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Music Theory & Composition Questions & comments about composition, arrangement, and music theory. Music rules and how to follow or break them.

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Old 07-01-2013, 01:28 AM   #1
goob
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Basic Theory

Hey everyone,

I just created this thread to ask a quick question I have on basic music theory. Basically the question I have is about chords and how they work "properly" in a scale or key. Now say I have a basic chord progression, c major to d major to e minor to c minor, and I'm in the c major scale. Would d major and c major technically be allowed in that scale? Or only the chords with notes that make up that scale? I understand that music really has no boundaries, and that you can really do whatever you want if it's the sound you are looking for, but for the sake of my question would those chords be allowed without changing out of that specific scale?

Thanks guys.

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Old 07-01-2013, 02:35 PM   #2
jasondasilva
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Re: Basic Theory

In terms of music theory no DMajor is not in CMajor Scale. C major scale is the easiest to remember as you can only use the white keys.. DMajor would have an F#(black key) meaning it would not be allowed.

Also on a side note going by music theory, Cminor would not fit into a Cmajor scale.
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Old 07-01-2013, 08:03 PM   #3
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Re: Basic Theory

you should do yourself a favor and find an online source or a print book that has listings of chords, keys and scales... because you will run into this a million times! and its handy and makes you waste less time and you will start to see patterns and learn the idea of how and why notes and chords go together

There are a lot of different ones on the net... i like 8-notes.com and guitarchords.org.uk

but yeah, do what sounds good lol
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Old 11-01-2013, 10:00 PM   #4
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Re: Basic Theory

Technically these chords don't go together. Unless you're doing some experimental, avant garde, unusual kind of thing.

To work out which chords go together you need to know which scale you're in. Chords are any combination of notes within that scale and just playing around with different groupings of these notes will usual yield interesting and pleasant results.

Obviously there aren't any rules but I'd start by learning scales and stick to chords within those scales before you work out how to break the rules!
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Old 13-01-2013, 05:34 PM   #5
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Re: Basic Theory

The first three chords of your progression point to you being in the key of E minor, not C major. And if you are in E minor, then the F# in your D chord is perfectly within key

It's a pretty common progression, (VI VII i) that shows up in a lot of trance and commercial pop. Notice how the D chord seems to resolve when it moves to the Em? Like it has reached it's goal?

... but then the Cm chord is a bit of a curveball. Without any other musical context, it sounds to me like a kind of linking chord to get you back to the C major chord. Again, this is without context, but given the information I have, I'd guess that there's probably a smoother way to do this... if it needs to be done at all.

How does the Cm fit into your progression? ... as in how many bars of each chord to you use? Are they all evenly spaced? Do some chords get held for longer than others? What is the melody doing? These are all factors that help determine how your chords function within your progression. And your individual answers could easily render all of our advice totally useless.

All of that said... Please don't be scared to use notes and chords outside your key... there are some conventional ways to go about incorporating non-key notes and chords ('borrowed' or 'mixture chords' and chromatic alterations such as the N6 chord) but the main idea of it is that you can definitely make you're progressions more interesting by scribbling outside the boxes.

If you really want to learn the rules so you can break them more efficiently (and I wholeheartedly endorse both the learning and the breaking) make sure you have a solid grounding in major keys and minor keys (including the three different types of minor scales) and the various types of cadences they can create.

...then check out the wikipdeia pages for 'Borrowed Chord' 'Secondary Dominant" and 'Altered Chord.' The 'Neapolitan Chord' is always fun too... or better yet, find a music teacher (piano teachers are usually pretty good at this) and just ask them for lesson's on theory. I think a lot of teachers would be fine teaching this stuff in abstract and not necessarily worrying about applying it to the mechanics of playing an instrument. And then you'll have a nice squishy human to talk it through with.

But in the meantime, while you're doing all that educatin' of yo'self... just continue to make your music the way you want. If you want your tunes to be informed by your new learnings ...then cool, go right ahead - if you just wanna go off the rails and jam a Cm chord into an E minor progression ...then that's even cooler.
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Old 13-01-2013, 06:22 PM   #6
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Re: Basic Theory

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasondasilva View Post
In terms of music theory no DMajor is not in CMajor Scale. C major scale is the easiest to remember as you can only use the white keys.. DMajor would have an F#(black key) meaning it would not be allowed.

Also on a side note going by music theory, Cminor would not fit into a Cmajor scale.
This isn't right at all. D major fits well inside of C major, it acts as the V/V. The reason it easily resolves to Emin is because it is a deceptive resolution. E minor is the vi in the key of G major. A deceptive resolution is V moving to vi or VI. D major is V of G, which is V/V in C major. Additionally C minor works fine in C major as well, it's a mode mixture chord borrowed from the parallel minor.

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Old 13-01-2013, 06:37 PM   #7
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Re: Basic Theory

You're certainly right about the note being available to the key of C major... but in this example, the D moves to Em. In order to be V/V the D chord would need to move to a G chord.

EDIT - A second look and I see what you're getting at... but it's a pretty uncommon scenario for a secondary dominant V/V to lead into a deceptive cadence (we called them 'interrupted cadences' at uni). It just doesn't set up the final resolution very well... especially if you've swapped out the major tonic for the minor borrowed (mixture) chord.

It still feels more natural to me to call the Em tonic - although as I mentioned before, it's pretty hard to work without context. It's a strange one... I'm gonna see if I can find some examples with this progression though.

Last edited by HDiMusic; 13-01-2013 at 07:43 PM..
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Old 13-01-2013, 08:49 PM   #8
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Re: Basic Theory

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Originally Posted by HDiMusic View Post
You're certainly right about the note being available to the key of C major... but in this example, the D moves to Em. In order to be V/V the D chord would need to move to a G chord.

EDIT - A second look and I see what you're getting at... but it's a pretty uncommon scenario for a secondary dominant V/V to lead into a deceptive cadence (we called them 'interrupted cadences' at uni). It just doesn't set up the final resolution very well... especially if you've swapped out the major tonic for the minor borrowed (mixture) chord.

It still feels more natural to me to call the Em tonic - although as I mentioned before, it's pretty hard to work without context. It's a strange one... I'm gonna see if I can find some examples with this progression though.
Lol, but in the context of a large progression that is extremely common. Secondary dominants and sevenths can deceptively resolve all over the place. I wasn't actually answering OP's question about the key. I was just correcting the second poster in his assumption that D can never be in the key of C. I teach harmony.

The real thing to digest from all of this is, it doesn't really matter at all what key you are in. As you progress further through our music history the concept of a tonal center applies less and less. You can analyze all chord progressions in any keys. And eventually we get to a point in history where roman numeral analysis and tonal harmony dissolve.

Last edited by IamOthello; 13-01-2013 at 09:08 PM..

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Old 14-01-2013, 01:31 AM   #9
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Re: Basic Theory

Music THeory for the Computer Musician explains chords and scales using the piano roll. Really good read imo.

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