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Thread: is this a chord substitution or a key change?

  1. #1
    Member johnfkingmatrix's Avatar
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    Question is this a chord substitution or a key change?

    excuse my verbiage, im sure ill probably use some music theory words wrong but.. in a nutshell:

    I was improvising on the guitar my parents got me for christmas a few years ago and trying to sound bluesy style, which to a degree it was. however, i stumbled upon something confusing

    when improvising in A minor staying completely diatonic to set the palate/tonal center , if i suddenly switch to playing f#minor chord / (especially with a Bnatural in it for f#sus) it sounds really good/bluesy, but.. whats going on here? is this some sort of borrowed chord or did i just switch to .. f#minor? switching keys to the.. sharp 6th is a thing? bkuz it sounds very seamless to me here

    I mean basically im not modulating ? im just playing a minor chord 3 half steps below the natural minor and it seems to work well. what is this?

    but yeah going back and forth between A minor / f#minor / (f#sus [f#,c#,B])

    thank you in advance for any comments, looking forward to understanding what im hearing !

    i guess my best guess is, im modulating to Dmajor and the Aminor that i thought was my tonal center, is actually a minor 5th substitution ? and the f#minor is just my iii chord?
    Last edited by johnfkingmatrix; Jan-22-2021 at 09:48.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    It would help if you actually show us what you played — either the notes or the whole progression.

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    You have discovered the chord progression of the Doors song, "Light My Fire."

    It is not a key change, just a variation on the common I-iv chord pattern used very often. You can think of this as also a variation on another common chord change, Am - F, with the 4th raised to F#m. It is a nice sounding progression.

    If you don't know it, listen to Light My Fire to hear it used in a very popular song.
    Last edited by SanAntone; Jan-22-2021 at 15:24.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    ...the movement of similar triads by thirds, up or down, is also a tired cliche in fantasy and sci-fi film scores.
    The sharp 6th is a thing in a minor scale, specifically in the melodic minor scale. Your progression, Am to Fsharp min, also has a pivot note in it (one common to both chords), that of the A which helps cushion the "jolt". One could say there are actually 2 pivot notes if a progression such as an Am6th chord is used on the way to Fsharp minor.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Jan-22-2021 at 16:45.
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    Member johnfkingmatrix's Avatar
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    wow thanks for so many insightful answers guys, a few follow up questions:

    sanantone, yes i do know that doors song ! thanks for an example " Am - F, with the 4th raised to F#m. It is a nice sounding progression " isnt that the raised 6th, not the 4th tho?

    edward, im trying like 10x in a row to upload example but it wont take my mp3 upload? its like a 6 second clip im not sure why the site wont let me upload it thats so frustrating wtf

    mikeh u answered my next main question, "what is this technique often used in" i found a lot of "styles" of music revolve around a particular compositional technique. This is the one of film scores and scifi?? just like lydian ? darn so thats not really a common blues element at all? i REALLY wish i could upload this clip bkuz thats what im hearing

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnfkingmatrix View Post
    sanantone, yes i do know that doors song ! thanks for an example " Am - F, with the 4th raised to F#m. It is a nice sounding progression " isnt that the raised 6th, not the 4th tho?
    I was thinking of the progression being in the key of C since it usually continues like this: Am - F - C - G, or some variation of that.

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    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    ...the movement of similar triads by thirds, up or down, is also a tired cliche in fantasy and sci-fi film scores.
    The sharp 6th is a thing in a minor scale, specifically in the melodic minor scale. Your progression, Am to Fsharp min, also has a pivot note in it (one common to both chords), that of the A which helps cushion the "jolt". One could say there are actually 2 pivot notes if a progression such as an Am6th chord is used on the way to Fsharp minor.
    Indeed. It's a shame this wonderful, colorful and expressive progression has been hijacked by film composers and now become such an overused cliche. It was first used in classical music over a century ago. Even two minor triads a third apart, which is the rarer version. Verdi's Requiem. Bax's Spring Fire Symphony. But even triads of major quality or mixed quality were used quite often in late Romantic era. Dvorak New World stands out in my mind as most memorable.

    Persichetti wrote about the progressions as being available for modern use and explained the theory as being from a "Cycle of Thirds" as compared to the Cycle of Fifths.

    Prokofiev is one composer, I believe who used these types of progressions occasionally in more modern times. One example:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ur8dHVxByE

    It's worth noting the sci-fi/fantasy progression of the tritone relation C min to F# min (as in the Emperor Theme from RoTJ) or C Maj to F# Maj can also be said to be a Cycle of Thirds progression as the tritone is two (minor) "thirds" away.

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    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    john, the blues "sound" is defined by the flattened seventh of the dominant chords used in the harmony, along with the flattened fifth of the pentatonic scale (forming the "blues" scale). Further, the signature blues sound is defined by the "rubbing" of the sharp ninth against the third--meaning this: a I7 chord in a C Blues is C-E-G-Bb and the blues scale is C-Eb-F-F#-G-Bb. So the Eb and the E natural "rub", creating a signature sound and expressiveness, not just the F# of the blues scale doing all the work.
    Last edited by Torkelburger; Jan-22-2021 at 23:33.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torkelburger View Post
    Indeed. It's a shame this wonderful, colorful and expressive progression has been hijacked by film composers and now become such an overused cliche. It was first used in classical music over a century ago. Even two minor triads a third apart, which is the rarer version. Verdi's Requiem. Bax's Spring Fire Symphony. But even triads of major quality or mixed quality were used quite often in late Romantic era. Dvorak New World stands out in my mind as most memorable.

    Persichetti wrote about the progressions as being available for modern use and explained the theory as being from a "Cycle of Thirds" as compared to the Cycle of Fifths.

    Prokofiev is one composer, I believe who used these types of progressions occasionally in more modern times. One example:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ur8dHVxByE

    It's worth noting the sci-fi/fantasy progression of the tritone relation C min to F# min (as in the Emperor Theme from RoTJ) or C Maj to F# Maj can also be said to be a Cycle of Thirds progression as the tritone is two (minor) "thirds" away.
    The earliest example I know of the juxtaposition of unrelated minor triads pivoting on a common tone is the "Tarnhelm" motif from Wagner's Das Rheingold (1854), intended as a direct musical analogue to the Tarnhelm's ability to transform its wearer into whatever he wishes.

    https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/...Z3XAEiO3wRz8Lh

    I wouldn't be surprised if Liszt did something like this even earlier, and God only knows what Gesualdo may have done.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post

    .................. God only knows what Gesualdo may have done.
    What didn't he do?
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    Member johnfkingmatrix's Avatar
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    very cool. thanks for all answers, i like all of the examples so i can hear it. does Tchaikowsky do that a lot in his stuff? for some reason tarnehlm reminds me of that.

    its really interesting, i spend so long understanding diatonic music theory, now its like.. i could pretty much just pick any chord out of key and theres a potential rabbit hole to go down, as long as i approach the chord properly @_@

    and thanks torkel, re blues. I basically just do a c pentatonic major over c pentatonic minor backing, or visa versa...and use a scale that has both major & minor 3rds, as well as natural & flat fifth . i think thats blues scale? but yeah basically i use major/minor 3rds and natural/flat 5ths interchangeably during improv for this genre. this is pretty normal ?
    Last edited by johnfkingmatrix; Jan-27-2021 at 01:36.

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    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    and thanks torkel, re blues. I basically just do a c pentatonic major over c pentatonic minor backing, or visa versa...and use a scale that has both major & minor 3rds, as well as natural & flat fifth . i think thats blues scale? but yeah basically i use major/minor 3rds and natural/flat 5ths interchangeably during improv for this genre. this is pretty normal ?
    hi, john. I'm not sure what you mean or if you are using the terms correctly. Could you describe by using note names, chord spellings, etc.? You could actually use a C major pentatonic scale/A minor Pentatonic (blues) (however you want to look at it) over a C Blues as far as the I7 chord is concerned--which would be A C D D# E G over C7. I do it sometimes in my improv but not as much as the more traditional blues scale. It is not as customary. Pros call that the "gospel scale". It has that signature glide/bend between Eb and E. When the progression switches to the IV7 (F7) chord you have to switch to F Maj Pent./D min Pent. You can't stay on 1 scale as in the traditional blues scale. I'm not sure that's what you're talking about, though.
    Last edited by Torkelburger; Jan-27-2021 at 21:03.

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