Am - D - Am - D - C - Bm - C - Bm

Key of G? ii - V - IV - iii

Seems simple enough but would you actually determine it to be in the Key of G if the "I" chord never appears?
Play the progression, and then play a G chord afterwards. Does it sound resolved?

To me it sounds resolved, so I would say it's in the key of G
A minor. IV and ii are borrowed from the parallel key, A major.
Last edited by mdc at Sep 5, 2013,
Quote by mdc
A minor. IV and ii are borrowed from the parallel key, A major.

When I play the note "F" anywhere in the song it sounds bad where F# sounds good. Wouldn't that mean A minor is not the correct key?
Am = A C E
D = D F#A
C = C E G
Bm = B D F#
so from this we can see the notes A B C D E F# G A.
The only sharp here is the F# which is found in the keys of G major and Em. Since the chord progression starts and ends on Am we can presume the key is a modal. A is the supertonic of G (the 2nd degree of the scale) this means that we're in the key of A Dorian
The tonic doesn't have to appear since this isn't G major as long as it has the notes of the scale in that's how you can determine the key.

Edit: Also to write the progression out, you would treat Am as i D as IV C as III and Bm as ii therefore it would be;

i - IV - i IV - III - ii - III - ii
Last edited by JNBloomy at Sep 5, 2013,
Quote by mdc
A minor. IV and ii are borrowed from the parallel key, A major.

I second this.
mdc is the only one not absolutely ******ed in this thread

so, the usual in MT
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Why thank you.

TS, my answer is one that you'll understand in like 27 years from now.

Say the above out loud with an upward inflection at the end of the sentence. God, isn't that just sssooo annoying?
Quote by Sabicas
When I play the note "F" anywhere in the song it sounds bad where F# sounds good. Wouldn't that mean A minor is not the correct key?

The key is dependent on what chord the progression resolves to not whether the notes present are diatonic. Borrowed chords are a pretty common thing in music, you just have to learn to recognize the non-diatonic notes in the borrowed chords & adjust your lead accordingly rather than just wantonly playing scale shapes over everything.
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Thanks guys. I know I still have a lot to learn and figured I wouldn't quite understand the correct answer. I had a feeling that the key of G was incorrect. It's easy to calculate purely based on the chords/notes present, but I'm becoming more and more aware that the easy/math answer in music is often incorrect.

Next question: does it really matter? If I think of it in the key of G or A dorian as opposed to Ami (with borrowed chords) does it really affect the outcome when I try to communicate with others? I see where it would affect how I would transcribe on the staff, but if I was just to hand over a chord chart with "Key of G: ii - V - IV - iii" would anyone really be lost? This is not a cop-out as I AM going to try to get it correct, but I'm curious.

I could solo over this in the G major scale but it probably won't sound great. So, I would probably just try chord-tone licks and follow the chart. The bass player would think along the same lines. In that case, would it actually matter what the key signature is?
The key tells you what home base of the entire musical product. It's the most important thing to know in music. Think of it as being in the key of Am with borrowed chords. If you want to communicate effectively with competent musicians then that is what you would say.

It can't be G because it doesn't resolve to G and it can't be A Dorian because A Dorian isn't a key. In fact, get rid of modal words from your musical vocabulary. For your purposes, modes are only useful as a shorthand for scale shapes on a fretboard and have nothing to do with any underlying musical properties.
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^

"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.

Just curious, hands up who listened to the song before they answered?

modes are only useful as a shorthand for scale shapes on a fretboard and have nothing to do with any underlying musical properties.
So now modes have nothing to do with any underlying musical properties? I know the majority of regulars here are anti-modes, most likely as a result of constant mode threads that used to plague the forum, but that seems a bit extreme even by MT standards.

TS, You can call it Dorian and you won't be incorrect. You could call it A minor with a major sixth, or Am with a major IV and minor ii chord if you want and they all work just as well.

Nice song though.
Si
Definitely sounds like A minor to me. It has that kind of Western music feel to it I like it.

As people have said, you shouldn't look at the notes in the chords and find a scale that fits them all. The song uses non-diatonic chords.

Also, dorian is not a key.

The song is in the key of A minor because it resolves to A minor chord. A is the key center.

And playing G major scale over it would actually sound good, though the scale wouldn't be called G major because it wouldn't sound like G major. It would sound like A minor with a major 6th because of the chords behind it. And the scale would be called A dorian.
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Quote by 20Tigers
Just curious, hands up who listened to the song before they answered?

*hand goes up*
Quote by 20Tigers
Just curious, hands up who listened to the song before they answered?

So now modes have nothing to do with any underlying musical properties? I know the majority of regulars here are anti-modes, most likely as a result of constant mode threads that used to plague the forum, but that seems a bit extreme even by MT standards.

TS, You can call it Dorian and you won't be incorrect. You could call it A minor with a major sixth, or Am with a major IV and minor ii chord if you want and they all work just as well.

Nice song though.

I did qualify it by saying "for your purposes." Granted, I may have overreached in trying to get the idea of "actual modal music ideas" not applying across in a single sentence.
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^

"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.

Last edited by rockingamer2 at Sep 6, 2013,
Quote by mdc
*hand goes up*

Just to be clear, it wasn't accusatory it was pure curiosity, I catch myself doing it on occasion and nearly did it here. By "it" I mean analysing on paper without taking the time to listen - which really is terrible practice.

Quote by rockingamer2
I did qualify it by saying "for your purposes."
I was kind of sneaky removing that part of the quote. But I figured his purpose is to learn and understand music in general, a narrower interpretation of his purposes could be understanding this particular song.

the idea of "actual modal music ideas" not applying across in a single sentence.
What would you say makes a musical idea modal? What are "actual modal music ideas"?
Si
Quote by 20Tigers
Just to be clear, it wasn't accusatory it was pure curiosity, I catch myself doing it on occasion and nearly did it here. By "it" I mean analysing on paper without taking the time to listen - which really is terrible practice.

I was kind of sneaky removing that part of the quote. But I figured his purpose is to learn and understand music in general, a narrower interpretation of his purposes could be understanding this particular song.

What would you say makes a musical idea modal? What are "actual modal music ideas"?

Seeing as he was asking about how to write the chords of a song, I assumed that he was still working on learning how to deal with tonal music. And by modal, I mean music that adheres to modality in that it doesn't venture far from the modal center(?) and emphasizes the color tone of that mode, usually with a two chord vamp or drone note.
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^

"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.

Quote by mdc
A minor. IV and ii are borrowed from the parallel key, A major.

Bingo!

It clearly resolves to Aminor, TS. Use your ears. Hearing where a progression sounds "home" is the easiest way to find the key.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Sep 7, 2013,
Quote by rockingamer2
I mean music that adheres to modality in that it doesn't venture far from the modal center(?) and emphasizes the color tone of that mode, usually with a two chord vamp or drone note.

Well this doesn't exactly venture very far from the Am center. C is just a common tone substitution for the Am. Similarly the Bm is a common tone substitution for the D chord both of which have that F# (the color tone of the Dorian mode).

There is no dynamic harmonic function here, as far as that goes this song pretty much is a two chord vamp that emphasizes the color tone of the Dorian mode.

So by that definition I dont' see why we can't call it "A Dorian".
Si
I haven't listened to the piece since I'm on a bad internet connection and I can't watch Youtube videos.

But just looking at the chord progression I don't think it's a stretch to say that it has modal properties. There is no clear tonic - predominant - dominant type progression, no clear V - I cadences in sight. The fluidity between parallel major and minor keys in functionally tonal music is based on the strength of the dominant - tonic pull, A major and A minor can be intermingled with ease in common practice style music because they share the same dominant, a lot of other borrowed chords in functional harmony can be seen as modifying the voice-leading according to the model of the V - I progression, the V of V chord is an obvious example.

So I agree with 20T. I don't see the problem in saying that the effect of the progression is modal.
.
I would say that the key's in A minor with the IV and ii being borrowed from A major like mdc said. The F# just plays as an accidental and allowing the Bmin to not be a Bmin7b5 chord.

Quote by JNBloomy
key is a modal.

Does not compute. If there is a key to something, it implies that it's tonal (major or minor), not modal.
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to be fair, keys are modes, but in a different sense than church modality. hence why we use the term "modal interchange" as justification of borrowed chords - we're trading between different major and minor modes. ofc, that does not mean "aeolian and ionian", and it's really just a very confusing series of semantics that even some of my professors seem to have trouble with. idk why performance majors are allowed to teach theory, that's why this kinda thing happens
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Seeing as he was asking about how to write the chords of a song, I assumed that he was still working on learning how to deal with tonal music. And by modal, I mean music that adheres to modality in that it doesn't venture far from the modal center(?) and emphasizes the color tone of that mode, usually with a two chord vamp or drone note.

At a certain point we get into prescriptive vs descriptive language whenever this sort of thing comes up.

A lot of musicians use modal terms in a way is consistent with calling this "A Dorian": A minor, where the minor sixth feels like an outside note. I'm been in plenty of jams where somebody has said "We're in C Dorian" or "We're in G Mixo" and everybody knew what they were talking about and nobody stopped to say, "Wait, but the music is actually progressing ..."

People go to modes too often, IMHO - if you're in Am with a natural and minor sixths saying A Dorian doesn't make any sense. And thinking "Am with a raised sixth" encourages a smarter approach to the fretboard.

But this really seems like a good example of where saying "Calling it A Dorian is wrong" is pedantic and not helpful.
Calling it A Dorian is wrong. Why? Cuz it is
I really don't know why you'd refer to this as "A Dorian", when it's just as easily explained as "key of A minor with non-diatonic chords" -- especially since the song seems to function more as tonal than modal.
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
I really don't know why you'd refer to this as "A Dorian", when it's just as easily explained as "key of A minor with non-diatonic chords" -- especially since the song seems to function more as tonal than modal.

Please explain the characteristics of a song with modal function?
Si
Quote by 20Tigers
Please explain the characteristics of a song with modal function?

Eh, ok. Fair point.

It'd be interesting though to look at the sheet music for this song though. I've a feeling that might answer this question. It's probably not legally free though.
lol wow you're not even gonna try? jesus you'd be in the mud if somebody kicked out the old moondance argument
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I should have been starting posts like this a long time ago. This thread is giving me plenty to think about. I'm frequently guilty of finding a key that fits the notes played even though I had a strong hunch that wasn't correct.

Anyone want to take a crack at the time signature of this tune? I'm trying to get better at accurately transcribing.......mainly to improve my ear (and knowledge of theory).
6/8. Why is it so hard?
Quote by mdc
6/8. Why is it so hard?

Because I've always just played along with recordings or bandmates and not analyzed or transcribed. I'm not having any problems understanding anything written in this thread so I wouldn't say it's "hard". I can play this progression easily without thinking of the time signature.

I hear it as each chord gets three beats but how do I know whether to transcribe it in 3/4 or 6/8?

Is that a stupid question?
Last edited by Sabicas at Sep 9, 2013,
3/4 has 3 strong beats per measure & 6/8 has only 2.
They count like this, each number stands for an eighth & the bold numbers are accented.

3/4: 1 2 3 4 5 6
6/8: 1 2 3 4 5 6

I would actually count 3/4 as 1 and 2 and 3 and 1... but the above helps to compare it with 6/8 so you can really see the difference.
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So I listened to this and it doesn't really sound tonal to me at all.

It seems to me that part of the confusion is that no-one really seems clear on what a mode is and what makes something modal and what makes it tonal.

According to Piston's harmony the term mode is synonymous with the term scale, it signifies a collection of pitches. The major and minor and chromatic scales are the most common modes which Piston identifies in common practice era music.

Now 'tonality', and this is the important part, is understood as a system of organised relationships between the tones, 'each scale degree has it's part in the scheme of tonality, it's tonal function.' Tonal function, that right there is the key part. A lot of people think that tonal music is just music with a key centre. We can accept that as a valid use of the world 'tonal', but in that case we have that confusion both 'modal' and 'tonal' musics are tonal because they both refer a central pitch*. Tonality in Piston's text and in a few other sources refers to functional tonality, tonality in which the harmony has clear functions.

'Modal music' is music which lacks clear harmonic function for various reasons. In Renaissance polyphony it was because counterpoint was king and harmony and harmonic progression were a non-concern except at certain cadence points where they did introduce formula on the model of V - I, but the cadences to me feel like an addendum, they aren't the driving force of the music.

What point am I getting at? If you can't tell us what the functions of the chords are well then hey it might not actually be tonal. And if it ain't tonal but you've still got a clear tonal centre when then hey it might actually be modal. And I think the song in this thread in one of those cases, where you can't (I can't) seem to put functional labels on the chords and get anything useful out of it, so the effect is basically modal.

So again IMHO in this case saying the music is modal makes sense and tells us something useful about how this music works. Does that also mean that I think the piece is in A dorian? I'm kinda sketchy on that, it's in A, it's got the minor third, saying it's a minor mode is another label we can use which adequately describes how the music works and sounds. It's also got the major sixth, but then the question also arises as to how the musicians who wrote this were thinking when they wrote it. I'm pretty cynical about the idea that someone thought 'hey, let's write a song in A dorian', then picked chords based on that.

More likely, being rock/pop musicians, they know a bunch of chord shapes, they strung a few together that they liked the sound of and called it a day. The lack of function is because they weren't thinking about anything like that in the first place. Theory is curiously impotent in explaining the psychological process of the naive folk or rock musician.

But in summary my thoughts are: Saying that this piece is modal seems to say something useful about the piece to my ears and asking 'what mode is it in' in the sense of a specific collection of pitches they had in mind to use composing the song is probably less helpful in understanding how the piece works.

My challenge to anyone who thinks this song is tonal is to show how each chord functions clearly as a dominant, subdominant etc. Don't just say it's tonal because someone on the internet told you that everything is tonal, show how it is tonal, and how that label tells us something useful about how the music works. If you can't do that, my friendly suggestion is that you read a book sometime instead of regurgitating what you read on the internet

Also lol at crazysam's suggestion that we look at the sheet music. It's a fucking four chord progression looped, what kind of numpty needs to write that on a stave. Please, please, please, please, pretty please with strawberries and cream on top, learn to think for yourself and stop trying to be a 15674th rate Xiaoxi clone before I hurt myself in frustration.

*I have no idea if this is true, but it is claimed that humans have a psychological tendency to interpret all music in terms of a central pitch, so that even twelve-tone music refers to central pitches. The plural is the key here as it is constantly thwarting this tendency to a degree that any stable tonal centre remains elusive, but still this music could then still have a degree of claim to the title of 'tonal' even with the shifting nature of it's reference pitches
.
Quote by J-Dawg158
3/4 has 3 strong beats per measure & 6/8 has only 2.
They count like this, each number stands for an eighth & the bold numbers are accented.

3/4: 1 2 3 4 5 6
6/8: 1 2 3 4 5 6

I would actually count 3/4 as 1 and 2 and 3 and 1... but the above helps to compare it with 6/8 so you can really see the difference.

Now that I'm trying this, I can't make it work in 3's. If I try to count this in my head it comes out something like this:

Am and two and D and four and Am and 2 and D and four, even though I know this is not counted in 4's which is why I asked in the first place. I can't seem to make 6/8 fit.

How are you counting this?
Last edited by Sabicas at Sep 9, 2013,
Too count in 6/8 don't think of it as 1 and 2 and 3 and, count it as 1 2 3 1 2 3, 6/8 is split into 2 dotted crotchets where as 3/4 is split into 3 crotchets, the amount of notes per bar is the same however it's counted differently.
Listen to the percussion. Shaker plays eighth notes. Bass drum plays on the first strong beat and snare on the second strong beat (the fourth 8th note in the bar). I think figuring out the rhythm gets a lot easier if you listen to the drums.
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