#1
Hi guys,

I wasn´t sure how to ask my question...I´ve been focusing on the techinque side of guitar these past few months and lost a bit of track in the theory department. Wanting to get better at making my own backing tracks for improvising and songs i´ve found myself bumping into the same wall over and over again...

My question is: Since, for example, C major and A minor have the same notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Using these notes (and the CHORDS that derive from them) to make up a song, how can you tell if your composition is in C major or A minor?

I know it´s probably a stupid question. But it´s really driving me mad. Should i conclude that my song is in minor because it sounds "sadder" and it´s in major because it sounds "happier"? That´s sort of in the air for me and i find it pretty subjective, even so with my own songs.

I´ve been studying with Petrucci´s Rock Discipline, and there´s a section with Scale Fragments and sequences. And he presents various fragments with 3 or 5 notes from a scale, 1 sharp: F sharp. SO this could either be G major or E minor, right? But the books says the fragments are in G major. Why couldn´t they be E minor?

TL;DR. How do you know whether something (a chord progression, a song, a melody) is in a certain key or its relative major/minor, since they both share the same notes?

What should i look into to comprehend this better?

Any help is highly appreciated! Thanks!
#2
I think the C major relative is a d# minor. because its 1 1/2 step up the neck. You will probably know that why it is major or minor because of the rythm cords.
#3
c major and a minor as well with as g major and e minor, share the same key signature as they are relative to each other. and i guess it would depend really on what position he uses, if he uses fragments based on the major scale shape, they would be considered major, and vice versa with minor.
#4
because the third note of C major scale(E) is two tones(four frets) higher than C making it a Major third. If the third is three frets higher, we call it minor. I suggest learning intervals to get a better idea

Quote by jackson1040
c major and a minor as well with as g major and e minor, share the same key signature as they are relative to each other. and i guess it would depend really on what position he uses, if he uses fragments based on the major scale shape, they would be considered major, and vice versa with minor.

that wouldn't explain scales other than "major scale" and "minor scale" eg. phrygian, lydian, etc
Last edited by hames jetfield at Jun 21, 2011,
#5
First: Study Intervals

By understanding intervals, you will understand scales, which will make you understand chords and harmony.

The relative minor you are referring is the natural minor. If the song is using natural minor, (instead of the melodic or harmonic minor) then probably you will notice if the song is in major or minor by looking in the harmony. The most important chord will be the minor, and *probably* the one that ends the song.
Last edited by ezequielgdl at Jun 21, 2011,
#6
Referring to the Rock Discipline G Major/E minor issue:

Probably you can play chords which revolt around E minor natural (same chords than G major) and it the scale fragments will sound good on both. But probably better on a chord sequence that uses G major as the most important chord, because the notes played on the stronger beats will be more related to G major. This is due that the scale fragments were planned as G major.

It's more the importance you give the note and where you place them on a melody. If you make a melody that does G (quarter) - B(q) - D(e) - C(e) - B(q), it probably fits better on a G major, and the C is just a passing note (it's placed on a weaker time).

I hope i'm being clear, i could write for hours haha.
Last edited by ezequielgdl at Jun 21, 2011,
#7
Quote by Maru717
How do you know whether something (a chord progression, a song, a melody) is in a certain key or its relative major/minor, since they both share the same notes?



Learn chords. Find a song and learn what chord progressions are being used. Say, for instance, you have a C, F, G progression, you would initially assume that the C major scale is being used because 'C' is the root note of the progression. In another example, using an A minor, G, F progression, you could assume that the A minor scale is being used.

C major and A minor share the same notes, but what makes the scales different is that they start on different notes.

C major CDEFGABC
A minor: ABCDEFGA

In the context of a song, you initially play the scale that corresponds with the first chord of the progression.
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#8
Quote by hames jetfield
because the third note of C major scale(E) is two tones(four frets) higher than C making it a Major third. If the third is three frets higher, we call it minor. I suggest learning intervals to get a better idea


You're on the right track, hames, but I would say that to be major, the tonic chord has to be major, and for minor the same idea. In other words, a "major" scale would have a major third (4 semitones from tonic) and a perfect fifth (7 semitones from the tonic.) Likewise, a "minor" scale would have the minor third (3 semitones from tonic) and the perfect fifth. Most scales will have a perfect fifth anyway, but it's an important differentiation when you start playing with the Locrian, Whole Tone and Diminished scales.

You guys are right, though. TS, you should investigate intervals and chord construction to truly understand these concepts.

And just so we're clear: the relative minor of C is Am. You can find the relative minor by traveling 3 semitones lower than the tonic, this is the 6th scale degree of the major scale. To find relative major in a minor key, go three semitones up from the tonic to land on the 3rd scale degree.

EDIT:
Quote by Attenuare
Say, for instance, you have a C, F, G progression, you would initially assume that the C major scale is being used because 'C' is the root note of the progression. In another example, using an A minor, G, F progression, you could assume that the A minor scale is being used.


Correct, these are very typical chord progressions for each tonality. Notice, TS, that these progressions only differ by a single note.
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Last edited by soviet_ska at Jun 21, 2011,
#9
I agree Jesse, there's a lot of flawed theory knowledge flying around here especially considering how basic the question is.

How can you tell what scale it is if they share the same notes?

There's actually a couple of ways.

1. If viewed on its own, you can identify what note it starts on. A minor starts on A, C major starts on C. But a problem arises, in that with songs it can start on whatever note it wishes, and if you are looking at "just" the notes, then it could still fly either way.

2. By applying the major/minor formulae. If you know what note it starts on, determine whether the scale has a flattened 3rd or 7th. If not, then it's minor. But a problem arises in the context of the song as to whether accidentals are being employed or not. In blues songs the key is major, but they use flattened 3rds and 7ths in them all the time, so this can be misleading.

3. By determining where the song resolves. A song has a key. The key determines the scale played over it, irrespective of what notes are played within the scale. You don't even need to look to the notes in the scale to determine that whatever is being played is the scale associated with the key, and accidentals may be employed at some point. This method is full-proof.

So the best answer is "look to where the song resolves".
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#11
Thanks for the replies guys.

Quote by AlanHB


1. If viewed on its own, you can identify what note it starts on. A minor starts on A, C major starts on C. But a problem arises, in that with songs it can start on whatever note it wishes, and if you are looking at "just" the notes, then it could still fly either way.



This is actually my biggest problem. I have studied intervals and scale construction, the whole WWHWWWH and for the natural minor scale as well. I also know that the relative minor a major scale starts on its sixth. But i don´t understand how this works in the practical side. In a song, in a melody, in a chord progression.

Now, you conclude that the best way is to determine where the song resolves to. I think this is where i would need to read and study more. I understand the concept of key and what chords derives from a scale. What i dont understand is the concept of resolution that you talk about. And my songs use power chords, my melodies are usually over a power chord progression or a riff...So how can i know in these cases?

I´m not looking for a quick fix. I want to know what i have to start reading and studying in order to understand these concepts so that i can APPLY them in my own compositions and to understand other things. Any recommendations? Should i look into common chord progressions? What on keys specifically?

Thanks for taking the time, really!

EDIT: Since i'm studying theory on my own are there any books that you can recommend that are good for studying? I think i've already exploited all the articles on UG, and i would like to follow a guided and methodic explanation. Any suggestions?
Last edited by Maru717 at Jun 23, 2011,
#12
You don't have to read or study anything to hear something resolve.

Play this:

C - Am - F - G - Dm

Hear how after you played the Dm chord, it doesn't sound finished yet?
Now play this:

C - Am - F - G - C

When you play the C chord, it will sound finished. This is what is called resolution.

If something is minor, it will resolve to a minor chord, and if it's major, it will resolve to a major chord.
#13
Check out the "Crusade" columns on here if you haven't yet. They taught me all by myself what you need to know - I'm still bad at it because I only read it once, but you will learn all the things you need to know from those columns
#14
Quote by Keth
You don't have to read or study anything to hear something resolve.

Play this:

C - Am - F - G - Dm

Hear how after you played the Dm chord, it doesn't sound finished yet?
Now play this:

C - Am - F - G - C

When you play the C chord, it will sound finished. This is what is called resolution.

If something is minor, it will resolve to a minor chord, and if it's major, it will resolve to a major chord.

Unless you modulate without realising. <.<
#15
Quote by Jesse Clarkson
Unless you modulate without realising. <.<


It's much easier and probable to modulate if you know what you are doing, because placing a chord that doesn't belong to the scale doesn't mean you are modulating. Modulation is going to a new tonality. Remember the tonal system is all about hierarchy.
#16
Yes, but people with little knowledge of theory can still modulate unwittingly. It may be uncommon, but it happens.
#17
Quote by Jesse Clarkson
Yes, but people with little knowledge of theory can still modulate unwittingly. It may be uncommon, but it happens.


Of course, i wasn't belittling anyone. I was just stating that knowing the procedures makes it much more easier to understand. I hope this encourages to want to know more, if there's anything I can help with, just ask.