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#1
Came up with an Am-G-D chord progression.

So in order to identify the chord progression, I need to learn the key of this progression, right? I am trying to improve my poor ability to decipher the key of songs. I have researched and read things as well as listened to all you people and nothing has clicked yet. I think one of the common statements is what chord does it sound like it wants to resolve on.

So if that is true, after D I don't go back to Am, I throw in a little note-by-note riff and then go back to Am and repeat.

So, I feel I am blindly stabbing in the dark. I think I have a tiny grasp on chord progressions, see below. But I can't recognize the key.

If it is Am the progression is: i-VII-IV
If it is D, the progression is: I-IV-v (or wrote as v-IV-I)
If it is G, the progression is: I-ii-V (or wrote as ii-I-V)

I think. But is determining the key more about hearing it than anything? I mean some of you people amaze me in your knowledge but being able to recognize the key of a song or even my own material can be mystifying. I know there is an answer somewhere, but can't get it to click!

I am almost embarrassed to ask these questions, but I am really struggling with the key concept.
Epi G400 '66 Reissue
w/ Airline Vintage Voiced Single Coil Pickups
#2
The only sure way to tell the key is by listening as you said. I would really have to hear the "little note by note riff" to determine for sure on that particular chord progression. Your little riff is probably acting as another chord in the progression.
#3
In the way of a (very) general rule, what chord does it sound like your song wants to END on? To me that's often the best way to determine the key of the song.
#4
So, it could be D. That is how it is in my head, ending on D.

Am Am rest Am G G rest G D D rest D <notes riff> Am Am rest Am G G rest G D <let ring>

If it was Am, wouldn't it be: i-VII-IV-i
But it sounds like D, so it would be this?: v-IV-I
Epi G400 '66 Reissue
w/ Airline Vintage Voiced Single Coil Pickups
#5
Yea, I think it probably is D from the way you're describing it. That means it's in D major and I guess the Am is borrowed from the parallel minor.

edit: oh, forgot

Quote by Killsocket
But it sounds like D, so it would be this?: v-IV-I


Yep!
Last edited by The4thHorsemen at Mar 19, 2014,
#6
Well, it could be a mode? D mixolydian (chords taken from key of G major) has all three of those chords. Of all the modes (other than major & minor), I think the resolution to the mixolydian root feels the most natural, and is perhaps the most commonly used.

I also think G major has to be a strong contender. I mean the Am is similar to a C major in tonal/harmonic qualities and function. If you play Am & D over and over, like playing C and D over and over, you are going to feel a strong "G major" pull (like intro to Beatles "I want to hold your hand). If I see a song that only has three chords -- C, D and G -- my first thought would be G major, and my tendency to read minors as largely equivalent to their relative majors would lead me to feel the same about a song that used only Am, D and G (or, say, C, Bm, and G).

Also, note that asking what note or chord the song wants to play at the "end" can be misleading because you have to consider what you just played before the end. Take a 12 bar blues progression in the key of G major... You play G for a while, then C, then G again, then D, then C, then G...and then often you'd play a final run of G as the ending which "propels" the song to launch into the beginning against on G. The point is, if your song is in G major, your ear may not want the G to keep going monotonously through to the end, but rather will cry out for some variety, like a move to the dominant (i.e., D), which is a common way to end a progression so that it feels pressure to continue (rather than coming to rest).

Well, this is just sort of a working notion I've got, but I think you need to sort of understand the forces that may make your ear desire to hear a particular note/chord, like the desire for variety or to propel the song forward to whatever comes next (bridging? turning around?) So I feel that just asking yourself on the last measure "What is my ear wanting to hear here?" can be a misleading way to determine key. I mean, if you understand and can perceive the difference between, "My ear wants to come to rest on this note/chord..." versus "My ear wants to hear this note/chord at this place, but not necessarily to come to rest..." then it sort of none-issue. You can play a song over and over and at ANY point in the song, you ought to be able to ask yourself, "What note/chord feels most like home," regardless where you are in the song, and that will tell you the key. But that's a bit different from "what note/chord does my ear want to hear right now?"

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
Last edited by krm27 at Mar 19, 2014,
#8
Well, it is perhaps debatable whether Mary Jane's Last Dance has both A minor AND A major in it. When you first play the Am, you immediately hammer into the A major so it actually rings through as an A major. And the progression is Am~A | G | D | Am, so it both starts and ends on A. So it's not actually the same progression even if it uses three of the four same chords. Also, the chorus in Mary Jane's Last Dance seems to be in the key of D Major, I think, though they verse may not be in that key. Since the verse starts and ends on some kind of A chord, I'd agree it's in some kind of A key, though not necessarily A major.

The point is, just because the chords used are similar to that other song does not make the key the same. (1) the chords are not 100% the same, (2) the progression is not 100% the same, and (3) it's impossible to say the song is not modal when you have no clue what the melody is; THAT will determine whether it's modal or not. It is really absurd to look at ANY chord progression and claim it's not modal because your selection of melody can make ANY progression modal. I can play a chord progression G | D | C | G and play a progression over it that starts and ends on D and make it sound Mixolydian, or even a melody that starts and ends on B and make it sound Phrygian.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#9
Ironically, I can hear Mary Jane's Last Dance when I try to play Little Black Submarines which led me to this progression, but the melody in this work is like neither I think. LBS ends on A before going to Am again, unlike mine.
Epi G400 '66 Reissue
w/ Airline Vintage Voiced Single Coil Pickups
#10
Record the chord progression with the riff. With just the chords given, I'd say G major, but I'd need to hear the little riff as well.
#11
Quote by krm27
it's impossible to say the song is not modal when you have no clue what the melody is; THAT will determine whether it's modal or not. It is really absurd to look at ANY chord progression and claim it's not modal because your selection of melody can make ANY progression modal. I can play a chord progression G | D | C | G and play a progression over it that starts and ends on D and make it sound Mixolydian, or even a melody that starts and ends on B and make it sound Phrygian.


The harmonic context of the song, usually the chords, will dictate whether a song is in a mode or not. The fiddly stuff you do over it is largely irrelevant. The note you start and end on is not relevant at all.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#12
Alan:

Well, I've seen a few debates on here as to what modes really are, and I got lost in a lot of the jargon. So my understanding may be imperfect. I just know the first chord progression I wrote, about eight chords, started on C and ended on D and had some G's and A's and a B7 in the middle. One day I decided to jam over it, and I used G major scale since it looks G major to me. However, I wound up gravitating toward B, and starting riffs on B and coming back to B. I recorded this jam, and it had a kind of strange melodic quality, not like mainstream pop or whatever. The feel was similar to what I've read / heard of Phrygian mode.

So, my shorthand understanding is that you do backing chords in G major, you can play a solo / lead / melody over it that comes home to any of the notes in that scale, and if home is G its Ionian, if home is A its Dorian, if home is B its Phrygian, etc.

This also seems consistent with the different free articles and YouTube videos I've seen that try to relate what modes are, and how they sound, they universally seem to put on a major chord progression and then play a melody over it that uses another note as the home. So it appears my usage of "mode" is in line with the common usage I've found on the internet.

That said, I'll back track from the claim that the melody determines whether a song is truly modal, since I really am not the expert on this.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#13
^^^ I'll try my best to help, but you have to keep an open mind to understand where I'm coming from.

Firstly check out my blog on this topic http://profile.ultimate-guitar.com/AlanHB/blog/100719/

I'll otherwise try to address your post more specifically.

Quote by krm27
....the first chord progression I wrote, about eight chords, started on C and ended on D and had some G's and A's and a B7 in the middle. One day I decided to jam over it, and I used G major scale since it looks G major to me. However, I wound up gravitating toward B, and starting riffs on B and coming back to B. I recorded this jam, and it had a kind of strange melodic quality, not like mainstream pop or whatever. The feel was similar to what I've read / heard of Phrygian mode.


Quite honestly I cannot comment on this situation without knowing what the chord progression actually was. I'm confident that it was not in B phrygian however.

Quote by krm27
So, my shorthand understanding is that you do backing chords in G major, you can play a solo / lead / melody over it that comes home to any of the notes in that scale, and if home is G its Ionian, if home is A its Dorian, if home is B its Phrygian, etc.


Ok here's where we are going wrong. If you have a song (or backing chords if you wish) that are in the key of G major, the "home" ALWAYS is G and the key ALWAYS is major. If it is not, it is not in the key of G major.

So what happens in the key of G major if you opt to "treat" A as "home"? Nothing. It doesn't give a toss what you are thinking.

This probably conflicts with what you've heard, so lets put it into practice.

Lets say I have a one chord progression in G major, and that chord is G.

Let's play this lick over it:


A ------2-2-2--
E ----3---------


So in this lick we are starting on G and ending on B. A lot of people profess that if we start on a specific note this is the "home" note so the "home note" here is G. We can agree that this lick is in G major.

Now lets try to make B home. I guess if I start on B and think real hard that should make it home.


A ---2-2-2---
E ----------3


Using this latter approach we should be hearing the phrygian mode, resolving to B. It should sound unresolved when I hit the G at the end.

But ding ding, unfortunately it does not. This is because the key is G. It perfectly resolved on that last note, and no matter how hard I tried to make it in the mode of B phrygian, it is not.

In fact, these licks don't sound very different from eachother. That's because they aren't that different from eachother. One was the G major scale starting on G, the other was the G major scale starting on B. No special name for it - that's just what it is.

There's no requirement to play a scale in a certain order, and if there were the logistics of implementing such a system would be crazy - do I have to hit the "home note" on the first beat of every bar? What if I do a quick pause and then come in? What if I played two notes at once - which note played first? What happens if I play nothing? All valid questions that reveal the illogical nature of requiring a scale to start on a specific note to affect the harmonic context.

In the end it's really about how it sounds to the audience. Over the key of G major, if you play the notes of G major, they will sound like the G major scale to them. The chord structure has already determined that G is the home, so the audience will refer to that as the home. This is despite the intentions of the player.

Quote by krm27
This also seems consistent with the different free articles and YouTube videos I've seen that try to relate what modes are, and how they sound, they universally seem to put on a major chord progression and then play a melody over it that uses another note as the home. So it appears my usage of "mode" is in line with the common usage I've found on the internet.


Yes, most information on the internet in respect of modes is trash.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#14
There's sort of a modulation in the chorus of "Mary Jane's Last Dance", yes. You don't need to line something up with a diatonic major scale for to find the key.

The best argument against G for the key here is that Am-G is an extremely weak resolution for establishing a tonic. I think the ear is much more apt to hear the first chord as tonic in this situation unless given a good reason otherwise. When you're talking such a basic chord progression, rhythm matters, and the Am is rhythmically treated as a tonic harmony.
#15
Quote by cdgraves
The best argument against G for the key here is that Am-G is an extremely weak resolution for establishing a tonic. I think the ear is much more apt to hear the first chord as tonic in this situation unless given a good reason otherwise. When you're talking such a basic chord progression, rhythm matters, and the Am is rhythmically treated as a tonic harmony.


I can sort of see this. However, I've never studied what resolutions are strong versus weak, just go on personal experience. Based on my personal experience, I generally look at the gestalt of chords to try to get a sense what the overall key / home will feel like. What matters for key, it seems to me, is what chord/note the listener WANTS the song to resolve to, what will feel most home-like IF played, not WHEN played.

For example, the intro to Beatles' I Want to Hold Your Hand just jumps back and forth from C to D over and over. They never play a G. Yet they strongly planted the song in the key of G major with only playing those two other chords. So that, when the verse starts out on G, you already feel an emphatic sense of resolution, which makes it a very strong opening. But if you never went to that verse, would you argue the intro is not in G major? I think it would still plant the DESIRE for G in the listener, and that is how I have always thought of the key -- what feels like home, rather than what is the composer trying to force on you as home (i.e., by making it the first or last chord/note of the song).

Alan:

The two riffs you play are not really going to stretch you out of the key of G major because they either begin on or end on G. And they are really just arpeggio variations of G major chord, so how could they break you into another mode?

I think there is some confusion over terminology. You suggest if the chords are from key of G major, the song is de facto G major. Yet it's pretty fundamental that B Phrygian mode uses the same notes and chords as G major.

Incidentally, my chord progression that I viewed as "G major" till I put the melody over it was:

C | B7 | G | Am | G | A7 | D | D7

I call the song "Winding" mainly because I can wind through the entire circle of fifths using this progression because after you play D7 at the end you can start the progression over beginning with G instead of C, in which case it ends on A7, then start it again on D, etc., till you wind through all keys and come back to C. That forced me to play in a lot of different keys, different chord shapes.

You can hear some variations of Winding (just the "song" staying in one key, not the exercise moving through all keys) on my soundcloud page, including one with a guitar solo / improv. where I felt I was coming home to B more than G. My recording was pretty rough (I just bought a DI box to try to get better electric guitar tones through my focusrite 2i2, we'll see how that works).

Anyway, in terms of deciding the key/mode for the above progression, I tend to think that a G after the final D7 would feel more "resolved" if you just ended there, rather than moving back to C. So I would not call this progression any sort of B, standing alone. Yet, how can it NOT be possible to make a B Phrygian out of this? Or C Lydian? Or a D Mixolydian? It seems inherently ambiguous and malleable...the chords do not fit any mode of the G major scale better than any other, at least not to my ear. Well, if you play them without any melody over it, I guess I'd say it feels most like G major. Sure, the end run of G to A7 to D could have you feeling D, but I do not think the song feels resolved at the end of the progression, it's not really supposed to, it's supposed to sort of beg for restarting in the same key, or moved up one degree on circle of fifths.

It does occur to me the above progression might itself be moving between keys, like the first four bars are C and the last four are D, and it sort of pivots through G in the middle, or something. At a certain point talking about it, I start to see this as a lot of semantics that seem very abstract and not all that relevant to the actual music, to the emotive impact, so I guess that's why I have a tough time committing more time to a deeper understanding of just how / when to use modal terminology. My "system" for talking of modes seems internally consistent and, more importantly, useful for me. I can use it to make up a rather "ambiguous" progression that employs chords from the key of C major, for example, and just noodle around with a melody / solo from C major scale, but consciously focus on emphasizing the D in terms of placement (first and/or last) and frequency, and perhaps further emphasize it by using a lot of A's (dominant of D) or G to A to D runs in the melody, and I am pretty confident I can come up with something that a listener who knows what modes "feel" like will say, "That sounds Dorian." And isn't that what it's all about? If there's another way to get to modal "feel" I guess at some point I'd like to learn it, but this way of viewing modes, even if technically inaccurate as to labeling, allows me to create music that has these different and more exotic flavors, so I have a hard time thinking of it as "wrong."

Who's that guy who does the YouTube videos from Creative Guitar Studios? He seems as much the YouTube "guru" as anyone, and I'm 99% sure he is one of the people I recall doing a video on modes where he basically advised putting on a backing track using chords of a particular major key/scale, and then jamming over it starting / ending / emphasizing any of the OTHER notes in the scale, to get a feel for the different modal flavors. I am just sort of parroting what I thought he was saying. Was he wrong? Was he simplifying or dumbing it down for his audience?

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#16
Am-G-D sounds like i-bVII-IV to me. It's a really common progression and sounds like Am to me. But yeah, I can't tell that by just looking at the chords. Music doesn't work on paper. Let's not argue about it before we have heard it.

So TS, could you post a demo?

But yeah, it is all about hearing it. Music is all about sound.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#17
This doesn't need to be complicated. Resolution strength and rhythmic treatment are aural concepts, fundamentally. Putting the tonic in the middle of a chord progression is pretty unusual without a strongly resolving sequence leading up to it (ie "Autumn Leaves", "Fly me to the Moon", "Beautiful Love").
#18
Quote by krm27

For example, the intro to Beatles' I Want to Hold Your Hand just jumps back and forth from C to D over and over. They never play a G. Yet they strongly planted the song in the key of G major with only playing those two other chords. So that, when the verse starts out on G, you already feel an emphatic sense of resolution, which makes it a very strong opening. But if you never went to that verse, would you argue the intro is not in G major? I think it would still plant the DESIRE for G in the listener, and that is how I have always thought of the key -- what feels like home, rather than what is the composer trying to force on you as home (i.e., by making it the first or last chord/note of the song).


Well, you've got a D-G there which is a "perfect cadence" and will strongly establish G. But there are lots of songs with a repeated C-D that don't feel like they need to go to G - a lot of factors contribute to the pull to G there. There's that little bend, the energy of strange rhythm, and so on. This comes back to an important point: you can not determine the key of a song just by listing the chords.

The two riffs you play are not really going to stretch you out of the key of G major because they either begin on or end on G. And they are really just arpeggio variations of G major chord, so how could they break you into another mode?


The way you break into another mode is, usually, by forcing the resolution. The easiest way to force a resolution is to add a drone or pedal tone.

eg, compare the following two progressions:

D-C-G, and D-Cadd9-G. Chances are you will hear the later are much more tonally ambiguous - it's more willing to resolve to D. And that's a case where you can use the melody to help lock that in. If you use an F#-G at the end of your melody, that will push it towards sounding more in G major. If you use a C#-D, on the other hand, that will sound more D-ish.

Most "modal" rock music utilizes this idea of a drone. If you drone a B, and play the G major scale, you'll get B phrygian. But as soon as you have a chord progression, those chords are going to start pushing you back towards G.

This is why you see a lot of folk and non-western modal music, and compartively little western modal music. Arabian music doesn't have chords - their harmonies are limited to playing against a drone. And a lot of folk music was played on instruments, originally, which weren't as conducive to functional harmony, so you didn't have a chord progression.


Incidentally, my chord progression that I viewed as "G major" till I put the melody over it was:

C | B7 | G | Am | G | A7 | D | D7


Well, one useful thing to think about is the concept of tonal ambiguity. With a G at the end of it this would probably feel like it was in G (because of the II-V-I at the end). Otherwise, is it in D? Lots of songs don't resolve their tonality right away.

But this chord progression isn't unambiguously in G, given the absence of any sort of G cadence, and the use of dom7 chords is definitely going to make it hard for anything to feel resolved here.

And when you don't have a clear resolution in the chords, that's one of those times when our ears are going to look to the melody for guidance.

But I don't find that the first note/last note thing tends to inherently to lead to a resolution, since there are plenty of melodies that end at an intentionally unresolved place. Of course, if you play that note a lot, all of a sudden you're getting close to that drone effect, so that might be what's going on.

I agree with you that talking about this progression as shifting through a bunch of keys is not useful. But I don't particularly hear it as G major (particularly without a G at the end) either, so that seems like false precision - coming out of the need to declare a key.

That being said, I went to your soundcloud page and listened to the "grunge" version, and I didn't hear that as in B at all. It sounded more like G to me. When I improved over it a little the B sounded really unresolved.

Who's that guy who does the YouTube videos from Creative Guitar Studios? He seems as much the YouTube "guru" as anyone, and I'm 99% sure he is one of the people I recall doing a video on modes where he basically advised putting on a backing track using chords of a particular major key/scale, and then jamming over it starting / ending / emphasizing any of the OTHER notes in the scale, to get a feel for the different modal flavors. I am just sort of parroting what I thought he was saying. Was he wrong? Was he simplifying or dumbing it down for his audience?


If you've got a link, we could look at it. It's really hard for us to comment on "that guy" who has a video somewhere on youtube, even knowing who he's associated with.
#19
Quote by krm27
Well, it could be a mode? D mixolydian (chords taken from key of G major) has all three of those chords. Of all the modes (other than major & minor), I think the resolution to the mixolydian root feels the most natural, and is perhaps the most commonly used.

Or it could NOT be a mode...



OT:
It feels like Aminor to me. The Gmajor acts as non-diatonic bVII chord.
#20
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Or it could NOT be a mode...



OT:
It feels like Aminor to me. The Gmajor acts as non-diatonic bVII chord.

You mean, D major acts as a non-diatonic IV chord? (Because it's in A minor, not major.)
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
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Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#22
Quote by krm27
Alan:

The two riffs you play are not really going to stretch you out of the key of G major because they either begin on or end on G. And they are really just arpeggio variations of G major chord, so how could they break you into another mode?


I'm applying the logic that if you start on a note other than G, you're playing a mode. I don't believe there was other criteria in your definition. Did I miss something?

Perhaps I didn't play enough notes, didn't embrace it as such. Lets try this lick over a G major vamp, it's super B Phrygian so lets see if it changes the resolution of our one chord song.


E-----------2-3-5-3-2---------------
B---------3------------3-------------
G-------4---------------4------------
D-----4-------------------4----------
A-2-3----------------------3-2-------
E--------------------------------------


Ok, reckon that one did the trick? Does it feel resolved on B or is that G still hanging around?

Quote by krm27
I think there is some confusion over terminology. You suggest if the chords are from key of G major, the song is de facto G major. Yet it's pretty fundamental that B Phrygian mode uses the same notes and chords as G major.


I don't remember suggesting that. If a song RESOLVES to a G major chord, it is in the key of G major. Keys can employ non-diatonic chords so it would be incorrect to say "if the chords are from X key, it's in X key" because X key can have chords that are not diatonic to X key. Furthermore some songs use the same chords, but have different resolutions. Where a piece resolves is really the only way to definitively say where a song resolves to, and you can only find the resolution by listening to a song, although an educated guess will get you there 80%-90% of the time.

However your argument is that it is not the chords that create the resolution of the song, but what you play over those chords.
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#23
Quote by MaggaraMarine
You mean, D major acts as a non-diatonic IV chord? (Because it's in A minor, not major.)

Gah, fuck. My bad. Yes...
#24
Alan:

I definitely NEVER said, nor would say, that just starting on a note other than the major key makes a song modal. I said this was one way to emphasize another note (and mentioned other ways, too) all of which could lead to a gestalt that is modal. How you could get that I said or meant that "whenever you start a song with any note other than the major tonic, it is modal" is beyond me.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
Last edited by krm27 at Mar 24, 2014,
#25
^^^ I do note that you backtracked from calling songs modal. I'm otherwise just applying the below.

Quote by krm27
So, my shorthand understanding is that you do backing chords in G major, you can play a solo / lead / melody over it that comes home to any of the notes in that scale, and if home is G its Ionian, if home is A its Dorian, if home is B its Phrygian, etc.

This also seems consistent with the different free articles and YouTube videos I've seen that try to relate what modes are, and how they sound, they universally seem to put on a major chord progression and then play a melody over it that uses another note as the home. So it appears my usage of "mode" is in line with the common usage I've found on the internet.

.....

The two riffs you play are not really going to stretch you out of the key of G major because they either begin on or end on G


Hopefully I'm not coming off as attacking or condescending, I'm trying to illustrate why the note you start on has zero effect on the harmonic context of a song. This in turn, demonstates why a lick such as mine above, don't even have a modal sound as there is no derivation from the key of G major being employed.
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#26
Saying you play so that another note sounds like "home" is not AT ALL saying that all you do is play that other note first. Who said whatever note you play first in your melody will therefore sound like "home" throughout the song? A ton of song melodies do not start on the "home" note / tonic.

So, you are sort of still fighting a straw man, arguing that the note you start with does not establish the home note... I completely agree and always have. On the other hand, you go too far to say it has NO effect. I think it's well understood in music that starting on a note or chord, or ending on it, are two ways you can bring emphasis to it, and may tend to make it more likely to feel like home. However, there are other ways based on what you play between the first and last note to also emphasize a particular note as your tonic/home. So starting or ending on a note is never dispositive that it's your tonic, but it also is not totally irrelevant. Zero effect? I don't think so.

I also do not recall calling all songs modal. However, I guess you could do that. I mean, what is the difference between a song in the key of A major and a song in the A Ionian mode? Semantics? The existence of the Ionian mode pretty much establishes that it is possible, and perhaps was the intent of those who created modal labels, to be able to talk about ALL songs as a particular mode, including those in the "standard" key like A major. If modal songs were only those that vary from the norm, then there would be no such thing as an Ionian mode which is 100% identical to the major key. So, basically, modal terms give you a different way of talking about song structure, to compare songs, that CAN be used to talk about any song in any key/mode. So what sense does it make to say you CANNOT call all songs modal? Again, sounds like semantics.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
Last edited by krm27 at Mar 25, 2014,
#27
Quote by krm27
I also do not recall calling all songs modal. However, I guess you could do that. I mean, what is the difference between a song in the key of A major and a song in the A Ionian mode? Semantics? The existence of the Ionian mode pretty much establishes that it is possible, and perhaps was the intent of those who created modal labels, to be able to talk about ALL songs as a particular mode, including those in the "standard" key like A major. If modal songs were only those that vary from the norm, then there would be no such thing as an Ionian mode which is 100% identical to the major key. So, basically, modal terms give you a different way of talking about song structure, to compare songs, that CAN be used to talk about any song in any key/mode. So what sense does it make to say you CANNOT call all songs modal? Again, sounds like semantics.

It makes perfect sense. Modal songs "act" modal. They don't rely on harmony or chord-based structures in the same way that tonal songs tend to. There's a pretty clear difference in sound between a modal song and a tonal song, if you listen properly.
#28
guys, i think we are way over analyzing this. the song is in the key of Amin.

depending on what the rest of the song consists of, and what the "riff" is, if i were to notate the song i would probably use either the key signature of Amin or D. I would use which ever one allowed me to use the least amount of accidentals. but the key is A minor.
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#29
"A Dorian" is how I would describe that progression ( key of G major : II (Amin)- I (G) - V (D)).

OP - the trick is to find which major scale "works" over the entire progression. It's not much more complicated than that for basically every basic pop song or riff. Then you write out the chords in relation to the key. In this case the key is not A minor because A minor would have a Dminor chord, rather than a D major chord.
#30
Quote by krm27
Saying you play so that another note sounds like "home" is not AT ALL saying that all you do is play that other note first. Who said whatever note you play first in your melody will therefore sound like "home" throughout the song? A ton of song melodies do not start on the "home" note / tonic.

So, you are sort of still fighting a straw man, arguing that the note you start with does not establish the home note... I completely agree and always have. On the other hand, you go too far to say it has NO effect. I think it's well understood in music that starting on a note or chord, or ending on it, are two ways you can bring emphasis to it, and may tend to make it more likely to feel like home. However, there are other ways based on what you play between the first and last note to also emphasize a particular note as your tonic/home. So starting or ending on a note is never dispositive that it's your tonic, but it also is not totally irrelevant. Zero effect? I don't think so.


I must be misreading your previous posts. Could you please tell me how I "treat a note like home"? I played a full Bmb2 arppegio and I'm still not treating B as home. I would also like to know what effect this is having on the tonic, because it just sounded like an expanded Gmaj7 arppegio to me.

As for the rest of your post, modes are a form of tonality predating keys. The ionian mode (and other modes with a major 3rd) developed into the major key. It's very hard to identify whether anything is in the ionian mode anymore. However you can definitively say a song is NOT in the ionian mode if it uses non-diatonic chords.
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#31
Quote by reverb66
"A Dorian" is how I would describe that progression ( key of G major : II (Amin)- I (G) - V (D)).

OP - the trick is to find which major scale "works" over the entire progression. It's not much more complicated than that for basically every basic pop song or riff. Then you write out the chords in relation to the key. In this case the key is not A minor because A minor would have a Dminor chord, rather than a D major chord.


Here's a list of things that are wrong with your post:

- A song cannot be in a mode and a key at the same time.
- A song cannot resolve to both A and G at the same time.
- You find the resolution of a song by listening to it and analysing the relationship between the chords, not by figuring out which major scale it fits into.
- The key can be A minor, because keys can use non-diatonic chords. This means that you can use a D major chord in A minor.
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#32
Quote by AlanHB

- The key can be A minor, because keys can use non-diatonic chords. This means that you can use a D major chord in A minor.


That's a really strange way of looking at that progression... I guess you could also say it changes key for every chord as well... The simplest way of analyzing that progression is that it's a II I V in G... It's pretty obvious, barring some really unusual melody.
#33
Quote by reverb66
That's a really strange way of looking at that progression...

No, it's not. Having a song/piece in Aminor with Dmajor as a non-diatonic chord happens a lot. Or, more accurately, bands/musicians/composers substitute a diatonic minor chord for a non-diatonic major chord (and visa-versa) a lot.


I guess you could also say it changes key for every chord as well...

WHAT?! Just no. The key is ALWAYS where the song resolves to.

The simplest way of analyzing that progression is that it's a II I V in G... It's pretty obvious, barring some really unusual melody.

Or you could not analyze it that way, because it doesn't resolve at Gmajor.


I suspect you need to learn a bit more about non-diatonic chords.
http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/43
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Mar 25, 2014,
#35
Quote by AlanHB
^^^ Yes.


You guys really need to take into consideration the musical context here. That progression is common in popular music and its nearly always diatonic. How many melodies in popular music stray away from the notes g major/ a dorian in a progression like that? Play Anatural minor over the A minor chord in that progression and tell me how that works out....it's definitely possible, but it would be unusual and is not likely what the OP is dealing with here. Again, you guys are just complicating a simple situation. I suggest you play the progression, it might help you hear what's going on.
#36
Quote by reverb66
You guys really need to take into consideration the musical context here. That progression is common in popular music and its nearly always diatonic.

It's also commonly done that a musician/composer uses a non-diatonic chord.

As you said, take into consideration the musical context.

How many melodies in popular music stray away from the notes g major/ a dorian in a progression like that?

Play A natural minor over the A minor chord in that progression and tell me how that works out....it's definitely possible, but it would be unusual and is not likely what the OP is dealing with here.

It's unusual for people to play A natural minor over a progression like this? What are you on about, man?

I'll give you that it might be more common to play one of the A pentatonic scales over things like this, but that doesn't change whether it's major or minor. Hell, I could play a Bbdim7+5 arpeggio over this progression, and the key would STILL be A minor.

Again, you guys are just complicating a simple situation. I suggest you play the progression, it might help you hear what's going on.

I did play the progression. It sure didn't sound like Gmajor was the tonic to me...

Also, what's complex about saying it's in Aminor with a non-diatonic Dmajor?
#37
I'll concede that A minor with a non diatonic D chord works as well. It would depend on the melody as to which option makes more sense for a given tune ( i.e whether or not F#makes an appearance over the first chord)
#38
Quote by reverb66
I'll concede that A minor with a non diatonic D chord works as well. It would depend on the melody as to which option makes more sense for a given tune ( i.e whether or not F#makes an appearance over the first chord)

And what if F# does make an appearance over the first chord, and it STILL resolves to Aminor? What then?
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Mar 26, 2014,
#39
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
It makes perfect sense. Modal songs "act" modal. They don't rely on harmony or chord-based structures in the same way that tonal songs tend to. There's a pretty clear difference in sound between a modal song and a tonal song, if you listen properly.


Okay, I admit I do not understand what you are saying at all. So much for being a self-taught music theorist.

Quote by AlanHB
Could you please tell me how I "treat a note like home"?


Well, here's an example of what I mean by that, me on guitar 15 months ago (I'd only been playing a year, so it's pretty rough, but should illustrate the point). I'd skip to 3:15 because I move to a higher octave in the solo which makes it stand out from the backing track (before that, it's pretty washed out). The backing chord progression is, to my mind, G major chords, but the solo, again to my mind, treats B like "home" resulting in what I view as B Phrygian instrumental:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aak7k66xvTc

If this is wrong, then I'd love to know how to label this.

That sort of highlights my problem with these modal semantics: If I put on a chord progression using chords from any major key (or relative minor since they are the same chords). And then I play a solo jam over that progression, but I start most of my riffs on a different note, treating it as if it were the tonic (like treating B as the tonic in a solo over a G major backing track), that DOES create a different "flavor" than if I treat C as the tonic or G or A or whatever. The different "flavors" I have created when I experiment like this SEEM to match up to what people say about modes, in terms of "this is a Dorian sound, this is a Phrygian sound, etc."

So if you tell me doing this does NOT involve modes, does NOT create a modal song...well, then I do not mind changing the terminology I'm using, but I need SOME kind of terminology to talk about, and differentiate between, the different flavors that are generated this way. You want me to stop using modal terminology to talk about these flavors? Fine, but then what terms do I use?

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#40
Quote by krm27


That sort of highlights my problem with these modal semantics: If I put on a chord progression using chords from any major key (or relative minor since they are the same chords). And then I play a solo jam over that progression, but I start most of my riffs on a different note, treating it as if it were the tonic (like treating B as the tonic in a solo over a G major backing track), that DOES create a different "flavor" than if I treat C as the tonic or G or A or whatever. The different "flavors" I have created when I experiment like this SEEM to match up to what people say about modes, in terms of "this is a Dorian sound, this is a Phrygian sound, etc."

Yeah, this is how I use the modes as well. It is apparently not really MODAL, but it gives me a different flavor so I don't really give a shit if it's really modal or not.

I guess it is just called borrowing chords from modes just like you borrow from minor keys in a major key etc.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Mar 26, 2014,
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