#1
As I have mentioned in another thread, my musical knowledge is quite poor but I'm trying my best to improve it.

I feel that I do understand the basic of keys, the circle of 5ths, etc. but one thing that I don't understand is that in some songs you have a progression that has the same chord but in major and minor form. For example E, E7, A, Am, E

Another example is in the verse of the Eagles - Hotel California which has E and Em in it.

I know that songs can have key changes and even change from major to minor keys but as far as I understand (and I accept that I am probably wrong) a key should have 3 primary (major) chords and 3 secondary (minor) chords (or vice versa). So how is it possible to have E and Em in the progression and still be in the same key?

Sorry if I'm just being really thick but that's why I'm asking because I don't understand it.
#2
chords can be borrowed from a parallel key (ie, a minor key can utilize some chords from its major key without much system shock)

that being said, all a key tells you is the note of resolution and whether it tends towards major or minor. theoretically you can play any note or chord in any key, but the circle of fifths and key signatures provide a healthy guideline to what will or won't necessarily mesh well
modes are a social construct
#3
Quote by Matriani
As I have mentioned in another thread, my musical knowledge is quite poor but I'm trying my best to improve it.

I feel that I do understand the basic of keys, the circle of 5ths, etc. but one thing that I don't understand is that in some songs you have a progression that has the same chord but in major and minor form. For example E, E7, A, Am, E

Another example is in the verse of the Eagles - Hotel California which has E and Em in it.

I know that songs can have key changes and even change from major to minor keys but as far as I understand (and I accept that I am probably wrong) a key should have 3 primary (major) chords and 3 secondary (minor) chords (or vice versa). So how is it possible to have E and Em in the progression and still be in the same key?

Sorry if I'm just being really thick but that's why I'm asking because I don't understand it.
You're not being thick, but are wrong in that there is no "should" about it.
Music theory is not laws that songs are supposed to follow, mechanically. It's a set of "common practices", with plenty of variations, common and less common.

Your first example is a common variation within a major key context.
Am in key of E major is considered to be a "borrowed chord" (taken from the parallel key of E minor), but the main reason for using it is to give that descending chromatic line from C# on the A, through C to B on the E chord.
Sounds good, yes? Which means it's "correct". It's up to to theorists to name it and explain it.
(In fact the D on the E7 chord is also out of key, and part of the same descending line. Once again, there is a theoretical term for that, but you don't have to care. It sounds good, so it's correct.)

Hotel California, meanwhile is in the key of B minor, and minor keys (by convention) have variablity built into them. The 6th and 7th degrees can be major or minor; i.e., in B minor you can use the notes G or G#, and A or A# (and any chords containing either) any time you like. That's traditional and conventional - not breaking any rules.
There are certain common conventions about when those notes are used (which version of each might be chosen), but the governing principle is usually about melodic flow from chord to chord.
If you examine the Hotel California chord sequence, you'll find a clever chromatic descending line that goes almost the whole way through.
Last edited by jongtr at Aug 6, 2015,
#4
Quote by jongtr
Sounds good, yes? Which means it's "correct".


This sums up anything related to songwriting pretty well. There's no reason why you couldn't use any chord anywhere if you like the way it sounds. Music theory exists to make this process easier with less trial and error involved. But music theory will always come second to your ears.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#5
you can do whatever you want as long as you land on a note that's kind of in key at the right time
ayy lmao
#6
Quote by chookiecookie
you can do whatever you want as long as you land on a note that's kind of in key at the right time
"In the chord" would be more true.
#7
Quote by Kevätuhri
This sums up anything related to songwriting pretty well. There's no reason why you couldn't use any chord anywhere if you like the way it sounds. Music theory exists to make this process easier with less trial and error involved. But music theory will always come second to your ears.
Yes. It's a 2-way street of course.
What "sounds good" is dependent on what we've heard before: on familiarity with certain tuning systems, certain harmonic and rhythmic systems, all kinds of common practices.
We like to hear fresh combinations of sounds of course, new ways of using the same old material. But anything too "outside" will sound wrong. It will be heard as "noise" or "out of tune", or "out of time", or something similar - and in a bad way, of course (because such phrases can describe things that sound good too ).

So, what "sounds good" is theoretically correct. And what is theoretically correct will sound good.
And while theory does tend to follow musical innovation (once it's become acceptable), it can also originate, move music forward itself. Theorists can be as original and inventive as musicians can (although maybe less often, or less successfully).
#8
Can you explain this for me in a different way, maybe give an example? I actually really learned from what you've said so thanks!
Hotel California, meanwhile is in the key of B minor, and minor keys (by convention) have variablity built into them. The 6th and 7th degrees can be major or minor; i.e., in B minor you can use the notes G or G#, and A or A# (and any chords containing either) any time you like. That's traditional and conventional - not breaking any rules.
#9
I feel that I do understand the basic of keys, the circle of 5ths, etc. but one thing that I don't understand is that in some songs you have a progression that has the same chord but in major and minor form. For example E, E7, A, Am, E


this progression is a good example of hearing resolutions.... ironically-its a progression used in gospel music quite a bit...ok..the E7 is going to take you to A major..many rock type movements would go to B7 next..but this A minor takes its place..and resolves nicely into E major..the A Ami is known as a "plagal cadence" sometime known as "Church cadence" of "Amen cadence" ..it some time is just the IV I / A to E ..


gospel was one of the first types of music that I really felt..it rocks..the chords (on piano-the guitar just cant get that sound) are just beautiful .. as you mature as a musician you will develop tastes for many styles of music..it transcends belief in anything..
play well

wolf
Last edited by wolflen at Aug 6, 2015,
#10
the best way to think of it as a beginner might be the melodic and harmonic minor scales

ascending, the melodic minor scale uses a major 6th and 7th note, while the harmonic minor uses a major 7th. it's a common substitution to add something different or get in a leading tone
modes are a social construct
#11
Hotel California is a piece with a functional progression:


Line:
1 = chords
2 = roman numeral of sequence
3 = functional analysis of progression
Bm F#7 | A E7 | G D | Em F#
i V7 bVII V7/bVII bVI V/bVI
i ----------------------- III iv V
|----------sequence-----------|
(D2 -4/+3)


It might not be the best example of what you want.

Try this:

https://youtu.be/tXU2Hehc4wY

Chord progression with RN: (borrowed chords in bold)

Eb | Ab Bb7 | Eb | Ab Bb7 | Cm | Ab [B]Abm[/B] | Eb/G F7 | Fm7 [B]Abm[/B] | Eb
I IV V7 I IV V7 vi IV iv I6 V7/V ii7 iv I


F7 is not a borrowed chord because it's a secondary dominant.


The chords are used for color, borrowed from minor if in a major key or vice versa.
Last edited by NeoMvsEu at Aug 6, 2015,
#12
I think I understand now. The key point for me to take on board is that theory is more of a 'rough guide' rather than a set of strict rules
#13
Quote by Matriani
I think I understand now. The key point for me to take on board is that theory is more of a 'rough guide' rather than a set of strict rules
Precisely.
Think of it as a map of a strange country you're exploring. The map doesn't show every detail. It shows the major routes and main towns, so you can orient yourself if you choose to. More detailed maps (more advanced theory) may show other paths and side routes.
But a map is not a set of instructions! It's passive. Either you already know where you want to go - in which case the map can be a handy guide - or you don't care and just want to wander around and find your own way. That's fine too. Keep the map in your back pocket in case you get lost and need to find your way back to civilisation.
Lots of people make their own maps, thinking they're discovering new stuff, but usually they're just blissfully ignorant of who's been that way before (and contributed to the big map).

[/metaphor]
#14
advertising removed by moderator.
Last edited by maxazom at Aug 7, 2015,
#15
Quote by maxazom
We are your reliable electricians/electrical repair contractors offering 24-hour electrical repair

CALL US TODAY for prompt services!




Cool, I'm going to call you right now and offer you guitar lessons, because...well, you know, it's the appropriate thing to do when calling about electrical repair.

Best,

Sean
#16
Quote by Matriani
I think I understand now. The key point for me to take on board is that theory is more of a 'rough guide' rather than a set of strict rules

Yes. One thing to look into is the concept "borrowed chords" and (on a similar but different note) "non-diatonic chords".
#17
Quote by Matriani
I think I understand now. The key point for me to take on board is that theory is more of a 'rough guide' rather than a set of strict rules

not even that.

Theory is an attempt to understand and explain what is happening in music that already exists. It is descriptive as opposed to prescriptive.

So in that sense all the music that has gone before acts as a rough guide as to what you could do but is not a strict set of rules that you must follow. Theory is an attempt to understand and describe what is happening in that music.

In the case of major and minor chords appearing together in the same song there are a myriad of reasons that can explain what is happening in different songs.

In the case of Radiohead's Creep the chords are basically G B C Cm repeated over and over and over again. In this case the C to Cm is a lead back into the G chord.
the C chord is C E G the Cm chord is C Eb G the G chord is G B D.

If we just went from C to G we would have (as wolfen noted above) a standard plagal cadence (IV-I). Looking at how the chords move one to the other we can consider the root movement C to G but we can also look at individual voices in the chords and how they might move from one chord to the next. It's best to try to look at each note in the first chord moving by the smallest amount possible to become the closest note in the next chord.

Thus if we went from C to G lets think it through...
The notes in the C major chord are C E G. The notes in the G major chord are G B D.

So if we start with our C note in the C major chord then what is the closest note to that in the G major chord? -Our B note right? The D is close but it is a whole step (two semitones) above the C note. The B note on the other hand is only a half step (one semitone) below the C note. Thus out of all the notes of the G major chord the B note is the closest to the C note from the C major chord.

Next consider the G note in our C major chord. The closest note in the G major chord is of course the G note. It requires no movement and is in fact the same note so you can't get any closer than that.

The E note in that C major chord would become the D note in the G chord.

So we have the following movements when going from C to G:
Root movement: down a perfect fourth.

Voice movement:
C down 1 semitone to B
E down 2 semitones to D
G no movement to G

In the Radiohead song they take that E down to D movement and drag it out moving down 1 semitone at a time rather than the 2 semitones in one go.

Here the E moves down 1 semitone to Eb and then down another semitone to D.

The result is C - Cm - G (IV iv I - an extension of the plagal cadence)
This drawing out of the half step is not isolated to this particular song and is used in quite a lot of songs.


Another example of using a major and minor chord in the same song is the Beatles song Norwegian Wood. In this song the chords are basically D Dm G A. It's a little more than that though as the D is a drone that is played over the melody of the first section of the song. Then there is a direct modulation to Dm. ( a change straight from D major to D minor). There is then a pivot modulation back to the D major chord with the use of the IV V chords leading back to D major.

In this instance the song modulates between parallel modes. That is to say they both use D as the key pitch but one is in a major mode and the other in a minor mode.

In this song the use of the D major and D minor chords form the central contrast between the sections of the song.


There are also uses of secondary dominants where a major chord might be used even though it is not diatonic in order to push the music forward into the following chord.

Circle of fifths or circle of fourths progressions are also possible reasons for the use of both major and minor chords. So too is the use of the harmonic minor V chord in a minor key while using the natural minor v elsewhere in the same piece of music.


There are a number of different reasons that are used to explain and understand what is happening in different pieces of music.

None of these explanations tell you how you should use a mixture of major and minor chords in the same song. They only attempt to explain how they have been used in music that already exists.

It is that music that already exists that form the basis of what people (including yourself) might come to expect in a piece of music.

Exploring this we can extrapolate some more general theoretical ideas such as the idea that people find music that is too familiar to be boring, while people that find music that has nothing familiar to be too inaccessible and similarly boring. The aim then becomes finding that balance between the familiar and the novel; the old and the new; the satisfaction of expectation and the thwarting of expectation.

Theory exists on many different levels, and it's really just a communication of someone's thoughts on what they have observed about the music that exists. Theory only tells us what we should do in as much as music that has come before us tells us what we should do.

Hopefully all that makes sense.
Si
#19
Most of the time, one chord's existence is explained easily by what chord comes after it. "Out of key" dominants are almost always used to resolve back to an "in key" chord. The technique is called tonicization, and it's a strong means of moving to a different harmony within your established key.

Example: | C G F E7 | Am Dm G7 C |

Play it and note the strong resolution to Am.
Last edited by cdgraves at Aug 9, 2015,
#21
I'm not good at this, But I like to read as well. I continue to study it.
#22
Quote by Matriani
As I have mentioned in another thread, my musical knowledge is quite poor but I'm trying my best to improve it.

I feel that I do understand the basic of keys, the circle of 5ths, etc. but one thing that I don't understand is that in some songs you have a progression that has the same chord but in major and minor form. For example E, E7, A, Am, E

Another example is in the verse of the Eagles - Hotel California which has E and Em in it.

I know that songs can have key changes and even change from major to minor keys but as far as I understand (and I accept that I am probably wrong) a key should have 3 primary (major) chords and 3 secondary (minor) chords (or vice versa). So how is it possible to have E and Em in the progression and still be in the same key?

Sorry if I'm just being really thick but that's why I'm asking because I don't understand it.


To add a quick note: add a B7 to that E, E7, A, Am, E progression and you have a nice E blues turnaround.