#1
So far, I'm fairly familiar with the general use/feel of each scale/mode, but one escapes me: the chromatic. I understand what the chromatic scale is, but I don't fully understand how it is utilized.

For instance, I've been attempting to learn a song that is, from what I've gathered, in Eb Mixolydian, but there are sporadic chromatic passages. The entire song contains nothing but Eb F G Gb Bb C Dd, save for two instances where a random Fb and D appear.

This is probably a very stupid question, but any help would be much appreciated. Little details like this hang me up.
#2
Chromatics essentially serve to add "extra" tension. So, wherever the writer saw fit, he added chromatics to add tension.
#4
Well you don't really "use the chromatic scale" unless of course you're doing a run composed of entirely half-steps. Chromaticism, however, is utilized a few different ways.

1) Modal mixture. Most commonly demonstrated in "borrowing chords/notes from the parallel major/minor." If you have a C chord in the key of A major, you know that it is borrowed from A minor. These examples are very, very common.
2) Passing tones. And not in the sense of "non-chord tones," but rather, notes used to pass between scale degrees. If anyone knows the formal term for this, that would be great.
3) Simple tension. Usually manifested in harmony rather than melody (although you see plenty of melodic examples). Jazz perfectly exemplifies this. Where a dominant-tonic motion in pop music, say, might look like V I, in jazz it may look like bII7#9#5 Imaj7add#11.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
#5
Chromatic notes are commonly used as either lead-ins or passing tones to the chord tones of the underlying chord.

Say you find a passage that uses every note, if look at the chord you're playing over you'll usually find that the chromatic notes are being used as passing tones and lead-ins with the chord tones being somewhat prominent. Obviously it's not always the case, but it is one way of looking at things. They can also imply chord extensions for harmonic/tension purposes.
Last edited by MapOfYourHead at Sep 19, 2010,
#6
Quote by food1010
Well you don't really "use the chromatic scale" unless of course you're doing a run composed of entirely half-steps. Chromaticism, however, is utilized a few different ways.
1) Modal mixture. Most commonly demonstrated in "borrowing chords/notes from the parallel major/minor." If you have a C chord in the key of A major, you know that it is borrowed from A minor.

Could you expound on this a little? I don't quite follow this concept.

These examples are very, very common.
2) Passing tones. And not in the sense of "non-chord tones," but rather, notes used to pass between scale degrees. If anyone knows the formal term for this, that would be great.
3) Simple tension. Usually manifested in harmony rather than melody (although you see plenty of melodic examples). Jazz perfectly exemplifies this. Where a dominant-tonic motion in pop music, say, might look like V I, in jazz it may look like bII7#9#5 Imaj7add#11.

Could you also explain this a bit more in-depth, if you don't mind? The concept of tension still eludes me. I have an idea that it's to create anticipation for consonance, but is its functionality just that? To "build tension" towards the resolution?



Thanks for all the responses, everyone!
#7
Quote by AlanHB
What song is it?


Wandering Ghosts by Michiru Yamane (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)
#8
Quote by vermanubis
Wandering Ghosts by Michiru Yamane (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night)


Well that song isn't Eb phrygian. It's in F minor. At some points the guitarist employs accidentals, resulting the the F harmonic minor, or a scale sharing the same notes as F phrygian. But most of it is straight F minor and the main theme is F minor pentatonic.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#9
Quote by AlanHB
Well that song isn't Eb phrygian. It's in F minor. At some points the guitarist employs accidentals, resulting the the F harmonic minor, or a scale sharing the same notes as F phrygian. But most of it is straight F minor and the main theme is F minor pentatonic.


Are you sure? It contains all the notes of an Eb Mixolydian. Also, could you explain to me the process through which the song metamorphosizes from the opening scale into what is surmised to be F minor?
#10
Quote by vermanubis
Are you sure? It contains all the notes of an Eb Mixolydian. Also, could you explain to me the process through which the song metamorphosizes from the opening scale into what is surmised to be F minor?


I'm at uni right now, I'll get back to you when I can break the full song down on guitar again.

I know for certain that the "verse" as such goes Fm Eb Db Eb, a similar structure to the last movement of "Stairway to Heaven" or "All Along the Watchtower". The opening riff seemed to be an F minor vamp.

The song definately resolved to F minor - I was able to improvise using that scale over the entirity of it.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#11
Quote by food1010
Well you don't really "use the chromatic scale" unless of course you're doing a run composed of entirely half-steps. Chromaticism, however, is utilized a few different ways.

1) Modal mixture. Most commonly demonstrated in "borrowing chords/notes from the parallel major/minor." If you have a C chord in the key of A major, you know that it is borrowed from A minor. These examples are very, very common.
Ok, so to expound on this a bit more. I'll start straight from the very basics.

In a key, you have seven notes that fit the key signature ("in-key"/diatonic). Building triads off of these seven notes gives you seven diatonic triads. In the key of C these would be C Dm Em F G Am Bo. Say you want to use a chord that's not one of those seven. Instead of just picking something random and hoping it works, you can "borrow" one from the parallel minor key, C minor, which contains the chords Cm Do Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb. Looking at the C major chords, you can see that the seventh one is a diminished chord. This will be very dissonant. Why don't we take the seventh one from C minor and use that instead, because it's just a major chord. Voila! you have just used modal mixture. I hope that's what you wanted me to explain. If you want me to go into more detail or whatever just let me know.

Quote by food1010
2) Passing tones. And not in the sense of "non-chord tones," but rather, notes used to pass between scale degrees. If anyone knows the formal term for this, that would be great.
3) Simple tension. Usually manifested in harmony rather than melody (although you see plenty of melodic examples). Jazz perfectly exemplifies this. Where a dominant-tonic motion in pop music, say, might look like V I, in jazz it may look like bII7#9#5 Imaj7add#11.
You want me to explain tension a bit more?

Ok, so for starters, what is tension?

Tension (in music theory) is the unsettled feeling a certain note/chord/progression evokes that causes it to "gravitate" towards a certain tonic ("home") chord. Basically the root of the scale has the least tension, then the fifth, then the third (these are chord tones of the tonic so they will sound very well-resolved when a piece ends here). Some notes that have more tension are the fourth and the seventh (this is because they are each only a half-step away from a chord tone of the tonic chord). Then the second and sixth are kind of in between.

I think the gravity analogy is pretty good in this case. Let's take the earth. 1 3 and 5 are all on the surface. They are stable where they are. 4 and 7 are not on the surface, they are in the atmosphere somewhere being affected by the gravitational pull. 2 and 6 are as well, but they are further away, so the pull isn't quite as strong.

So that all has to do with tension within the key. This tension in simple diatonic harmony isn't relatively that "tense" (for lack of a better word). Once we start getting into b2s, #2s, #4s, b5s, #5s, b6s and so on, we can start to build more tension.

Let's look at a few practical examples. We'll use the key of C major. For starters, play a C major chord. This is your home chord. Switch to an F chord. This is another "safe" (although not completely resolved) chord. Switch to a G chord (or G7 if you want), then go back to C. See how that all leads you back to C? Next do Dm G C. This goes on.

This time play that same C F G (C) progression, then play an Eb major chord and return to C again. Hear how that Eb sounded a little more "out"? This chord is borrowed from C minor. It uses the notes Eb (the b3 of C), G, and Bb (the b7 of C). See how it starts to use some chromaticism to build tension?

Now play a Cmaj13 chord. Then an Fmaj7(#11). Then we'll do a tritone substitution of the G(7) chord. Let's make it a Db7(#5,b9) because I like that chord as a tritone sub. So now our C F G progression now became Cmaj13 Fmaj7(#11) Db7(#5,b9). Hear how much more tension builds up. The first two chords aren't even out of key. They are diatonic, but the way they build up so far in thirds, they create some dissonance within themselves. Then the last chord is just out there, but in a way that still leads you back to the tonic (because it's a tritone sub).

Again, I can go into more detail if you would like (specifically explaining why these chords all function the way they do).
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea