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Thread: I've got the chords, How do i find the scale?

  1. #1
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    I've got the chords, How do i find the scale?

    I have some theory knowledge but im having trouble with this thing...

    I took a few chords for example that i know they belong to the Am scale (because i chose them from the scale).
    I chose Dm | C | Am (in this particular order, especialy because the root isn't played first)

    Because the first note in the scale will be minor, the third will be major and the fourth will be minor also.

    My question is, if i found these chords by hearing from some song, how can i know which scale
    they belong to without looking in every scale i know where the D will be a minor, the C will be a major and the A will be a minor.

    Thanks,
    Roi.

  2. #2
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Just take a look at the chord tones of each triad added together in put in scalar order. But you'll still need to know your scales.

    Dm = D F A
    C (major) = C E G
    Am = A C E

    Add them together = D E F G A ? C
    These notes (without knowing what kind of B you have) could come from either the:

    F major scale = F G A Bb C D E F
    or it's relative minor
    D minor = D E F G A Bb C

    or from the
    C major scale = C D E F G A B C
    or it's relative minor
    A minor = A B C D E F G A

    Once you determine the key you just pick the corresponding scale.

  3. #3
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rg12 View Post
    My question is, if i found these chords by hearing from some song, how can i know which scale
    they belong to without looking in every scale i know where the D will be a minor, the C will be a major and the A will be a minor.
    The purpose of a scale is to define the notes used to express a particular tonality (key) via the harmonization of various chords in that key (tonailty). Sort out the tonality first by determining the tonic of the key. Then just write out the appropriate scale.

    Knowing theory means knowing about major and minor scales well enough to not have to look things up. In this case the missing B and the absence of any sharps was an obvious indicator that we were looking at either F major (or it's relative minor - D minor) or C major (or it's relative minor - A minor).

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    Thanks, i will try that, although i was expecting a shorter process...

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    Quote Originally Posted by rg12 View Post
    I have some theory knowledge but im having trouble with this thing...
    I took a few chords for example that i know they belong to the Am scale (because i chose them from the scale).
    I chose Dm | C | Am (in this particular order, especialy because the root isn't played first)
    If you know that the chords come from the scale of A-natural minor, then by definition you can make your melody (the solo or whatever you prefer to call it) using the same scale (A Natural minor in this case).

    That's the same for chords in any key - if all the chords are in the same key, eg say G-Major, then you can play a G-Major scale over the top of them.

    Is that what you were asking?

    Quote Originally Posted by rg12 View Post
    Because the first note in the scale will be minor, the third will be major and the fourth will be minor also.
    The individual notes themselves are just "notes", they are not ever either major or minor.

    You only talk about "major" and "minor" when you have two or more notes, and in that case you are referring to the "interval" between the notes as either "major" or "minor" ... so for example, if you have two notes that are 3 frets apart (ie 3 semi-tones) then that's called a "minor" third ... and if they are 4 frets apart (ie 2 whole tones) then that distance or "interval" is called a "major" third.

    Quote Originally Posted by rg12 View Post
    My question is, if i found these chords by hearing from some song, how can i know which scale
    they belong to without looking in every scale i know where the D will be a minor, the C will be a major and the A will be a minor.
    Thanks,
    Roi.
    Same answer as above. That is - if your chords are all in the same key, say B-flat, then the "correct" scale to play will be B-flat-Major scale. There are various other scales you could play instead, but for now I'll avoid complicating it with a description of the other scales.
     
    Quote Originally Posted by rg12 View Post
    Thanks, i will try that, although i was expecting a shorter process...
    The question of how much work any of us needs to do to succeed in playing guitar arises quite often here. I was just discussing that in another thread here with JonR, where I had to admit that when I first started playing guitar (40 years ago) I thought I was trying really hard, but in fact I had no conception of what "hard work" really was, and no conception of just what a huge effort some other players were putting in.

    I just tell you that at my own expense, ie admitting my own failings, to say that -like me, most non-expert guitar players probably spend all their lives failing to appreciate why they are not succeeding in playing the instrument as well as they would ideally like ... but in my case I finally found that the answer was that I had to do 99% more work than I was doing before.
    Last edited by Crossroads; 06-05-2011 at 07:47 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    If you know that the chords come from the scale of A-natural minor, then by definition you can make your melody (the solo or whatever you prefer to call it) using the same scale (A Natural minor in this case).

    That's the same for chords in any key - if all the chords are in the same key, eg say G-Major, then you can play a G-Major scale over the top of them.

    Is that what you were asking?

    I said that i need to know the process of doind this if i DON'T know which
    scale the chords are being "pulled" from. Only in this example, i chose
    the chords so i know the answer for that particular chord progression.


    The individual notes themselves are just "notes", they are not ever either major or minor.

    You only talk about "major" and "minor" when you have two or more notes, and in that case you are referring to the "interval" between the notes as either "major" or "minor" ... so for example, if you have two notes that are 3 frets apart (ie 3 semi-tones) then that's called a "minor" third ... and if they are 4 frets apart (ie 2 whole tones) then that distance or "interval" is called a "major" third.

    I was refering to chords, i know that notes can't be major nor minor,
    sorry for being incorrect.

    Same answer as above. That is - if your chords are all in the same key, say B-flat, then the "correct" scale to play will be B-flat-Major scale. There are various other scales you could play instead, but for now I'll avoid complicating it with a description of the other scales.
     
    Again, i asked how to know the scale of a few chords i just found
    from hearing (chords that i didn't choose).

    The question of how much work any of us needs to do to succeed in playing guitar arises quite often here. I was just discussing that in another thread here with JonR, where I had to admit that when I first started playing guitar (40 years ago) I thought I was trying really hard, but in fact I had no conception of what "hard work" really was, and no conception of just what a huge effort some other players were putting in.

    I just tell you that at my own expense, ie admitting my own failings, to say that -like me, most non-expert guitar players probably spend all their lives failing to appreciate why they are not succeeding in playing the instrument as well as they would ideally like ... but in my case I finally found that the answer was that I had to do 99% more work than I was doing before.
    I didn't look for a shortcut, not at all, i just thought that there is a system
    for finding it faster after understanding the theory behind it.
    There are many "systematic processes" that help you find stuff without
    calculating everything from the beggining (ofcourse it's after you understand everything first).

    I know all about pushing yourself beyond what you thought was your
    max. When i started playing i had this friend who played less time then
    me and was alot better and since we became friends i was getting better
    and better at a rate 10x faster.

    Like they said in the army, run the fastest you can and start getting the pace up from there.

  7. #7
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rg12 View Post
    Thanks, i will try that, although i was expecting a shorter process...
    The process is indeed very short for those that know their scales (It took me about 1 second (literally) to determine the possible scales in your example). I'd encourage you to make the commitment to memorize the major and minor scales. It's not that much work and completely "changes the game" with respect to being able to think in terms of notes and music theory.

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    The way I would look at the set (Dm, C, Am) would be like this, analagous to Jed's process but possibly faster for some and slower for others ...

    1. In a major scale, the diatonic major chords are I, IV, and V. There's a good chance all chords are diatonic, so ...

    2. The C must be I of C, the IV of G, or the V of F.

    3. Can't be G, because the D chord diatonic to G is major.

    4. Must be C or F, or one of their relative minors Am or Dm.

    5. Or something else, if those 3 chords are not strictly diatonic to the key. For example, the major chord could be used as a secondary dominant in a move to some other chord up a fourth, or any of the chords could be "borrowed" modal interchange chords in some other key, or jest passing chords for voice leading or other effect.

    6. Listen for the final note in the melody -- that's very often the letter of the key, major or minor. And listen for the chord that the song seems to gravitate to, or feel at rest with --- that's the key chord.

    7. If you do this often and need a temporary aid, keep a chart like this handy: http://www.guitarbyte.net/2011/chord-scales-chart/ ... in the long run, of course, things like deducing keys from limited bits of information tend to get easier the more one does it and the more one learns the theory which leads toward "the usual suspects."
    Last edited by xyzzy; 06-05-2011 at 04:22 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by xyzzy View Post
    The way I would look at the set (Dm, C, Am) would be like this, analagous to Jed's process but possibly faster for some and slower for others ...

    1. In a major scale, the diatonic major chords are I, IV, and V. There's a good chance all chords are diatonic, so ...

    2. The C must be I of C, the IV of G, or the V of F.

    3. Can't be G, because the D chord diatonic to G is major.

    4. Must be C or F, or one of their relative minors Am or Dm.

    5. Or something else, if those 3 chords are not strictly diatonic to the key. For example, C could be used as a secondary dominant in a move to some other chord, or any of the chords could be "borrowed" modal interchange chords in some other key, or jest passing chords for voice leading or other effect.

    6. Listen for the final note in the melody -- that's very often the letter of the key, major or minor. And listen for the chord that the song seems to gravitate to, or feel at rest with --- that's the key chord.

    7. If you do this often and need a temporary aid, keep a chart like this handy: http://www.guitarbyte.net/2011/chord-scales-chart/
    I guess i will start practicing...
    Im right now using a system to count the sharps or flats of each scale
    to know how many are there in each scale...I guess i need to memorize
    it so i won't have to calculate each time.

    Thanks, alot!

  10. #10
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xyzzy View Post
    The way I would look at the set (Dm, C, Am) would be like this, analagous to Jed's process but possibly faster for some and slower for others ...

    1. In a major scale, the diatonic major chords are I, IV, and V. There's a good chance all chords are diatonic, so ...

    2. The C must be I of C, the IV of G, or the V of F.

    3. Can't be G, because the D chord diatonic to G is major.

    4. Must be C or F, or one of their relative minors Am or Dm.
    The thing I like about your system is that you are scanning multiple keys and thinking in terms of notes and chords (or chords implying the notes). It's an indication of notes-based thinking or at minimum a step towards notes-based thinking.

    There's no substitute for learning to think in terms of notes and chords - for the purposes of understanding theory. In there short term, it's ok to use reference material but ultimately - the more of the major and minor scales that are memorized - and completely internalized - the easier everything about music becomes.

    I know it seems like a lot of work and a major PITA to memorize all the major scales but really there are only 15 major scales and once you've memorized the first seven, the next eight are dead easy. Three months is all it would take to memorize all 15 major scales, working at one scale a week. And once that's done, you'll have and will reap the benefits of having that knowledge forever.

  11. #11
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rg12 View Post
    I guess i will start practicing...
    Im right now using a system to count the sharps or flats of each scale
    to know how many are there in each scale...I guess i need to memorize
    it so i won't have to calculate each time.
    This is where it starts. Give yourself a couple of weeks to memorize the keys by their key signature. Try to work in one direction for a while - for example descending 5ths from F# > B > E > A > D > G > C > F > Bb > Eb > Ab > Db > Gb. This is the cycle of 5ths descending from six sharps to six flats. As well is presenting the key signatures in order, descending 5ths is a very common chord movement.

    An additional couple of things to know is the order of addition of sharps and flats.
    Sharps are added to a key signature in this order - F > C > G > D > A > E > B
    Flats are added to a key signature in this order - B > E > A > D > G > C > F
    * Notice how the order of addition of flats is the exact reverse of the order of addition of sharps *


    Have fun and good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by xyzzy View Post
    The way I would look at the set (Dm, C, Am) would be like this, analagous to Jed's process but possibly faster for some and slower for others ...

    1. In a major scale, the diatonic major chords are I, IV, and V. There's a good chance all chords are diatonic, so ...

    2. The C must be I of C, the IV of G, or the V of F.

    3. Can't be G, because the D chord diatonic to G is major.

    4. Must be C or F, or one of their relative minors Am or Dm.

    5. Or something else, if those 3 chords are not strictly diatonic to the key. For example, the major chord could be used as a secondary dominant in a move to some other chord up a fourth, or any of the chords could be "borrowed" modal interchange chords in some other key, or jest passing chords for voice leading or other effect.

    6. Listen for the final note in the melody -- that's very often the letter of the key, major or minor. And listen for the chord that the song seems to gravitate to, or feel at rest with --- that's the key chord.

    7. If you do this often and need a temporary aid, keep a chart like this handy: http://www.guitarbyte.net/2011/chord-scales-chart/ ... in the long run, of course, things like deducing keys from limited bits of information tend to get easier the more one does it and the more one learns the theory which leads toward "the usual suspects."

    Is it worth him doing that if he only has those three chords - C, Amin, Dmin?

    We don't know if his song has any other chords at all (do we?). And if it does, then it might have key changes anyway ... in which, it may need more than one scale.

    If we are just talking about what scale to play over those three chords, then C-Major = A-minor will work fine, right?

    But .... you could just target the chord tones anyway and not worry about any scales as such.


    Love the photo!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    Is it worth him doing that if he only has those three chords - C, Amin, Dmin?

    We don't know if his song has any other chords at all (do we?). And if it does, then it might have key changes anyway ... in which, it may need more than one scale.
    It's just my experience doing things along the lines of what he's doing. Adding contrast of life experience to the forum . I think in terms of composition and acoustic chord accompaniment to a sung melody, and sometimes I start assembling things from bits and pieces I've gleaned in some situation.

    If we are just talking about what scale to play over those three chords, then C-Major = A-minor will work fine, right?
    Yes, but so will F-major = D-minor. I guess it's just the way I think; if I think there's more than one solution to something, I don't feel right stopping after finding just the one. If I'm home after a jam session or performance, and trying to piece together a song version from what I remember, for example, I'd certainly want to be aware of both possibilities.

    But .... you could just target the chord tones anyway and not worry about any scales as such.
    I guess so. I don't have much experience yet just playing lead against others in a jam setting, but I'd think that approach will indeed get one out of the gate faster than mine, if that's what you're doing.

    Like I said above, to me the guitar is primarily a chord-producing instrument for accompaniment to singing, and so I think in terms of chord sets when I'm trying to figure out how to render something I'm hearing in my head or trying to reconstruct by ear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by xyzzy View Post
    It's just my experience doing things along the lines of what he's doing. Adding contrast of life experience to the forum . I think in terms of composition and acoustic chord accompaniment to a sung melody, and sometimes I start assembling things from bits and pieces I've gleaned in some situation.



    Yes, but so will F-major = D-minor. I guess it's just the way I think; if I think there's more than one solution to something, I don't feel right stopping after finding just the one. If I'm home after a jam session or performance, and trying to piece together a song version from what I remember, for example, I'd certainly want to be aware of both possibilities.


    I guess so. I don't have much experience yet just playing lead against others in a jam setting, but I'd think that approach will indeed get one out of the gate faster than mine, if that's what you're doing.

    Like I said above, to me the guitar is primarily a chord-producing instrument for accompaniment to singing, and so I think in terms of chord sets when I'm trying to figure out how to render something I'm hearing in my head or trying to reconstruct by ear.
    Sure they might all fit in the key of D-minor, and you could therefore play a D-Nat-minor scale . Except I was noting that he said three things -

    (1)he already told us he got the chords from the key of A-minor.

    (2)he asked what single scale those chords belong to.

    (3)Jed already explained how to determine what scales to play, but he said he wanted a shorter route.
     
    So what I'm getting at is this - (1)if he knows they come from the key of A-minor, then he can just play A-natural-Minor scale. That's the “shorter route”, and the simplest thing to understand if you want to play over any three diatonic chords like that ... play scale X for chords in the key of X.

    And then .... (2)those three chords don't necessarily come from any one single scale (as the OP suggests). So if he wants to look for other options beyond the obvious A-minor scale, then he needs more info., eg about what actually sounds like the key centre, and/or if as he suggests they come from some arbitrary song then he needs to know what other chords are in the song and whether they are all in the same key or not (if he wants to decide what scales he can play) .

    That’s my err ... “added contrast of life experience” lol
     
     

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post


    Sure they might all fit in the key of D-minor, and you could therefore play a D-Nat-minor scale . Except I was noting that he said three things -

    (1)he already told us he got the chords from the key of A-minor.

    (2)he asked what single scale those chords belong to.

    (3)Jed already explained how to determine what scales to play, but he said he wanted a shorter route.
     
    So what I'm getting at is this - (1)if he knows they come from the key of A-minor, then he can just play A-natural-Minor scale. That's the “shorter route”, and the simplest thing to understand if you want to play over any three diatonic chords like that ... play scale X for chords in the key of X.

    And then .... (2)those three chords don't necessarily come from any one single scale (as the OP suggests). So if he wants to look for other options beyond the obvious A-minor scale, then he needs more info., eg about what actually sounds like the key centre, and/or if as he suggests they come from some arbitrary song then he needs to know what other chords are in the song and whether they are all in the same key or not (if he wants to decide what scales he can play) .

    That’s my err ... “added contrast of life experience” lol
     
     
    Well, sure, variance in opinions is what makes a forum different from a blog. To me it seems absolutely clear that by saying he expected a "shorter route" and indeed asked in the OP "how can i know which scale they belong to without looking in every scale i know" he is asking for a general solution to a general problem. My feeling was that limiting a response to the exact chords and key he was using as an example was in fast missing the mark, and so I attempted to offer a "shorter route" to solving the general problem.

    I don't think he was asking whether if he took some chords from a song in A-minor, they were best accompanied with other objects also in A-minor. What would have been the point of that? That could have been asked without using the clues Dm,Am,C as an intermediate step. This is why I thought that speaking to the more abstract problem was, in fact, precisely responsive to the OP.

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