#1
The song seems to be in Ab major (at least that's what I got from the notes of the intro riff) but the chords behind it go Ab major, Bb minor to C major.. which seems strange, as it's a I-II-III progression but the C is major instead of minor.. yet none of the notes clash and it sounds great. Is it just a key change within the intro or something else?

Could someone help me and explain the theory behind it?
#2
I can't remember the song, but sounds like a chromatic mediant
Quote by Xiaoxi
The Byzantine scale was useful until the Ottoman scale came around and totally annihilated it.
#3
I'm probably note best for this, but the fact is there is a TON of rock n roll and popular hits in general that use the III (major III rather than minor iii). Just as there are a TON of rock n roll and popular hits that use bVII rather than the chord that would technically be in the key (viidim). I'd guess these are the two most common ways rock & pop songs "bend" the key they are in to create tension.

The basic music theory notion is to create tension (by straying away from tonic &/or key) and then relieving the tension in a moving way by having a strong movement back to tonic/key. If you ONLY played chords in a major key -- I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii-dim -- then you might be playing something harmonious/melodic, but it might not have any oomph because without straying away from the heart of the key, you cannot create as much tension, and you cannot create a really big release of tension when you return to the key/tonic.

Anyway, you listed the chords in this song as I, II and III but actually since its Bbm, this is I, ii and III. That's a big distinction. If the song used the Bbmajor, and was truly I-II-III, now you'd have something to talk about because that would be pretty weird (though not unheard of, I guess, as some rock songs use all major versions of the chords I, II, III, IV, V, VI, bVII and do okay).

There are songs that play chords within a key, then "kick it up a notch" by transforming the minor iii into the major III. Consider I Will Survive, which as this progression (writing it out as if it were a major key rather than relative minor, since it's easier to compare apples & apples, though technically it would probably be considered in the relative minor key, like Am rather than Cmaj, which use exact same chords/notes within the key)

vi-ii-V-I-IV-II-iii-III

That actually also has an II in it, too. The move from IV to II is that kind of "lift" from major to minor because ii is the relative minor of IV. So by going from IV to II rather than ii, you get the "feel" of moving from ii to II. Then the song jumps back "into" key, so to speak, to the iii, only to then "lift" again to III. The IV-II thus largely parallels (foreshadows) the subsequent iii-III which is, in my opinion, the really moving / special part of the song that gives you goose bumps or whatever.

By the same token, those moments when the song you refer to plays C major, when C minor would be the song in key, can similarly create that feel of empowerment, lifting, energizing, oomph.

You might also look to the melody. For example, the difference between Cmajor and Cminor is whether the chord has E or Eb in it. Do the lyrics of the song you mention employ E, in which case that may foreshadow or soften the listener up to accepting a Cmajor chord without feeling it is dischordant. Another approach would be for the melody to have an Eb around the same time the Cmajor plays (maybe the measure before?) so that the "memory" of the Eb is in the listener's mind when the Cmajor plays, which can maybe make it feel a bit more minor in some subconscious way?

I read that the song Hey Ya has something like this, progression:

I - IV - V - VI for verse, and I - IV - V - vi for chorus. The verse is more aggressive than the chorus by the use of the major VI which is technically out of key. Anyway, the difference in the VI and vi in that song is the difference between a G or G#. I read that in the chorus part, where they play the minor vi which has the G, the LYRICS have the choir/back up singers singing a G#, which sort of makes that sound like VI even in the chorus, which makes it feel more familiar to the listener who has heard the VI in the verse. Well, I'm not sure I'm remembering all that correctly and it is all second- or third-hand so I'm not saying it's right. But it does illustrate how the melody notes, or even riffs or other notes played by other instruments can meld with whatever the main "chord" is that, say, is being played by the rhythm guitar so nudge the chord in a different direction, making a minor sound a bit more major as in Hey Ya, or perhaps doing the opposite in another song.

Hope I'm not talking too much BS, I'm a self taught music theorist.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#4
Quote by krm27

There are songs that play chords within a key, then "kick it up a notch" by transforming the minor iii into the major III. Consider I Will Survive, which as this progression (writing it out as if it were a major key rather than relative minor, since it's easier to compare apples & apples, though technically it would probably be considered in the relative minor key, like Am rather than Cmaj, which use exact same chords/notes within the key)

vi-ii-V-I-IV-II-iii-III



There are some serious flaws here. First of all, unless I'm much mistaken it doesn't go from Em to E, it goes from Esus to E. But more importantly, you can't analyze this is if it were major. It is minor, and the chords function differently. In C major, an E (the III) may be a chromatic mediant or may be tonicizing the Am (vi), but in A minor, it is the dominant, the V, which leads to the V-i, the authentic cadence. The correct analysis for I Will Survive would be i-iv-VII-III-VI-iiº-V-i. Not only is it an authentic cadence, it is the classic ii-V-i movement. So, I'm sorry to say, but you are not comparing apples & apples.
Quote by Xiaoxi
The Byzantine scale was useful until the Ottoman scale came around and totally annihilated it.
#5
I play it going from Em to E and it sounds right to me, or maybe I should say it sounds "good" to me. I'm playing it based on a Cake cover, which could make some difference.

I am not entirely sure it is correct to say you cannot take a song in a minor key and map out the progression as if it were in the relative Major so that you can then compare the chord choices to another song that is in a Major key. I mean, there's a reason they use the label "relative" minor. And I think I could find songs that are pretty much ambiguous as to whether they are in the major or relative minor key, the point is they use the same chords and are in one or the other, or songs that basically shift from one to the other either between verse and chorus, or even start a verse / phrase in one and end in the other. So assigning major versus minor key to a song can, at least in some cases, seem kind of arbitrary.

I also keep coming back to this notion of solfege.... It's my understanding (which of course could be wrong) that when you learn to think of notes in the Major Scale as Do-Re-Me, etc., and then you start to sing a melody of another song that, say, is in Dorian mode, you do NOT think of the Dorian tonic as "Do" but you keep thinking of it as Re, so you are still using the same intervallic sequence of Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do, except that you are to maintain awareness that "Re" will be your tonic.

Again, I got this notion based on an article I saw on solfege, but it's not something I have really focused on, and perhaps I'm wrong on this. But if that is how you do solfege, it raises a question whether, in fact, you can just keep all the intervallic designations the same, too. So when you write out the intervallic sequence for a song in Dorian, traditionally you would write it out as 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7. Yet, I wonder, would it not be simpler to think of it as simple 2-3-4-5-6-7-1, and bear in mind that "2" is your tonic? This would seem to parallel how solfege works, at least as I understand it based on that article I skimmed.

Then, by extension, a song in a relative minor key would be thought of a 6-7-1-2-3-4-5, and you'd keep in mind that 6, or "La," is the tonic. By the same token, then, you could apply this to keep the same chord designations, so the chords for relative minor are: vi-viidim-I-ii-iii-IV-V. Again, you have to keep in mind that the "I" is not your tonic, but that's not really that tough once you start thinking in these terms.

I guess I have not tried to teach myself the concept of traditional "functions" in the sense you refer to it, terms like "tonicizing" or "chromatic median" or "authentic cadence." If this is a blind spot that is impairing my ability to understand the SUBSTANCE of music theory, how and why music works, then I'd very much appreciate having that confirmed with suggestions where I might look (like UG lessons?) for that kind of teaching. On the other hand, I'm not sure we are not dealing with a semantic rather than substantive difference, and if that's the case, I'm not entirely sure my way of speaking is not "better" in the sense it is more accessible to lay people without formal music theory training, and your way of discussing things is sort of an ivory tower approach that involves people learning new labels for concepts which then has the result of making those topics less accessible to lay people even though the topics themselves are understandable to lay people, it is just the new vocabulary that poses a barrier.

Again, I'm not saying my way is as good or better. I guess, not knowing just how useful the formal terminology you are using may be, I simply do not know if my approach is fundamentally impaired/limited in ways I can only perceive if I undertake to learn more of the "formal" approach.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#6
Quote by krm27
I play it going from Em to E and it sounds right to me, or maybe I should say it sounds "good" to me. I'm playing it based on a Cake cover, which could make some difference.


I listened to the Cake version, I still hear just E, but if you prefer it with Em, go right ahead, music is always subjective.

Quote by krm27

I am not entirely sure it is correct to say you cannot take a song in a minor key and map out the progression as if it were in the relative Major so that you can then compare the chord choices to another song that is in a Major key. I mean, there's a reason they use the label "relative" minor. And I think I could find songs that are pretty much ambiguous as to whether they are in the major or relative minor key, the point is they use the same chords and are in one or the other, or songs that basically shift from one to the other either between verse and chorus, or even start a verse / phrase in one and end in the other. So assigning major versus minor key to a song can, at least in some cases, seem kind of arbitrary.


It is correct, trust me. It's called relative simply because it shares the same notes. Quoting Wikipedia (not the best source in the world, but it is usually ok for stuff like this) "In music, relative keys are the major and minor scales that have the same key signatures". The fact is that C major is C major, sounds like C major, tastes like C major and not like A minor.
Are there songs that may sound ambigous? Sure. But that does not mean you can analyze a song that is clearly minor as major. What defines the key is where the song resolves to. In the case of I Will Survive, it resolves in Am, with the strongest resolution possible, V-i.

Quote by krm27

I also keep coming back to this notion of solfege.... It's my understanding (which of course could be wrong) that when you learn to think of notes in the Major Scale as Do-Re-Me, etc., and then you start to sing a melody of another song that, say, is in Dorian mode, you do NOT think of the Dorian tonic as "Do" but you keep thinking of it as Re, so you are still using the same intervallic sequence of Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do, except that you are to maintain awareness that "Re" will be your tonic.

Again, I got this notion based on an article I saw on solfege, but it's not something I have really focused on, and perhaps I'm wrong on this. But if that is how you do solfege, it raises a question whether, in fact, you can just keep all the intervallic designations the same, too. So when you write out the intervallic sequence for a song in Dorian, traditionally you would write it out as 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7. Yet, I wonder, would it not be simpler to think of it as simple 2-3-4-5-6-7-1, and bear in mind that "2" is your tonic? This would seem to parallel how solfege works, at least as I understand it based on that article I skimmed.

Then, by extension, a song in a relative minor key would be thought of a 6-7-1-2-3-4-5, and you'd keep in mind that 6, or "La," is the tonic. By the same token, then, you could apply this to keep the same chord designations, so the chords for relative minor are: vi-viidim-I-ii-iii-IV-V. Again, you have to keep in mind that the "I" is not your tonic, but that's not really that tough once you start thinking in these terms.


But by doing this you throw away the best feature of Roman numeral analysis, which is clearly identifing the functions of each chord. A vi from the relative major does not sound the same as the i in the relative minor. Played alone, of course, they are the same chord. But music is dynamic, therefore it is always analyzed in a context, not statically, nor in an isolated manner. That solfege notion you mentioned is just a simple way of singing dorian or the other modes having the major scale as a reference. It doesn't alter functions or analysis.

Quote by krm27

I guess I have not tried to teach myself the concept of traditional "functions" in the sense you refer to it, terms like "tonicizing" or "chromatic median" or "authentic cadence." If this is a blind spot that is impairing my ability to understand the SUBSTANCE of music theory, how and why music works, then I'd very much appreciate having that confirmed with suggestions where I might look (like UG lessons?) for that kind of teaching. On the other hand, I'm not sure we are not dealing with a semantic rather than substantive difference, and if that's the case, I'm not entirely sure my way of speaking is not "better" in the sense it is more accessible to lay people without formal music theory training, and your way of discussing things is sort of an ivory tower approach that involves people learning new labels for concepts which then has the result of making those topics less accessible to lay people even though the topics themselves are understandable to lay people, it is just the new vocabulary that poses a barrier.

Again, I'm not saying my way is as good or better. I guess, not knowing just how useful the formal terminology you are using may be, I simply do not know if my approach is fundamentally impaired/limited in ways I can only perceive if I undertake to learn more of the "formal" approach.


If you want lessons on theory, go to musictheory.net, or read the Crusades series of articles here on UG. You need it, because you clearly don't know some basic aspects of music theory and yes, it is impairing your "ability to understand the SUBSTANCE of music theory, how and why music works".
The differences I pointed out are not semantic differences, they are very substantial. For starters, you are calling C major and A minor the same thing. You posted a song that has the most textbook minor chord progression in the world (tonic always changing in ascending 4ths or descending 5ths, or "circle progression", which is the strongest movement possible) but analyzed it in major, not seeing that an E in C major or A minor will sound very differently.

An E in A minor has a very distinctive function, it is the dominant, it has the leading tone, it is the chord that pulls back home. An E in C major can either be tonicizing the A minor (meaning that the key is for a moment moving from C major to A minor) or modulating to A minor or major (as E is the dominant for both those keys) or it can simply be a chromatic mediant, which has a weak function and is mostly decorative (it is also known as a "color chord")

You may call my approach "ivory tower", but I don't agree. When you study a new language, you learn the vocabulary. If you become an engineer, you are expected to know the technical language. Why should it be different for musicians? You wanna study music theory and understand how music works, but you don't wanna study the labels and concepts? If you'd rather reinvent the wheel, be my guest. I think it is much easier to read what has already been established, analyze it, understand how to use it. You are overcomplicating things.
Quote by Xiaoxi
The Byzantine scale was useful until the Ottoman scale came around and totally annihilated it.
#7
Okay, sorry for the "ivory tower" comment.

It sounds like you are saying that, say, the label "iii" is important because it will tell you something important about function, standing alone, that you don't get if I (or i) is not the tonic.

Just to be clear I understand this, that means that say there is a song in D Dorian. If you adjust the roman numeral identification to show the D as tonic, the chords are the same as C major but would be identified as follows:

i (Dm) | ii (Em) | III (F) | IV (G) | v (Am) | vi-dim (Bdim) | VII (C)

So, for the above key/mode, you are saying that using the above roman numeral identifiers is the best way, for example, to see that you have a "ii" because we know certain things about "ii" chords regardless of the key/mode we are in? So this "ii" (Em chord) will have some fundamental diatonic uses, or maybe all its potential diatonic uses, that are the same as the ii (Dm chord) in the key of Cmajor, and this will be lost on some one, like me, who labels D Dorian as:

ii (Dm) | iii (Em) | IV (F) | V (G) | vi (Am) | vii-dim (Bdim) | I (C)

and tries to keep in mind that the tonic will be the ii for this song. And the reason this will screw me up is because now I'm looking at the Em as being labeled "iii" rather than "ii" and, assuming I know what sort of diatonic functions can be served by an "iii," I'll be expecting the Em to serve those functions...except it won't because it's really the "ii" in relation to the tonic? I guess on example of how this might play out, in practical terms, is chord substitutions? Like the iii can substitute for the I but not the ii?

I'm trying to think this "out loud" so to speak to see if I'm understanding where my approach is deficient.

Assuming the above is correct, then are there diatonic functions that you can say are inherent to, say, an "iii" or "III" REGARDLESS whether the tonic chord is major or minor, and also regardless whether the 3rd chord is major (III) or minor (iii)? Like, fundamental properties and substitutions and uses and such that always fit the 3rd chord in a given key? I'm trying to wrap my head around the notion that these roman numerous reflect some innate properties such that it is critical / useful to always start the tonic numbering as 1, and part of that is understanding to what extent the major/minor aspect of a particular chord (say the third chord) shifts the functioning.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#8
Quote by krm27
Okay, sorry for the "ivory tower" comment.

It sounds like you are saying that, say, the label "iii" is important because it will tell you something important about function, standing alone, that you don't get if I (or i) is not the tonic.

Just to be clear I understand this, that means that say there is a song in D Dorian.


Your confusion starts here. Dorian is a mode, not a key. You can have a song in D minor using the Dorian mode, but not on D Dorian.

Quote by krm27

If you adjust the roman numeral identification to show the D as tonic, the chords are the same as C major but would be identified as follows:

i (Dm) | ii (Em) | III (F) | IV (G) | v (Am) | vi-dim (Bdim) | VII (C)

Ok, those are the chords build using the Dorian mode, and their degrees.


Quote by krm27

So, for the above key/mode, you are saying that using the above roman numeral identifiers is the best way, for example, to see that you have a "ii" because we know certain things about "ii" chords regardless of the key/mode we are in? So this "ii" (Em chord) will have some fundamental diatonic uses, or maybe all its potential diatonic uses, that are the same as the ii (Dm chord) in the key of Cmajor, and this will be lost on some one, like me, who labels D Dorian as:

ii (Dm) | iii (Em) | IV (F) | V (G) | vi (Am) | vii-dim (Bdim) | I (C)


First of all, you have a serious confusion on how modes work. There aren't any harmonic functions going on in modes, because harmonic functions establish a tonality. Again, keys =/= modes.
When you are dealing with tonal harmony, yes, the (ii) will always have the same function in every tonality, which is a subdominant function.

Quote by krm27

and tries to keep in mind that the tonic will be the ii for this song. And the reason this will screw me up is because now I'm looking at the Em as being labeled "iii" rather than "ii" and, assuming I know what sort of diatonic functions can be served by an "iii," I'll be expecting the Em to serve those functions...except it won't because it's really the "ii" in relation to the tonic? I guess on example of how this might play out, in practical terms, is chord substitutions? Like the iii can substitute for the I but not the ii?
I'm trying to think this "out loud" so to speak to see if I'm understanding where my approach is deficient.


Exactly. You lose out the most on stuff like substitutions. If you see a ii in a major key, you know the easiest substitution is a IV. If you are in D minor, Em is gonna be a subdominant, it will never have a tonic function (like a iii or III would). By your method you will always have to think that your iii is in relation to C, but that it's really ii because your ii is really the i. I mean, it's clearly overthinking.

Quote by krm27

Assuming the above is correct, then are there diatonic functions that you can say are inherent to, say, an "iii" or "III" REGARDLESS whether the tonic chord is major or minor, and also regardless whether the 3rd chord is major (III) or minor (iii)? Like, fundamental properties and substitutions and uses and such that always fit the 3rd chord in a given key? I'm trying to wrap my head around the notion that these roman numerous reflect some innate properties such that it is critical / useful to always start the tonic numbering as 1, and part of that is understanding to what extent the major/minor aspect of a particular chord (say the third chord) shifts the functioning.


Yes. In a major tonality, I, iii and iv have a tonic function, ii and iv are subdominant, V and vii are dominant. In a minor tonality, things happen a bit differently, due to the fact that the natural minor scale does not have a leading tone, and thus the 7th is raised to create the leading tone, which changes the v (in A minor, it would be Em = E G B) to V (in A minor, E = E G# B), making it become the dominant. That's why you should study these topics one by one, and fully, no skipping steps.

As for to what extent the major/minor aspect of a particular chord changes the function, it depends on the progression. If you have a C- E - F - G7 progression in C major, the change from iii to III doesn't alter any functions, it's just a decorative change. If you go C - F - E - Am - Dm - G7, you are tonicizing the Am, it becomes the V/vi (the dominant of the tonic substitute). If the chord progression goes C - Bm7(b5) - E - Am - F - E - Am, the progression is modulating to Am, so the III becomes V/i (dominant of the new key). The E chord becomes different things in the same key, but the degrees in roman numerals represent the functions, not the exact chord. Which means you can transpose these ideas to any key.

This is not something I can explain fully to you here, go to musictheory.net, it is a very good place to start

P.S.: I know I mentioned The Crusades earlier, but be careful with it: it has some mistakes regarding the key/mode thing

P.P.S: It's the first time I wrote such a gigantic, detailed response in the style of 20T. If any of the regulars see something wrong, please call me out on it (Aeolian Wolf, 20T, Sean, I'm looking at you guys!).
Quote by Xiaoxi
The Byzantine scale was useful until the Ottoman scale came around and totally annihilated it.