#1
Hi

This is a question for a teacher or somehow qualified person to answer - I know my theory, but this one is a bit of a weird one.

I'm writing some instructional stuff for some blues tunes, and I feel I need to tighten up some definitions with regard describing keys.

For example, a regular blues which uses dominant chords throughout, can be soloed over using the minor pentatonic, but major pentatonic runs and hybrid combinations can also be used. (e.g. ascend with major pent, descend with minor).

So is this technically in a 'major' key?

I know that if a blues is described as 'minor' then it's using minor seventh chords, and you can't get away with major pentatonic runs. And if a blues is described as a 'major blues' then you can only really play major pentatonic over it and keep the right sound.

So is a regular blues actually a 'dominant' blues - like in the dominant sound, between major and minor?

I am a bit stumped because I have a blues that is moving from Gm to Bb, and the Gm key is a 'minor' blues but what is the Bb - I don't feel I can say it's a major blues because technically it's over that dominant sound where minor and major can both be used.

If anybody knows some kind of naming convention for this I'd really appreciate it!

Thanks
Luke Mosse Guitar Teacher in Bristol, UK
#2
Quote by afromoose
Hi

This is a question for a teacher or somehow qualified person to answer - I know my theory, but this one is a bit of a weird one.

I'm writing some instructional stuff for some blues tunes, and I feel I need to tighten up some definitions with regard describing keys.

For example, a regular blues which uses dominant chords throughout, can be soloed over using the minor pentatonic, but major pentatonic runs and hybrid combinations can also be used. (e.g. ascend with major pent, descend with minor).

So is this technically in a 'major' key?

I know that if a blues is described as 'minor' then it's using minor seventh chords, and you can't get away with major pentatonic runs. And if a blues is described as a 'major blues' then you can only really play major pentatonic over it and keep the right sound.

So is a regular blues actually a 'dominant' blues - like in the dominant sound, between major and minor?

I am a bit stumped because I have a blues that is moving from Gm to Bb, and the Gm key is a 'minor' blues but what is the Bb - I don't feel I can say it's a major blues because technically it's over that dominant sound where minor and major can both be used.

If anybody knows some kind of naming convention for this I'd really appreciate it!

Thanks


You're thinking about the major and minor pentatonic scales too much. Major or Minor only refers to the 3rd of the scale.

In a dominant chord the 3rd is major so it would sound better in you played the major pentatonic if you had you play a pentatonic. However, you would be much better just using the chord tones of the dominant (1,3,5,b7) and then perhaps building on that. If you play a flat 3rd over a dominant chord it won't sound 'right' (whatever that is in music).

Does that make sense?
#3
Quote by PanamaJack666
You're thinking about the major and minor pentatonic scales too much. Major or Minor only refers to the 3rd of the scale.

In a dominant chord the 3rd is major so it would sound better in you played the major pentatonic if you had you play a pentatonic. However, you would be much better just using the chord tones of the dominant (1,3,5,b7) and then perhaps building on that. If you play a flat 3rd over a dominant chord it won't sound 'right' (whatever that is in music).

Does that make sense?


Hi

Sorry I don't think you understand.

In the blues, the tonality is between major and minor. The scale traditionally taught to play over the changes is the minor pentatonic, and the weird thing is that over a 7th chord the minor third clearly does work - hence the 'blues scale' or 'minor pentatonic'.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-bar_blues#Analysis
"Additionally, the chord progression meshes elements of major and minor. The major-minor (dominant) seventh chords used on each degree alone seem to fall in some grey area between the strong, content major chord and the somber, conflicted minor chord. The subdominant's seventh chord is of note here, because of its odd relationship with the tonic."

Listen to a small selection of blues and you'll find that the major and minor third are used interchangeably and also bent to gradations between - in a standard, dominant 7th based blues.

I'm asking if there is any naming convention that would describe the major/minor quality of the 7th chord based blues tonality. The reason being that major blues refers to a blues that excludes minor notes and a minor blues referring to a blues that excludes major notes.

I need to know how to accurately refer to a minor blues which is moving to a dominant 7th (major/minor) blues, rather than a strictly major blues.

What you're talking about is matching chord tones, which is not done in the blues in this case. Also, you'd find that more players would play the minor third than the major third. It's more like the 3rd of the scale is a region which can be played to gradations between the minor and major third.
Luke Mosse Guitar Teacher in Bristol, UK
#4
What is the chord that the song resolves to? If it's major, it's in a major key and if it's minor, it's in a minor key.

"And if a blues is described as a 'major blues' then you can only really play major pentatonic over it and keep the right sound."

This is wrong. The major sound comes from the chords, not the melody. You can play whatever notes over I-IV-V and it's still in major. Major blues is the regular blues ("You Shook Me" by Led Zeppelin and I know it's not originally by LZ), minor blues is the one with minor tonic ("Since I've Been Loving You" by Led Zeppelin). Usually in blues you mix minor and major scales.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#5
Quote by MaggaraMarine
What is the chord that the song resolves to? If it's major, it's in a major key and if it's minor, it's in a minor key.

"And if a blues is described as a 'major blues' then you can only really play major pentatonic over it and keep the right sound."

This is wrong. The major sound comes from the chords, not the melody. You can play whatever notes over I-IV-V and it's still in major. Major blues is the regular blues ("You Shook Me" by Led Zeppelin and I know it's not originally by LZ), minor blues is the one with minor tonic ("Since I've Been Loving You" by Led Zeppelin). Usually in blues you mix minor and major scales.


A standard 12 bar blues resolves to a I7 which is neither major nor minor, unless you define it by the triad alone.

It's not wrong actually. There are examples of gospel-type blues tunes where minor notes won't work - check out 'Blues you can use' by John Ganapes which has examples of 'major blues'. It's a different sound to the standard blues.

I had a chat with a jazz teacher today and he said the best word to use for the dominant blues was 'standard blues'. I think I'll use that.
Luke Mosse Guitar Teacher in Bristol, UK
#6
Afromoose... you are correct. This thread coincides with what I just studied. This is accurate for the WHY your major and minor scales work against the dominant 7th ( major triad ). Pretty sure as explained to me by my professional teacher but I will double check. I sometimes miss a thing or two or didn't know about an exception.

The 7th chord family (major, dominant, minor, diminished.. no matter) is the chord that ties everything together. One of the biggest struggles musicians had in the past was to make use and be able to define every note's identity/character in relation to the key you are in. By every note, I am including 1-7, with all their sharps and flats!

Take G7 for example. The formula is 1-3-5-b7. Notes are GBDF. How do we account for the rest? There are not 7 notes but 13 to cover chromatically!! Well, since now the 7th is apart of the equation, we can now have G7b9, G7add9 (G9), G7#9, G7sus4, G7b5, G7#5, and G13 (G7add13).

This is a very big deal! If you were to find yourself on your 3rd fret, bottom E ( silver string ) and play CHROMATICALLY, every note, fret by fret to the 15th fret, where the next G appears... you can find inversions of G7 chords with that note on the E string!!

Breaking it down.. G7 takes care of your 135b7. Four notes are accounted for right there and you can use an inversion/voicing of G7 so the root note is on the silver string, 3rd fret!
4th fret is Ab/G#... your b2/b9... now use and inversion of G7b9.
5th fret is A... your 2/9... now G9 inversion
6th fret is Bb/A#... your b3.. inversion of Gmin7
7th fret is B... your 3rd ... inversion of G7
8th fret is C... your 4... inversion of G7sus4
9th fret is Db/C# ... your b5... inversion of G7b5
10th fret is D... your 5... inversion of G7
11th fret is Eb/D#... your b6/b13 .. inversion of Gb13
12th fret is E... your 6/13... inversion of G13
13th fret is F... your b7... inversion of G7
14th fret is Gb/F# ... your 7... inversion of Gmaj7

SIMPLY PUT... if you were to play every note, not skipping any frets, against these 7th chord inversions.. they'd sound GOOD! Like they belong... because they now do! G7 itself does most of the work. So when you are soloing... you are automatically 'safe' when you play your 135b7 in dominant blues. Since the G7 is built off the MAJOR triad and has a b7, it allows minor tones in. Also, the b3 of G is Bb! Hence your relative major and minor. That's why you can play the minor pentatonic 1st position on the 15th fret against the key of G and you'll get the blues, b3, minor tone and sound. If you slide that first position of that scale 3 frets down to its relative major, still in the key of G, you now get a major/happy sounding solo. Still blues though. All notes are still accounted for no matter what due to the 7th chord family. So dominant, minor, and diminished scales are allowed in. I will double check with the interchanging of the b3 and 3. When I played all notes against those seventh chords, nothing sounded out of place or wrong. I have already written my teacher for clarification just cuz. Thanks for the thread! Awesome and hope this helped. Apologies for any inaccuracy and not being able to think of another naming convention for what's going on. But this goes deeper than just telling your students memorize your minor pentatonic scales in all positions and slide it 3 frets down for your relative major and you get happy blues. Peace.
#7
I think at it's most basic "why", we are talking function. Major 3rd working against a minor as a passing or color tone or vice versa. Keep in mind a Dom7 is a major 3...so a minor 3 working against a Dom7 is gonna be a passing tone most likely.

Travis, what you are talking about is a very Holdsworthian way of looking at chords and melodic alterations of the highest note. I'm never sure about inversions of 7ths, though, to be honest. Once you introduce 4 notes, I think the bass sort of suggests the actual function.

So a Bb D F and G I'd see as a Bb6, not an inversion of G minor. Am I making sense?

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Apr 17, 2013,
#8
I'm not sure about naming conventions but I tend to refer to blues progressions in one of three ways:
MAJOR (or DOMINANT) blues - A7, D7, E7
MINOR blues - Am7, Dm7, Em7
DORIAN blues - Am7, D7, Em7
#9
You don't have to play the resolution of the song for it to resolve to it.

Major blues resolves to a major chord irrespective of whether you play a dominant 7 in it's place. If the progression truely resolved to a dom7 that would place it in the mixolydian mode, but the V7-I7 cadence ensures that this would never be the case.

Minor blues resolves to a minor chord irrespective of whether you play a minor 7 in it's place. If it truely resolved to an i7 this would place it in the dorian mode, but again the cadence employed rules that out.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#10
I'm reluctant to offer much of an input into a debate on music theory but it seems to me that the people writing the blues songs didn't trouble themselves too much with this. You are analysing something after the fact not prescribing a set of rules to follow.

As a bass player you quickly come across the ambiguity and freedom of the blues. I think the second 'standard' blues bass line I learned plays the minor third and immediately hammers the major third, so what is that, major, minor, some sort of short chromatic run?

I've also found a lot of original songs where the bassist drifts between major and minor runs with no obvious patterns but to shift the mood of the song and of course there are lots of examples of players playing the song differently each time they play.

I find the same ambiguity in timing, where does a song become 12/8 rather than 4/4 triplets? Depends upon where the emphasis lies? Not once the better players start messing with that.

I'm not rubbishing theory, it's the only way to discuss music with other people and it really helps with understanding what other musicians are doing but trying to write down what someone has invented because it sounds good is always going to leave anomalies.
#11
I was going to say much the same thing... You don't often hear the words "theory" and "blues" spoken in the same sentence.
Of course, it's possible to analyze anything, and no doubt you can dutifully transcribe any blues song into time signatures and slurs and vibratos and everything else that goes into "Born Under A Bad Sign"...
But I doubt that Albert King thought in those terms, nor many of the progenitors of the form.
It is a "folk" music form, after all, developed by simple, untutored rural folks and often on instruments that they made themselves.

Now you can take it as far as you like... Gershwin did.
#12
Hi

Thanks for the responses. I'm not trying to over-egg the pudding theory-wise, just need to have three simple terms for description that don't confuse matters.

My three terms I need are
Standard Blues - a regular blues, do what you want
Minor Blues - you can only get away with minor sound
Major Blues - you need to play predominantly major to fit the sound

An example of major blues would be this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv9XgQzkCLE

My reason for needing these terms is that at some point I want to tackle a 'major' blues like the one in the video, and it would be confusing for a student if all the way through I've been referring to the standard, do-what-you-like blues as the 'major blues'.

I know you can get away with a few minor thirds in that gospel tune, but overall you need to be playing with a major sound. This is different to most student's approaches to blues where they would usually start with a minor pentatonic sound and then think about adding in some major notes if they want to get some BB King or Peter Green style licks.

A lot of this confusion in my opinion stems from trying to adapt the Western Classical theory to describe the Blues style which isn't ideal. It's like the term 'Dominant 7th' - I wish there was another word for it! (I'm never making the mistake of trying to explain that to a blues student again, going halfway through diatonic theory to then explain that the dominant 7th is being used as chord I which makes no sense). This is part of the problem, that the descriptive terms taken from western classical are loaded with functional implications which make no sense when you're playing jazz or blues.

But hopefully, 'major', 'minor' and 'standard' won't confuse anybody..
Luke Mosse Guitar Teacher in Bristol, UK
#13
^^^ Mate I explained this above. There's nothing particularly special about the blues in terms of theory. You are only seeking to confuse yourself.

And yes, a major third sounds like crap in a minor key. That doesn't mean that you can't play it, just that it sounds like crap.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#14
Guyz, guyz, maj 3rds, maj6's, maj7s, b9's sound great in a minor vamp.

Like in this little section of a Michael Brecker sax solo I transcribed
---------
-9-8-6b7r6-5---6-------4--3
------------8-7--7-6-5---4--4
-------------------------------7-5-7-5
--------
--------


1:53 - 157 Em vamp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGkA3doBMZM
Last edited by mdc at Apr 18, 2013,
#15
Quote by afromoose
A standard 12 bar blues resolves to a I7 which is neither major nor minor, unless you define it by the triad alone.

It's not wrong actually. There are examples of gospel-type blues tunes where minor notes won't work - check out 'Blues you can use' by John Ganapes which has examples of 'major blues'. It's a different sound to the standard blues.

It IS wrong. Here's why. You're still thinking in terms of scales, as in "this scale is normally played over this progression or in this type of blues". That's NOT how it works. The key is what you need to focus on.
So, if (for instance) the resolving chord is A7, then the key is Amajor. If the resolving chord is Am7, then the key is Aminor. The scales you play over the chord progression have nothing to do with defining the key.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Apr 18, 2013,
#16
Quote by afromoose
A standard 12 bar blues resolves to a I7 which is neither major nor minor, unless you define it by the triad alone.

It's not wrong actually. There are examples of gospel-type blues tunes where minor notes won't work - check out 'Blues you can use' by John Ganapes which has examples of 'major blues'. It's a different sound to the standard blues.

I had a chat with a jazz teacher today and he said the best word to use for the dominant blues was 'standard blues'. I think I'll use that.

So with "major blues" are you referring to a blues song that's not basic 12 bar blues? Though that kind of songs can have chords borrowed from the parallel minor. Blues isn't limited to three chord progressions. For example listen to Led Zeppelin - Since I've Been Loving You. That's a minor blues and uses a lot more chords than just i iv and v (or V7 which sounds more dramatic).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bkjv9SscotY
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#17
Quote by afromoose
Hi

For example, a regular blues which uses dominant chords throughout, can be soloed over using the minor pentatonic, but major pentatonic runs and hybrid combinations can also be used. (e.g. ascend with major pent, descend with minor).

So is this technically in a 'major' key?....

...I am a bit stumped because I have a blues that is moving from Gm to Bb, and the Gm key is a 'minor' blues but what is the Bb - I don't feel I can say it's a major blues because technically it's over that dominant sound where minor and major can both be used.

Thanks


According to my professor who's more than qualified...

1. IT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE VARIOUS CHORD ROOTS THAT DEFINES AND REINFORCES Bb AS THE I CHORD OR TONAL CENTER OF THE PROGRESSION!

2. the dominant chord is best thought of as a Major triad with a b7

3. C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C (Chrimatic scale)
In a nutshell: Any given Dominant 7th chord starting or built upon any root can both absorb and justify any not of the chromatic scale. OTHER CHORD STRUCTURS ARE NOT ABLE TO MAKE THIS CLAIM! THIS IS NOT TRUE OF MAJOR 7th or MINOR 7TH chords!

Afromoose... I know there are so many more systems out there... but this is true. EXCELLENT thread. Thanks for the reinforcement on my blues journey!
#18
Quote by TravisWright
According to my professor who's more than qualified...

1. IT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE VARIOUS CHORD ROOTS THAT DEFINES AND REINFORCES Bb AS THE I CHORD OR TONAL CENTER OF THE PROGRESSION!

2. the dominant chord is best thought of as a Major triad with a b7

3. C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C (Chrimatic scale)
In a nutshell: Any given Dominant 7th chord starting or built upon any root can both absorb and justify any not of the chromatic scale. OTHER CHORD STRUCTURS ARE NOT ABLE TO MAKE THIS CLAIM! THIS IS NOT TRUE OF MAJOR 7th or MINOR 7TH chords!

Afromoose... I know there are so many more systems out there... but this is true. EXCELLENT thread. Thanks for the reinforcement on my blues journey!

Maybe you should go talk to your professor again.
#19
Quote by TravisWright
According to my professor who's more than qualified...

1. IT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE VARIOUS CHORD ROOTS THAT DEFINES AND REINFORCES Bb AS THE I CHORD OR TONAL CENTER OF THE PROGRESSION!

2. the dominant chord is best thought of as a Major triad with a b7

3. C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C (Chrimatic scale)
In a nutshell: Any given Dominant 7th chord starting or built upon any root can both absorb and justify any not of the chromatic scale. OTHER CHORD STRUCTURS ARE NOT ABLE TO MAKE THIS CLAIM! THIS IS NOT TRUE OF MAJOR 7th or MINOR 7TH chords!

Afromoose... I know there are so many more systems out there... but this is true. EXCELLENT thread. Thanks for the reinforcement on my blues journey!


Ha ha well I'm glad you got something out of this thread.

This thread has reminded me why I generally stay away from forums - people give very opinionated posts and they haven't really taken the time to read or understand what you've written. I trust the guy I asked about this in the 'real' world, he is very knowledgeable about blues and jazz and knew what I was talking about straight away. I can see quite a lot of argumentative weird stuff on this thread which isn't really worth spending any time answering.
Luke Mosse Guitar Teacher in Bristol, UK
#20
Think chords more than scales.

Simple way to convert between scalar and harmonic concepts: unstack your fully extended chords and arrange the notes stepwise

G #11 13 = G B D F A C# E

spelled as a scale = G A B C# D E F = G lydian dominant

Obviously you won't find a #11 on the tonic of a blues tune, but nobody's making you play every scale tone on every chord.


And you can stack up your scales/modes to derive harmonies:

G mixolydian = G A B C D E F

as a chord: G B D F A (C) E = G13 (natural 11th omitted in standard practice).
#21
Quote by AlanHB
^^^ Mate I explained this above. There's nothing particularly special about the blues in terms of theory. You are only seeking to confuse yourself.

And yes, a major third sounds like crap in a minor key. That doesn't mean that you can't play it, just that it sounds like crap.


I think there's something special about it. It's about the only form that effectively moves through the tonic, predominant, and dominant using only one chord each and without tonicizing patterns. No ii-V preparation for the harmony change - the I7 begs for it already.
#22
Maybe we're just used to the sound of having both major 3rds and minor 3rds heard simultaneously.

Look at a 7#9 chord. Aurally speaking, it's got both minor and major, but it sounds oh so sweet.

I'm a little rough on my music history but starting from the medieval period, it must of took us like at least 400 years for us to accept the tritone as musically acceptable.

Why can't we say the same thing about simultaneous major and minor thirds?
#23
Quote by E7#9
Why can't we say the same thing about simultaneous major and minor thirds?
Because functionally, they are not both thirds. One functions as a third, but the other (generally) functions as a raised second. That's why it's called 7#9, not 7addb3. The only reason I could see b3 being used over a major chord is as a downward passing tone. When you're using it melodically, as in the minor pentatonic over a major progression, the b3 is mainly functioning as a b7 of the IV chord. This is why the dominant I IV V progression works so well with minor pentatonics. Every note is either a 1 or a b7 of any of those three chords.

Another consideration to make is how well these b7s help to move the progression forward. b7 and 3 from a I chord both go down by a half step to the 3 and b7 of a IV chord, and same for the V-I relationship (and both have a similar effect in the opposite direction). Not to mention the dominant relationship in both of these cases (leading tone resolving to a root).

Quote by afromoose
This thread has reminded me why I generally stay away from forums - people give very opinionated posts and they haven't really taken the time to read or understand what you've written. I trust the guy I asked about this in the 'real' world, he is very knowledgeable about blues and jazz and knew what I was talking about straight away. I can see quite a lot of argumentative weird stuff on this thread which isn't really worth spending any time answering.
There were at least a few people who understood your OP and answered it appropriately. The point is, the b7 in a dominant chord should be seen more as a color tone/tension than an actual chord tone. You don't call a minor blues a "minor seventh" blues just because it uses -7 chords. It's just a minor blues because it uses minor triads. The seventh has no effect on the tonality, just the root and third.

Really, you should stop thinking of X7 chords as dominant. They are only dominant chords if they are a V7 or V7sub or a secondary dominant. Technically they are called major minor-seventh chords. The dominant seventh chord is named that way because it occurs diatonically on the fifth scale degree of a major key. We only label major minor-seventh chords as dominant chords because that's how they function in most cases. Just like a predominant seventh chord would be a maj7 chord in a major key.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
Last edited by food1010 at Apr 19, 2013,
#24
Afromoose... I agree with you. I hope what I shared contributed.

Crazysam23... I am not here to argue you. Have a great day and do your thing. I am here to learn and share. Not be in conflict over opinions. Thank you for your thoughts as well.

Over and out on this thread.

Peace
#25
Quote by Sean0913
I think at it's most basic "why", we are talking function. Major 3rd working against a minor as a passing or color tone or vice versa. Keep in mind a Dom7 is a major 3...so a minor 3 working against a Dom7 is gonna be a passing tone most likely.

Travis, what you are talking about is a very Holdsworthian way of looking at chords and melodic alterations of the highest note. I'm never sure about inversions of 7ths, though, to be honest. Once you introduce 4 notes, I think the bass sort of suggests the actual function.

So a Bb D F and G I'd see as a Bb6, not an inversion of G minor. Am I making sense?

Best,

Sean


Sean... THANK YOU!!! I will look into that. Love the blues with all my heart and can never know enough. I like your style of sharing.