#1
Basically I know how to figure out what key a songs in, I know what modes are, and I've studied the circle of fifths to a degree. However, I've always wondered if theres a way to tell what chord in a song should be minor, major, or seventh. When I used to take lessons I asked me instructor this, but all he did was write a formula for what a song should follow. However, he mainly was a pure country/any music directly influenced by country so it wasn't quite what I wanted.

An example of what I'm meaning is the common progression of G,D, Em, C. If you would switch the Em to anything else it may be in key but it still just doesnt sound "right". Is there a guide for when maybe an III, IV, VI, etc. should be played as a minor, major or seventh? I know that when you play certain modes (not sure off the top of my head as i have it all written down) that certain chord types fit better such as maj 11th and what not, but i'm just asking for a basic guide hopefully. Unless it all goes by ear? Sorry for the wall of text I just wanted to explain the best I could so hopefully somebody may understand what i'm asking.
"The object of war is not to die for your country, it's to make the other bastard die for his" -General George S. Patton
#3
check out musictheory.net, then go to the lesson about diatonic chords and diatonic 7 chorsds. I think thats what you were looking for....
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Some pieces are only meant to be played by people with six fingers on their fretting hand. Sorry.
#4
Play what sounds good to you. Don't over complicate things. Theory describes what you do, not what to do.

If you mess around with different voicings, you can find that Em sounds good one way but can sound like shit another way.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”


-Max Planck

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#5
^ I figured it would be something to that degree. However, what could I look into to find an explanation as to why the Em seems to be the best sounding chord. In other topics I've read it seems that the only explanation was that its simply because that's what we are accustomed to hearing, I was just hoping htere was something more that would maybe explain it.

Also, my use of seventh chords is almost as a transition to start the progression over. Any explanation for that as well? A generic description would be a progression of C-F-C-G7, if i were to change it to G major it just doesnt seem like it leads the progression back into the initial C as well. Is all of this type of stuff strictly based on what were are accustomed to hearing?
"The object of war is not to die for your country, it's to make the other bastard die for his" -General George S. Patton
#6
i'm not a theory expert, but harmonizing maybe? like, taking the scale you're basing your progression on and making chords from that - like, if you do it with a c major scale, if you're going to play an A in that key, it's going to be a minor because the notes are ACE, and that's what fits into the CDEFGAB c major scale, and not the AC#E a major.

check this out, hope it's what you're looking for http://cnx.org/content/m11643/latest/
Last edited by ArtemR at Apr 1, 2011,
#7
Quote by justnmcknz
^ I figured it would be something to that degree. However, what could I look into to find an explanation as to why the Em seems to be the best sounding chord. In other topics I've read it seems that the only explanation was that its simply because that's what we are accustomed to hearing, I was just hoping htere was something more that would maybe explain it.

Also, my use of seventh chords is almost as a transition to start the progression over. Any explanation for that as well? A generic description would be a progression of C-F-C-G7, if i were to change it to G major it just doesnt seem like it leads the progression back into the initial C as well. Is all of this type of stuff strictly based on what were are accustomed to hearing?
Good question.

If you analyze the notes you can see how certain notes lead to others.

G7 to C is what's called an Authentic Cadence. It's popular because it has such a strong resolve.

G7: G, B, D, F

leading to

C: C, E, G


So the G note is in both chords. The B in G7 goes up a half step to C. F goes down a half step. It's a smooth yet strong transition.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”


-Max Planck

☮∞☯♥
#8
In any unaltered major scale, the chord formula is set out as: I ii iii IV V vi vii(b5)*

*Pardon the lack of the musicological half-diminished sign, but I'm not sure how to insert it, sorry.

For a few examples, let's have a look at the keys of F major, C major, G major, and D major, all of which are common keys with few (or no!) accidentals, and their triads. These keys also move through the Circle of Fifths, and so on gain one sharp as they cycle (G major has the key signature of F#, and D major the key signature of F# and C#) or one flat when reversing (F major having the key signature of Bb)

* * *
F major
- F G A Bb C D E


Triads:
F major - F A C (I III V)
G minor - G Bb D (I bIII V)
A minor - A C E (I bIII V)
Bb major - Bb D F (I III V)
C major - C E G (I III V)
D minor - D F A (I bIII V)
E half-diminished - E G Bb (I bIII bV)

C major
- C D E F G A B


Triads:
C major - C E G (I III V)
D minor - D F A (I bIII V)
E minor - E G B (I bIII V)
F major - F A C (I III V)
G major - G B D (I III V)
A minor - A C E (I bIII V)
B half-diminished - B D F (I bIII bV)

G major
- G A B C D E F#


Triads:
G major - G B D (I III V)
A minor - A C E (I bIII V)
B minor - B D F# (I bIII V)
C major - C E G (I III V)
D major - D F# A (I III V)
E minor - E G B (I bIII V)
F# half-diminished - F# A C (I bIII bV)

D major
- D E F# G A B C#


Triads:
D major - D F# A (I III V)
E minor - E G B (I bIII V)
F# minor - F# A C# (I bIII V)
G major - G B D (I III V)
A major - A C# E (I III V)
B minor - B D F# (I bIII V)
C# half-diminished - C# E G (I bIII bV)

* * *

I'd recommend trying to write out the notes and basic triads in each of the twelve keys, which can at very least serve as a reference guide for you, whilst increasing your vocabulary and hopefully creating some revelations along the way, as I hope this next comment will do!:
Can you see the similarities between each key, and how they adhere to the I ii iii IV V vi vii(b5) formula? Can you see that each major scale follows the same intervallic formula and structure? It's applicable to all major keys, and you can just as well create other chord voicings using the scale degrees.
On that note, I'd also recommend trying to work out the inversions for each chord in a key. A root position chord features the I in base, first inversion features the III or iii in base (depending on whether the chord is major or minor in tonality, respectively), and second inversions features the V in base. For example, C major first inversions would be spelt E G C, and 2nd inversion G C E. Try to find some of these on your neck for more fun toys to mess around with, or even on different string sets (eg. finding each inversion on C major on the 6th, 4th, and 3rd strings, then t 5th, 2nd and 1st, and so on. It's not absolutely necessary, but you can build up a nice chord library, and it may help you with your writing and arranging, too).

What about minor keys, you ask? The relative minor of any major key is built on the vi degree. In the case of C major, the relative minor is A minor:

* * *

C major:
C D E F G A B

A minor
A B C D E F G

* * *

Relative keys share the same notes, but of course the intervallic and harmonic stucture is altered, thus creating a new tonality, and thus altering their inherent qualities and use in contexts. The chord structure of any minor key is:

i ii(b5) III iv v VI VII

Try finding the relative minors of the major keys written above to test the formula!

I hope that explanation clears up something, at the very least. As for the substituting Em comment, look for common notes between chords in a key. Em consists of E G and B - G major consists of G B and D, and C major of C E and G. These chords have two notes in common with Em (though of course have different tonalities with the major structure, and different functions in the key, or other keys they may be featured in). Still, experiment with simple substitutions like this - you may find that while a root position substitution may not be the best fit, an inversion featuring, say, the E in base (C/E or G/E) may work, since the core harmonic framework remains constant with E still being the lowest note.

Again, I hope this helps in some way, and to more knowledgeable posters, please let me know if I've slipped up anywhere.

All the best,

Last edited by juckfush at Apr 1, 2011,
#9
Everything is cleared up now, thanks alot guys! I already had every key wrote out, but seeing the the triads is the thing that really helped me see what fit better. I guess I just didn't think it through enough...

-EDIT- Fish, I really owe it to you for making this seem so easy lol. My instructor just never really showed me how anything was done. It was mainly this is how it's done, but no explanation as to why. Thanks again!
"The object of war is not to die for your country, it's to make the other bastard die for his" -General George S. Patton
Last edited by justnmcknz at Apr 1, 2011,
#10
The simple answer is "Use them when you want the sound they give you"
Actually called Mark!

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