THE RULES!
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#9
It is the blue note in C major (which is the relative major of A minor).
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#11
It's just a passing tone, that's all.
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#13
Quote by GoIrish668
It is the blue note in C major (which is the relative major of A minor).


What's your point?

He's in A minor. F♯ is the ♮13 in A minor....
#14
branny1982 I totally forgot about the F# in the D chord. Still the solo resolves to an "A" note at least that's how I perceive it.
I think I might have the solution the solution. I re-checked the chords and they all belong to A Dorian. This would explain all the notes in the solo. the notes used would all come from A minor pentatonic with the added raised 6th from A dorian.
#15
It's just a passing tone, you're overthinking this horrendously.

The song's in A major, the solo uses the A minor scale - using the parallel minor over a major progression is a basic blues building block.
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Last edited by steven seagull at Dec 25, 2009,
#16
I don't think it's in A major as A major doesn't contain a G chord. But I think you might be right about using a minor scale over a major progression. I just realised that A Dorian isn't logical at all, simply because the solo doesn't sound Dorian. I think the song is in A mixolydian. A mode which is very often used in blues/rock.
#17
Quote by PhrygianDominan
I don't think it's in A major as A major doesn't contain a G chord. But I think you might be right about using a minor scale over a major progression. I just realised that A Dorian isn't logical at all, simply because the solo doesn't sound Dorian. I think the song is in A mixolydian. A mode which is very often used in blues/rock.


A ♭VII in a major key is extremely common. Just because G isn't diatonic to A major, that doesn't mean it doesn't work well or sound good.
#18
thread =

Quote by steven seagull
It's just a passing tone, you're overthinking this horrendously.
The song's in A major, the solo uses the A minor scale - using the parallel minor over a major progression is a basic blues building block.

#19
JudgeDrey I don't think you are really adding anything to this thread. This area of the forum is meant to help with questions regarding theory, so I don't think me trying to improve my understanding of "why things work" is ridiculous. Simply because by analysing this solo, I did learn some things:
I learned the F# IS NOT simply a passing tone,
I learned C is the "exotic note" but it works because using the parallel minor over a major progression (A mixolydian) is a basic blues building block (thanks for the info steven_seagull).
Isaac_bandits I'm almost completely positive the solo is in A Mixolydian (bVII is often used in a major progression because it establishes the mixolydian mode, this would be make it A mixolydian not A major(Ionian)).
I just checked what the primary triads of A mixolydian are and they are Amaj, Dmaj and Gmaj.
So the underlying progression establishes an A mixolydian tonality.

I think I figured it out with the help of you guys!
#20
Quote by PhrygianDominan
Isaac_bandits I'm almost completely positive the solo is in A Mixolydian (bVII is often used in a major progression because it establishes the mixolydian mode, this would be make it A mixolydian not A major(Ionian)).


Quite often the ♭VII is not used for the mixolydian mode. You'll often find progression with I IV V and ♭VII. Since it's a major V, there has to be a ♮7, and that note makes it just major.
#21
Playing the minor scale with a raised six is quite common. Jazz players do it all the time. It sounds nice.
#22
Quote by PhrygianDominan
JudgeDrey I don't think you are really adding anything to this thread. This area of the forum is meant to help with questions regarding theory, so I don't think me trying to improve my understanding of "why things work" is ridiculous. Simply because by analysing this solo, I did learn some things:
I learned the F# IS NOT simply a passing tone,
I learned C is the "exotic note" but it works because using the parallel minor over a major progression (A mixolydian) is a basic blues building block (thanks for the info steven_seagull).
Isaac_bandits I'm almost completely positive the solo is in A Mixolydian (bVII is often used in a major progression because it establishes the mixolydian mode, this would be make it A mixolydian not A major(Ionian)).
I just checked what the primary triads of A mixolydian are and they are Amaj, Dmaj and Gmaj.
So the underlying progression establishes an A mixolydian tonality.

I think I figured it out with the help of you guys!

How on earth did you come to that conclusion from my post? Using the parallel minor has sweet FA to do with the Mixolydian mode. It's a passing tone- nothing more, an out of scale note used to add tension and flavour on the way to the next scale tone.

Stop getting all hung up on the G chord, for starters it's a G5 in Highway to Hell, the voicing omits the 3rd therefore it's got no say in the key. However, its function is to set you up for resolving back to A - it's got nothing to do with the harmony as such other than to act as a bridge between the D/F# and A chords

Song's in A major, solo A minor - that's all there is to it, trying to look any further amounts to little more than theoretical willy-waving.
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Last edited by steven seagull at Dec 26, 2009,
#23
It doesn't matter if an actual G chord is played as it is implied by the progression (just try playing the progression without distortion as full A, D en G chords. Sounds right doesn't it. Now try playing a G minor instead. This will not work as the mixolydian progression implies a G not a G minor). Furthermore the function of the G chord is as being a G chord and not a G minor chord is further emphasized by the liberal use of the B note in the solo.
The progession is a CLASSIC example of establishing the mixolydian mode. Just listen to the solo it doesn't sound ionian it sounds mixolydian. It isn't theoretical mumbo jumbo the mixolydian scale is very common in blues/rock it might be even more common then the ionian mode which often simply sounds to sweet for blues/rock.
The entire song fits A mixolydian like a glove, it doesn't fit A major as the progressions simply aren't ionian (the ionian mode doesn't utilize bVII chords).
#24
There is absolutely nothing modal about Highway to Hell, it's almost like you're looking for stuff that isn't there for the sake of sounding clever.

You can "see" modes all over the place in any song if you look hard enough, however there's a degree of common sense required when it comes down to whether or not they actually apply.
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#25
^but i still don't see how it can be in A Major.

I mean, there is a firm emphasis on the A major chord, which is a good start! But this is where 'theory' usually leads me to the wrong answers. How do you describe the Dmaj chord? The solo emphasises bends on the D note, which is why i thought D Major may be a good explanation.
#26
The progression seems mixolydian to me. if you check this link and check the comments someone posts some trivia on this song, one of these being that the riff to this song is mixolydian: http://www.gitare.info/page.php?id=1944

I'm not trying to sound clever, my stance in life is that I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. I'm just analysing the **** out of this song to increase my understanding of music in general. It may come across as me being a total douche but I am not trying to offend anyone. I cannot stress enough I'm just really analysing the hell out of pieces of music I find interesting in general to further my knowledge.

I might come out empty handed in the end, but past experience thought me that I learn the most in this manner. I don't mind if you disagree with me but please don't let the conversation get on a personal level in the future. I was slightly offended by the "me just trying to sound clever comment" but no hard feelings.

I have guests over so I might not be able to post for a while.
#27
Quote by PhrygianDominan
JudgeDrey I don't think you are really adding anything to this thread. This area of the forum is meant to help with questions regarding theory, so I don't think me trying to improve my understanding of "why things work" is ridiculous.

Never said it was ridiculous, I guess the facepalm didn't really elaborate I wasn't talking about the thread being started, just where it was going. First of all, like I said, if it sounds good to you, go ahead and bend the rules. Many people here can tell you when you can theoretically bend the rules but in the end, should that stop you? That's what Angus is probably doing. You're adamant that he's following a strict guidline here yet you acknowledge rules can just be bent. More that one reply suggested it was just a passing tone yet you seem to completely ignore that possibility, and those posters, and also interpreting something different from Steven's post.

Quote by PhrygianDominan
I don't mind if you disagree with me but please don't let the conversation get on a personal level in the future. I was slightly offended by the "me just trying to sound clever comment" but no hard feelings.

I guess if i would've just said "if it sounds good to you play it" and, "I agree with Steven" you might not have gotten personal with me? I'll try to be more sophisticated in the future seeing as this is the first time you post in the MT forum and have trouble handling advice in the form of a joke or if it implies you're over analysing something and over complicating things. If I really don't have anything to add, I won't post. You're the one who misinterpreted my as calling you ridiculous thus getting personal with me. It's fine though, I was trying to sound clever for the sake of a laugh. Take it from Sean0913, you need pig-thick skin round here if you're ever going to get to 10 posts.
#28
JudgeDrey the getting personal comment wasn't directed towards you but to steven_seagull's last post. I don't post here very often and I don't know how to quote people sorry if this made you misunderstand me. Only the first part you quoted was directed towards you. Just so you know I didn't think you were insulting at all.

To answer the rest of your post, I do know about passing tones and how they are commonly used by Angus Young and in blues/rock in general. My problem with regarding his approach to this solo as using the F# as a passing tone is that he lingers on this note for quite some time in this solo. Passing tones are often only used for a short note span. I might be mistaken, again I'm not trying to be a douche.
Looking at the solo more closely I think the C note might be the "exotic" note, for reasons I have stated in my earliers posts.

I cannot state enough that I'm not trying to start a heated discussion. I genuinely appreciate everyone's input as long as it adds something.
#29
Quote by branny1982
^but i still don't see how it can be in A Major.

I mean, there is a firm emphasis on the A major chord, which is a good start! But this is where 'theory' usually leads me to the wrong answers. How do you describe the Dmaj chord? The solo emphasises bends on the D note, which is why i thought D Major may be a good explanation.

The song iself is in the key of A major, however the solo is played using the A minor scale

Quote by PhrygianDominan
The progression seems mixolydian to me. if you check this link and check the comments someone posts some trivia on this song, one of these being that the riff to this song is mixolydian: http://www.gitare.info/page.php?id=1944

I'm not trying to sound clever, my stance in life is that I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. I'm just analysing the **** out of this song to increase my understanding of music in general. It may come across as me being a total douche but I am not trying to offend anyone. I cannot stress enough I'm just really analysing the hell out of pieces of music I find interesting in general to further my knowledge.

I might come out empty handed in the end, but past experience thought me that I learn the most in this manner. I don't mind if you disagree with me but please don't let the conversation get on a personal level in the future. I was slightly offended by the "me just trying to sound clever comment" but no hard feelings.

I have guests over so I might not be able to post for a while.

That's just the point though, you can over-analyze to the point where you can't see the wood for the trees. There's nothing modal about the song, just because one note fits a different pattern or scale doesn't automatically mean that scale is being used.

In this particular instance there's no further explanation or analysis required, the F# was thrown in because it sounds good...it briefly takes the solo out of the safe notes of the A minor pentatonic scale which makes for a more interesting melody.
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#30
Quote by PhrygianDominan
JudgeDrey the getting personal comment wasn't directed towards you but to steven_seagull's last post. I don't post here very often and I don't know how to quote people sorry if this made you misunderstand me. Only the first part you quoted was directed towards you. Just so you know I didn't think you were insulting at all.

I'm well aware of who you were directing that comment towards, so no misunderstanding. I just thought i'd point out that you got personal before anyone else did by singling out my response as being of no value to the subject. As I said, I'll take part of the blame for using smilies and quotes to get my point accross. I'll make sure to elaborate with you in the future.

Quote by PhrygianDominan
I cannot state enough that I'm not trying to start a heated discussion. I genuinely appreciate everyone's input as long as it adds something.

As long as it adds something towards your predetermined conclusions? Nothing wrong with a heated discussion, as long as it doesn't get personal, right?
(this smiley is meant to express my seeming difference of opinion as an actual sign of amity)
#31
Quote by steven seagull
The song iself is in the key of A major, however the solo is played using the A minor scale


Still not really addressing my issue.
Firstly, i appreciate i am wrong here, but i want to understand why.

When i see the chords D A G, especially when used repetetively throughout the entire song, my theory tells me the song is in D. Those 3 chords only occur in D (or B minor).

So, the chords make up the key of D, but where is the resolution? Well, i wont argue against A. Now theory tells us that the key of D with a tonal centre of A would be A Mixolydian.

Are these staements wrong? I can't see how a chord tone can ever be classed as a 'passing tone'.

I don't discuss modes on this forum, because it is not worth the typing. However, people are extremely reluctant to acknowledge there modern use, almost like they are in an elite club and other people shouldn't understand them.
There is an incredible amount of bad information regarding modes in the guitar world, but that doesn't mean we should write them off completely.
#32
Quote by branny1982
I don't discuss modes on this forum, because it is not worth the typing. However, people are extremely reluctant to acknowledge there modern use, almost like they are in an elite club and other people shouldn't understand them.
There is an incredible amount of bad information regarding modes in the guitar world, but that doesn't mean we should write them off completely.


Statements like that one seem to be at root of the very problem you're addressing. The one's judging what's bad information and good(rare). Who's a newb to listen to?

What if I were to say to a beginner asking about modes...
"E lydian is the same as B major, C# dorian, D#phrygian, F#mixolydian, G#Minor and A# Locrian..."

Certain people would have heart attacks. Seriously, what do you think the response would be?
#33
JudgeDred, of course you don't have have to support my views to add something of value to the discussion. I appreciate all posts as long as they aren't just made for the sake of trolling, your first post was easy to interpret as being just that (because of the ambiguous nature of the used emoticon). But I think we cleared the air now.

If you read the posts in this thread you will see that I had no preconceived conclusions whatsoever as I kept reflecting on my own findings with the help other people.

I do still think the song is in A mixolydian, because like branny1982 simply analysing the song and searching for the tonal centre leads to this conclusion (The chords point to the usage of D major/B minor scale and the tonal center points to A mixolydian).
Looking at the song in this way would make F# a note belonging to the progression. As branny1982 stated how can this possibly be a passing tone by if it is so clearly stated in the D chord (as being it's third).

Modal music, or at least modal passages, aren't uncommon at all. I don't understand what would be so absurd about analysing the song in this way. As the facts point to the song being in A mixolydian. I don't see any proof for the song being in A major except for simply stating it.
I not saying this theory is definately right, but I would really like to hear a well supported reason for why it is wrong.
#34
I think the thing to consider here is where Angus is coming from in the 1st place. He's not a theorist, and he probably knows less about modes then most of the people here. What's happening here is that you have a guy with a blues/rock n roll background doing the typical blues/rock n roll thing where you go between Major and minor pentatonic over a dominant7th chord (Major in this case..... but same idea).


As far as analyzing the key with traditional theory ....... I would say it's in A Major with a borrowed VII chord.

That being said, if you were to solo over this using a single diatonic scale.... A Mixolydian (or D Major) is the scale that would work ........ NOT A Major.

So, even though it's not "modal", playing A Mixolydian over the progression, will sound in key and appropriate. (but it won't necessarily sound like Angus).
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Dec 26, 2009,
#35
GuitarMunky I totally understand what you are saying but I still have a few questions.

The progression when viewed by itself is a mixolydian progression. How come this song is regarded as a song in A major with a borrowed bVII?

I know the mode of a song is further established by using the appropriate modal scale, Angus only uses A minor pentatonic and the F# from A major pentatonic. And thus doesn't establish the modal sound (if I am correct establishing the mixolydian "sound" requires using both the minor 7th(G) and the major 3th(C#), the C# isn't used in the solo).

I was wondering can a song be modal, just by it's progression being modal (without further aid of melody parts establishing the tonality) as the largest part of this song only contains rhythm parts.
For example is a Cmajor7#11 vamp lydian by itself or is a Cm7b5 vamp locrian by itself. And If not how come this song is in A Ionian as this is a mode by itself which also isn't established by the melody parts.

I know my questions are complicated but I really like learning all there is to know about theory, I'm not trying to bug anyone (I say this as I sense some people are getting tired of me).
#36
Quote by PhrygianDominan
The progression when viewed by itself is a mixolydian progression. How come this song is regarded as a song in A major with a borrowed bVII?


A bVII in a major key is very common. It is borrowed from the parallel minor. In this case the parrallel minor also happens to be used for the solo. The bVII sounds alot better than the viio in a song where the progression is major but the lead is minor.

Quote by PhrygianDominan
I know the mode of a song is further established by using the appropriate modal scale, Angus only uses A minor pentatonic and the F# from A major pentatonic. And thus doesn't establish the modal sound (if I am correct establishing the mixolydian "sound" requires using both the minor 7th(G) and the major 3th(C#), the C# isn't used in the solo).

Typically the mode is established through having the modal notes, and only diatonic notes. The C# is used in the progression as the third of the A chord, so it could be in A mixolydian if the lead complies. But the lead has a C natural. That C natural destroys any chance of it being mixolydian. Since there are two qualities of C, it is not modal at all. It is in the key of A, and uses a mixture of major and minor.

Quote by PhrygianDominan
I was wondering can a song be modal, just by it's progression being modal (without further aid of melody parts establishing the tonality) as the largest part of this song only contains rhythm parts.
For example is a Cmajor7#11 vamp lydian by itself or is a Cm7b5 vamp locrian by itself. And If not how come this song is in A Ionian as this is a mode by itself which also isn't established by the melody parts.

All that is required for a song to be modal is that the modal notes are present. That mainly diatonic notes are used, and that the resolution is made. You can have a modal melody with no chords, but its tough to do, and you can have a modal progression, which is typically short, with no melody, although I have no idea why you would write a song with no melody anywhere.

This song isn't in A Ionian. Its not modal, and is therefore not in a mode. Its in a key, which is different from a mode, and that key is A. It borrows alot from the parallel minor key, of A minor, but the song is in A major.
#37
Isaac_bandits I think I get it know thanks for the very clear explanation! I really learned a lot from this thread.
#38
People change from minor to major pentatonic all the time.

One thing about analyzing rock solos is, a lot of what rock musicians do is pretty contrary to classical theory. For instance, rock is based on blues. In blues, it's not uncommon to use a I-IV-V, using entirely dominant seventh chords. Since it's rooted in Western (mostly North American) music history, it sounds okay to most Western ears, but it's directly contradictory to classical theory.
#39
I really like that progression ChainGarden thanks for the info! what scale(s) would be a good choice to solo over a progression like that, if for example the progression would start on G7 (so G7 C7 D7)? E minor pentatonic? E blues? G major pentatonic?
#40
Quote by PhrygianDominan
I appreciate all posts as long as they aren't just made for the sake of trolling, your first post was easy to interpret as being just that (because of the ambiguous nature of the used emoticon). But I think we cleared the air now.


You'd think, but I guess we haven't. You`re referring to my second post. My first post wasn't really ambiguous at all. A little analogical and farcical maybe, I apologize(d). I should have wrote something like...
"If becoming a creative artist is important to you, beware of linear thinking concerning theory and rules, this could prove crippling to your creativity, otherwise if you're only interested in the theory, disregard." which is more specifically the point/advice I was trying to give, concerning this↓ question and comment.
Quote by PhrygianDominan
I was wondering if someone could explain why this note works and what the theory behind it is....

.....It's just so hard to incorporate stuff like this in your own solo's when you don't exactly understand when you can bend the rules like he does.

If you would've asked me to be clearer I would've gladly discussed it for both our benefit, instead you came to the preconceived conclusion I was obviously trolling, although you say you weren't insulted by my post, and proceeded to post I wasn't "really adding anything to this thread". We all have preconceived conclusions. Mine was that you started your third thread in 7 post to advertise you now know how to play a solo. Another preconceived conclusions was that it's the first solo you ever learned otherwise you'd have had the same questions of pretty much any solo out there. I was dead wrong about my preconceived conclusions right?

Why it sounds good when someone breaks "rules" can be argued till were blue in the face, which is fine and some people's way of having fun with music and seems to be yours. I seemingly falsely concluded, from your initial unintentionally ambiguous post, that you were more a "hands-on" type player and were setting yourself up for a bombardment of responses you weren't ready for or weren't even interested in. I was wrong again. You seem to be more than capable of handling more indepth theory discussion than your post suggested.

Seriously good luck in your endeavors and your quest for knowledge.
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