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Discussion Starter #1
i used to think that to determine what key a song is in you only had to look at your sharps and flats at the beginning of the song to tell, for instance

2 sharps, B minor/C# major

but recently a trombonist friend of mine told me that i should take more notice of the chord proggresion used in the song to help you understand the key signature,

so basically now i am confused whether to use the amount of sharps and flats to determine what scales(related to the major and minor key) i use to improvise or to concentrate completely on the chord proggresion? anyone know what there talking about when it comes to this topic??
 

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I think possibly you're confusing what key a piece is in with the chord changes within it. 2 sharps at the beginning of the piece tells you the piece is in the key of D major. To improvise you would then need to know what chords within that key signature are being played at any given time.
 

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Just because a tune is written with a certain key signature does not mean that it stays in that key througout. The chords will indicate the different keys present. Accidentals in the melody may also provide a clue. A basic knowledge of theory is essential here.
 

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Adderley - jazz music tends to modulate key (or imply other tonics) so rather than just looking at the key sig you need to learn your chords and how they relate to one another.

Also your example should be B-minor/D-major
 

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Discussion Starter #5
yeh i know sorry about that mistake, i think i accidently wrote the major 2 semitones above the B instead of 3.

back on the topic, i understand that keys can change and understanding chords are essential, but what is the whole purpose of there being key signatures, apart from making it easier for the reader to know which notes are sharps or flats?

sorry if this seems ignorant, i have only been playing sax for 11 months so bear with me
 

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Adderleysfasthands said:
i understand that keys can change and understanding chords are essential, but what is the whole purpose of there being key signatures, apart from making it easier for the reader to know which notes are sharps or flats?
You're right about this. It's mostly for the reader. It's convenient to indicate sharps or flats up front to eliminate the necessity of placing all those sharp or flat symbols throughout the written music, except where accidentals occur. Makes it easier to write or read. Beyond that, and especially when you improvise without the written music, imo, it's better not to be thinking "key of D maj = 2 sharps" because as docformat & johnnysax have pointed out, most tunes won't stay with only those 2 sharps. Unless the tune is completely "diatonic" (stays totally in key), there will be chords where the F# is flatted to F nat, or the 4th (G) is raised to G#, and so on. Each tone in that major scale can be altered to fit certain chords. So your friend is right. Learn the chords as well as the key signature.

This is why you need to learn all the major scales (all keys). Once you do that it will be easier to learn and understand chords.
 

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Nick880 said:
[...] 2 sharps at the beginning of the piece tells you the piece is in the key of D major. [...]
Uhm...not really.
Could also be B Minor
Or for example F# Phrygian
Or a lot of other keys.
One song doesn´t always have "one key".
There can be modulation etc.
Most songs however do have a central note, but beware: it can be any of the notes within for example a scale with 2 sharps.
And this "central note" can change within a song or often the "central note" will stay the same but tones will be played that are not in the scale!
 

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Adderly, hopefully all this isn't confusing you. The explanations make it sound far more complex than what is actually going on. I know, because I remember years ago when someone started talking about "modulation" it scared the hell out of me!

But just take a simple, basic 12-bar blues in C for example:

C major has no sharps or flats, and that's what the key signature will signify. However......

First 4 bars of C7, you'll have a Bb in there, so you've already left the key signature. When the chord changes to F7, you'll have Bb and Eb. Only in bar 9 (and sometimes bar 12), on G7, will you agree with C maj key signature, and even then it is common to toss in some altered tones which will be sharps or flats. On top of all that, it is very common to add in the "flat 5" (Gb, in this case) or to play the blues scale at any point in the progression, which in C will have Bb, Eb, & Gb. All that in a simple blues! And, although technically a blues actually modulates with each of those chord changes, they are not really considered modulations. Everything I described here fits a blues in the key of C major, with C as the tonic. In a jazzier version of the blues in C, you can add in E minor, A7 (in bar 8), and D min in bar 9, and other chords as well. Most of them won't fit the C maj key signature either.

Now, here's the thing. All that might sound pretty complex, but in reality it's not. It's a essentially a simple I-IV-V blues! So yes, learn your chords and don't get bogged down with key signatures.
 

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ismail said:
Or for example F# Phrygian
That's a mode, not a key.

2 sharps can only be keys of D Major or B Minor. (Western music).
As has been pointed out, tunes can modulate harmonically
in various places, but for convenience, readability and commonsense, if the
modulation is only tempory, the composer may choose to write accidentals
and not change the key signature.
 

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ok youre right, kavala.

at least wikipedia says "A key may be major or minor; music in the Dorian, Phrygian, and so on are usually considered to be in a mode rather than a key."

USUALLY

I for one prefer equal rights for modes! :> call them keys!

It´s definitely misleading not to call phrygian, dorian etc. "keys" but calling minor and major "keys":
though you might argue all modes with a minor third are "minor" modes (and the same for major), I don´t think there´s one thing that makes "modes" less suited to be called keys, they lead independent lives, just as minor and major do and shouldn´t be "degraded" in that way because acoustically they deserve to be called the same... I think!

bye!
 

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Hey ismail, I think I know where you're going with the modes = keys idea, and it really doesn't matter how you think about it if it works for you and you can play. But in a strict sense a mode does not equal a key because every "key" has several modes built in. Then again a mode has "submodes". And man you can drive yourself crazy!

To me key implies a tonic center. There are only 12 tonic centers. So to my way of thinking there are only 12 keys, with the stipulation that the 12 keys can be major or minor. OK, so that's 24 keys if you stretch the point. The point is, to learn this stuff I think it helps to start simple--12 major scales. Everything else can be derived from there and you can call what is derived (key, scales, chords, modes) a lot of things, but to communicate, some agreement on terminolgy has to be reached. The deeper you delve, the less agreement on terms, though.

I think the concept, and sound, of a chord is more fundamental and easier to grasp than all the accompanying scales. Understand the chord and the scales become the chord with surrounding notes and leading tones etc. I think that leads more directly to improvisation skills and melodic playing. Which is exactly what I interpret Adderly's friend to be saying.

Now I'm rambling, so I'll stop.
 

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(Sorry, we are getting a bit off topic)

I'm actually somewhat in agreement with you Ismail.

I was being a bit pedantic, but was only making the point,
as that is the generally accepted usage for 'key' and 'mode'.

However, I find many modern tunes that are in a minor key are
more often than not played in a dorian mode.

Regarding the other modes however, I do not recall many tunes
that stay consistently in a particular mode. They do crop up for
a bar or two, but not the entire tune.

I would be interested to know what some of the guys from eastern
countries are doing as these seem to have some 1/4 tones or strange
scales that do not exactly fit the standard western major/minor models.

Can anyone comment.
Here are some examples I posted on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nl8_l4krHo8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_qn4wXeS-I
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e96QHyZ9bX4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAJHAtRPXb8
 

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kavala said:
(I would be interested to know what some of the guys from eastern countries are doing as these seem to have some 1/4 tones or strange scales that do not exactly fit the standard western major/minor models.
Yes but they are not strange scales they are traditional in other culture. I recently played duo with kanun (I'm on clarinet) and the kanun has control of (if I remember correct) six parts of semi tone. Other instruments for example ud (speilling?) also use parts of semi tone (it's not always exactly 1/4 tone). I'm not an expert but we have arab department in the music university here. The clips you posted are more balkanic music (like Turkia, Romania, Moldova, Gypsy, etc.) which I don't think has the parts of semi tones like arab music (I played in a balkanic group a little while but I'm not an expert on this music either). Except the last clip which other than the clarinet is western pop music, especially reminding me things like pop singers from Argentina (but same style exists almost anywhere).
 

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clarnibass: I have also played with a Kanun once...but the guy I was playing with didn´t employ those semitones so much, so it wasn´t a real problem.

JL, kavala:
I know, I know, we are really making this look complicated...but I think talking about it and knowing everything won´t help anyway, it has to be internalized acoustically, AFTER THAT, everything we talk here will sound simple...

It´s always hard to understand even the simplest theories of music if you don´t have a sound concept popping up in your head immediately.

About there being "12 keys": I think you might very well say that most of the music we play consists of only 12 different tones, each of them being able to function as a tonic centre (THAT´s the word I was looking for in my first post).

But then again - and I am somewhat influenced by this extremely recommendable book:
"New Jazz Harmony "
I can only hope that there is an english version of it - or maybe you know some German.

In this book, the common assumption that "modes" (dorian, phrygian...) are just derived from "keys" (major) is fundamentally critiziced.

In case you do not already know your way through scales and modes musically, it can be very misleading to your ear to think in a way that has "modes" subordinate to "keys.

I mean, everyone knows or at least immediately hears the difference between the effect a minor scale and a major scale has on their ear.

The difference between, say, a phrygian and a myxolidian scale is also obvious.

If you were presented all different modes including keys (ionian, aeolian) without knowing any names for them, would you then pick out ionian and aeolian (namely major and minor) and say: these are keys, superordinate to the others???
I doubt it, and that is what´s in that book.
Of course, it is easier to learn "modes" in relation to "keys", but I think even for beginners it makes more sense not to do so and at least get the notion that they are totally independent phenomena.

I have learnt some "modes" from a teacher first, related to "keys".
But it was only when I read that book that I really focused on how different they sound, totally not thinking about on which note of the "key" they begin.
 

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My understanding is that the idea of "modes" pre-dates the idea of "keys". Keys are more closely related to the concept of harmony, and modes are more closely related to the concept of melody. The issue of scales with microtonal elements (eg the "blues scale", arguably, but there are obviously better examples in "raga scales", for example) is another thing again, however...
 

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Discussion Starter #16
guys this might be off the topic (yet again)

but while searching through the james aebershold scale sylabbus, he shows

that melodic minor seems to Fit with C-(maj 7th) chord, and yet again this has bugged me, what do they mean by that chord, C min7 or both C- and Maj 7th oh jeez
 

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Chords only specify a limited number of notes.

C Major triad = C E G (we usually add a D,F,A & B to make a scale)
C Maj7th =C,C,G,B (we usually add D,F,A to make the same scale)
C7 = C,E,G,Bb (often add D, F, A)
C-7 =C,Eb,G,Bb (often add D,F,A)
C- Maj7th =C,Eb,G,B (often add D,F,A)

You can see it as the chords telling you how you would alter certain notes from the Major scale.
Thus
C- means just flatten the 3rd, giving you C mel min scale.
C-7 means flatten the 3rd and 7th giving the 2nd mode of Bb major.

The notes in brackets are extensions and with experience, they become up for grabs.

Jamie
 

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right. the "maj" in the chord you (a.fasthands) are talking about only refers to the 7th of the chord. a MINOR chord (meaning the 3rd is flattened) with a MAJOR 7th.
 

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Adderley, you are running ahead of yourself. The Aebersold system shows you scales that will fit with types of chord. You will find all sorts of stray notes popping up without explanation. It's a pity and is very confusing as you just have to take it on trust, all method books do it and the reason is, I suppose, that to explain every thing that you are doing would lead to a massive number of footnotes or digressions. As a beginner you are going to find yourself in deep water if you try to really understand why apparently unrelated scales fit with certain chords. Lots of things are possible that don't immediately seem to accord with simple theory. Some of these things are only possible when you have reached a point in your playing that you can hear, and enjoy hearing, certain discords.

You are struggling with theory and the methods of describing it. There are at least 3 ways that I've seen of writing the major 7th chord symbol but they all mean the same thing. The simplest way to read chord symbols is by considering them as first indicating the triad, either major or minor. Next you have an idicator of any notes that qualify or enhance it e.g Maj 7, 7, 6 etc. After that you may get e.g. b9, #11, b13. These also imply a 7 rather than a Maj 7. So C is C,E,G. C- is C,Eb,G. CMaj7 is C,E,G,B; C7 is C,E,G,Bb. C-7 is C,Eb,G,Bb. C-M7 is C,Eb,G,B.

The key signature that you might see at the top of a piece of music is really only, at best, an aid or a signifier of what the main key might be. At least it tells you that unless otherwise modified every note that's sharped or flatted by the key sig. retains that value throughout the piece. Some people don't bother to add a key signature and rely on accidentals, it all depends upon what makes for the greatest clarity.

Obviously scales are important and you need to know them but so are chords and it is at least as important to know how chords are constructed and how you can use and manipulate them. When you've got a handle on that stuff you shouldn't be quite so bewildered.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
i appreciate your care, but i am not that bewildered,
i am just confused by this thing in the scale sylabus where it shows C-(and triangle sign, which in the key says =maj 7th) and i was wondering, does the melodonic minor that he has linked to that chord work with C maj 7th or both C- and C maj 7th, if u have the james aebershold I-Iv book u'lll see what i am talking about
 
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