How would playing in A Minor key differ from playing in C Major key when they both have the same chords and notes?

#1
How would playing in A Minor key differ from playing in C Major key when they both have the same chords and notes?

And that's apart from that the minor key is sad and the major one is happy, this is a perspective, I'm talking about music itself and sounds.
#2
Well, it really doesn't affect your playing much - you would still be using mostly the same notes. But it affects the sound. In the key of A minor, Am sounds like the tonic - the "home" chord. In the key of C major, C sounds like the tonic. How do you hear which of the chords in a progression is the tonic? You just listen to the progression and find the note/chord that sounds like home.

The difference between major and minor becomes more obvious when you compare C major to C minor. This way you hear the same note as the tonic all the time, but the intervals change.

C major: C D E F G A B
C minor: C D Eb F G Ab Bb

As you may notice, what makes major and minor different is the 3rd, 6th and 7th notes of the scale (but the most important note is the third - many times in a minor key the 6th and 7th notes are raised, but as long as the 3rd is minor, it will sound like minor).

But yeah, major and minor are sounds/"feelings" that you will learn to recognize by ear as your ear develops. As I said, the main difference is the tonic triad - the home chord. That's really what makes a song sound like "minor" or "major".



The verse is in E minor (because E sounds like the tonic and the tonic triad is minor). The chorus is in E major (because E sounds like the tonic and the tonic triad is major). The saxophone solo is in C# minor. (Same notes as E major, but C# sounds like the home - try this by playing a C# over this section and compare it to E. The C# sounds more stable than the E. The E just doesn't sound like the home note over this section and this is why it's not in E major, but in C# minor.)



The verse is in F#m, the chorus is in F# major. Again, the home note stays the same (F#), but the tonic triad changes from minor (F#m) to major (F#). The bridge is also in F# major.



The verse is in G minor, the chorus is in G major. I think the change from minor to major sounds pretty clear in this song. The G major chord in the beginning of the chorus seems to get a lot of emphasis and you can clearly hear the change in feeling.
Quote by AlanHB
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#3
Quote by Radioheader
How would playing in A Minor key differ from playing in C Major key when they both have the same chords and notes?
The clue is in the word "Key". A song in A minor will sound like Am is the "home" chord. In C major, it sounds like C is the home chord. That's what "key" means, the sense of an overall tonal centre, one note that rules the others.

If you play the notes and chords at random, without any particular emphasis on any one chord, it's most likely C will sound like the strongest tonal centre, because we're so used to that "do re mi fa so la ti do" sound, with "do" sounding like home.
That's why we (traditionally) change the scale and chords when playing in A minor, using E (or E7) instead of Em, so that we get a G# "leading tone" resolving up to A, to make A sound stronger. It's also quite common in key of A minor to use a C chord much less (if at all), to reduce the "do" effect of C as much as possible.

But what is also common is that songs can move from minor to relative major - and you can detect the change in mood when they do that. Here's an example:

It's in the key of D minor, but notice the effect at 0:27 when it goes to F. It then returns to Dm at 0:36. What makes the whole thing more "D minor" than F major is the use of the A major chord (in the famous Andalusian cadence, Dm-C-Bb-A.), as well as the fact that they spend more time on Dm than F. The relative major is just an occasional punctuation.

Here's another:

This time the key is A minor, but an E major chord is not used. Instead, the Am key is established by focussing on Am, and not using a C chord at all (except implied in passing) - until the very short bridge at 3:15. That's clever, because the whole previous mood is about his confusion (suiting the unresolved A aeolian modal vibe, lacking the firm E major), and the sudden emergence of the relative major is where he sings "that was just a dream". But the major key "wake-up" doesn't last long and he's plunged back into aeolian 7 seconds later, "that's me in the corner".

One more relative minor-major example:

Again, it's A aeolian mode, using the Andalusian cadence (Am-G-F-E) but ending on Em instead of E. That keeps the vibe vague and hazy. But the chorus (0:51) brightens the mood by switching to the relative major, C.

Lastly a classic A minor song you could never mistake for being in C major:

- this shows how flexible the minor key is. The minor scale can have variable 6th and 7th degrees. So A minor can have F and/or F#, and G and/or G# - and any chords based on those notes. Hence the use of C (with a G note) as well as E (with a G#); and D (with F#) as well as an F chord. All totally conventional!
Quote by Radioheader

And that's apart from that the minor key is sad and the major one is happy, this is a perspective, I'm talking about music itself and sounds.
The "happy/sad" thing is only when all else is equal. Fast minor key songs don't sound particularly sad, and slow major key songs can sound sad.
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 3, 2017,
#4
It's down to what notes get the emphasis over time. Emphasis can be created by chord progression (leading to a given chord), by placing notes at strong beats, using longer duration, using frequency of repetition. So, emphasise A C E, versus emphasise C E G (at a simplistic level).
#5
Quote by Radioheader
How would playing in A Minor key differ from playing in C Major key when they both have the same chords and notes?

And that's apart from that the minor key is sad and the major one is happy, this is a perspective, I'm talking about music itself and sounds.


The answer is not within the actual notes ( C, D, E etc.), since they are the same in both cases, it's the relationship between the notes that matters - the INTERVALS in relation to the root. Minor scale is I, II, bIII, IV, V, bVI, bVII, whereas the major scale is I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII.

For example, in Aminor, the C note plays a vastly different role then it does in the key of C. It has the role of a bIII ( flat third) in A minor which gives it a certain sound ( that sound comes from the interval distance between A and C). The same goes for all the intervals. You note correctly that each scale has a feel, sad, happy etc. That feel comes from the relationship between the notes. My advice to you is to spend a lot of time memorizing the sound of the intervals - sing them as you play them, and learn tricks like assigning famous melodies to various intervals.
#6
To back up reverb66, singing is invaluable. It's especially helpful if you can sing (and recognise) intervals formed by a pitch and the key centre. I found this a lot easier (and much quicker to progress) than measuring intervals from one pitch to the next.
#7
The clue is in the wordjongtr

How did you exactly figure out the change between keys? By already knowing the chords of the song or did you figure it out by your ear (if so, I mean by your ear..what instrument is exactly playing that chord which has made a change in keys)

And how can someone play A major chord when it doesn't exist in D minor key and not trying to make a change to another key that contain A major chord?
Last edited by Radioheader at Jan 3, 2017,
#8
The energy changes from section to section. A key change means that a different note and/or chord in the related section receives the least amount of energy when reached -> when a key chord is reached, it won't want to move as much because it's resolved.

As for your second question, that has to do with voice leading and dominant-tonic resolution tendencies. C# (third in A major chords) leads up to D much better than C (third in A minor chords) does. Check this out -> http://www.teoria.com/en/tutorials/functions/intro/08-minor-keys.php

Something that shows all of this:



Chorus is in F major (instead of F minor for the rest of the song), there's a pretty clear change from F major to Gb major at 1:52.
#9
Quote by Radioheader
jongtr

How did you exactly figure out the change between keys? By already knowing the chords of the song or did you figure it out by your ear (if so, I mean by your ear..
By ear. You can hear the effect. It's not always very strong, it can be quite subtle. But try it yourself: play around with the chords Am, Dm and Em, random order, but always end on Am. Then play a C chord at some point. You should notice that it sounds "brighter", more positive, than the previous Am-based sequence. (You can characterise the effect any way you like, but you have to be able to hear it.)
A more obviously minor-major change is maybe the "parallel" one. Try this: start with the Am-Dm-Em-Am sequence again, but now at some point switch to A-D-E-A, all major chords. Hear that? Call it how you like, but it's obvious, yes?
Lots of songs use this parallel minor-major switch (same keynote, different scales). Try the Beatles 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' (A minor, goes to A major on the bridge "I don't know how...") or 'Fool on the Hill' (D major verse, D minor chorus).
Quote by Radioheader

what instrument is exactly playing that chord which has made a change in keys)
All of them! (Well OK, apart from the drums...)
Quote by Radioheader

And how can someone play A major chord when it doesn't exist in D minor key
But it does. The classical D minor key includes an A major chord as standard. It's convention, it's normal. In all the theory books. It's known as "harmonic minor": the practice of raising the 7th degree of the scale (C to C# in this case) and using a major chord as V. You hear it all the time, even if you might not be aware of it.

In any case, the rules of theory never stopped anyone playing anything they like the sound of! That's not what theory is for. Musicians (and composers) play stuff they like, and theorists come along later and work it all out. "Oh look, someone's playing in D minor and using an A major chord to make a stronger resolution to Dm! Let's call that "harmonic minor"...." (or something like that.)
IOW, Mark Knopfler, almost certainly, did not read any theory book before deciding to use A major in his D minor song. He did it because he'd heard it countless times before and wanted that sound. He knew it was "right", because it sounded right. And it sounded right because it's common (traditional).
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 4, 2017,
#10
NeoMvsEu

That song reminded me of this:



Verse in G minor, chorus in G major, half step up modulation in the end. Also, the V7 chord is used in a similar way in this song - D7 is the dominant of both G major and G minor so it can resolve to either of them and it's an easy way of changing between parallel keys (G major and G minor are parallel keys).
Quote by AlanHB
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#11
MaggaraMarine

Thank you, pardon my ignorance but I'm just a beginner.

As far as I know, guitar and piano play chords (harmony), vocal is a melody, electric guitar is playing melody, and finally bass and drums..I don't know what they even play ( are there even notes for playing drums? do they have to be played in key or what?). So, basically I just have to detect the change between chords in guitar or piano (depends on what is used in a song) and not every instrument.

Another question, what if you've found a good chord progression (whether it's on piano or guitar) with the best vocals and lyrics and you want to make a song out of it, but you need to figure out the bass line, drums and a good electric guitar, how would you do that?
#12
Quote by Radioheader

As far as I know, guitar and piano play chords (harmony), vocal is a melody, electric guitar is playing melody, and finally bass and drums..I don't know what they even play ( are there even notes for playing drums? do they have to be played in key or what?). So, basically I just have to detect the change between chords in guitar or piano (depends on what is used in a song) and not every instrument.

Actually, bass is the basis of harmony and if you want to figure out a chord progression by ear, I would suggest listening to the bass first. And you should look at every instrument. Harmony and melody aren't really separate things. They are related to each other, and you could see chords as just different melodies played at the same time. But yeah, the main melody will usually have something to do with the chords, so I wouldn't totally ignore it either.

Drums don't play pitches so they have nothing to do with harmony/melody.

Another question, what if you've found a good chord progression (whether it's on piano or guitar) with the best vocals and lyrics and you want to make a song out of it, but you need to figure out the bass line, drums and a good electric guitar, how would you do that?

Well, basslines and guitar riffs are just melodies. You come up with them the same way you would come up with a vocal melody. A good starting point for a bassline is playing root notes of the chords. You can always add more notes after that but most of the time the root is what should get most emphasis. When it comes to writing basslines, the rhythm is really important. You want the drums and the bassline to work together - they usually play similar rhythms. A guitar riff is just a short melody that repeats over and over again. Guitar riffs are usually based on playing chords in a certain rhythm but they are usually more melodic than just basic chord strumming.

But yeah, this has to do with arrangement. You will learn how to arrange by familiarizing yourself with the roles of different instruments in a band and just by listening to a lot of music. Usually when you arrange a song, you have some kind of an idea of the overall sound that you are after. If you for example want your song to sound kind of like AC/DC, just listen to some AC/DC songs and figure out what all of the instruments are doing. That will give you some ideas of how to arrange for different instruments.

But since you are a beginner, I don't know if you should worry about this kind of stuff yet. Arranging for a band becomes a lot easier once you have some actual band playing experience. Playing in a band is a good way of learning to understand how different instruments work together, and also what doesn't work.


If you want to write songs, arranging it for a band is not necessary. You can write lyrics, melody and chords and worry about the arrangement later. Actually if you can make your song work with just the melody + a simple guitar/piano accompaniment, that's a sign of a good song.
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
#13
MaggaraMarine

And if I want to use both guitar and piano, which both make harmony, the chords should be the same right? (not necessarily in the same order, it could be power chord, broken chord, different inversions..)
#14
Well, the chords could be different (I mean, guitar and piano aren't necessarily playing the same notes), but you would hear it as one chord.

It's pretty common that for example the guitar plays a G major chord (G B D) and the bass plays an E. This would make it an Em7 chord (E G B D). You don't need to play all of the chord tones on one instrument.
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
#15
Same notes but different root or "home" so you get a different vibe. Music is cool like that.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#16
Quote by Radioheader

As far as I know, guitar and piano play chords (harmony), vocal is a melody, electric guitar is playing melody, and finally bass and drums.
More or less, yes. Guitar and piano can play melody or chords - in fact piano can also play bass lines too - but yes the typical roles are that vocal takes the lead melody line, guitar and/or piano plays chords (maybe with occasional melodic riffs or fills).

The bass can also play melodic lines, but most often it plays chord roots. So if you have a chord sequence C-G-Am-F, the bass is probably just playing those root notes. That underpins the harmony, and also frees the guitar and piano from having to play full chord shapes. (In jazz, chord players frequently play rootless chords, so as not to double up on what the bass is doing.)
Quote by Radioheader

I don't know what they even play ( are there even notes for playing drums? do they have to be played in key or what?)
No. Some drummers (or producers) do like to tune their drums to pitches (toms particularly), but generally speaking kit drums are regarded as unpitched instruments, just marking time and beats.
Quote by Radioheader
So, basically I just have to detect the change between chords in guitar or piano (depends on what is used in a song) and not every instrument.
Well, for pitched instruments, the changes generally all happen at the same time.
If you're asking about learning the chords of a song, I'd always start with the bass, precisely because it normally plays the chord roots. Once you have a root note, it's usually easy to tell whether the chord is major or minor (or something rarer like a sus, dim or aug). If you can't hear the bass clearly, I recommend software that lets you raise the octave, such as Transcribe.
Often the bass will play some kind of riff or melodic line, but almost always the 1st beat of the chord is the chord root. The exception is "inversions" which means a chord where the bass plays the 3rd 5th or 7th of the chord. That can make chord identification harder, but a clue is a descending bass line; some of the accompanying chords are likely to be inversions, although they are also likely to be in the key the bass line implies.
Eg, if you hear a bass line running C-B-A-G, it's unlikely the chords are those 4 major chords! The first chord is probably C, but the others are all likely to be in the key of C, meaning the 2nd chord could G or Em with a B bass, the 3rd chord could be Am or F or Dm with an A bass, and the 4th chord could be G, or C or Em with a G bass.
IOW, a little theory knowledge about what chords belong in a key will help predict what chords might occur. But - as pointed out above - the theory of "chords in a key" is not simply about harmonisation of a single scale. It's common for all the chords in a song to come from the same scale, but it's about as common for some chords in a song to come from outside that scale. So you can use basic theory as a rough guide, but be prepared for those basic rules to be broken, fairly often. Always trust your ear.
Quote by Radioheader

Another question, what if you've found a good chord progression (whether it's on piano or guitar) with the best vocals and lyrics and you want to make a song out of it, but you need to figure out the bass line, drums and a good electric guitar, how would you do that?
The bass can just play the roots. If that's too boring, try working out lines between the chord roots, that link up. So if you have a C chord followed by F, the bass could run up to F (C-D-E-F), or it could run down (C B A G F). But don't make the bass too fancy - it's OK for a bass line to be quite static, especially if the chords and melody are interesting. If you just have one chord for a long time, or a very simple repeated loop, that's when it can sound good for the bass to be more mobile. I.e., it's about balance. Normally the interest in a song (for a non-musician listener) is in the vocal first (melody and lyric), riffs or rhythm 2nd (grooves and drum patterns), chords 3rd, and bass last. Bass needs to be dependable and solid, because it's the foundation.

Drums can just keep the beat, but if you're programming drums (rather than getting a real drummer to play along) you need to understand something about how drums are played: kick drum on beats 1 and 3, snare on 2 and 4, that's just the barest outline. (Of course, if you don't want a traditional rock rhythm, you're free to program drums in any way you like - be as creative with drums as you would with guitar or piano!)
If you're in band (or forming a band), you don't need to write a part for the drummer. Any good drummer ought to be able to pick up the kind of rhythm you want just from you playing the song on a guitar (or piano). If you're thinking of a specific rhythm pattern, find an existing song with the same rhythm so he can hear how it works. (Generally speaking, drummers don't take kindly to other musicians telling them what to play, because other musicians rarely understand how drumming works. Would you want a drummer telling you what to play on guitar, if he couldn't play guitar?)

As for "electric guitar" I guess you mean lead lines, fills or solos. Again, if you're in a band, and the electric guitarist is not you, you should be able to just give the player the chords and leave it to him/her to come up with a lead part. Otherwise, treat a lead guitar as a melody instrument, and write for it as you would for a singer. If you can write melodies for a singer, you can write them for a lead guitar.
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 5, 2017,
#17
Radioheader, if you want to learn a bit about some of the fundamental concepts in music I can't recommend this series enough, there's 4 sections covering melody, rhythm, harmony and bass...it really opened my eyes, and ears, when I watched it a few years ago.

Actually called Mark!

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#18
if you are sad when playing those chords it's in A minor if you are happy when playing it's C major
#19
What's interesting is that the Lacuna Coil cover of that song does the 'other' thing; changes to A major from A minor even if only by substituting the chord rather than a full key change. You hear it mostly in the vocal melody, at 1:00 and the whole "consider this" section from 2:28



Quote by jongtr
Here's another:

This time the key is A minor, but an E major chord is not used. Instead, the Am key is established by focussing on Am, and not using a C chord at all (except implied in passing) - until the very short bridge at 3:15. That's clever, because the whole previous mood is about his confusion (suiting the unresolved A aeolian modal vibe, lacking the firm E major), and the sudden emergence of the relative major is where he sings "that was just a dream". But the major key "wake-up" doesn't last long and he's plunged back into aeolian 7 seconds later, "that's me in the corner".
#20
Quote by Radioheader
How would playing in A Minor key differ from playing in C Major key when they both have the same chords and notes?

And that's apart from that the minor key is sad and the major one is happy, this is a perspective, I'm talking about music itself and sounds.


The most basic explanation is that the root chord in A minor would be, well A minor, and in C major it would be C major. The song in a minor would probably end in a minor, and in C major, it would probably end in C major. This is an untheoretical explanation, easy to understand for everyone! Although, it's not always true... Really depends on the song, where something could end (for example, highway star of deep purple is in g minor, but ends on a)