#1
Hello people,

first of all, i'm really new to theory, so cut me some slack if i write something that doesn't make any sense.

I was analyzing the melody and chords of a song, and the relationship between the scale, the chord progression and the "key" has me a bit confused. The song is all singing and percussion, so the voice melody is all i had to analyze it. I'll try to post an excerpt of the song later at home, unfortunately i can't do it from work.

I'm pretty sure the chord progression is Em, Am, D, G (repeated over and over). The melody starts with E, and the chord progression starts with Em, but I think it resolves to G (it's a fairly typical vi - ii - V - I progression, isn't it?). However, the first chord is Em, and all those chords are also present when you harmonize E minor (which makes sense because Em is the relative minor of G).

As i said, the melody starts with E, and uses E, F, G, B, C and D, which could be a bunch of scales. If you add an A to that (which the melody doesn't use, though), it could be E Phrygian or G Mixolydian (among others, but those two are the ones that make sense to me).

The fact that the melody starts on E (with an Em chord), but the chord progression seems to resolve to the chord G major, has me a bit confused. The first and last notes of the melody are E, but i still "feel" that the song resolves to G.

Am i making any sense?

If i were to describe this song, which one of these would be correct?
1- The song uses E Phrygian over the key of G major
2- The song uses G Mixolydian over G major
3- The song uses E Phrygian over E minor key
4- other

Or am i analyzing the whole thing the wrong way? (as i said, i just got into theory recently).
#2
You are indeed right that it resolves to G Major. If you are right, and it is just diatonic chords then the scale is G Major; modes don't come into it.
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#3
The chord you start on isn't the most important chord, the resolving one is. You could start a progression in E minor on any degree of the scale, but if it resolves to Em, it's more than likely going to be in E minor.
#4
But how am i to interpret/understand the fact that it doesn't use the G Major scale strictly?

Since the chord progression pointed to G, i tried to see if it was a G Major scale, but it had a flat 7th (F), which is why i thought it was maybe a mixolydian scale/mode.

At what point does a melody stop being in "G Major with a flat 7th" and starts being mixolydian? Is this determined by the chord progression?

When does it make sense to start talking about modes?
Last edited by carlosesteban at May 17, 2010,
#5
It doesn't have an F.

Em - E G B
Am - A C E
D - D F# A
G - G B D

E G B A C D F# (with no duplicates)

G A B C D E F# (re-ordered)

G Major.
404: Sig not found.
#6
^The melody has an F.

Modern modal progression are really more like vamps, using 2 or 3 chords and enforcing the modal sound by giving the flavour note a strong recurring presence.

Your progression resolves on G, and your progression is diatonic to G major, so you're in G major, the F can be accounted for as an accidental. Music doesn't have to be strictly diatonic.
Last edited by MapOfYourHead at May 17, 2010,
#7
Ah, the melody has an F. My reading is at fault.

As MOYH says, it's more of an accidental; basically playing C Major.
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#8
well technically there is nothing modal about this. if youmust though, id sooner call it G mixolydian than E phrygian. it would make more sense that way. however, if the song is tonal and has a key, the note that makes it seem modal is just an accidental note.
#9
Your topic title says "Song melody uses E Phrygian over G Major progression," which I found very interesting since E Phrygian uses the D major scale and the chord progression is in D major...

Then I read your comment, "The song is all singing and percussion, so the voice melody is all i had to analyze it". So, it seems impossible that the chords and the melody could be based on different scales.

Two things to note

1 - the key of the song is not determined (solely) by what chord the song begins on, or what chord appears most. For instance, if you have a progression that uses the chords G A and D, it would be in the "key" of C major regardless of the fact that it started with G.

2 - Same goes for melody, just because a composition begins and ends with a certain note does not make it a mode based off of that note.

Modes, in general, are a very difficult topic and full of controversy. Personally, I come from the point of view that the modes are defined by how the melody resolves relative to the 1st, 3rd, and 5th degree of the mode, and how the composition resolves to the 1st degree of the mode.

------------------

Edited to fix problem pointed out by MapOfYourHead.
Last edited by Palirath at May 18, 2010,
#10
Quote by Palirath
Your topic title says "Song melody uses E Phrygian over G Major progression," which I found very interesting since E Phrygian uses the D major scale and the chord progression is in D major...


If you were relatively trying to relate the E Phrygian scale to some major scale it would be C major, not D major.
#11
Ok, so let's go through a few steps here:

1) What is the tonic of the song?
-G major.
2) Is it modal or tonal?
-Tonal, it's in the key of G major.
3) How can we confirm these two things?
-Well the chord progression uses the notes E F# G A B C D (fits diatonically into both E minor and G major). The perfect authentic cadence at the end confirms that it is G major. And if you look at the melody, the fact that it uses an accidental confirms that it can't be in G dorian.

Based on all of this information, you can confirm that the melody is not G mixolydian, but rather G major with an accidental. Sure you can call it the G mixolydian scale, but in context that doesn't really make too much sense.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
#12
Yeah, as mentioned previously there's no need to use a modal approach to the progression. First of all, there is already an F# in the D major chord so it wouldn't be considering E Phrygian or G Mixolydian just because there's an F in the melody. Like you said yourself the progression is fairly typical, and it's the V - I cadence that gives it away.
Overall, you should be able to tell if a progression is tonal or modal just be the feel or vibe or whatever you want to call it. If a piece is modal you should be able to point out the uncommon and reoccurring patterns that depict that particular mode.
I'm not sure where the F would be in the melody considering over any of the chords it would provide considerable dissonance - an F is a b2 over the Em, a b6 over the Am, and a b3 over the D chord which already contains a natural third a semitone off. So, I think it's safe to assume the F is merely a passing tone and shouldn't be analyzed in the context of the scale.
#13
Thanks for the answers, i see i didn't understand what a mode is. I was aware that everything in the song pointed to G Major as tonal center, but the presence of the F and the way the melody is built threw me off a little bit.

If i were to describe the function of that F in that melody, i would say it always "leads" into the E (the F is literally always followed by an E). To be more exact, a triplet of Fs before an 8th note E is a recurring theme. Is this what could make the F qualify as a passing tone?

However, I'm still not sure that i fully grasp the concept of "mode". Is there a well known melody that uses for example a Mixolydian mode? I'd like to listen and try to understand an example of how a real modal melody "feels" like. The Wikipedia lists the theme of Star Trek: The Next Generation as an example of Mixolydian mode.

Quote by Palirath
Personally, I come from the point of view that the modes are defined by how the melody resolves relative to the 1st, 3rd, and 5th degree of the mode, and how the composition resolves to the 1st degree of the mode.


That sounds interesting, can you elaborate on that? (maybe with an example?)
#14
Quote by carlosesteban

If i were to describe the function of that F in that melody, i would say it always "leads" into the E (the F is literally always followed by an E). To be more exact, a triplet of Fs before an 8th note E is a recurring theme. Is this what could make the F qualify as a passing tone?


If there's a triplet of Fs before the Eminor (hope I'm understanding this correctly), the F's are being played over the G chord. The combination of the F melody over the G creates the effect of a G7 chord, which usually leads somewhere. It would make sense to then go to the E minor because it is within key, and the F is in the direction of E chromatically. Alternatively it could be introducing an accidental to the melody, creating tension needing to be resolved. E again is a good note to choose due to it's proximity.

In terms of a modal mixy song, that wikipedia page recommends many incorrect songs. It even goes so far to say that Sweet Child of Mine and Sweet Home Alabama are songs in the mixy mode, which is just plain incorrect. That "She Moved Through the Fair" song is a better choice, there appears to be only two chords as far as I listened to it, which is pretty typical of modal songs.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#15
IIRC, No Rain by Blind Melon is Mixolydian in the modern sense. You can check that out.

Edit: Nope, nevermind, it's not. False alarm. Just E major with a bVII.
i don't know why i feel so dry
Last edited by Eastwinn at May 18, 2010,
#16
If you look at a book on classical melodic analysis, you're going to come upon a bunch or "rules" about what should or should not be done to make a given melody. For instance, you're not supposed to have a large interval jump (greater than a 3rd or 4th) without going to a resolved tone in the opposite direction (i.e. A->B->C->F->E).

There are other rules that are there that basically reinforce the idea of ionian melodies for major keys.
  • the "rest tones" in C major are C, E, and G and the melody will automatically "resolve" on those tones.
  • Given the placement of the semitones in the scale, you can see that B resolves to C and E resolves to F since they are the closest rest notes. The other non-rest tones just resolve to the closest rest note, so A resolves to G and D resolves to either C or E.

These rules can be turned around to try to create, say an E Phrygian melody.

In that case, the rest tones are E, G, and B and the melody notes resolve the following way

F->E
A->G or B
C->B
D->E

So, the a difference between the modes are what notes are emphasized (i.e. the rest tones) and the differences in how the non-rest-tones resolve to rest-tones. As you can see above, the C->B resolution in E Phrygian is opposite to that in the ionian mode, so it should to be used well to differentiate the modality.

-----------------------

Having said all of that, many, many people are going to say that modes are defined by the "flavor" notes, which are notes that differentiate a mode from its closest mode. If we look at all 7 modes in C, we get the following table:
C Lydian     (G  major): [color="Green"]C[/COLOR] D  E  [color="Green"]F#[/COLOR] G  A  B
C Ionian     (C  major): C D  E  [color="Green"]F[/COLOR]  G  A  [color="Green"]B[/COLOR]
C Myxolydian (F  major): C D  [color="Green"]E[/COLOR]  F  G  A  [color="Green"]Bb[/COLOR]
C Dorian     (Bb major): C D  [color="Green"]Eb[/COLOR] F  G  [color="Green"]A[/COLOR]  Bb
C Aeolian    (Eb major): C [color="Green"]D[/COLOR]  Eb F  G  [color="Green"]Ab[/COLOR] Bb
C Phrygian   (Ab major): C [color="Green"]Db[/COLOR] Eb F  [color="Green"]G[/COLOR]  Ab Bb
C Locrean    (Db major): [color="Green"]C[/COLOR] Db Eb F  [color="Green"]Gb[/COLOR] Ab Bb

where the color tones have been labeled in green above.

If we transpose these back so that they are all use the C major scale, we have
F Lydian    : [color="Green"]F[/COLOR] G A [color="Green"]B[/COLOR] C D E
C Ionian    : C D E [color="Green"]F[/COLOR] G A [color="Green"]B[/COLOR]
G Myxolydian: G A [color="Green"]B[/COLOR] C D E [color="Green"]F[/COLOR]
D Dorian    : D E [color="Green"]F[/COLOR] G A [color="Green"]B[/COLOR] C
A Aeolian   : A [color="Green"]B[/COLOR] C D E [color="Green"]F[/COLOR] G
E Phrygian  : E [color="Green"]F[/COLOR] G A [color="Green"]B[/COLOR] C D
B Locrean   : [color="Green"]B[/COLOR] C D E [color="Green"]F[/COLOR] G A

Do you see the problem here? The "color tones" are all the same notes, so the only thing that differentiates C Ionian from B Locrean in this system is the root note of the scale...

-----------------------

This has all been about melody and not harmonization because harmonization is even trickier and even more controversial.
#17
What I do not understand is...

If the work is already done and it sounds good, why would theory apply unless you were attempting to expand on it? The only thing I use theory for is to find where I can take soemthing into another direction or expand on a simple idea.

Well actually thats a lie, I consult the fret board to find out what sounds good then maybe break it down some for minor adjustments if I get stumped. One great player said if a riff or melody escapes you, don't force it just move on, because if its not catchy in the first place no amount of theory is going to save it.

Millions of dollars have been paid and made and the theory behind it is just the aftermath for people to talk about

I am kinda new here and these theory threads just escape me. Not becuase of them being technical or seemingly technical but it seems most around here so far put theory above creativity.
Last edited by Stuntaxe at May 18, 2010,
#18
Quote by Stuntaxe
What I do not understand is...

If the work is already done and it sounds good, why would theory apply unless you were attempting to expand on it? The only thing I use theory for is to find where I can take soemthing into another direction or expand on a simple idea.
Theory is applied so you can explain why it sounds good. That is the main purpose of theory.

Theory should not be used as a compositional technique, but it's like the language of music; once you have a firm understanding of it, it becomes far easier to explain what you want to say. Plus theory is a way to explain a song to other musicians intelligibly, rather than saying "uh... it goes like this..." and playing it or something.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
Last edited by food1010 at May 18, 2010,
#19
Quote by Stuntaxe
What I do not understand is...

If the work is already done and it sounds good, why would theory apply unless you were attempting to expand on it? The only thing I use theory for is to find where I can take soemthing into another direction or expand on a simple idea.

Well actually thats a lie, I consult the fret board to find out what sounds good then maybe break it down some for minor adjustments if I get stumped. One great player said if a riff or melody escapes you, don't force it just move on, because if its not catchy in the first place no amount of theory is going to save it.

Millions of dollars have been paid and made and the theory behind it is just the aftermath for people to talk about

I am kinda new here and these theory threads just escape me. Not becuase of them being technical or seemingly technical but it seems most around here so far put theory above creativity.

Theory is essential for communicating musical ideas. Trying to explain ideas to people without that knowledge is painful as ****.

"Okay, so first I'm playing the third fret on the fourth string with the second fret on the third string, and then I move to...no no no the THIRD fret. No. The FOURTH string. Right, now your middle finger on the...no...the third string...no...the third string....no the third string..."

I could go on and on.
Oh yeah.

Quote by hildesaw
A minor is the saddest of all keys.

EDIT: D minor is the saddest of all keys.
#20
Quote by hockeyplayer168
Theory is essential for communicating musical ideas. Trying to explain ideas to people without that knowledge is painful as ****.

"Okay, so first I'm playing the third fret on the fourth string with the second fret on the third string, and then I move to...no no no the THIRD fret. No. The FOURTH string. Right, now your middle finger on the...no...the third string...no...the third string....no the third string..."

I could go on and on.
Oh God, I know this feeling all too well...

One of my friends, who I jam with sometimes, knows NOTHING. It's just awful.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea