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Thread: Why does this work?

  1. #1
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    Why does this work?

    I have an odd progression in my verse, i'll write it out as played:

    E - D - C7 ---- E - D - C7 ---- E - G - C7 ---- E - D - C7 ----

    G - D - C7 ---- G - D - C7 ---- G - D - C7 - B

    Why does this work? What is the theoretical reason why it doesn't sound horrible?

    Secondary dom's? I don't know, i'm awefull at theory.

    Really need help on this one

  2. #2
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    theory is not why things do or do not work. it is what works generally noted, for future use, and names of sounds so you can think about, learn more, and discuss music. it is organization. math is not the numbers you've named or the symbols you've drawn. but we invented those names and those symbols, that way we can write them down and arrive at complex conclusions and algorithms and stuff. without naming them, the math would still exist, but we would not be able to even scratch the surface of mathematical concepts you can learn after having named things. it's just names.

    it started off people found stuff sounded good, and hey guess what, that was often a certain pattern all the time, let's call that the key. it's not hey these sounds sound good because they are the key. that would be backwards.

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    It's not that i think something has to obey the rules to work.

    I've had to write a song for my coursework, and really really like this progression but have to be able to explain why it works in a round about way. To say what theory i used to make it work.

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    E - D - C7.. I cant think of an example in pop music or traditional progressions that would give you the kind of answer you are after.

    It does sound nice though, and I have heard it before. Its got a bit of parallel harmony going on which is probably why it has such a warm sound. (decending in whole steps)

    G - D - C7 The way I see this sequence its a kind of backwards blues turnaround.

    Normally In a blues you would see D7 C7 G7(key of G). All you have done is put the G7 at the start of the sequence. Essentially its just a V - I with the ii(II - Dmaj) acting as a kind of tension device. I'm not sure If I would call it a passing chord. Either way its nothing too ground breaking.

    Nice little tune in the works for you it seems.

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    are the "-" in between the chords indicating minor chords? ie: Em Dm C7?

  6. #6
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blacksails View Post
    I have an odd progression in my verse, i'll write it out as played:

    E - D - C7 ---- E - D - C7 ---- E - G - C7 ---- E - D - C7 ----

    G - D - C7 ---- G - D - C7 ---- G - D - C7 - B

    Why does this work? What is the theoretical reason why it doesn't sound horrible?

    Secondary dom's? I don't know, i'm awefull at theory.

    Really need help on this one
    I'd say the tonic is E and this is bluesy in nature. D is a bVII chord, C is a bVI (both pretty normal). The 7 on C is E's 'blue note' and gives it a kind of wacky edge, but still keeping a bluesy flavor. On the C bar it will also work adding in a fourth chord in the sequence. Try B, D or A and you should definitely start hearing E as the tonic if you weren't already. The second section with G is more ambiguous (because it looks and sounds like it might be in G). I'd say however that the G is still acknowledging the E tonic from the earlier part (like a bluesy bIII chord) and of course the same chord sequence reminds your ear. The B at the end is another indication we're in E. I'd use an E blues scale to make some melody, but also highlighting the other chord tones of the C7s.

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    It looks like a typical case of "borrowing from the parallel minor" (or "modal interchange" if you want a more academic sounding term *).

    All these chords (apart from E major!) make sense in an E minor context. C7 - as mentioned above - is a bluesy bVI chord, common in an E minor key in jazz or blues. (Can also be interpreted as borrowed from E phrygian.)

    There are no secondary doms, although you could argue that the C7 before the B is acting as a tritone substitute for F#7, V of B, and thus a secondary dominant ("V/V" in key of E major or E minor).

    * More on the concept here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borrowed_chord
    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...hp/t-9966.html
    http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum.../t-194353.html
    http://www.guitar9.com/columnist286.html
    http://www.euphonicremarks.com/2009/...e-demystified/

  8. #8
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    So I would be correct in saying the progression is in the key of Em, borrowing E major from the parallel major through modal interchange, with the C7 acting as a bVI chord?

    Or It's in the key of E borrowing a bVII(D) and a bVI(C) from it's parallel minor through modal interchange. With the Bb in C7 coming from the E blues scale.
    Last edited by Blacksails; 04-27-2010 at 09:52 AM.

  9. #9
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blacksails View Post
    So I would be correct in saying the progression is in the key of Em, borrowing E major from the parallel major through modal interchange, with the C7 acting as a bVI chord?
    Almost, but really its the other way around: Progression in the key of Emaj borrowing heavily from E minor.
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  10. #10
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    My chorus is in the key of E minor. It modulates to the verse (progression we've been discussing) in E Maj with the use of a B7 chord (V7/i). The verse, then resolves back to the chorus with again the use of a B7 chord.

    Chorus :

    E5/D5/G5/A5/B5/B7

    Verse :

    E/D/C7/G/D/C7/B7


    So If i say "The chorus begins in the key of E minor using E5/D5/G5/A5/B5/ and making use of B7 (V7/i) to modulate to E major for the verse which uses E, D (bVII), C (bVi), G.
    The verse then ends on B7 bringing us back to the chorus in E minor."

    That would be correct in theoretical terms? Or would i be better saying that the chorus is in G major and saying that the B7 is V7/Vi?
    Last edited by Blacksails; 04-27-2010 at 10:34 AM.

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blacksails View Post
    Just realized that my chorus (precedes the verse at the intro) is in G major.

    Would it be better to write this as being in the key of E minor? It modulates to the progression we've been discussing in E Maj with the use of a B7 chord (V7/Vii in G, or V7/i in E minor)
    If you're notating it, I agree G major/E minor is probably better as an overall key sig.
    But I think it would be a good idea to change the key sig to 4 sharps when it moves to E major, as E major really is the new tonic at that point - even tho you would need plenty of accidentals to mark the naturals on the other chords in that section (or rather, any melody dependent on those chords).
    I think if you maintained an E minor key sig throughout, the E major chord might look like a mistake - or even a possible secondary dominant. (In key of E minor, E or E7 might be used as V of the iv chord, Am. Which is not what is happening in your tune of course.)

    An example I'm thinking of is George Harrison's "Something", which begins in C major/A minor, and moves to A major. The book I have shows a change in key sig to 3 sharps at that point (and back again when it returns to C/Am).

    Just listen to your song and decide at which point it sounds like the key centre goes back to G. (My guess is the first time it goes G-D-C7.)

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blacksails View Post
    It's not that i think something has to obey the rules to work.

    I've had to write a song for my coursework, and really really like this progression but have to be able to explain why it works in a round about way. To say what theory i used to make it work.
    the point i was making is that you can't find why it works. you can just name the parts. you can find parts of it that have been named before. like say a turnaround. it doesn't work because it is a turnaround. it works, and so people named it turnaround, and use that information to use it various situations. it's almost just a semantic thing, but the distinction is important.

  13. #13
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    Well, your scale is roughly:

    E F# G G# A A# B C D

    and so your interval pattern is:

    W H H H H H H W W

    You have a ton of half-step intervals, which suggests chromaticism. Haven't mapped out the whole chord progression, but that would be my first instinct as to the sound you're hearing that "works."

    But yeah, what fingerpikingood said, pretty much 100%.
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