Category Archives: The Musician Corner

Musician_Corner_VIII

Musician’s Corner Part VIII

Welcome back to the Musician’s Corner. Previously, we took a look at the C major scale and from it we derived all of the naturally occurring modes. Today we are going to continue to analyze the C scale, but instead, shift our focus to the chords that can be created from it.

More specifically, today we are going to build triads. A triad is exactly what you might guess, a group of three notes. Even though more interesting and cool sounding chords can be built with more notes, doing this would be jumping ahead of our selves. A solid understanding of the triads on which more complex chords are constructed will not only give you a better understanding of the larger structures, but also allow you to take this knowledge into any style you wish. Jazz relies on these larger structures but all western music has these more basic triadic structures in common.

Just for review, let’s look at the C Major scale again:

Now, instead of building scales from the next successive note, we are going to skip one note. For example, the first triad we will build will be C E G. Why are we building chords by skipping notes? Well, simply because our ears think those combinations sound good. Remember, the theory generally comes after the execution, not the other way around.

Here is the table showing the seven basic chords that can be derived from the key of C. As before, it also analyzes the chords in terms of intervals relative to the parent key as well as relative to itself.

(Click the image to enlarge)

There are several pieces of information that we can derive from this chart. When we look at each chord we see that the first interval is either 2 whole steps or 1 and ½ steps. The chords that begin with 2 whole steps are major chords. Remember from before that an interval built out of two whole steps is a major third. A chord that first has two whole steps, followed by 1 and ½ steps is a major chord. Conversely, a chord that has 1 and ½ steps followed by 2 whole steps is a minor chord. If you look at the last chord you will see that it is the odd man out. It does not contain any interval consisting of 2 whole steps. Instead it is built with two minor thirds. This kind of chord is called a diminished chord. This refers to the interval between the root and fifth, which is diminished as opposed to being perfect.

This chart also gives us another way to name the chords, using numbers rather than letters. The first chord of the key is a C major chord. It is also called the “one” chord because it is built off of the first degree of the scale. The second chord of the key is D minor. It is called the “two” chord because it is built off of the second degree of the scale. Convention tells us to use Roman numerals when referring to chords in this manner. I prefer the system that uses capital Roman numerals for major chords and lower case ones for minor chords. I find that this makes viewing this concept in writing much clearer. Here is a chart demonstrating the names and relationships discussed in the last two paragraphs.

Most of this chart is redundant with the first one, but it may allow you to see the same information in a different way. However, the Roman name is the most important piece here. This way of naming has maintained the same relationship between all the chords in the key, but removed the actual note names. This is what will enable us to move this concept into other keys. Unless are happy to play in C major your whole life, then just ignore that part.

The most important thing to pick up from this lesson is which chords are major and which are minor. The I chord is major, the ii chord is minor, and so on. This must be memorized. Don’t worry if you cannot remember it at first. If you cannot remember this order of chords, then just remember how we came up with it. You can always work out this order from the notes in key.

Knowing this pattern is the key to figuring out what notes to play in a song. Later we will look at actual chords from songs and see how there patterns fit with this order of major and minor. From that we will be able to know the key (or temporary key) and then choose appropriate scales. It is also great if you need to learn a song quickly from someone. They can yell out “4” and you know instantly that since you re playing in a major key the “4 (IV)” chord has to be major. This makes communication on stage much faster when all some one has to yell out is “6,” rather than A minor. A minor is a much bigger mouthful.

This lesson showed us what al of the triad type chords are in a major key and we learned the order of major and minor chords: I – major, ii – minor, iii – minor, IV – major, V – major, vi – minor, vii – diminished. In the next lesson we will take a look at some actual chords progressions from songs and begin to apply this knowledge. Until then, make sure you have memorized the pattern of chords and then go back to review the modes.

Musician Corner VII

Musician’s Corner Part VII

Locrian mode is the last in the series of modes based off of the major scale. This will wrap up our analysis of these seven basic modes, but don’t worry; the conversation gets deeper from here. Using the information from the three relationships we will be able to transfer these modes and scales to different keys. We will also analyze chords and see how each mode matches up to a certain chord. First, let’s take a look at B Locrian.

B Locrian Scale

Derivation from C major:

Relationship #1:

Thus, the formula for Locrian:

Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from root:

The chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:

Relationship #3, relation to root of the key:

(Click on the image to enlarge)

 

Although this may appear to conclude our discussion of the modes, it does not. The last seven editions of The Musician’s Corner have shown what each mode is and where it comes from, but it hasn’t told us how to use them yet. In the next installment we will begin to discuss chords. Once we have covered their derivation we will be able to come back to the modes and apply them over the chords. Stay tuned!

Read Charter VIII

Musician Corner_VI

Musician’s Corner Part VI

I know it has been a few days since the last post. Sometimes life gets busy, but I haven’t forgotten about you. Let’s just say that I was giving you time to absorb everything up to this point.
Today’s scale is A Aeolian. This is a very important scale because this is the scale that opens up our parallel universe of minor keys. The Aeolian scale is known as the relative minor or the parent key. But before we open that can of worms let’s take a look at what it is and where it comes from.

A Aeolian Scale:

Derivation from C major:

Now, a look at the three relationships.

Relationship # 1

The formula for Aeolian:

Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from the root:

The chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:

Relationship #3, relation to root of the key:

The third of a scale determines the basic major or minor sound, but the other degrees also have an influence over that sound. We have seen flatted thirds before in the Dorian and Phrygian scales, but in those cases there was one chord tone that pulled the ear away from feeling it completely as minor. In Dorian, the major 6th gives a hint of a major feeling. In the case of Phrygian the presence of the flat 2nd pulls the ear in another direction entirely. Even though it has the same 3rd, 6th and 7th as Aeolian, that flat 2nd is enough to change the feeling of the scale.
Aeolian has the requisite 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees plus the major 2nd degree that yields the natural minor sound our ears are accustomed to hearing. In fact Aeolian is also known as the Natural Minor or Pure Minor scale. When it comes time to take a look at how chords structures are created in minor keys the Aeolian scale is going to be our new parent scale. This is the point where your ability to view the scales as entities in and of themselves simultaneously with their relation to the parent key becomes crucial. Once we start analyzing minor chords we will relate them to their parent minor key and their relative major key. Don’t worry, it will become clearer later on.
So you can see why minor concepts can be more confusing that major concepts. There is only one major scale. When someone tells you to play the major scale you know exactly which notes are intended. But when someone asks you to play a minor scale, there are several choices as well as different names that can get confusing. Just Aeolian can be referred to as Aeolian, relative minor, natural minor, or pure minor. On top of that, there are more types of minor scales that we will cover later.
The next post will cover Locrian mode and will wrap up our discussion of the basic modes. After that we will derive the naturally occurring chords in a major key. Once we have accomplished this we will come back to this Aeolian scale and derive the naturally occurring chords in a minor key. So if you only really grasp one mode that you make it this one!

Read the Chapter VII

Musician Corner Part V

Musician’s Corner Part V

By now you should be familiar with the 3 different relationships I am stressing concerning the modes. Let’s jump right into to examining G Mixolydian.

Here is the scale:

Derivation from C major:

Relationship #1

This gives us the formula for G Mixolydian:

Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from the root:

Again, here is the chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:

Relationship #3, relation to root of the key:

(Click on image to enlarge)

The next discussion will be of A Aeolian. Aeolian mode is going to open up a whole new can of worms. Until then, enjoy Mixolydian.

Read the Chapter VI

Musician Corner Part IV

Musician’s Corner IV

Today’s Musician’s Corner entry will discuss F Lydian. By this point you should be familiar with the three different relationships that we are discussing. If you are not, please go back and review the prior Musician’s Corner posts.
If you find yourself glancing over these charts like they are pictures, you need to step back and take a breath. Then come back and actually read them. Read them one note at a time like you are reading a sentence. Go slowly and think about all the different relationships that you can find among the notes.
The goal of all of this is to be able to look at (or listen to) a song or set of chord changes and know how to make educated note choices. After we have analyzed all of the modes of the key of C we will move on to a discussion of chords. We will find out where they come from and take a look at their different relationships. Once we have done that we will be able to look at different examples of chord progressions and put them in a context. This context will come directly from our discussion of modes and chords. Please do not gloss over this information because it is the foundation. Without it you will probably get lost later.

F Lydian:

F G A B C D E F

 

Here is how we derive it from C major (the parent key) and our previous modes:

Relationship #1

Thus, the formula for F Lydian:

1 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½

 

Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from the root:

 

1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 8
F G A B C D E F

 

Again, here is the chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:

 

Note ➔Note Number of Steps Interval
F➔G 1 major 2nd
F➔A 1+1=2 major 3nd
F➔B 1+1+1=3 augmented 4th
F➔C 1+1+1+½=3½ perfect 5th
F➔D 1+1+1+½+1=4½ major 6th
F➔E 1+1+1+½+1+1=5½ major 7th
F➔F 1+1+1+½+1+1+½=6 perfect Octave

 

It is worth noting here that this is the first time that we have encountered a scale with an altered 4th or 5th. These intervals, 4ths and 5ths, do not determine major or minor sounds so we don’t use the terms major or minor to describe them. Instead we use augmented (raised ½ step) or diminished (lowered ½ step). A perfect 4th or 5th is one that has not been altered.

Relationship #3, relation to the root of the key:

Click on the table to get a full view.

(Closer look? Click here)

 

Read Chapter V