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Thread: Chord progression tonal center trouble...

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    When improvising on secondary dominants, the usual scale is determined by the target chord. If the target is major, then the scale on the preceding V will normally be mixolydian (major scale of target). (This applies even if the target turns out to be another dom7 - eg, if D7 in key of C went to G7, we'd still use the G major scale on the D7 - the F# is critical.)
    I didn't read it all yet, and have question for this part

    So we talk about a myxolydian scale.
    However talking about a mode implies the we are hearing a tonic on G, otherwise we could not hear myxolidian. What note we considered as the gravity point is what alows us to hear the mode.
    But G is not considered a tonic, not even secondary, so my question is what are we supposed to really hear here then ?
    E phrygian from the main tonal center ? G major ?
    A chromatic mix of both ?

    I agree that while playing a full scale some scale might fit better, but when playing a melody we don't play the scale entirely, so unless the melody gives obvious hints, what can make believe we should hear something or something else ?

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Another (simpler) way of determing scales on such chords is to simply adjust the diatonic scale to accommodate the chromatic chord tones. So, for that B7, you use the C major scale, but you just raise the D and F to D# and F# so it fits the B7. That happens to give you - hey presto! - the E harmonic minor scale. (But you dont need to know that; you just work from practicalities.)
    For me hearing it is what is practical.
    I can hear an E harmonic scale and reconize it, no problem.
    However I want to know if on this B7 I am supposed to hear a tonal center on E, and feel like I am in E minor.
    Knowing wich scale I can play is not really what interest me, I consider I know what I can play by just humming it, however I am trying to find strategies to know what note I am playing.
    Relating to a tonal center helped me a lot, however I want to know how melodic notes are relating to a tonicized root.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Likewise, for an A7 chord going to Dm in key of C; you just need to raise the C note to C#, and keep the rest of the scale. That happens to give you D melodic minor, but again you don't need to know that. (These solutions may not be the best possible, but they will always work. The ear wil not object.)
    what I tried to is get rid of the 7 notes per scale dogma and do like I have a scale like C C# D E F G A B
    I don't get rid of the C, I just consider C like the other non chord tones.
    Or an obvious chromatic approach to C#. (wich is funny since C is the main tonal center.)

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    As for the "secondary tonics" (the diatonic target chords of the secondary dominants), these normally take the scale of the key. So when B7 goes to Em in key of C, we'd normally expect the Em to take the C major scale. This is the essential difference between a "tonicisation" (via a secondary dominant) and a "modulation" (to a new key).
    Eg, we could find a B7-Em move in key of C where the Em actually was a new tonic. In that case, E aeolian (natural minor) would probably be the scale used, or possibly even harmonic or melodic minor.
    If it's not a modulation, why bother searching the scale that might start on the root of B7 chord by relating it to the equivalent key of the tonicized root of Em that we will never be in ?

    I really want to know what to hear. Maybe I should just hear "a secondary dominant" or "a tonicisation" and that should be enough to describe that, but I fill like we lack words for this, and using mode names is just misleading as well.

    Maybe tonicizations etcetera are in fact kind of like what could be optical illusions to our eyes ?
    Like blurred effects, like an illusion that a modulation will happen but in fact isn't.

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    Last edited by boby; 09-01-2010 at 02:01 PM.

  3. #18
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    For me hearing it is what is practical.
    I can hear an E harmonic scale and reconize it, no problem.
    However I want to know if on this B7 I am supposed to hear a tonal center on E, and feel like I am in E minor.
    Well I don't know about "supposed" exactly, but basically yes.
    B7 - in isolation - should suggest a key centre of E. And seeing as E minor (not major) has previously been established as the tonality, then we would expect a B7 to be followed by Em.
    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    Knowing wich scale I can play is not really what interest me, I consider I know what I can play by just humming it, however I am trying to find strategies to know what note I am playing.
    Relating to a tonal center helped me a lot, however I want to know how melodic notes are relating to a tonicized root.
    Interesting question - not sure how it applies here.
    Notes in a melody (outside of any harmony) do tend to suggest a tonal centre if we hear enough different ones.
    I think it's quite a subtle thing how we determine a key from a melody: it's not only the pitch collection, but how the melody directs our ear. The notes of the C major scale, at random, could have any one of several key (mode) centres. C would be the most likely, but a melody could direct our ear to another - either by using that note frequently, or combining it with its dominant (5 notes above or 4 below).

    Of course, when chords are present, they do the main (if not the whole) job of signalling key and key centre.
    Which is of course because a chord sequence represents 3 or 4 (or more) simultaneous melodies, so we have a lot more information to go on, can decide a lot quicker. It only takes 3 chords - C-F-G - to tell us the key is C major, because those chords contain every note of the scale. (Although how those chords are used might point to another tonal centre, namely G mixolydian. F lydian would be much less likely.)
    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    what I tried to is get rid of the 7 notes per scale dogma and do like I have a scale like C C# D E F G A B
    I don't get rid of the C, I just consider C like the other non chord tones.
    Or an obvious chromatic approach to C#. (wich is funny since C is the main tonal center.)
    That's a good approach.
    Certainly it is a kind of "dogma" to treat a scale as something fixed, or to link one scale with one chord. A tonality is generally comprised of 7 notes, but any of the other 5 (chromatic alterations) can be used at any time melodically, as approach notes.
    And that works in a chord by chord context, not in a scale context.
    So if you have a B7 chord, you have 4 notes given. Of the 8 other possibilities (for melodic improvisation) you have 3 diatonic notes and 5 chromatics. At least one of the 3 diatonic notes may be debatable, esp if the key is minor (C or C#?). The diatonic/chromatic distinction (relative to the key) is not necessarily the best guide as to what sounds right relative to the chord.
    Personally I would tend to think about where the B7 was going (Em, Emaj, or somewhere else) and choose my passing notes accordingly. In particular, Em or Emaj would probably determine whether I used G or G# (over the B7). But even in E minor, G# makes an approach to the A, and both notes could be used in heading for E major.
    IOW, once a following chord is introduced into the equation, that ranks the choices in some way. If an Em chord is following, then E and G become significant passing notes to use over the B7.

    So, while I often have a scale in the back of my mind (diatonic key), I always think from the chord tones, and about ways of linking them from chord to chord.
    This is not the "best" method, just the method that produces the sounds I like. (And of course, some styles of music also dictate choices: chromaticism is less appropriate in some idioms than others.)
    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    If it's not a modulation, why bother searching the scale that might start on the root of B7 chord by relating it to the equivalent key of the tonicized root of Em that we will never be in ?
    It may not be a modulation, but a secondary dominant is still targetting a chord, just like the primary dominant does, so it makes sense to me to treat it the same way. That's the purpose of a secondary dominant (otherwise the composer could just have used the diatonic chord).
    It's when you get on to the target chord that things might change. So I (probably) wouldn't treat that chord as a tonic. (It might depend where the chord is going, and certainly on any extensions on the chord.)
    So, if I had C-E7-A7 in key of C (as in Nobody Knows You), I would treat the E7 as if it was going to A minor - making the minimal changes necessary from C major. I would treat the A7 as if it was going to either D or Dm. When the Dm arrived, I might treat it as the ii in C major. OR a tonic in Dm if I felt it would work.
    This doesn't imply scales necessarily, simply a choice of passing notes between chord tones. (OK, you could spell the set of notes out and arrive at a scale, but there's no need to go that far.)
    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    I really want to know what to hear. Maybe I should just hear "a secondary dominant" or "a tonicisation" and that should be enough to describe that, but I fill like we lack words for this, and using mode names is just misleading as well.
    The way I hear secondary dominants is like an injection of forward energy into a chord sequence. It's a slightly different kind of tension from that of a primary dominant. The latter is a high point of tension in the key, which "falls back" to the tonic - a very predictable and "safe" sense of relief: like a detective story where you know it will come out all right in the end, after the denouement you know is coming. A secondary dominant kind of introduces an interesting subplot, a change in focus, a sidetrack - one of the characters in the story suddenly has a more interesting tale to tell. But it doesn't throw the whole story off track, it's just a diversion which injects energy into the story, stops the narrative path being too predictable or cliched.
    (Of course, secondary dominants themselves are cliche devices - which is why it's quite common to lead them to deceptive cadences - that interesting side character was wearing a disguise after all!)
    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    Maybe tonicizations etcetera are in fact kind of like what could be optical illusions to our eyes ?
    Like blurred effects, like an illusion that a modulation will happen but in fact isn't.
    Yes, that's quite a good analogy. It's one of the things that keeps harmony interesting. If chords just went where we expected all the time - staying in key, moving in cycles of 5ths - music would be very dull. Good composers are always confounding expectations, in subtle ways: using deceptive cadences, delaying resolutions, using suspensions, etc, etc. It's all a teasing game - or should be anyhow (if music is not to be bland - although bland music does have its purposes).

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    I didn't read it all yet, and have question for this part

    So we talk about a myxolydian scale.
    However talking about a mode implies the we are hearing a tonic on G, otherwise we could not hear myxolidian. What note we considered as the gravity point is what alows us to hear the mode.
    Agreed. "Mixolydian" is only a word in the context I was using it in - which is why I put "major scale of target" in brackets.
    I only mentioned the mode because I was comparing it with other options based on the chord root.
    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    But G is not considered a tonic, not even secondary, so my question is what are we supposed to really hear here then ?
    E phrygian from the main tonal center ? G major ?
    Well as I said above, I don't know about "supposed", I just know what I hear.

    In the example I gave - C-D7-G7 (key of C) - I would (I think) hear D7 as V/V. Not (strictly speaking) as a mixolydian chord, but as a dominant of G major - dominant of the dominant, in fact. I might (in fact probably would) also hear it as the major II chord - a major version of Dm, or the C chord raised by a whole step.
    I think all these three sounds would combine in my head, because they are all natural points of reference, ways of interpreting a chord that "doesn't belong": when we hear an odd sound in music, we try to find ways of explaining it: what is it like? What "normal" sound is it closest to, an alteration of?
    Often following chords will prove our guesses right or wrong, which is part of the pleasure we get from listening to music. "Hey where's this weird chord going to go?... ah yeah, I knew it! clever!" - or alternatively - "hey, wtf, it's gone somewhere else! cool!"

    When the G7 arrived I would then hear that simply as the dominant of C major.
    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    I agree that while playing a full scale some scale might fit better, but when playing a melody we don't play the scale entirely, so unless the melody gives obvious hints, what can make believe we should hear something or something else ?
    Context. Previously established key centre, previously heard chords or melody.
    We tend to expect music to stay in one key, once established. If it goes off somewhere else, we are waiting for it to return - we try to hang on to a memory of the old key, and match it to the new sounds for as long as we can, guess how they relate. Sometimes we have to give up, of course (if a new key really has been established). But with secondary dominants this process is usually very short. In pop/rock/jazz, the chromaticism is usually only around 1 or 2 bars in length, before the original key is re-affirmed. (In classical music, modulating to the dominant is very common, and there may be lengthy sequences in that key, before the music returns to the original key. IMO, we still retain some memory of the old key, even after we've given up trying to relate the modulation to it.)

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    In the example I gave - C-D7-G7 (key of C) - I would (I think) hear D7 as V/V. Not (strictly speaking) as a mixolydian chord, but as a dominant of G major - dominant of the dominant, in fact. I might (in fact probably would) also hear it as the major II chord - a major version of Dm, or the C chord raised by a whole step.
    I think all these three sounds would combine in my head, because they are all natural points of reference, ways of interpreting a chord that "doesn't belong": when we hear an odd sound in music, we try to find ways of explaining it: what is it like? What "normal" sound is it closest to, an alteration of?
    Often following chords will prove our guesses right or wrong, which is part of the pleasure we get from listening to music. "Hey where's this weird chord going to go?... ah yeah, I knew it! clever!" - or alternatively - "hey, wtf, it's gone somewhere else! cool!"
    "I might (in fact probably would) also hear it as the major II chord - a major version of Dm, or the C chord raised by a whole step."

    it's nice to find someone who can explain his strategies
    what would you suggest to develop each of this strategy ?

    Ron Gorrow's book is good for that, however it doesn't talk enough about things like secondary tonics etcetera to my taste

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by boby View Post
    "I might (in fact probably would) also hear it as the major II chord - a major version of Dm, or the C chord raised by a whole step."

    it's nice to find someone who can explain his strategies
    what would you suggest to develop each of this strategy ?
    Sorry, no idea! I've never done any particular exercises. I'd say it's a mixture of experience and common sense.

    The experience gives you familiarity with conventional major key sounds. It doesn't have to be musical playing experience (although that obviously helps). Just listening to music - as we all do, and have done all our lives - counts as valuable experience in this context.
    Any non-musician can tell when someone sings a wrong note. Almost anyone can tell if someone sings a major scale (do-re-mi etc) and gets one note wrong.
    In the west, we all have the major key tonality ingrained in our consciousness, almost in our blood. (The minor key perhaps less so.) So deviations from it are pretty obvious.

    The issue then is - what kind of deviation, exactly? Yes, there's a "wrong note" or "wrong chord" in there. But how wrong? Wrong relative to what, and by how much?

    Naturally non-musicians don't have the language to answer these questions. However, I reckon an untrained listener can spot a half-step or whole-step modulation as some kind of stepwise "rise". (The half-step would be a lot clearer than the whole step.)

    Still, we are talking about musicians here! It only takes a few encounters with certain chord changes to begin to recognise them. Eg, after you've heard a few songs that contain a major II chord, following the I (whether or not it goes on to V), you can spot that sound when you hear it again.
    It might be "As Tears Go By" or "Honky Tonk Women", it might be "You Really Got Me" or "Take the A Train", it might be "Girl From Ipanema".
    I think for beginner rock musicians, this would be the easiest of those three sounds I mentioned to spot. To hear a D major in key of C as an alteration of Dm, OTOH, would depend on hearing a lot of C-Dm chord changes, and they may not be as common as C-D; at least it's a more subtle sound.
    And to hear a D or D7 as V of G, would depend on being acquainted with a lot of functional harmonic sequences, such as jazz or classical. Those things are rarer in rock.
    But to take one major chord and shove it up 2 frets: that's a pretty obvious sound, I'd say.

    In short, my advice (which seems to be the same advice I give to any question in the end! ) is - learn more songs. Bury yourself in songbooks. Play chord sequences all the time, and listen out for unusual effects. Do the same with CDs, etc. Listen out for chord changes that stand out - then find out what they are.
    The first time you hear a bVI chord in a major key, it's "wtf was that?" So - if you don't want to sit down and transcribe it (which of course - ahem - I would recommend ), you look it up in a book - or online if you have to (checking several sources to be sure). A-ha, it's a C chord in key of E! (or whatever). Next time, it'll be like a face you've seen before... and eventually it will be like an old friend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p View Post
    Agree with Jon, definitely E minor. It's also nice to play a C7 in there. That way it moves slightly more sweetly to B7 and gives the vibe a little more edge (to me anyway)
    Hmmm I would say it was E minor...but the G7 to C progression screams C major at me.

    Maybe whats really happening is it's all in E minor, but it's: E aeolian, then E phrygian, then E harmonic minor...

    ...either way it can't decide which key it is beyond "E minor".

    and yes, I probably only think phrygian because I play rock and metal. I don't think it's a "normal" scale to think of there.

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