#1
My name is Mark and I've been playing guitar for 2 years. I've took a couple of music theory lessons a long time ago but it just got me even more confused so I need somebody to sum it up for me because I couldn't find any help by google.

We only played covers with my band so I had no need to understand music theory besides basic rhythm and timing. But now we started writing songs and I'm so confused!

I'll tell you real fast what I know, please correct me if I'm wrong and I'll ask the questions them.

So I understand that every song must be in a key on the guitar. And every key has a major scale which contains the notes you can play in the song, that sound good. (for example to solo in it or to do riffs and licks) Like C major scale in the key of C. My first question is what other scales can I use in a key? Is there a list or a method to find out?

Secondly I also understand that there are 7 chords in every key:
In the key of C there is Cmaj, Dmin, Emin, Fmaj, Gmaj, Amin, Bdim.
The question is, are these the only chords I can play in that song? Or can I say play an E9 or E13 instead of that Emin, or an Asus2 or Asus4 instead of the Amin? There are a lot of chords out there as I understand, what chords can I play in a key besides this 7? Is there a method to find this out?

And lastly there are songs in which a particular chordshape is being slided around the neck for example in the intro of Castles made of Sand. How is that possible? Can I slide any chord around the neck? And at what positions would I stay inside the key? if the root note is inside the scale of the key?


I hope my thread is not too complicated. I'm really looking forward for a little help! I would really appreciate it. Thank you in advance!!
#2
You CAN do anything. There is a key for every song, or key changes within one also. That key is a major scale PATTERN, so, there are 7 modes, 3 major 3 minor, and a diminished. The common ones are Ionian and Aeolian. Which are referred to colloquially as major and minor.

This information is not to tell you what you can or cannot do. It is naming sounds. The key is a class of inside sounds. but you can play notes and chords that are outside of the key, and different outside relationships have different names and their corresponding sound. Like secondary dominants, or parallel chords.

When jimmy does that castles made of sand thing, it probably wouldn't sound very nice over most diatonic progressions. Diatonic means using only the chords of the key. it will sound fine on its own, and I recently discovered from Jon's recent post that same chords generally follow well in this way. But, that doesn't mean you can always do that and it will sound good, especially if you're playing over an established progression. If that's the progression you are creating, then you have more leeway, then the progression is no longer diatonic, and then simply playing the key scale won't work very well anymore.

What scales you would likely wish to play over a progression depends on the progression. Whether it is diatonic or not, and what it is specifically. In general, for popular music, the key scale is really all you'd want most of the time, although in minor key music you'd also want harmonic minor over the V, which is very common. The V in a minor key should be a v if it were diatonic. That means it would be minor rather than major.

What you want to learn will take some time. You need to learn it with sound, and I was very general. There is a lot of information to internalize. However, as a starting point, you can think of it as just "play the key scale" which is simple. But know that this is not always the case, and that lots of songs use chords that are not diatonic.

At the end of the day why you would choose to do a thing depends on how it sounds. Not on some theoretical logic. So, you will need to learn that, the sound of these concepts, in order to truly wield them.

Different styles do different things also. Some people like more weird unorthodox music, and some people like more "inside" sounding music.
#3
What I found is that it's best to approach a lead to a song by it's chord tones not scales. Until you learn to use chord tones, the scales may not work well for you. Plus, it's possible to use different scales in a single song depending on what you want to do.

Now, I will try and answer your questions directly:

My first question is what other scales can I use in a key? Is there a list or a method to find out?

Most songs, you will actually be able to apply many different scales to. But, it's too long to explain here.

The question is, are these the only chords I can play in that song? Or can I say play an E9 or E13 instead of that Emin, or an Asus2 or Asus4 instead of the Amin? There are a lot of chords out there as I understand, what chords can I play in a key besides this 7? Is there a method to find this out?

LOL. Too many questions for this space! Yes, you can do lots of chord subs.

... yeah, actually you have too many questions and its more than I have time to explain right now. Sorry.
#4
Thank you for your fast response fngrpikingood!

I'm currently digesting the information I got from you. Yes it will definitely take a while to understand and learn all the theory in music, but I'm pretty motivated.

If I want to play inside sounds, say a diatonic chord progression in the key of C, what chords can I play? How can I find this out what method? I know the 7 basic chords of the key, that I can find out from the triads, but besides those? And what about parallel chords?
#5
A little more time:

And lastly there are songs in which a particular chordshape is being slided around the neck for example in the intro of Castles made of Sand. How is that possible?

When the same chord shape is slid up the neck, it's a different chord unless you happen to slide the shape up by 1 octave. Hendrix is either following the changes in his intro or using chord substitutions or even something else. I'd have to look.
#6
My first question is what other scales can I use in a key? Is there a list or a method to find out?

If you are in the key of C major, use the C major scale and accidentals. If you are in the key of C minor, use the C minor scale and accidentals. An accidental is a note that doesn't belong to the key scale.

The question is, are these the only chords I can play in that song? Or can I say play an E9 or E13 instead of that Emin, or an Asus2 or Asus4 instead of the Amin? There are a lot of chords out there as I understand, what chords can I play in a key besides this 7? Is there a method to find this out?

Yes, you can use other chords than the chords that are diatonic to the key, just like you can use accidentals. I would suggest looking at popular songs and figuring out how they use chords. That way you'll figure out what kind of solutions are common.

Asus2 and Asus4 are both diatonic to C major, just like Am is. I would suggest learning the notes in the scale and also the notes in the chords. But you don't have to stay diatonic to the key. And it's very common to use "outside" chords and notes. If it sounds good, it is good.

There is really no method to find out what "outside" chords sound good, other than listening to music and experimenting. Usually non-diatonic chords are borrowed from the parallel key. For example Ab, Bb and Eb major in the key of C major. They are borrowed from C minor. Another common way is using secondary dominants. If you have any chord, you can approach it with the dominant chord of that key. For example if your progression is C-F-G7-C, you could "spice it up" with secondary dominants by playing C-C7-F-D7-G7-C. C7 is the dominant of F major, D7 is the dominant of G major. There are other possibilities but these are the most common ways of using non-diatonic chords. You'll figure it out by listening to a lot of music and analyzing what's happening. Remember that there's no right or wrong in music. If it sounds good, it is good.

Can I slide any chord around the neck? And at what positions would I stay inside the key? if the root note is inside the scale of the key?

Yes, every chord shape is movable. It's all about the intervals between the chord tones. All major chords are built the same way - they have root, major third and perfect fifth. You can slide that shape up and down, and you will get different major chords.

How to stay inside the key? Well, if you know the notes in the key scale and the notes in the chord, that's the way.

If the root note is not in the key scale, you can be sure that the chord is not diatonic to the key. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Non-diatonic chords can sound good. They usually make the chord progression more interesting, because they can sound a bit unexpected (in a good way). Though sometimes the use of non-diatonic chords also sounds generic.

But yeah, if the root note is in the key scale, the chord might be diatonic to the key, but you can't be sure about that. For example G major is diatonic to C major, but F minor is not, even though they both have root notes that fit the key scale. You also need to look at the other chord tones. G major is G B D - all notes are part of the key scale. F minor is F Ab C - Ab is not part of the key scale.


I would suggest learning about chord functions (Roman numerals). They help you with understanding chord progressions. They also help you understand the sound. V chord of any key sounds like the V chord. I-IV-V-I in any key sounds the same. That's why chord functions are handy. C major chord does not sound the same in all keys because it gets a different function in different keys. But the same chord function always sounds the same, no matter what key you are in. And you want to be able to figure out chord progressions by ear.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#7
MaggaraMarine Thank you very much! I found your answer very helpful! I will definitely look into chord functions and study some songs and their chords. One more question though if you have the time. How can I find out if a certain chord is diatonic to a key? If I know the notes of the key and the notes of the chord? I heard that only the root note must be diatonic?
#8
Quote by MadMark1989

If I want to play inside sounds, say a diatonic chord progression in the key of C, what chords can I play? How can I find this out what method? I know the 7 basic chords of the key, that I can find out from the triads, but besides those? And what about parallel chords?


All you really need to know is the triads. You can do a lot with just that knowledge and following the changes.

Actually I have an explanation if you follow some of the links in my sig. Not trying to promote my stuff, but I go into quite a bit of detail there in both words and video.
#9
Quote by MadMark1989
Thank you for your fast response fngrpikingood!

I'm currently digesting the information I got from you. Yes it will definitely take a while to understand and learn all the theory in music, but I'm pretty motivated.

If I want to play inside sounds, say a diatonic chord progression in the key of C, what chords can I play? How can I find this out what method? I know the 7 basic chords of the key, that I can find out from the triads, but besides those? And what about parallel chords?


The 7 chords are the really inside ones. The basic ones. You can add any extensions or anything with the notes from the key. Whatever you do with only the notes of the key, is the more inside sounds. I'd say you can still have inside sounding progressions without necessarily remaining strictly inside, but that's too advanced for you. You have too much information you need to learn. You have not digested it until you've physically played it a lot. It is not a thing of logical understanding you are looking for. It is sound. When you understand the sound of those 7 chords, and how they are used, and how common they are, then explore further.

That's a lot of work already. Start with that.

Learn what the roman numerals mean, and what parallel minor means.

Guitar and music is learned with a guitar in your hands, not a mouse.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Sep 13, 2015,
#10
Quote by MadMark1989
[My first question is what other scales can I use in a key? Is there a list or a method to find out?

It's not that simple. But if you want you actually play anything over everything. That's the simple answer.

Quote by MadMark1989

Secondly I also understand that there are 7 chords in every key:
In the key of C there is Cmaj, Dmin, Emin, Fmaj, Gmaj, Amin, Bdim.
The question is, are these the only chords I can play in that song? Or can I say play an E9 or E13 instead of that Emin, or an Asus2 or Asus4 instead of the Amin? There are a lot of chords out there as I understand, what chords can I play in a key besides this 7? Is there a method to find this out?

Okay no, that's just outright wrong. Absolutely not how keys work. It's not 7 seven chords in a key, it's seven chords that you can create out of a major scale if you stack them in 3rds. You can have whatever chords you want in a key, as long as it points back to the tonic as home (hopefully using some sort of V-I motion for the cliche ).

Quote by MadMark1989

And lastly there are songs in which a particular chordshape is being slided around the neck for example in the intro of Castles made of Sand. How is that possible? Can I slide any chord around the neck? And at what positions would I stay inside the key? if the root note is inside the scale of the key?

Okay, you can slide any of the open chords around (provided that you use your first finger in place of the nut). An example would be the E major shape, you slide it up one fret and and you get a F barre chord.
The nature of the guitar means that you can move everything around.
Last edited by GoldenGuitar at Sep 13, 2015,
#11
Your last question has to deal with the caged system. In short you can play c a g e d all over the neck forming new chords. The most used version of this is using the e maj a min shape for bar chords
#12
mad mark---your quest to understand theory should be something that will stick..not just hit & miss questions on a forum like this..not that the advice the folks here are giving you is not helpful..

if your serious..take the time to REALLY study it..get a teacher..take a class..buy a vid etc..this will take some time I realize..I estimate if you really get into it in a few months..you should have a working knowledge of basic theory that will answer all the questions you have asked today...now the thing with theory..or anything musical for that matter..you have to integrate it in your playing..it cant just be a mental reference..and this takes time, practice and dedication and a good deal of patients!..go slow and digest small amounts at a time you cant eat the whole thing in one meal..sorry..but look at it this way...in several months a progression like this will not be a puzzle to you...CMA7 Emi7 A7b9 Dmi11 Db13 CMa6--in ANY key!
play well

wolf
Last edited by wolflen at Sep 13, 2015,
#13
Quote by MadMark1989
MaggaraMarine Thank you very much! I found your answer very helpful! I will definitely look into chord functions and study some songs and their chords. One more question though if you have the time. How can I find out if a certain chord is diatonic to a key? If I know the notes of the key and the notes of the chord?
If the notes in the chord are all in the scale of the key, then it's diatonic.
Quote by MadMark1989
I heard that only the root note must be diatonic?
Well, as you might guess from previous answers, there are no "rules" as such (in the sense of "can/can't" or "must/mustn't") - there are only "common practices": things that most songwriters (and improvisers) do because most people agree they sound good.

But there are lots of less common practices that also sound good, and even some rare ones that sound good at certain times. The rare ones have the value of surprise or drama. They never sound "wrong" (if they did, they wouldn't be used at all!).

So you could start from the "most common practice" (in theory anyway ), which is (n C major) the list of chords in your first post. They are what you might call the "diatonic family" of C major. (BTW, Bdim is extremely rare, and you can more or less discount it. Think of it as a rootless G7 ie use G7 instead, which is easier, far more common, and is Bdim with a G bass. Dim chords do have an important place in jazz, but I wouldn't go there yet if I were you...))

Those C major chords - played in any order - will, between them, give your ear the strong sense that C is "home": the obvious stable final chord they all seem to gravitate towards. (Some orders are more common than others, but essentially they all sound like they belong together.)

But that sense of key is so strong that other "chromatic" or "borrowed" chords (containing one or more notes not in the C major scale) can be introduced to spice things up a little, make some of the changes more interesting.

As mentioned above, the best thing to do is listen to as many songs as you can and keep your ears open for unusual changes. Normally if the chord sequence sounds "normal", "natural", "predictable" (even "boring" ), then it's probably - but not certainly - diatonic. But quite often you will hear a change that stands out as dramatic or surprising (to varying degrees); that's likely to be a borrowed chord.
The idea is to get used to the sounds of the different changes - the common ones as well as the less common - so you can (a) identify them when you hear them, and (b) use them in your own songwriting.

When it comes to improvisation, the only real rule is to start with what the song gives you. Its chords (and melody) should contain all the notes you need - you should certainly work extensively with those to start with - but you're still free to add chromatic notes if you feel it needs some edginess here and there.
Again, there are "common practices" for different styles of music - rather like different accents or dialects of the same language. Language is a useful analogy, because it's about building a vocabulary of things you like the sound of, that you want to "say" when you solo. Usually, it's not so much what you play, but how you play it.
And - yet again - you pick up those accents from listening.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 13, 2015,