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Why use the term 'major'?

Dave the Gnome 07 Jan 12 - 03:28 AM
Marje 07 Jan 12 - 03:41 AM
Will Fly 07 Jan 12 - 04:53 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 07 Jan 12 - 04:55 AM
Johnny J 07 Jan 12 - 06:45 AM
kendall 07 Jan 12 - 09:40 AM
Will Fly 07 Jan 12 - 11:21 AM
Willie-O 07 Jan 12 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Ed 07 Jan 12 - 12:00 PM
Marje 07 Jan 12 - 01:06 PM
foggers 07 Jan 12 - 06:10 PM
Artful Codger 07 Jan 12 - 08:17 PM
Darowyn 08 Jan 12 - 04:16 AM
Will Fly 08 Jan 12 - 05:40 AM
Stringsinger 08 Jan 12 - 01:45 PM
Tootler 08 Jan 12 - 04:12 PM
The Sandman 08 Jan 12 - 04:49 PM
Paul Davenport 08 Jan 12 - 05:12 PM
Paul Davenport 08 Jan 12 - 05:15 PM
Dave the Gnome 08 Jan 12 - 05:26 PM
Dave the Gnome 08 Jan 12 - 05:32 PM
The Sandman 08 Jan 12 - 05:35 PM
The Sandman 08 Jan 12 - 05:37 PM
Don Firth 08 Jan 12 - 09:23 PM
Bert 08 Jan 12 - 11:44 PM
Tootler 09 Jan 12 - 06:33 AM
Tootler 09 Jan 12 - 06:44 AM
GUEST,Grishka 09 Jan 12 - 07:27 AM
Bee-dubya-ell 09 Jan 12 - 09:51 AM
Don Firth 09 Jan 12 - 03:51 PM
Paul Davenport 09 Jan 12 - 05:31 PM
Don Firth 09 Jan 12 - 06:41 PM
DrugCrazed 09 Jan 12 - 07:12 PM
GUEST,Larry Saidman 10 Jan 12 - 12:21 AM
Don Firth 10 Jan 12 - 12:36 AM
GUEST,Larry Saidman 10 Jan 12 - 03:48 AM
Will Fly 10 Jan 12 - 04:01 AM
Artful Codger 11 Jan 12 - 07:09 PM
Jack Campin 11 Jan 12 - 08:51 PM
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Subject: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 03:28 AM

I am sure I came across this before but I can't find it :-(

In either a chord or key I have always sort of assumed that unless it has a suffix like minor for keys or chords or seventh, dim 6 etc. for chords, then we were to assume major. However, in another thread someone used the term D major and something stuck in my head that there is a diference between D and D major. Whether it is the chord or key I don't know but does anyone know if this is right?

In a nutshell - Is there a difference between, for example, D and D major?

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Marje
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 03:41 AM

The default assumption is usually that we're talking about the major key. If someone wants to make it clear that they don't mean minor (and they don't mean a fancy chord, and they don't mean one of the less familiar modes) they'll say D maj just to be clear.

That applies to keys and generally to chords, although on some instruments it's possible to play an open fifth (leaving out the third of the scale) so it will work as either major or minor. So if you're playing a chord that just has D/A instead of a triad, you might just say it was D, leaving other players, or the harmonic context, to decide whether it's major or minor.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 04:53 AM

Hmm... I was always taught at school that a chord, to be a true chord, had to consist of at least three notes - hence the word triad. If there were only two notes, then the chord was unresolved. The notes A and D can form part of many chords, not just a D major or minor.

Many chords can have several notes in common, of course. Am shares common notes with C6 (for example), and whether you're playing one or the other can depend - as you rightly say - on context, or on voicing.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 04:55 AM

The place where you will most often see the word used non-redundantly is in chord naming. D 7th and D major 7th are different chords used in very different ways.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Johnny J
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 06:45 AM

Lots of women prefer A Major.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: kendall
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 09:40 AM

Some prefer privates.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 11:21 AM

Would you rather be a colonel with an eagle on your shoulder, or a private with a chicken on your knee...?


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Willie-O
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 11:39 AM

At least three simultaneous notes make a chord; two simultaneous notes are an interval. A fifth for example. Pun away.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 12:00 PM

Maybe this thread? What is a Chord


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Marje
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 01:06 PM

The link given above suggests that there's some disagreement among respected sources as to whether a chord has to have 3 notes.

All I can say is that in folk music (not just ours but other countries' music too), the open fifth is often used without the intervening third - melodeons often choose to do this, as do some guitarists. Some singers tend to do it too, when harmonising - although many probably do this without realising what's going on - they avoid using the third of the scale as a harmony to the tonic, and often stick to the fifth.

This gives a spare, slightly raw sound, less cosy and complete than the triad, and the fact that is is unresolved gives the sound an edge that many people like, and which sounds right for some tunes/songs. And yes, a fifth (say D and A) will occur in more than one chord/key, but the context of the melody and the other chords will usually make it clear what's going on harmonically.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: foggers
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 06:10 PM

So the quick answer is that there is no difference between "D" and "D major" (as a scale or chord).

I found "Music Theory for Dummies" to be a very accessible way to get me head around all the stuff about sclaes, modes, intervals and triad chords.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 08:17 PM

If you're talking about the scale or chord without further qualification, then yes, there's no difference.

As for the spelling of the "power chord" (dyad) consisting of an open fifth, it's typically "D5"; as others have mentioned, this can function as major, minor or ambiguous, but the harmonic context is still a major or minor chord rooted in D, not some subset of another chord with a root other than D.

"D/A" refers not to an open 5th dyad but to a D major chord in 2nd inversion, i.e. with the lowest note being the fifth of the chord.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Darowyn
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 04:16 AM

D major is a diatonic scale rooted on note D. So is D minor, but there are many other scales such as D pentatonic, D Blues, D mixolydian, etc. which are scales of D but are not D major.
D Major is do re mi.... and the rest.
"It's in D" doesn't tell you what the scale is, "It's in D major" does.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Will Fly
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 05:40 AM

The practicalities of writing chords on sheet music and in song books really mean that, to all intents and purposes, "D" is usually assumed to be a basic D major.

This doesn't preclude melody lines played using one scale or mode being played over chords composed from different scales. "Glen Kabul" by old Blind Dogs is a great example of this.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 01:45 PM

There may be a theological connection in the use of the word "major" stemming from the origins of written music that were devised by monks in earlier centuries to teach hymns to the laity. "Minor" was considered "sensual" and henceforth sinful. Major scales and modes had a bright positive which suggested holiness to them. The microtonal music was dismissed altogether as being too sensual. Even the notion of the so-called "church modes" is in question because they were not standardized as we know them today.

A two note interval can suggest a chord particularly if used as guide tones in a harmonic progression.

The open fifths, known as "organum" and open fourths and gymel (sp?)
predate the use of thirds and sixths in harmony, the "French School". The lack of a third or sixth is often found in traditional country music. This may perhaps have something to do with the drone of a fiddle (not sure about that) which is tuned in fifths.

Contemporary professional musicians tend to refer to just the letter name of the chord if they mean that it's not minor, diminished, altered etc., otherwise they will designate that it's minor, minor 7th, major 6th etc.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Tootler
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 04:12 PM

If you are writing two part harmony, then, according to what has been said earlier, every individual interval is technically harmonically ambiguous. However you need to look at the context and not just the individual intervals to determine the harmony.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 04:49 PM

two notes together are often known as dyads. Jack campin has hit the head on the nail, for example d7 is df#ac, d major7 is dfac#


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 05:12 PM

Play a chord of three notes on a piano. E.g. C major. That means you play C-E-G. Now count the number of piano keys from C to E. You'll notice its 5 keys. Now count from E to G and you'll notice its four keys.
Written down these notes look to be evenly spaced apart but they're not really. The gap of four notes is a 'minor' and the gap of five notes is a 'major'. If the major is closest to the C (the tonic or note that gives the chord its name) then its a Major chord. If that first gap is only four keys then its a Minor chord.
If you have two five key gaps in the chord its called an 'Augmented' chord and if you have two lots of four keys its a 'Diminished' chord.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 05:15 PM

Almost forgot. If you want to know about Major and Minor Keys. As in, 'This tune's in G major and that one's in G minor', you need to do the following. Play the scale from C up to the next C. That's C major. Now play the same scale but starting on A. It sounds a bit weird but this is the scale of A minor. It's actually a scale using exactly the same notes but starting on the 6th note of the major (normal doh, re, mi, scale). So, major scale starts on note 1 and minor is the same notes starting on note 6.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 05:26 PM

Thanks all - I am quite familiar with the terms and their usage BTW. I Should have made it clear that although I am no real musician I do undertand intervals etc.

None of the above realy answers my back of the head niggle but that may well be beacause I thought I remembered something that was not realy there! Good contributions anyway.

One point I would add. Something I got from an excelent accordian player and restorer. If you block off the third note of the base side of an accordian so it will only play the 1st and 5th notes it has two effects. Firstly it makes the bass a touch quieter and secondly, you can use the same button whther you are playing the major or minor key. Not tried it yet but sounds a good idea to me anyway. As the owner of a 12 bass Piano Accordian :-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 05:32 PM

Sorry that should not read 'third note of the bass side' but rather the middle note of the major chord on the bass side - IE the third interval.

I am sure most people would have figured it out but I thought I had better make it clear!

DtG


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 05:35 PM

sorry, paul its a aeolian,i think its also called the natural minor, however there is a harmonic minor which is dfferent again, so imo its better to call it aeolian, it avoids confusion


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 05:37 PM

The harmonic minor scale

The harmonic minor scale has just one tonally effective mode and that is the scale conventionally known as the harmonic minor scale. It is spelled, in numerical form (relative to the major scale):
1         2         flat3         4         5         flat6         7         Notes
                                                              
i         ii0         flatIII+         iv         V         flatVI         vii0         Chords

If the tonic is c, the notes and chords are:
c         d         eflat         f         g         aflat         b         Hear these notes
                                                              
c         d0         Eflat+         f         G         Aflat         b0         Hear these chords

The harmonic minor scale is well known to common practice classical music because it is the harmonic foundation of minor mode music. It is, however, avoided as the melodic foundation because of the "unmelodic" augmented second found between its sixth and seventh degrees.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Don Firth
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 09:23 PM

That augmented second between the sixth and seventh degrees of the harmonic minor scale is not necessarily "unmelodic" in certain circumstances. It can give a piece of music a Mid-Eastern flavor. For example, when learning a bit of flamenco, I encountered it fairly often in a number of the flamenco forms. It betrayed the "Moorish" roots of flamenco, way back.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Bert
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 11:44 PM

Kendall, you keep your privates to yourself.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Tootler
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 06:33 AM

In classical music, the harmonic minor scale is used because harmonies based on a tonic/dominant scheme require the V7 chord to be major. Sharpening the 7th degree achieves this. It also gives a sharp leading note which classical music also prefers. The "unmelodic" augmented 2nd between the 6th and 7th degree of the scale is avoided by having yet a third minor mode scale known as the ascending melodic minor and this has both the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale sharpened. Before you ask, yes, there is a descending melodic minor scale which is the natural minor mentioned earlier. So, in classical music theory, there are three minor scales. Taking A minor as an example they are.

Harmonic minor: A B C D E F G# A
Melodic minor ascending: A B C D E F# G# A
Melodic minor descending: A B C D E F G A

In the past, most notably in Renaissance music it was common practice to end on a major chord even if the mode called for a minor chord, so that music in A minor would finish on A major. This was called a "Tierce de Picardie". This is because it was felt that a V-Imaj cadence was more complete than a V-Imin cadence. (or using classical music terminology, a V-I cadence rather than a V-i cadence)

Going back to the question in the OP I think the above indicates one reason for using the term "major" where it might be thought to be redundant and that is to avoid possible ambiguity. Another reason is possibly for emphasis - to make it absolutely clear you are referring to a major chord.

Going back to the accordion question, leavi


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Tootler
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 06:44 AM

Oh dear, I hit "submit" before I had finished the previous post. I am doing this on my netbook and the keyboard is rather cramped.

To continue, going back to the accordion question, leaving out the thirds on an instrument with limited chords on the left hand makes sense as it gives more choices as it is possible to complete the chord on the right hand. I know a PA player who plays the right hand chordally and only uses the left hand for basses. This is on a 12 bass PA. On some melodeons there is a stop which takes out the thirds from the left hand chords.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 07:27 AM

Those who prefer a minor are called pedophiles. As Stringsinger wrote:
"Minor" was considered "sensual" and henceforth sinful
In French it's mineur, women may like one if he has hit the mother lode.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 09:51 AM

Whether or not to append the word "major" is usually determined by context. If you were playing at a blues jam and were advised a song was in "E", you'd probably assume E major. But if you were playing at an Irish session, you'd probably assume E minor since very few session tunes are in E major. I would hope that if someone were introducing an E major tune at an Irish session, he'd know to stick the "major" on there.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 03:51 PM

The early practice of ending a song in that's in, say, A minor on an A major chord (a sort of musical "Period. End of report.") is called in English a "Picardy third." Among some music students, irreverently called a "pickled third."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 05:31 PM

'sorry, paul its a aeolian' … Fair enough Dick, if we're talking modes, but I was assuming that the original questioner needed a simple but workable answer to the question. I used the explanation above for GCSE students because it is just that- simple and workable.
Modes are a whole different ballgame. Most of the answers on this thread, although well thought out and correct are too complex for anyone who needed to ask the original question. IMO and experience. Happy New Year by the way. Hope we can bump into each other at some festival or other.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 06:41 PM

The simple, straightforward answer to the opening post is that among most musicians, classical, folk, jazz, or what-have-you, if you hear someone refer to a chord by nothing more that it's letter-name ("C"), they're talking about a major chord "C major").

But if the discussion is about a variety of chords, major, minor, augmented, diminished, or generally messed with, being specific about what flavor of chord it is tends to avoid confusion.

In general, "C" assumes "C major."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: DrugCrazed
Date: 09 Jan 12 - 07:12 PM

Current convention appears to be "D" = "D major".

Various other things that appear to be convention
Dm = D minor
D7 = D Dominant 7th
DM7 = D Major 7th
Dm7 = D Minor + 7th

I've never seen a minor chord with a major 7th used, but if anyone has examples I'll remedy that statement.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: GUEST,Larry Saidman
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 12:21 AM

Good question. What would a minor chord with a major 7th added be called?   I guess a Dminor with an augmented 7th?

And I don't think a D7 would be the same as a D dominant 7th. In classical music a D dominant 7th starts on the dominant note of the scale (the 5th), so it would be an A C# E G.

Technically what we in popular music call a D7th (D F# A C) is, in classical terms, a G dominant 7th.

But for simplicity sake we just call it a D 7th.

Pretty confusing I know.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 12:36 AM

In classical terms, a G dominant 7th?

No, it would be called a D7th. If clarification is needed, one could add, "the dominant 7th chord of the key of G."

If you refer to it as a "G dominant 7th," the next thing you'll hear from a classical musician will be "Wait a minute, wait a minute!" followed by a request for clarification of which key you're talking about, G or D.

I'm not making this up. I've had two years of music theory at the University of Washington School of Music, two more years at the Cornish College of the Arts (a performance arts conservatory in Seattle), and a year of private theory and composition study with Mildred Hunt Harris.

Music theory is quite systematic, as is the terminology. But it can become exceedingly confusing when one person who doesn't know much about it tries to explain it to others who are equally befuddled, making up terminology as they go along.

There are books on the subject!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: GUEST,Larry Saidman
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 03:48 AM

Thanks for the clarification, Don. I took many many years of classical piano and theory, and was always told, when playing in the key of C, that the dominant that the dominant 7th (within that key) would be the g-B-D-F.   (Had to know that to pass theory exams).   Then when I took popular lessons and I was told that a C 7th is C-D-G-Bb, imagine my confusion.

So I accept that the distinction isn't so much a difference between popular and classical, as it is the difference between calling something a G7th and a "dominant 7th of the key of C.    So, as you say, using the term G dominant 7th does create confusion for a classical musician.

So the distinction between what I'm saying and what you're saying really isn't as 'major' as you seem to be making it.

But what do you call a minor chord with a major 7th added?


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Will Fly
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 04:01 AM

But what do you call a minor chord with a major 7th added?

I've seen this written as (for example) AmM7.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 07:09 PM

Yes, that's exactly how I've seen it, and how I'd expect to write it.


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Subject: RE: Why use the term 'major'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 08:51 PM

This is the source of GSS's unattributed copy-paste (08 Jan 12 - 05:37 PM):

http://www.tonalcentre.org/Harmonicmi.html

They're wrong about it only having one effective mode - the "freygish" mode of klezmer music starts on G in the same scale, and it doesn't sound that alien and un-tonal.


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