#1
I was learning Apache Rose Peacock by the Red Hot Chili Peppers but I'm struggling to understand the music theory that goes behind it. I can't figure out what key it is in.

For the first 30 seconds John and Flea are playing in D major I think? (John is playing a riff containing B C# D E F# G and Flea is playing a bass line behind it containing the notes E G B A)

But then the chorus (starting at 0:30) uses Dm7 and A7 which suggests a key of D minor, right?

Then for the section starting at 1:32 John is playing E major, C major, D major, A major, Dsus2. This seems to suggest D minor again, except for the A major that should've actually been an A minor?

So to sum up, I'm very confused and any help would be appreciated
#2
E minor in the beginning with the natural 6. Dorian feel.

D minor chorus.

"E major, C major, D major, A major, Dsus2" - E minor, Dsus2 should be Bm.
#3
Thanks! Could you explain what you mean with natural 6? And how come John is playing a C# which is not in the Eminor scale or is this just an out of scale note? Sorry, I'm only just getting into music theory...

By the way, are you sure that he's playing a Bminor? If I listen to John's master tracks at 55:20 (see video) it really sounds to me like he's playing 0320xx (Dsus2). Doesn't sound like Bminor to me, If I play Bm7 it sounds kind of ok but it seems to me like he's hitting open strings.

Last edited by Nimyz at Aug 14, 2016,
#4
E minor: E F# G A B C D E
Uses numbers 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (1)
E major: E F# G# A B C# D# E
Uses numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (1)

Without an alteration, it's assumed natural. He's borrowing from the parallel major key. (Parallel: same main note/tonic, but the other of major or minor.)

Bm:
Positive. He's playing x20230, which is Bm7(11). He's playing the B's as single notes. They're supposed to be taken as two parts of a broken chord, not just random B's with a Dsus2 shape.
#5
Awesome thanks! That x20230 indeed sounds to me like what he's playing but I didn't know it was a B chord

You seem to know a lot about music theory. Could you tell me how you go about identifying a song as being in one key or another? Usually I don't know where to start and I just go listing up the notes that they're playing and trying to match it to a key. But without success this time For instance, how do you know that he's borrowing from the parallel major key and it's not actually D major he's playing in? (I 100% believe you it's in Eminor, I just don't understand yet why)

Another question: you said that it had a Dorian feel. How does this come about? Because he's not actually using the Dorian mode, or is he?
#6
(There are other people around as well, they can chime in too, probably with a better pedagogical approach too :') )

Key

Most of the time, there's a chord that is more common than the rest of the chords in a section. This is called the tonic chord, where the main note in that chord is called the tonic. The tonic determines the key. (In this song, the tonic chord is Em. The key is E minor.)

What the bass is playing in the beginning section only (/ = continue counting. First E stays for 3 eighth notes)
E / / E / G / B | E / / E / / A / G |

In the section:
  • E is most common, so that might be a hint.
  • E-G-B is an E minor chord. With the constant guitar note D over it, it makes an Em7 sound.
  • E-G-A-B-D-E is the E minor pentatonic scale as well; they're mainly playing this with a heavy focus on the note E.


There are no D's in the bass line as well, so it would be very hard to actually be in D major.

Frusciante plays a lot of filler chords (like xxx777 slide to passing (temporary, not part of the overall harmony) xxx999), but then goes straight back to the D note (7 on G-string) while the bass continues with the riff above.

Generally speaking:
- check which note/chord is strongest within the song/section
- find out how the other chords relate to the main chord.

----
How comfortable are you with identifying chords and intervals, though? These are priceless in learning about functions.

If you're not comfortable with ID-ing more basic and straightforward chords, I'd suggest starting with more basic songs and working with them. (Note: despite what the internet says in certain places, E minor and G major are not the same thing. If the song is in minor, it's in minor. If the song is in major, it's in major. Not both at the same time. Also, feel free to ask here whenever )
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C#

C# appears often (fr. 9 on high E in the slide part, D-C#-D around 0:04 in). C# isn't in E minor.

For a song in minor: natural 6 and natural 7 (C# and D# in E minor) are the most common notes borrowed from major.
For a song in major: flat 3, flat 6, and flat 7 (G, C, D in E major) are the most common notes borrowed from minor.

There are a few other non-diatonic (out-of-key, can't make the chord from the scale notes) chords, but borrowed chords are the most frequently used.
#7
Thanks for your detailed answer, it really helps. I've never paid too much attention to the bass line, and certainly not thought of it in terms of the chords it's creating together with the guitar part. When there's just a guitar strumming a simple chord progression I usually manage to find the center of tonality but with these funkier tracks from Blood Sugar Sex Magik I'm struggling. But it's great to know that there are knowledgeable people here to help me if I get confused. I can't rule out opening other threads in the future for other tracks off off BSSM

When you say E minor with natural 6 borrowed from the parallel major scale is that just another way of saying it's in E dorian? Or is there a difference?

And one last question: the song changes key from E minor to D minor at around 0:30. I found this article on here about how to change keys in a song (https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/guitar_techniques/how_to_change_key_successfully_in_your_music.html) and it says "You should always go upwards in a modulation as this increases energy. ... You generally want to avoid going downwards, as this can sap the energy from your song!" But in this case the modulation does go downwards from E minor to D minor and it doesn't sound bad. I know it's not an exact science but is there a reason this key change works in this song? I can imagine not every key change would have worked well.
#8
Nimyz
The opening section is actually in B minor with the maj 6 added as a passing tone, the scale would be : B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A (B natural minor) with a g# passing tone. Which is as NeoMysEu stated Dorian in nature.

The chorus is in D minor but the A7 chord comes from it's relative harmonic minor scale, it's common practice to borrow chords from relative scales.In d harmonic minor the 7th gets raised thus altering the chord built on the 5th step.

D natural minor: D E F G A Bb C Harmonized: Dm Em7b5 F Gm Am Bb C

D Harmonic minor: D E F G A Bb C# Harmonized : Dm Em7b5 Faug Gm A Bb/Bbm C#dim

We've raised the 7th tone turning the minor 3rd of the A into a major 3rd.

A minor (A C E) A major (A C# E) A7 (A C# E G)

The last sequence the chord progression is actually Em, C, D, G-5, A-5, B7#9
Which could be viewed one of two ways, either a Bm progression with the passing tones C and D# added or an E minor progression with the passing tone C# and D# added. Personally I prefer to look at as an Em progression given the inclusion of the two major chords C and D and the ease at which a dom7 chord can be built on the 5th step (relative harmonic minor again).

E natural minor harmonized: Em - F#m7b5 - G - Am - Bm - C - D
B natural minor harmonized: Bm - C#m7b5 - D - Em - F#m -G -A
#9
Bensalt2014 show me borrowing of G# and emphasis of B over E.

Please abbreviate to Neo if it's hard to read past the underline.

Nimyz
Technically modes only happen if there's no functional harmony. This song just vamps over Em7 in that section, so you could say E Dorian. However, songs like Molly Sandén's "Freak" have IV-i, a plagal cadence (cadence = harmony), so that's just in minor with alteration, not a mode. (there's a nice mode thread, something like "Jet and JRF end the mode war". Recommended reading )

Re: Article:
Music theory doesn't tell you what you can and can't do. That's a prescription. Music theory just describes what happens in music.

Another song where modulation works well in the opposite direction: "Under Your Tree", Sonata Arctica.
#10
@Bensalt2014: you are right about the first chord of that last section being Eminor instead of Emajor (like was said before) but the rest of it sounds correct the way Neo wrote it.
#11
Quote by NeoMvsEu
Bensalt2014 show me borrowing of G# and emphasis of B over E.

Please abbreviate to Neo if it's hard to read past the underline.



I started posting my reply when only your first initial comment was showing so apologies I didn't see you explanation for the emphasis being on Em given the bass notes. My reasoning for it being in B minor as opposed to E minor was based on the fact that the entire riff is built using the notes from E natural minor except for the following section:

E: -7s-9-
B: -7s-9-
G: -7s-9-
D: --------
A: --------
E: --------

Which on the 9th fret b string includes the note G# which is not native to B minor so I viewed it as a passing tone. There is also a brass section that overlays the bass which uses the notes E and C#, C# being native to B minor.
Where as if you look at the riff from the perspective of it being E minor you have two notes which aren't native, D# and C#.
Making the example i posted above to contain two "wrong" tones (D# and C#), as well as the following part to also contain one of them:


E:-------------x----------------
B:-------------x----------------
G:7----7-----x-----7p0-6-7-

6th fret on the G string is C#

The tonal center quite evidently is E as you described but the parent scale from which the riff is derived is closer to B minor than E. I am buy no means an authority on theory, I am self taught so I'm willing to admit I may be wrong but can you explain the reasoning behind viewing this as an E minor riff with two altered tones as opposed to a B minor riff with one?
#12
How to find the key of a song/section? Find the chord/note that sounds like home. That's your tonic and that's also your key.

For example if our progression is Am-Dm-E7, you can hear that it sounds kind of incomplete. The E7 wants to go somewhere. Now play an Am and it sounds complete and it sounds like we are back home again. So Am is our key.

When finding the key, the other notes are not that important. It's the tonic that matters most. If the tonic chord is major, you are in a major key and if it's minor, you are in a minor key.


The tonal center quite evidently is E as you described but the parent scale from which the riff is derived is closer to B minor than E. I am buy no means an authority on theory, I am self taught so I'm willing to admit I may be wrong but can you explain the reasoning behind viewing this as an E minor riff with two altered tones as opposed to a B minor riff with one?


As I already said, key is defined by the tonic. You are not in B minor if the tonal center is E. B minor and E Dorian scales have the same notes in them but that's where the similarities end. The song is using notes in the E Dorian scale, not the B minor scale, over the verse. Why? Because the tonic is E.

You don't find the key by looking at which key signature the notes fit best. You can use all 12 notes and still clearly be in one key. Also, C# is a pretty common accidental in the key of E minor.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Aug 14, 2016,
#13
Quote by Bensalt2014
I started posting my reply when only your first initial comment was showing so apologies I didn't see you explanation for the emphasis being on Em given the bass notes.
Gotcha.
Quote by Bensalt2014
The tonal center quite evidently is E
Good, this is the main thing you need to know. It's not centered around B, so it can't be B minor. It's E minor. And the chords (Em G A G Em) support this much more than they support B minor.
However, as stated above, this isn't a functional progression, so the E minor tonal center with 2 sharps (both D major and B minor share this characteristic) is best explained by the modal E Dorian (temporarily).


EDIT: Em G A E, then Em G A G Em. You could argue for functional IV-i here with the A (bass) E-C# (guitar slide). Either way, it's a borrowed chord aka modal mixture.


Being one of the minor modes, it'd still be written with the E minor key signature (1 sharp) with the two accidentals (G# and C#) within the music. There are some contexts where writing in modal key signatures (i.e. 2 sharps) is acceptable, but this is uncommon.

Re: slides -
The middle notes within the slides are less of a focus than the outside notes D-B sliding to E-C#.

This is probably not very satisfactory, but it's more a result of:
- popular music trying for progressions that favor movement preservation over function, and therefore
- modifying the D-like shape (xxx787 slide to xxx9 10 9) to an Em-like shape (xxx777 slide to xxx999) (can use at least one fewer finger as a result)

Further reading: "Affordant Chord Transitions in Selected Guitar-Driven Popular Music", thesis by Gary Yim, link here.

---

(FYI - to make lines even via monospace, you can use the CODE tag.

e|-0-
B|-0-
G|-0-
D|-2-
A|-2-
E|-0-

if you need to access it, it's the sharp/pound/number symbol "#" in advanced view)
#14
NeoMvsEu
Thank you for the reply I think I follow, basically in a non-functional framework tonal center is more indicative of key than the number of shared tones, is that correct? If not I'm all ears I welcome the opportunity to learn more and I will gladly read the link you posted. In fact while I'm here, and apologies to Nimyz for potentially hijacking his thread, do you have any other recommended reads on functional harmony, cadences and the like?
#15
Pretty much!
- tonal center first. You'll most likely find a chord that relates, major/minor.
- If there's a persistent alteration and a chord progression isn't functional, consider modality.


Functional harmony resources:
I like Teoria, but YMMV
http://www.teoria.com/en/tutorials/
(there's a specific tutorial called "Functional Harmony", but a few things come before that.)
Dolmetsch is very very detailed too (maybe too much. You can hover over the numbers for ordered topics.)
http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory22.htm
^ this is specifically to chords and cadences, btw. 31 is to key centers. Probably one thing at a time, though, and only if you're really interested. Otherwise, it's up to you. Learning as you play is often a useful strategy
#16
Quote by Bensalt2014
NeoMvsEu
basically in a non-functional framework tonal center is more indicative of key than the number of shared tones, is that correct?


Key is always defined by tonic. Key of E minor means that the tonic is E and the tonic triad is minor. Key of A major means that the tonic is A and the tonic triad is major. The other notes can be pretty much anything (though most likely most of them will be in the key scale).
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115