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Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence

Phil Edwards 14 Aug 12 - 06:24 AM
GUEST,JohnMcNeill 14 Aug 12 - 06:52 AM
GUEST,999 14 Aug 12 - 07:30 AM
GUEST,loki 14 Aug 12 - 07:41 AM
s&r 14 Aug 12 - 07:42 AM
Phil Edwards 14 Aug 12 - 07:43 AM
Artful Codger 14 Aug 12 - 07:46 AM
GUEST,999 14 Aug 12 - 07:51 AM
s&r 14 Aug 12 - 08:21 AM
GUEST,999 14 Aug 12 - 08:30 AM
Will Fly 14 Aug 12 - 09:23 AM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Aug 12 - 09:38 AM
reynard 14 Aug 12 - 09:40 AM
s&r 14 Aug 12 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,Stan 14 Aug 12 - 11:08 AM
Amos 14 Aug 12 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,999 14 Aug 12 - 12:52 PM
GUEST,Stan 14 Aug 12 - 01:23 PM
GUEST,loki 14 Aug 12 - 01:37 PM
GUEST,Stan 14 Aug 12 - 01:42 PM
GUEST,highlandman at work 14 Aug 12 - 02:20 PM
GUEST,Stan 14 Aug 12 - 02:49 PM
Phil Edwards 14 Aug 12 - 03:17 PM
Phil Edwards 14 Aug 12 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Aug 12 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,Stan 14 Aug 12 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,Stan 14 Aug 12 - 04:55 PM
Artful Codger 14 Aug 12 - 05:07 PM
Artful Codger 14 Aug 12 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,Stim 14 Aug 12 - 10:32 PM
Phil Edwards 15 Aug 12 - 06:12 AM
Howard Jones 15 Aug 12 - 07:42 AM
Phil Edwards 15 Aug 12 - 09:34 AM
GUEST,leeneia 15 Aug 12 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,Foggers 15 Aug 12 - 01:13 PM
Howard Jones 15 Aug 12 - 01:43 PM
johncharles 15 Aug 12 - 01:56 PM
Phil Edwards 15 Aug 12 - 03:25 PM
Richard Bridge 15 Aug 12 - 04:09 PM
Don Firth 15 Aug 12 - 04:16 PM
johncharles 15 Aug 12 - 04:25 PM
GUEST,999 15 Aug 12 - 04:32 PM
GUEST,999 15 Aug 12 - 04:36 PM
GUEST,Stim 15 Aug 12 - 08:09 PM
Artful Codger 16 Aug 12 - 12:04 AM
Don Firth 16 Aug 12 - 12:24 AM
Artful Codger 16 Aug 12 - 05:25 AM
GUEST,Stan 16 Aug 12 - 07:02 AM
johncharles 16 Aug 12 - 07:03 AM
Artful Codger 16 Aug 12 - 03:37 PM
GUEST,Stan 16 Aug 12 - 04:42 PM
GUEST,999 16 Aug 12 - 05:13 PM
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Subject: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 06:24 AM

Here's Graeme Allwright singing "Jusqu'a la ceinture", which is his translation of Pete Seeger's "Waist deep in the Big Muddy".

And here's the chord sequence for the first couple of lines:

Am G   F   E   Am   E   Am   E7

Playing the melody through, it seems to be in C (or Am). F and G belong with C (or Am) - but what's that E doing there? (It's definitely E, not Em.)

The answer to "why these chords?" is always ultimately "because they sound right", but what puzzles me is why those E chords do sound right. They both have a G sharp, which seems like it ought to sound discordant - but it doesn't. Qu'est-ce qui se passe?

Graeme Allwright was originally from New Zealand; he emigrated to Britain before settling - and finding success - in France. Rumours that he decided to abandon the English-speaking world to escape the endless "I've just seen Graeme Allwright!"/"Was he any good?" jokes cannot be substantiated.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,JohnMcNeill
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 06:52 AM

My guess would be that the E is the dominant chord leading to Am as it is in the key Am. The G sharp is from the minor scale, not the natural minor.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 07:30 AM

John nailed it.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,loki
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 07:41 AM

don't matter, as long as it sounds right. Am and E maj go together no problem - House of the Rising Sun, Anjii, Old Pendle etc etc etc
A common sequence is Am, G, F, E

May the folk be with you


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: s&r
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 07:42 AM

Not an uncommon sequence - very similar to Jake Thackray's Bantam Cock.

Stu


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 07:43 AM

The G sharp is from the minor scale, not the natural minor.

Could you explain this bit?

Also, if it's in A minor, wouldn't the dominant be E minor, not E maj?


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Artful Codger
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 07:46 AM

The harmonic structure of minor keys is more complex than for major keys because, effectively, three different scales are being used simultaneously, so that the "natural" note choices expand to include both minor and major sevenths and sixths. In particular, the major seventh is often preferred to the (natural) minor seventh when it's a leading tone to the tonic, and this leading relationship notably occurs in the V-to-I progression--in your example, the E to Am progression--transforming the first chord from minor to major.

Note also that, in the natural minor, the diminished triad occurs on the II chord rather than the VII chord, and as the II chord is rather prominent in harmony (in the sequence of fifths, and thus in many progressions, it immediately precedes the V chord) some harmonic adjustment is usually made to avoid the diminished triad, for instance, by lowering the root (!) or raising the diminished fifth back to a perfect fifth (using the major sixth in the expanded scale).

More curious than the major E chord is the downward stepwise chord progression, since usually chord progressions are wont to resolve by fifths. So, pundits, why does that sound right? Is it just because all chord intervals move stepwise melodically, or is there a deeper harmonic explanation? After all, while it's common for IV chords to move to V, V chords move to IV much less often, despite that there is a leading-tone in V that could be said to resolve to the tonic in IV, crossing parts. That doesn't apply to the present example, of course (i-VII-VI-V-i...), but it does illustrate that stepwise chord progressions seem to follow a logic that conflicts in certain respects with normal expectations.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 07:51 AM

The chords in Am are Am, Dm, E7.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: s&r
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 08:21 AM

The 1 4 5 chords are as shown but there are many more

Stu


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 08:30 AM

True to that.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 09:23 AM

Phil, one of the joys of harmonic progressions and variants of them is that you can, for example, actually play notes from one scale against a different scale and get an interesting and exciting sound - even to the extent of discord. It's all in the ear and taste of the musician.

If you listen to "Glen Kabul" by Old Blind Dogs, you'll hear a tune played in one scale set against chords from a different major scale - I forget which, to be precise, but I know that our band plays it in A major with, I think, a Gm set against it. Great stuff - and apologies to anyone if I have the exact keys/chords wrong!

Anyway, the point is that melodic notes don't necessarily have to mesh with the harmonies which underpin the tune. Tensions can be created and then resolved.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 09:38 AM

When you have a song with all white notes except for G#, then what you have is a song in the belly-dance minor. (I listened to the video, and that's right.) I believe piano teachers call it the harmonic minor.

To start from the beginning:

1. Any major scale goes do re mi fa so la ti do.

2. Pick any major scale, start playing it, and observe what its 6th note is.

3. Now play a scale that starts on that 6th note. Keep the sharps and flats the same as before, in Step 1. That's the melodic (I'm pretty sure) minor scale. At my house it's called the ordinary minor.

4. Do step 3 again, only this time, when it's time to play the seventh note, sharp it by one half-step. That's the belly-dance minor.

A B C D E F G# A

Despite its name, the belly-dance minor is capable of being mournful, reverent or saucy, depending.
============
A word about the official terms: I have always thought the terms 'melodic minor' and 'harmonic minor' very silly. I can compose harmony in the melodic or a melody in the harmonic. The names convey nothing. So I call them 'ordinary' and 'belly-dance.'


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: reynard
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 09:40 AM

Yes it's in Am with E7 as the dominant as explained above, very common pattern deriving from classical harmony (Greensleeves, Walk don't run etc). Whereas in modal music the harmonies tend to move parallel through the scale, the dominant sound is favoured by Blues players. A more unusual use of the E7 chord when in the key of C would be Freight Train and its siblings, where the chords move:

C G7 G7 C E7 F C G7 C


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: s&r
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 10:01 AM

Melodic minor is often but not always different going up and coming down to avoid some awkward singing intervals. But I like the belly dance idea

Stu


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 11:08 AM

Can of worms time again.

There are three minor scales.
Natural minor, Harmonic minor and Melodic minor.

The natural minor scale is the one you get if you start on the 6th note of the major scale. In the key of C there are no sharps or flats. The 6th note is A so start a scale there and you get

A B C D E F G and A again. This is the natural minor.

The harmonic minor sharpens the 7th note and you get

A B C D E F G# and A.

This allows you to have an E major chord instead of an E minor or G.

The melodic minor scale is particularly perverse scale because you sharpen the 6th and 7th notes as you go up the scale but you use the natural minor when you descend. So A harmonic minor goes

A B C D E F# G# A G F E D C B A. Weird.

Of course all this is only so if you follow the rules. There are, and always have been musicians who don't know or do know but don't bother to obey the rules. You only need to know these rules if you want to pass music theory exams.

In making music it should be enough for you to like the sounds you make. The rules only ever come after music has been played. They are an attempt to explain what has happened and should not be seen as a 'How to do it' manual.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Amos
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 12:11 PM

The use of the harmonic minor with Am and E (or E7) is common, for example, in Flamenco melodies, in many "come-all-ye" tunes of the Down Derry Down variety (e.g., "Blue Mountain Lake" and "Days of 49"), and in blues constructions in Am (De Kalb Blues, for example).
The use of the traditional minor scale using Am and Em is more frequently found in earlier Anglo traditional tunes (Greensleeves, Henery Martin) among others. But there are no hard and fast rules of class, in my opinion. As soon as you think you have a fixed set of rules,the next song you hear will violate them! :D

Many thanks, Stan, for clarifying the different varieties of minor scale!

A great deal of folk music is written by people who "work the chords" but are not conversant with the intricacies of scales and the musical theory behind them. As a result you get a lot of songs borrowing melodies and chord groupings from each other, and these develop into what are almost cliches in chord sequence and groupings.

A


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 12:52 PM

And let us recall The Ventures "Walk, Don't Run" of Am, G, F, E7 fame.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 01:23 PM

And, of course, Davy Graham's Anji.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,loki
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 01:37 PM

beat ya to it, Guest Stan! (see above)


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 01:42 PM

My oops.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 02:20 PM

Then you have the elusive "mountian minor," which can mean either mixolydian or dorian depending on who's talking. For my money I can not hear mixo as a minor mode.
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 02:49 PM

I was hoping no-one would mention modes but as the mixo is like a major scale with a flattened 7th note it's not minor at all. Dorian, with it's flattened 3rd is.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 03:17 PM

And let us recall The Ventures "Walk, Don't Run" of Am, G, F, E7 fame.

Now that's interesting - I can hear it in my head as I type.

In making music it should be enough for you to like the sounds you make. The rules only ever come after music has been played. They are an attempt to explain what has happened and should not be seen as a 'How to do it' manual.

I'm sure it was meant well, but this kind of comment drives me up the wall. As far as I can see, once you know the rules, you can break them - and the better you know them, the better you can break them. If you don't know the rules, all you can do is plonk your fingers down at random and hope you get a nice sound out - and usually you won't.

Take the sus4 chord - I saw that in the notation of a song I was looking at and had no idea what it was, so I googled it; now I'm using it a lot. I might have blundered into the discovery that D, G and A sound interesting together, but without knowing what I was playing that would just have been a random fact to file away. Admittedly, some people do learn instruments by discovering odd combinations of notes and having their fingers learn every single one, but I really haven't got the time it would require (either hours in the day or years ahead of me!).

Codger: Note also that, in the natural minor, the diminished triad occurs on the II chord rather than the VII chord, and as the II chord is rather prominent in harmony (in the sequence of fifths, and thus in many progressions, it immediately precedes the V chord)

Let me see if I've got this.

Chords in the major scale, key of C:

C: C, E, G (I)
Dmin: D, F, A (ii)
Emin: E, G, B (iii)
F: F, A, C (IV)
G: G, B, D (V)
Amin: A, C, E (vi)
Bdim: B, D, F (vii-wivva-degree-symbol)

Chords in the natural minor, key of A minor:

Amin: A, C, E (i)
Bdim: B, D, F (ii-wivva-degree-symbol)
C: C, E, G (III)
Dmin: D, F, A (iv)
Emin: E, G, B (v)
F: F, A, C (VI)
G: G, B, D (VII)

The harmonic minor also gives you the option of

E: E, G#, B (V)

and presumably

G#dim: G#, B, D (vii-wivva-degree-symbol)

although thinking about sharped keys makes my head hurt.

Sequence of fifths (I know I could google this, but let me try it in caveman-with-a-calculator mode):

Assume key of Cmaj. Then:

C -> G -> D -> hey, I know this one -> And -> Ends -> Battle. Get F in there somewhere. So...

IV -> I -> V -> II -> VI -> III -> VII... is that right? Doesn't look right. Try it descending? Also check those minors.

I -> IV -> vii dim -> iii -> vi -> ii -> V -> I

Presumably different progressions would be used in minor keys. But if you used this one you'd get

i -> iv -> VII -> III -> VI -> ii dim -> v/V -> i

Which in this case would be

Amin -> Dmin -> G -> C -> F -> Bdim -> Emin/E -> Amin

Which isn't quite the progression I started with, but it's close enough - it's got the G, the F and the E, most importantly!


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 03:23 PM

I'm OK with modes - when I'm not baffling myself with chords I play whistle, and you can't get very far without encountering tunes in the hey, why's that seventh flattened? mode (or in the case of Northumbrian tunes, the hey, where's that flattened seventh gone?). Having said that, I do think the best thing about most of the modes is how rarely they're used!


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 03:55 PM

I agree, Phil. Modes are outmoded.

Stan, I forgot about that 'scale' that has different notes depending on whether one is going up or down. I think that is characteristic of Romantic music, and I don't care much for the Romantics. So I repressed their scale.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 04:48 PM

I take your point about knowing the rules before breaking them but in my case it turned out that I knew a lot of them before consciously studying 'music theory'.

I'm self taught and have played professionally and semi professionally for decades. I never earned enough to have serious tax problems and just when I was getting too old to enjoy performing I stumbled into teaching. I could bluff my way with theory, I'd taught myself enough to be able to read guitar and vocal scores, but I had to buckle down and learn ABRSM theory when I was asked to teach it. I was surprised to discover that, other than the vocabulary, there was nothing in grades 1 to 5 that I hadn't already encountered.

There must be a lot of musicians out there who will already know 'the rules' without knowing that they know them. (Scary shades of Rundsfelt!)

I sometimes wonder if we do students that much of a favour when we force teach them stuff which, if they just played and played and played for a couple of decades, would become obvious. Certainly music students have a different perception of the subject than I have. I suspect I've had a less painful experience.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 04:55 PM

leeneia Yes the monstrous melodic minor. I don't know if this is true but somewhere I've come across a story about Elizabethan polyphonists deliberately placing ascending and descending lines of melodic minor music together to get those simultaneous semitone intervals. Maybe some one else will have more on this.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Artful Codger
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 05:07 PM

To clarify Stan's statement (I hope): what primarily defines major vs. minor in scales/modes is the presence of a minor rather than a major third degree in the scale pattern, just as the type of third interval distinguishes between major and minor chords. Mixolydian has a major third in its scale pattern, as do the ubiquitous "major scale" (based on Ionian mode) and the Lydian mode. Dorian, Phrygian, Locrian and the three "minor" scales mentioned above (natural/Aeolian, harmonic and melodic--both ascending and descending) all have minor third degrees, and so are minor scales/modes. Put more simply:

Major modes: "major", Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian
Minor modes: "minor" (natural, harmonic and melodic variants), Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian, Locrian

So, as Stan points out and highlandman rightly hears, to call Mixolydian a "mountain minor" ignores that it's actually a major mode.


I also balk when people try to apply the "major" holy trinity of I-IV-V to other modes, as if all modes just mimic the "major" mode harmonically. Though there are similar harmonic principles at work in all modes, each has its own harmonic conventions and characteristic progressions. In Mixolydian, Dorian and Aeolian, the VII chord, rather than being diminished as in the natural major scale, is a simple major chord, and occurs much more often than the corresponding IV or even V chord in these harmonies. In fact, many songs in these other modes consist entirely of harmonic alternation between just I and VII, with no V or IV chords at all! (Of course, one might view the VII chord as a [now minor] V7 chord with a ghost root, as VII often functions in major, but that ignores that VII can quite naturally support a seventh [VII7], which would then be equivalent to a minor v9! In these modes, VII really functions as an independent and prominent chord.)

My point is that, once you move away from "major", you need to take off the "major" harmonic blinders of what "should be". Sadly, virtually all instrument tutorial books talk about the I-IV-V trinity at length, and then present the benighted "circle" of fifths, as if that tells the rest of the harmonic story. When they start teaching songs in modes other than "major", they stop talking about characteristic progressions entirely and instead just say "here are the new chords you'll need for this song in this key". It's no wonder so many musos have no clue how to explain minor harmony--it's never been adequately explained to them even in terms of characteristic patterns! People just point to the circle of fifths and say, "See those six chords? Use them," (as if there were no other choices or variants of those chords). The first Mixolydian, Dorian or minor pattern they may see is the two-chord I-VII alternation, but no one says why VII-I works, or why it isn't a subset of I-IV-V, they just say "for this song, you'll only need these two chords." Brilliant. Even when they teach a "major" song with a major II chord (technically, V of V), most books won't remark on this anomaly. Why mention it, when you've probably learned how to play that II chord as a V chord in another key--and as far as the teacher is concerned, chord shapes are all you need to know?

It would be useful to have a taxonomy of beginners' 2-5 chord songs, broken out according to mode and the harmonic pattern used. I started this once, going through my tutorial books, but found there was a decided dearth of songs in minor modes, despite the prevalence of minor songs in general. Music teachers, take heed!


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Artful Codger
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 06:53 PM

@ Phil: As you seem to have worked out, the F precedes the C in the fifths sequence, and in resolving progressions you typically move "left" (backwards to the way the fifths sequence is usually layed out, going from flat keys to sharp keys). In other words, you resolve "down" a fifth (= up a fourth) rather than "up" a fifth.

And while the iii-vi-ii-V-I fifths progression, or some subsection of it, is most prominent in harmony, the IV-vii(dim)-iii part of the progression is seldom used. Note particularly that IV-vii(dim) would move by a tritone rather than by a perfect fifth. So IV typically moves to some other chord (not a resolution, per se). The earlier stages of the fifths progression are, in effect, V-I progressions, but temporarily modulated to a different tonic base and relative mode. The farther you get from I, the weaker is the V-I pull (being a modulation of a modulation of a modulation etc.) So while V mostly moves to I, and ii or II mostly move to V, it's harder to predict where a vi chord might be headed.


@ leeneia: The ascending and descending variants of the melodic minor have to do with the "pull" of the tonic. When leading to the tonic, the major seventh is pulled more strongly than the minor seventh, so when ascending melodically, the seventh was modified to a major seventh, but only when followed by the tonic; when instead it is followed by the sixth or some other note, it tends to remain minor. But the raising of the seventh leaves a gap of an augmented second between the sixth and seventh, so when leading to the tonic both the sixth and seventh may be raised, producing the ascending melodic minor pattern. In other words, it's not a hard and fast rule that one raises one or both of the sixth and seventh in ascending melodic passages, and lowers them descending; it's just a tendency that is strongest when the tonic is the target.

Historically (and Jack Campin will surely correct me), I believe this alteration grew out of the extension of the modes to Aeolian, and occurred much earlier than the Romantic era--even before the Elizabethan. The original modes in liturgical use were Dorian, Mixolydian and Phrygian--surprisingly, Ionian and Aeolian, the bases of our now ubiquitous major and minor modes, were later extensions when each note of the common underlying scale pattern was considered as a tonic base rather than a central range point or a "final". Dorian--the primary minor mode until the development of Aeolian--already had a major sixth, so the occasional raising of the seventh in ascending lines was a relatively small adjustment to make there, and was quite common even from early times.

I hardly think the age of modes has passed. Much rock and country music is based on Mixolydian mode, while blues is based on a decidedly modal scale. Riffing in all of these is often restricted to just a pentatonic subset. Fusion with various ethnic traditions keeps reinvigorating our modal mix. Modal purity may be a thing of the past, with frequent chromatic alterations and modulations to different keys or relative modes, but modal music lives on strong. In traditional music, I gravitate to modal tunes as a refreshing break from the unrelentingly predictable major/minor songs. To each his own. But back to "why does this work in minor?"...


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 14 Aug 12 - 10:32 PM

You do know, Phil, that the recording you linked to, (as well as Pete's original version, as performed on the Smothers Brothers show so
many years ago) is in C minor, not A minor? Of course you do...


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 06:12 AM

You're the expert, but if I was playing a song in a key with G natural and B, E and A flat, I don't think I'd make extensive use of chords feature natural Bs, Es and As (not to mention those two G sharps).

I wouldn't assume the two songs are identical but for the language. According to the Internet, Pete Seeger backed the original mostly with Am, Em (ha!) and D7, which is a whole other kettle of fish. He did also use the stepwise Am/G/F/E, but only between verses.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 07:42 AM

Phil Edwards: "I'm sure it was meant well, but this kind of comment drives me up the wall. As far as I can see, once you know the rules, you can break them - and the better you know them, the better you can break them. If you don't know the rules, all you can do is plonk your fingers down at random and hope you get a nice sound out - and usually you won't."

That's true, but by trying notes at random you'll eventually arrive at a combination of notes that does sound right. Of course, you have to have an understanding of what "sounding right" means, but most of us pick that up intuitively through listening to music. Knowing the "rules" will save you time, but on the other hand may constrain you into a certain way of thinking so you miss more creative ways of playing.

Making music is like learning a language. Children learn to talk long before they learn the formal rules of grammar. In the same way it's entirely possible to play music without learning the formal rules and theory of music.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 09:34 AM

Knowing the "rules" will save you time, but on the other hand may constrain you into a certain way of thinking so you miss more creative ways of playing.

Depends what you mean by "rules". As I said above, I learned about sus4 chords by reading about them; I might have blundered onto them eventually through noodling about, but I wouldn't have known what I'd found or how I could replicate it. Knowing what people mean when they refer to a minor 7th or a sub-dominant strikes me as a net gain - a piece of knowledge that increases your options. I suspect the bad habits start one level above that, when people start 'knowing' that all you need for any song is I, IV and V. One level above that you get the kind of knowledge Artful Codger has been talking about - e.g. that you can quite often go I-IV-[somewhere else]-ii-V-I - and that again is empowering, I think.

I guess we play by different proportions of feel and knowledge, and I'm over on the knowledge side. Years ago, when I was at a friend's house, he started noodling on a guitar & passed me another guitar to play with. I plucked a couple of strings and then just looked at him - OK, what do I do now? He was just as baffled as I was, for the opposite reason - go mad, do whatever you want - but the way it seemed to me was that I didn't have the knowledge to go mad on a guitar (except in the literal, Wild Man Fischer sense). I've always liked the story of how Nick Drake started using open tunings - sitting in a hotel room in Morocco, doubtless in a cloud of smoke, he detuned all the strings and started from scratch - but if I tried anything like that I'd give up after half an hour and spend the rest of the day trying to find low E again.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 11:29 AM

Okay, Phil, you've played the belly-dance minor in one song. Time for another:


gloomy winter's now awa

That should take you to the abc and MIDI of a tune (Lord Balgonie's Favorite) now famous as "Gloomy Winter's Now Awa."   You can hear it on YouTube, though I think most of those performances sound too slow and sad. Give it a try.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Foggers
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 01:13 PM

"Mountain minor" is a very elastic term. Often it is used to refer to a particular banjo tuning (gDGCD, or aEADE if capoed up 2 frets). The other common term for this tuning is "Sawmill". In this sense it is not really a scale with a distinctive set of intervals, rather it is a tuning that lends itself to playing in minor keys. And of course, old time banjo was very influenced by modes that were still in use in traditional music.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Howard Jones
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 01:43 PM

Phil, I'm not saying that a knowledge of music theory isn't useful, that's obviously not the case. However the theory is a means of describing the music, rather than a necessity for creating it. If the theory then helps you to replicate what's been played, fine,but you don't need to know what a sus4 chord is to be able to play it.

My first instrument was guitar, which I learned to play from a book. As a result I think of chords as fingering shapes rather than a collection of notes. Over the years I've learned a little bit about how chords are constructed, but that doesn't have much bearing on how I play them. When I play in open tunings I don't even know what the notes or the chords are, but I know which fingering patterns will produce the effect I want.

When I'm arranging a tune, I can hear in my head what sound I want and experiment with the fingerings until I get it. I don't need to know that it's a sus4 in order to to do that (although I agree that knowing that would make it easier to communicate with other musicians, and easier to create the same effect again).

I'm not suggesting this approach is better than being able to work it out from the theory. I am however supporting Stan's proposition that the rules only ever come after music has been played, which you were disagreeing with.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: johncharles
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 01:56 PM

If you play more than two chords, you're showing off.
Woody Guthrie
If it has more than three chords, it's jazz.
Lou Reed
John


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 03:25 PM

Howard - I think guitar lends itself to playing by feel much more than some instruments. One of the best guitarists I know sometimes struggles to find chords if they're written down in front of him, and struggles even more to explain what he plays if it's not written down ("it's... D plus a bit"). Coming from wind instruments, one thing I like about learning (English) concertina is that the notes are right there - you want an A, you press the A button, you get an A. It makes it easy to take chords off the page ("would a D6 give me the sound I want?") but not so easy to noodle around ("would I get the sound I want if I put this finger here instead of here?").


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 04:09 PM

My head hurts


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 04:16 PM

Howard is right in saying that the rules come after the music has been played. This is how music theory came about in the first place. This goes all the way back to Pythagoras experimenting with taut strings in an effort to determine if music were inherent in nature, and his basic attempt to describe nature in terms of numbers and ratios.

And he found that this was indeed the case!

Then musicians studied what other musicians did that was successful in terms of creating the desired effects, and thus the "rules" of music theory were born.

One of the best lessons in music theory that I had at the U. of Washington School of Music was sitting in class with a pencil in my hand and a folio of Beethoven string quartets, writing in what chords the quartet was playing—each instrument playing an individual note, but looked at "vertically," they constituted a four note chord. And what were those notes? And what preceded this chord and where is it going? And why did Beethoven write it that way?

Music theory is not necessarily a bunch of "restrictive rules" that will limit "natural musicianship" as I had been warned by a few other folkies, but an exploration of good musicians had done, which proved successful, and generally, what was possible.

When you find an "odd-ball" out of key note in a particular chord within a piece of music, such as an E major with its G# when you're in the key of C, notice the chord that follows. More often than not, in that situation, it will go to either an Am or an F major.

The maverick G# resolves to an A in both the Am and the F major chords.

You build a smidgen of tension with the out-of-key (or "accidental") note. "Drop the other shoe." Then when you play the Am or F major, the G# moves up a half-step to the A, and the other shoe drops.

It's a little thing, perhaps, but it works very nicely. A little salt on what could otherwise be a somewhat bland dish.

Now, of course, this, like salt, can be overdone, with unpleasant results!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: johncharles
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 04:25 PM

richard, at least with a guitar there are frets which limits the number of chords to 40,000 plus. get a fretless banjo and you can get all the sneaky inbetween notes.
I am sticking with four chords and a capo.
john


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,999
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 04:32 PM

"limits the number of chords to 40,000 plus."

Sheeeit! I was doing a count of the chords I know and had got to 39,988. I got so darned excited to see I had only 12 left to recall and BOOM, I forget what key I had not done. Back to the drawing board.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,999
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 04:36 PM

"Music theory is not necessarily a bunch of "restrictive rules" that will limit "natural musicianship" as I had been warned by a few other folkies, but an exploration of good musicians had done, which proved successful, and generally, what was possible."

Truer words was never spoke.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 08:09 PM

I don't mean to give you a hard time, Phil (anyone who mentions Larry "Wild Man" Fischer and Nick Drake in the same post has got a permanent friend in me, no matter how crazy you might turn out to be), but I listened to both versions on YouTube, and worked through the chords,(I turn out to be fairly crazy, too, though), and, they are in C minor.

Pete was playing from an Am position, capoed up (I think to the 5th fret, because his 12 is tuned down a full step, as was once common practice) but it was/is in C minor.

That provocative descending bass line was beaten to death in pop/folk/ersatz jazz tunes for years after "16 Tons" was a big hit for Tennesee Ernie Ford. It is a descending counterpoint line, and the chords are built on those descending notes. If one was so inclined, one could create a perfectly fine chord progression for the same melody that didn't outline that descending counterpoint line.

More provocative than the descending bass line, though, was the fact that Pete stood there on a Sunday night in front of America, and sang this altogether too thinly veiled allegory about the Vietnam war, knowing that there would be nowhere to hide after he finished it, because it was pretty likely that "The Big Fool" himself was watching.

There was a lot more to performing that song than just learning the chord sequence.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Artful Codger
Date: 16 Aug 12 - 12:04 AM

999, did you remember the key of R?


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Aug 12 - 12:24 AM

Pirate songs are supposed to be sung in the key of "Aarrgh!"

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Artful Codger
Date: 16 Aug 12 - 05:25 AM

And "Old Dog Tray" is sung in the key of "Arf!" while "Son of a Gambolier" is in Ace-sharp and "Little Joe the Wrangler" is in Beef-flat.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 16 Aug 12 - 07:02 AM

So should all shanties be in the key of C?


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: johncharles
Date: 16 Aug 12 - 07:03 AM

Dark as a Dungeon - A minor


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: Artful Codger
Date: 16 Aug 12 - 03:37 PM

Sorry, but as long as we're punishing a flogged horse that's wandered way off-topic...

"Ya gotta quit kickin' my dog around" - G-whiz.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,Stan
Date: 16 Aug 12 - 04:42 PM

Ever since Phil talked about sus4 chords I've been trying to remember my first sus4 encounter. For a long time I thought it was 'I need you' by the Beatles. It's in the film Help. On Salisbury plain surrounded by the army. Silly but fun.

However I think that my first encounter with sus4s was the Searchers and Needles and Pins. Got to be earlier than Help. Both tracks use 2 chords as well as sus4s.

What was your first sus4?


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Explain this chord sequence
From: GUEST,999
Date: 16 Aug 12 - 05:13 PM

"999, did you remember the key of R?"

Artful, in the parlance, "You da man!"


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