#1
Recently a piano player friend, who I believe knows their theory, said something that confused me.

In a two chord jam like E/A or A/D or C/F:

In all cases, I always thought the easiest scale to play over these would be E, A, or C respectively. I know that there are endless options for what scales you can use. but I am talking about the most basic choices here.

So my friend tells me the opposite. E/A would have to be I(E), IV(A) or A(1), E(V).
My friend says you "never" use a I, IV without the five. So the two chord pattern has to be I, V with A as the tonic.

Sorry if this doesn't make sense. What would be the most basic/typical key to play in over E/A?
#2
It can be either of them... where does the song feel resolved? On A or on E?
You can use I / IV without the V as much as your want... you can use anything without the V as much as you want, you just won't have an authentic cadence, that's all.

Your friend clearly doesn't know what he is talking about.
Quote by Xiaoxi
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#3
You play in the key of A major over an E A vamp. Why? because the E resolves to the A better than the A resolves to the E. Therefore the tonic is A and the chord progression is V, I

Context could change this though. Get a bassist just playing E over that progression and you could find that the E chord becomes the tonic. It would then be I, IV in the key of E

As for never using I, IV without the V... you can do what you like.
#4
OK, cool. That answers my question. Are their certain genres in which the I, IV is common? Does the I, IV make more sense if you are using seventh chords? Maybe it is just the people I play with, but I feel like we use I, IV much more than V,I.

Anyway, thanks for the answers.
#6
No, you can most certainly jam on I-IV. It's a non-resolving chord sequence, if you want to get technical. Think of Joe Cocker's "Feelin Alright".

Sometimes you see I-IVish vamp with the bass staying on the tonic (Pedal IV), in which case you can play over it as if it were just the I chord. And even when the root does change, as in the "feelin Alright" example, you can still analyze the whole thing as a Tonic area, which means you'd have to move to a predominant or dominant area of the key to get a cadence (think of the verse in "Peg" by Steely Dan).

The reason these aren't V-I is that the V has a function - tonicization - that is not fulfilled by a naked V-I, as the vamp is too weak to be a proper cadence. When analyzing, the big question is function: what is the purpose of this chord in this place?
#7
Quote by Playsabadguitar
OK, cool. That answers my question. Are their certain genres in which the I, IV is common? Does the I, IV make more sense if you are using seventh chords? Maybe it is just the people I play with, but I feel like we use I, IV much more than V,I.

Anyway, thanks for the answers.


It's very common in bluesy rock music. Doing I7-IV7 is a good way to define the harmonies as different chords and beg for a minor key guitar solo. Doing Imaj7-IVmaj7 would give you a really mellow/jazzy feel, and you'd use major or lydian to solo.
#8
Quote by Playsabadguitar


So my friend tells me the opposite. E/A would have to be I(E), IV(A) or A(1), E(V).
My friend says you "never" use a I, IV without the five. So the two chord pattern has to be I, V with A as the tonic.


Your friend is wrong.

Listen to the progression. Where does it resolve?

I can play a C-F that resolves to C rather easily, and is clearly a I-IV. Yes, all else being equal our ears will probably want to hear that as a V-I, but all else is never equal.
#9
Quote by cdgraves
No, you can most certainly jam on I-IV. It's a non-resolving chord sequence, if you want to get technical. Think of Joe Cocker's "Feelin Alright".

Sometimes you see I-IVish vamp with the bass staying on the tonic (Pedal IV), in which case you can play over it as if it were just the I chord. And even when the root does change, as in the "feelin Alright" example, you can still analyze the whole thing as a Tonic area, which means you'd have to move to a predominant or dominant area of the key to get a cadence (think of the verse in "Peg" by Steely Dan).

The reason these aren't V-I is that the V has a function - tonicization - that is not fulfilled by a naked V-I, as the vamp is too weak to be a proper cadence. When analyzing, the big question is function: what is the purpose of this chord in this place?


Wow, very cool. Feeling Allright, was one of the examples I had in mind. Very helpful. Thank you.
#10
Quote by Playsabadguitar
Recently a piano player friend, who I believe knows their theory, said something that confused me.

In a two chord jam like E/A or A/D or C/F:

In all cases, I always thought the easiest scale to play over these would be E, A, or C respectively. I know that there are endless options for what scales you can use. but I am talking about the most basic choices here.


you could very well do that.

Quote by Playsabadguitar
So my friend tells me the opposite. E/A would have to be I(E), IV(A) or A(1), E(V).
My friend says you "never" use a I, IV without the five. So the two chord pattern has to be I, V with A as the tonic.


i'm not going to sugarcoat it - your friend has no ****ing idea what he's talking about, and very likely lacks a lot of musical experience.

Quote by Playsabadguitar
Sorry if this doesn't make sense. What would be the most basic/typical key to play in over E/A?


it really depends on context. depending on other factors, an Emaj - Amaj progression can be made to sound like a I - IV in E major or a V - I in A major. it can also be made to sound like a V/III - III in F# minor if you do certain things (though as a vamp this would be quite difficult).

play in whatever key you hear. if you hear the resolution on A, play in A major. if you hear the resolution on E, play in E major. determine where the resolution is (since that is the defining factor of a key) and utilize that.
Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.
#11
Quote by Myshadow46_2
You play in the key of A major over an E A vamp. Why? because the E resolves to the A better than the A resolves to the E. Therefore the tonic is A and the chord progression is V, I

Or you could easily play E major over an E-A vamp....

Yes, it won't resolve as nicely. But so what?
#12
It's a two chord vamp. It could go either way.

If both chords are given equal treatment in regard to duration, timing etc then most likely a V-I vamp. But there are other things to consider, is the bass movement going from the V down to the I or up to the I? It can make a difference as in one instance you are moving down a fifth and the other is moving up a fourth.

However it is tonally ambiguous as there is no real harmonic development; no real dynamic harmonic movement. You are just oscillating between two chords, either or which could really act as the tonic depending on what you do with it.

When you jam on a vamp like this you are exploring and exploiting as much as possible the relationship between two chords. That's it. Forget about "what key" you're in or what the tonal centre is and just listen to the relationship between two chords and work on that.

There are things that can contribute to one of the two sounding more like the tonic: the accents you put on each the chords, note duration, the bass movement (which has the lower root), how many bars you play each chord for, the melody you play. But it doesn't really matter. With just two chords there's no real harmonic progression here it is very static which is the whole point of a two chord vamp.

As for IV-I never being played without a V chord. That's just a false statement.
Si
#14
^Well I would suggest the opposite conclusion: there is NO harmonic "function" so don't even worry about it. Just treat it as two chords and examine and explore the relationship in anyway you see fit.

It's a two chord vamp. There is a lack of harmonic movement required for one chord or the other to really function as a dominant.

You could call the vamp a dominant tonic or subdominant tonic vamp, but these names would refer more to the scale degree on which the chords are built as opposed to any harmonic function.

It is simply an oscillation between two chords with no clear sense of tonic.

===========

Quote by Playsabadguitar
I always thought the easiest scale to play over these would be E, A, or C respectively. I know that there are endless options for what scales you can use. but I am talking about the most basic choices here.

Aaaah well you're talking about scale options...

Let's talk A E.
Chord tones are E G# B A C# E

Your most basic scale would contain...
E G# A B C#

E pentatonic = E F# G# B C# E - But considering one of the chords is A it is likely that at some point you will want to play an A (you don't have to though and the E pentatonic will work perfectly well over the E A vamp).

A pentatonic = A B C# E F# A (Now you have your A but you are missing the G# which is the third in the E major chord.)

Note both the above pentatonic scales include the F# so it's a good indication that whatever scale we choose this will most likely feature. Add the F# to the collection of chord tones E F# G# A B C# then all we are missing for a diatonic scale is some kind of D.

D (natural) gives us the A major scale = A B C# D E F# G# A

D# gives us the E major scale = E F# G# A B C# D# E

So either of these scales makes as much sense as the other. (thus both you and your friend are right in what scale you claim is the most obvious, but you are both wrong when you say the other person is wrong).

The most basic scale though...who knows...probably a six note scale leaving out the D altogether. Thus you would have all the chord tones plus an F#

Another alternative should be to use an eight note scale with both the D and the D#. D would be used over the E (heading into the A chord would create an E7 kind of feel to resolve to the A) and the D# over the A (heading into the E would create a leading tone half step from D# to the E root to resolve to the E chord).

Making use of chromatics the use of a G natural would give a bluesy feel over the E major chord and create a dom7 chord type over the A chord setting up a half step move from G to G# as you go from A to E. While you would still use the G# going the other way as a leading tone toward the A.

If you're altering thirds you could also use a C natural over the A chord as you're heading into the E chord. This could be used in a chromatic run from C# to C to the B note which is the fifth in the E chord (the B note to be hit as the chord changes to E). This would be similar to a IV iv I (which is a progression you might want to show to your piano playing friend so he can see one way in which a IV clearly resolves to a I chord without the help of the V (IV iv I)).

As you said there are a ton of options. The best bet is to start by being aware of your chord tones and to try out as many ideas as you can to figure out what sounds great. It's not about selecting a scale and sticking to it it's about playing something that sounds good.
Si
#15
Quote by 20Tigers
^Well I would suggest the opposite conclusion: there is NO harmonic "function" so don't even worry about it. Just treat it as two chords and examine and explore the relationship in anyway you see fit.

It's a two chord vamp. There is a lack of harmonic movement required for one chord or the other to really function as a dominant.

You could call the vamp a dominant tonic or subdominant tonic vamp, but these names would refer more to the scale degree on which the chords are built as opposed to any harmonic function.

It is simply an oscillation between two chords with no clear sense of tonic.

I agree. I'd say it's subjective at this point, and really up to the ear to decide is what I kinda meant.

But I also think what the TS was getting at in the OP was that as the majority of theory-knowers are classically trained, we are taught to kind of identify the dominant and tonic in any chord progression we see first to figure out the key, and then the rest of the chords.

Personally, when I see E/A, I picture V/I first, because it's a more stable, standalone option than I/IV.

EDIT: Basically, when I said "identify the function", I meant that it's open to free interpretation.
Last edited by one vision at Feb 5, 2014,
#16
riiight I get ya, I was caught up on semantics. And yeah I too see V-I initially. Even though IV-I is at least as common, if not more so, in contemporary rock/pop to end a phrase.
Si
#18
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Or you could easily play E major over an E-A vamp....

Yes, it won't resolve as nicely. But so what?


Well, if you understand how keys are constructed, you might notice something.

There is ONE NOTE different between E major and A major.

E major has a D#. A major has a D natural. They are otherwise the same notes.

And, of course, a D-natural is a very common sound in E major anyway. Because of the blues's influence on popular music, E7 doesn't sound that weird to us as a tonic chord. The b7 is probably the most common accidental.

In A major, D# is a #4, or, enharmonically, a b5. Again, this is a very common sound. Less common than the b7, but hardly rare.

Either way you slice it, you're talking about common accidentals - sounds that we're used to hearing.
#19
The V chord creates the greatest tension & need to resolve in any music. It also takes songs to an "emotional crescendo" musically. I probably would ask the guy to jam with more than 2 chords as the 1 & 4 are pretty bland in terms of "emotional feel" musicality...better known as "Da* that sounded cool~!
#20
Quote by Playsabadguitar

My friend says you "never" use a I, IV without the five. So the two chord pattern has to be I, V with A as the tonic.



I would consider that statement to be a huge red flag. What you decide to use is a matter of choice. What you call it is a matter of context.
#21
Quote by Playsabadguitar
Recently a piano player friend, who I believe knows their theory, said something that confused me.

In a two chord jam like E/A or A/D or C/F:

In all cases, I always thought the easiest scale to play over these would be E, A, or C respectively. I know that there are endless options for what scales you can use. but I am talking about the most basic choices here.

So my friend tells me the opposite. E/A would have to be I(E), IV(A) or A(1), E(V).
My friend says you "never" use a I, IV without the five. So the two chord pattern has to be I, V with A as the tonic.

Sorry if this doesn't make sense. What would be the most basic/typical key to play in over E/A?


I'd look at this slash chord as if the bass was the Root. Functionally it doesn't sound like E to me, and its not an inversion.

So that would make A - root E my 5th a G# maj7 and B a 9th. A Major 9th.

A/D I might see as Dmajor 9th. D my root, A my 5th C# my maj7 and E my 9th.

So, a I IV vamp in A would fit the bill. I could solo over it in A. This of course means I see the chords as being based off the Bass note, which I do.

Best,

Sean
#22
Quote by Sean0913
I'd look at this slash chord as if the bass was the Root. Functionally it doesn't sound like E to me, and its not an inversion.

So that would make A - root E my 5th a G# maj7 and B a 9th. A Major 9th.

A/D I might see as Dmajor 9th. D my root, A my 5th C# my maj7 and E my 9th.

So, a I IV vamp in A would fit the bill. I could solo over it in A. This of course means I see the chords as being based off the Bass note, which I do.

Best,

Sean


I think he meant a 2 chord vamp from A - D rather than an A Chord with a D in the Bass (A/D)