Author Topic: Major Keys vs relative minor  (Read 285 times)

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Offline BurnleyNuts

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Major Keys vs relative minor
« on: October 14, 2018, 01:00:17 am »
Been playing for over thirty years now but only really recently started to get my head around proper music theory, I understand much but there's always so much more to learn. I've been following Justin's website and You tube for about a year and learned so much in the last six months, his teaching is superb.  A question though that I can't just get my head around (yet), I watched recently the Rut buster vid with the Captain and Justin on Chords and keys and I was really motivated by learning keys in which songs are in by understanding from the chords in a song that when for example you have two major chords together using Justin's easy formula that you can work out the Root key for example a song with D, E, F#m, A, Bm and C#m will be in the key of A. I was really excited to discover this and as Justin suggests I set about using this theory to apply it to songs I know already and therefore locate the relevant keys. Now I've had lots of good success with this but also a few failures too...and I've only just realised how my failures are not entirely wrong, and I kind of almost understand why but not fully so I'm hoping someone can help. Certain songs I'm getting the key wrong but in effect correct only to find that the true key is it's 'relative minor' as per the circle of fifths. So for example Comfortably Numb I have Bm, A, G, Em, F#m, D so by my reckoning that song is in the key of D (D features heavily in the chorus so I was confident), however the key is actually in the relative minor key of Bm. I'm naive and green when it comes to some of this theory so can anybody help me to understand how I can spot or tell the difference in a song that's in a major key or it's relative minor easily. Ta. By the way Justin has transformed my turgid guitar playing, understanding and enthusiasm in a matter of months, the bloke is a teaching genius.
   

Offline Majik

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2018, 04:02:53 am »
There's not really a definitive way. In general, if a song primarily sounds minor, especially if it seems to resolve back to a minor chord rather than a major one, then it could be considered minor rather than major.

But, with many songs, it's not cut and dried as they can move from sounding quite major at times to sounding minor at others. For instance, the verse of a song may have a chord sequence that uses only (or mainly) the minor chords, and that will sound minor, but the chorus may use mainly major chords and sound major.

At the end of the day, major or relative minor, the chords and scale notes are the same, so defining a song as specifically major or minor shouldn't make that much difference.

In fact, major (Ionian) and minor (Aeolian) are just two possible options out of seven of you want to get into modal theory.

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Keith

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Offline Omar

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2018, 09:51:22 am »
I agree with @Majik it’s how you resolve the chords.

Take “Hey Joe” as an example. The chords are, C, G, D, A, E and back to C. All major chords and they resolve nicely to each other in the context. As Keith said, there is no definitive way in music, if it sounds good then it’s good. Sometimes you play in a key and borrow some chords from a different key.

Offline Matt125

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2018, 10:04:32 am »
The first thing to do is to try and find parent major scale. i.e. what major scale do the chords belong to. 

So the chords Bm, A, G, Em, F#m, D belong to the key of D Major.

Next try to find the root note/chord.  Not always easy but it is the note that the song resolves to, the home note, the note that the song seems to centre around.  Quite often it is the last note/chord of the song.  So if the the parent major scale is D and the song resolves or finishes on Bm and the note B feels like home then it is likely that the piece is in Bm.  If the song resolves to D and the note D feels like home  then it is likely that the song is in D major.  If it resolves to E (or Em chord) then it might be E Dorian etc.


But it's not always that simple. Songs can have key changes. The chorus might be in a different key to the verse.  Also notice that comfortably numb has a C major chord in it. This is not in the Key of D/Bm. So something more complicated is going on.

Comfortably numb is not a simple one key song and is explained here:
https://www.guitarmusictheory.com/in-what-key-is-comfortably-numb-by-pink-floyd/







Offline close2u

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2018, 10:08:34 am »
It depends on what feels like 'home' in the song.
For the verses of Comfortably Numb that is Bm so you would say this part of the song is in the key of Bm.

For the chorus it is less easy.
The D, A, G section is in D Major.
When the C to G chord appears this can be seen as a quick key change to the key of C.

In terms of soloing:
Verse … Bm pentatonic mostly

Chorus … D major pentatonic but when the C chord appears D mixolydian (which has a flat 7 = the note C).

Offline BurnleyNuts

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2018, 12:55:58 pm »
Ah thanks for the replies guys, all four of you have really helped my knowledge. I now realise that I was actually on the right track in my understanding keys but you have given me some confidence in that there's no real definitive answer as such, which is great because I was concerned that I was missing something. Also I think I've been a bit narrow minded in not remembering that keys can actually change within songs too. I was being a bit too simplistic. I really like your explanation regarding finding the song's major key and then looking for how it resolves or gets to a home chord. It's really broadened my understanding and given me more confidence that I'm on the right lines.
Cheers guys.   

Offline tinhorn21

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2018, 04:16:00 am »
Best advice I can give is usually (but not always because rules in music are made to be broken) pieces of music will start and finish with the key chord...so if you are in B minor look and see whether the beginning and end chords are B minor, or if u are in D major look for start and finish chords of D major.
Another guideline to help point towards a minor key is to look at the 7th degree of the scale. Very often (but not always!) this will be a semi tone below the tonic or keynote...so in B minor look for an A sharp. The 7th degree of the scale (known as the leading note) is very powerful in helping to establish the key of a piece of music and is most often a semi tone below the tonic or key note.

Hope this helps...it sounds more complicated than it actually is...just remember that each fret on the guitar fingerboard is a semi tone step.

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Offline BurnleyNuts

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2018, 10:41:11 pm »
Many thanks for this advice Tinhorn. it all really helps. I'm glad I asked now as it's helped my understanding  keys much better.

Online stitch101

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2018, 10:59:52 pm »
Another guideline to help point towards a minor key is to look at the 7th degree of the scale. Very often (but not always!) this will be a semi tone below the tonic or keynote...so in B minor look for an A sharp. The 7th degree of the scale (known as the leading note) is very powerful in helping to establish the key of a piece of music and is most often a semi tone below the tonic or key note.


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Tinhorn I think you are confusing the B minor scale with B Major.
The chords in the key of B minor are Bm, C#dim, D, Em, F#m G and A not A#.
The chords in the key of B major are B, C#m, D#m, E, F#, G#m amd A#dim.

 

Offline tinhorn21

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2018, 01:26:03 am »
I hear what you are saying but just to point out that in a minor key the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale can be raised thus giving G sharp and A sharp. So...very often in minor keys the chords based on the 4th and 5th degrees of the scale become major instead of minor chords...in this case Em and F# major.
Not posting this reply to score  points or argue in any way but purely to add to the knowledge bank that we all contribute to on here

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Online stitch101

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Re: Major Keys vs relative minor
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2018, 02:10:32 am »
I noticed in your previous post you have mentioned you have taught music for
30 years, mostly piano. This forum is made up of mostly beginners and will
have a hard time understanding what you are talking about.
Not all piano theory translates to guitar all that well.
What you are talking about is all based on the D major scale and does apply to
the B Minor scale but is far from beginner guitar theory.
The definition of a minor scale is it has a flat 3rd and flat 7th of it's relative major
so once you change minor chords to major you are no longer playing in a minor
key, you're crepping into modes. And this is a whole new section on theory.



 

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