Author Topic: Major/relative minor keys  (Read 526 times)

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Online willsie01

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Major/relative minor keys
« on: December 23, 2020, 12:16:42 pm »
The chords in the key of C and it's relative minor key Am are the same but on different scale degrees.
How do I know whether a song is in C Major or Am when the both use the same chords?
What are the indicators?
Scarborough Fair, e.g., starts with Am. Does that meant that's its key signature?
I've just reached the end of grade 4 of PMT and don't believe this has been covered unless I missed something!

Offline Majik

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2020, 01:40:59 pm »
I think it's really down to the feel of the song, and which chords are used predominantly.

For instance, a lot of very-clearly-major songs will use the I-IV-V chords in the major key (all major chords). There is no doubt these songs are major. Similarly, a lot of very-clearly-minor songs will use the i-iv-v chords in the minor key (all minor chords).

Commonly, songs which are very-clearly-major chords will throw in the odd minor chord. The very common pop 4-chord progression is a I-V-vi-IV which will give a mainly major sound. There are equivalents in minor keys.

Additionally, if the song seems to resolve to a minor chord, then I would call it minor too.

But there's a lot of songs where it really isn't clear whether they are in the major or minor key, and sometimes even different versions of the printed music will have different keys on them.

And then there are other modes to consider...

I think, at the end of the day, having a definitive label isn't that important. Knowing that it is is, for instance, C-major, but might be A minor (or, possibly, D Dorian, etc.) is really all you need to know most of the time. Narrowing it down to a specific mode doesn't really change that much practically for most of us.

Cheers,

Keith

Offline close2u

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2020, 02:02:21 pm »
This question has come up in various guises before.

Is A minor chord 'home' or does the song feel happy and settled on C Major?

If a song is in A minor then quite often the E chord (which would ordinarily be E minor) is aletred to E7 as that has much more pull and wants to resolve that much more strongly back to the tonic chord of A minor.

Try it and listen

Play any kind of chord progression that finishes on A minor chord, using the chords in the key of C / Am, but not starting on either of those.
For instance: G, C, Dm, Em, Am (there are many different permutations of course, this is just one suggestion).
Now alter the E chord and play: G, C, Dm, E7, Am.
Do you hear how the E7 really does lead beautifully to the final Am chord?
You would place this as a progression in the key of A minor.

A progression in the key of C Major would not alter the Em to an E7. To create a similar pull back to the tonic chord, the G chord would be the one that is altered to a G7.
Try: F, C, Am, Em, G, C.
Now try F, C, Am, Em, G7, C.
Do you hear the difference?

There is something about a dominant 7 chord that pulls stringly back and resolves to the tonic chord.
So how do you recognise this?

C Major chords:

C,    Dm,   Em,   F,    G,    Am,   Bdim
1     2     3     4     5     6     7

A minor chords:

Am,   Bdim,  C,    Dm,   Em,   F,     G
1      2     3      4     5     6      7



Which numeric chord in the sequence is altered to become a dominant 7 chord so it has the effect of pulling towards / wanting to resolve to the tonic chord?

The 5th.

So there is a huge indicator. If a chord progression has a dominant 7th it will pull towards the tonic chord so you can determine the key from that.

... caveat ...

Unless the dominant 7 chord is a secondary dominant within a more complex chord progression ... but that is for another time.

Online adi_mrok

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2020, 12:48:25 pm »
Wow what a great explanation Richard, something that I was wondering about too not that long ago but decided to try and grasp it a bit later in my journey. Thanks and your knowledge is really amazing!

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Offline Matt125

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2020, 11:46:12 pm »
Scarborough Fair does not use the Am or C chords.  I suspect you found a tab that said the chords are Am, G, C and D.  These are the chord SHAPES if you place a capo on the 7th fret.

So the chords of Scarborough Fair are really Em, D, G and A.

Here is a technique for figuring out the key of a song.  It doesn't always work because some  songs are harmonically more complex and use chords from more than one key.

Step1.  Find the root note.
To do this you have to listen to the song. Just knowing the chords is not enough. What is the one note that the song resolves to, the note that makes you feel you have arrived home?   Typically its the final note of the song (but not always). In the case of Scarborough Fair it is the note E. So we know that the song is in E something.   Determining the root note of a song by ear is an important skill that you need to learn and become proficient at.

Step 2. Find the chords
In this case the chords are Em, D, G and A. Look them up if necessary.

Step 3.
Find the  Parent Major Scale.
Look at this table.

Notice that there is only one scale that contains  the chords Em, D, G and A.  It is the the D major scale.

Step 4 Find the degree of the root note.
Notice that E is the second note of the D major scale.

Step 5.
Determine the key/mode.
Now since the songs uses the chords of the D but the root note is E we would say that the song is in E dorian.
It is not in the key Em since Em uses the chord Am and not A.



Offline close2u

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2020, 12:21:04 am »
... So the chords of Scarborough Fair are really Em, D, G and A....

That changes everything - and I should have looked the chords up as Matt has or asked.
Good work Matt.

Note:

Dorian is a minor key but not called 'minor' ...
Dorian is one of the seven modes.
Just like the chords in a given major key are 3 major, 3 minor and one weird one (diminished) so the types of mode based off a major scale are 3 major (type), 3 minor (type) and 1 weird type.
There is only one mode called THE MAJOR SCALE and it is the Ionian - in other words the actual major scale itself, the two are entirely synonymous.
The is only one mode called THE MINOR SCALE and it is the Aeolian - also known as the relative minor or natural minor but most commonly called simply 'minor'.

The 3 major type modes are major types as within their scales they all have a Major 3rd interval.
The 3 minor type modes are minor type as within their scales they all have a minor (flattened) 3rd interval.

Online willsie01

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2021, 11:18:25 pm »
This question has come up in various guises before.

Is A minor chord 'home' or does the song feel happy and settled on C Major?

If a song is in A minor then quite often the E chord (which would ordinarily be E minor) is aletred to E7 as that has much more pull and wants to resolve that much more strongly back to the tonic chord of A minor.

Try it and listen

Play any kind of chord progression that finishes on A minor chord, using the chords in the key of C / Am, but not starting on either of those.
For instance: G, C, Dm, Em, Am (there are many different permutations of course, this is just one suggestion).
Now alter the E chord and play: G, C, Dm, E7, Am.
Do you hear how the E7 really does lead beautifully to the final Am chord?
You would place this as a progression in the key of A minor.

A progression in the key of C Major would not alter the Em to an E7. To create a similar pull back to the tonic chord, the G chord would be the one that is altered to a G7.
Try: F, C, Am, Em, G, C.
Now try F, C, Am, Em, G7, C.
Do you hear the difference?

There is something about a dominant 7 chord that pulls stringly back and resolves to the tonic chord.
So how do you recognise this?

C Major chords:

C,    Dm,   Em,   F,    G,    Am,   Bdim
1     2     3     4     5     6     7

A minor chords:

Am,   Bdim,  C,    Dm,   Em,   F,     G
1      2     3      4     5     6      7



Which numeric chord in the sequence is altered to become a dominant 7 chord so it has the effect of pulling towards / wanting to resolve to the tonic chord?

The 5th.

So there is a huge indicator. If a chord progression has a dominant 7th it will pull towards the tonic chord so you can determine the key from that.

... caveat ...

Unless the dominant 7 chord is a secondary dominant within a more complex chord progression ... but that is for another time.

I see what you mean! I can't put it into theory but I hear when the Em is changed to an E7 you have a movement of the notes D & G# to E & A which sounds great. Similarly, changing the G to G7 adds an F to E movement that is very musical. This one often appears as a G G7 C chord progression doesn't it, when you get the descending notes G F E on the 1st string.


Online willsie01

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2021, 11:20:49 pm »
Scarborough Fair does not use the Am or C chords.  I suspect you found a tab that said the chords are Am, G, C and D.  These are the chord SHAPES if you place a capo on the 7th fret.

So the chords of Scarborough Fair are really Em, D, G and A.

Here is a technique for figuring out the key of a song.  It doesn't always work because some  songs are harmonically more complex and use chords from more than one key.

Step1.  Find the root note.
To do this you have to listen to the song. Just knowing the chords is not enough. What is the one note that the song resolves to, the note that makes you feel you have arrived home?   Typically its the final note of the song (but not always). In the case of Scarborough Fair it is the note E. So we know that the song is in E something.   Determining the root note of a song by ear is an important skill that you need to learn and become proficient at.

Step 2. Find the chords
In this case the chords are Em, D, G and A. Look them up if necessary.

Step 3.
Find the  Parent Major Scale.
Look at this table.

Notice that there is only one scale that contains  the chords Em, D, G and A.  It is the the D major scale.

Step 4 Find the degree of the root note.
Notice that E is the second note of the D major scale.

Step 5.
Determine the key/mode.
Now since the songs uses the chords of the D but the root note is E we would say that the song is in E dorian.
It is not in the key Em since Em uses the chord Am and not A.

Hi Matt, I know where your coming from but you haven't heard  my mate Brian have you. When he's singing Scarborough Fair there ain't no Capo and it's using Am & C!

Offline close2u

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2021, 11:44:04 pm »
... I hear when the Em is changed to an E7 you have a movement of the notes D & G# to E & A which sounds great.
Yes.
Quote
... changing the G to G7 adds an F to E movement that is very musical.
Yes. Yes.
Quote
This one often appears as a G G7 C chord progression doesn't it, when you get the descending notes G F E on the 1st string.
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Offline close2u

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Re: Major/relative minor keys
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2021, 11:47:07 pm »
Hi Matt, I know where your coming from but you haven't heard  my mate Brian have you. When he's singing Scarborough Fair there ain't no Capo and it's using Am & C!
Your friend must have a different vocal range and he is playing in a key to suit his voice.
The same logic applies.
Your friend has transposed from the original key to a new one.
He is playing in A Dorian if following the chords (chord shapes) ascabove.

 

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