Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

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cruisemates
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Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by cruisemates »

These comments are based on the posting of the song "A Very Minor Affair" by Jim RR. Jim said he didn't realize what a mine field he was getting into.

In this board it seems most people are concentrating on the basic blues scale - which is great. That has worked for most of the worlds best players and in almost any blues song, but there will be times when you want to branch out.

Jim's song - a very minor affair is appropriatley named because it is all minor chords.

Now, if you don't know this I want you to think about it. What makes a blues scale sound bluesy is that you are taking the MAJOR notes of the scale and dropping them a half-step to turn them into minor intervals. This is especially true if the 3rd step of the scale, but also the 5th and 7th.

A major chord in key of C is: C E G (and if you want to add the major seventh you add B). A major seventh chord is a very "muzak" sounding chord you rarely hear in blues. It is a Burt Bacharach chord. Here are samples:

1 -----0------------0---------5-------------x----------8--------------------------------------------
1 -----0------------1---------7-------------5---------10--------------------------------------------
1 -----0------------2---------6-------------6----------9--------------------------------------------
1 -----2------------3---------7-------------6---------10--------------------------------------------
1 -----3------------3---------5-------------x----------8-------------------------------------------
1 -------------------------------------------5--------------------------------------------------

-----Cmaj7----Fmaj7----DMaj7-------Amaj7-----FMaj7

The major scale is easy - all white keys on a piano C D E F G B A


Now - forget that - and lets take a look at a BLUES scales in key of C

C Eb F G Bb C

1 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------8-------11--------
1 -----------------------------------------------------------------8----11------------------------
1 ----------------------------------------------------8----10-------------------------------------
1 ------------------------------------8-----10----------------------------------------------------
1 --------------------8------10-------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ------8-----11----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Note from this: CDEFGBA to this C Eb F G Bb C you have made flat the THIRD note in the scale ( E to Eb) and the seventh ( B to Bb ). Then in blues you ADD in the famous blue note Gb (you don't replace G with Gb, you add in Gb but also still play G). So you have flatted the chord tones of the scale - the III, V and VII notes of the scales ( E G B ). Note: you don't make the root flat, it is the root, the note of the key you are playing.

With this blues scale you can play over a typical I IV V blues pattern.

BUT there are time when the "typical" I IV V pattern is not so typical because some of the chords get changed. IN "A very minor affair" the chords in the song are A-minor (I-minor) to D-minor (IV-minor) with a surprise FMaj7 (and I said you never hear that in blues) leading into the V chord. Sometimes the V chord is minor in the song, and sometimes it is major (that would be either E-major or E-minor).

When the five is minor the notes are E G B D, when it is major (or more specifically dominant which is what we call a major chord with a flatted seventh) the notes are E G# B D. In Blues we play the dominant V chord 99.99% of the time, remember that. But this song also has a V-minor (it has both minor and dominant).

Herein lies one of the great debates of Blues - and where a lot of personal style comes in - do you stick just to the Blues scale? (you certainly can) or do you adapt your playing to reflect the chord substitutions in a song like "A Very Minor Affair) - you can do that as well.

Great guitar players do both, to be honest. They will play for a bit in simple blues notes, and then they will change it up and go more with the scales called for by the actual chords.

A great guitarist will hear all of these nuances and know what chord he is on all the time. He will try to find ways to make the unusual notes fit to give his playing more interest.

Lets take look at the notes in the chords in a very minor affair:

A-minor: A C E G

D-minor: D F A C

FMaj7: F A C E

E-minor: E G B D

E7 ( V-dominant7) E G# B D

If you look at the common notes here and add them up (to find your scale) you see A B C D E F G A
- all the notes of the blues scale in A ( A C D E G ) but there is a surprise in there: the F is not normally played in the typical 1st position blues guitar, most guitarists head for F#, as in this blues licks:

A B C
E F# G
C D
G A

or

1 -----------------------------------------------5----7---8------------------------------------------
1 ------------------------------5---7----8--------------------------------------------------------
1 -------------5----7----8------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ------7---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
------1-----m3---4----b5-----5--M6 --m7-----1---2---m3 (in this case I used M for Major, and m for minor).

That 6, or F# ( 2nd-string 7th-fret) is where you get hung up here, the scale and chords call out for the f natural (2nd-string 6-fret). That is the note in the D-minor chord and the Fmaj7. So the "extended blues" scale becomes:

1 -----------------------------------------------5----7---8------------------------------------------
1 ------------------------------5---6----8--------------------------------------------------------
1 -------------5----7----8------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ------7---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
------1-----m3---4----b5-----5--m6---m7-----1---2---m3


Therein lies the rub - you CAN'T play the F#, it just sounds wrong. You can leave that note out though, or you can work in the F-natural. It is up to you and your ability to make it sound good.

I think that is enough for one post. Many of you already know this, but if you don't then I suggest you start trying to think along these lines of "what notes are in the scale for the chord I am playing? Some songs actually change scales depending on which chord you are on, while others let you stay in the same scale for the whole song. Which is better? Whatever your listeners like more....

"A Minor Affair" does change scales, the F# never works (as it normally does in regular Major blues progressions) PLUS you have to watch for the E7 chord (V dominant 7 ) because it has a g#. G# (The major 7th of the scale we are in, A-minor) is actually a very cool note to toss into any blues progression but you only get one chance - at the end of the turnaround on the last V7 chord before the i IV V pattern starts again.

One last thing, I tried playing to these chords and the bends ( 4 to 5 ) just sound wrong, and I am not sure why. The song just sounds SO minor that when I try to use that E-note the suggestion of the DOMINANT V chord is just too much for the ear. An interesting thing, very unusual.

i edited this to make the distinction between major and minor intervals more distinct under the tabs.

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MojoJim
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by MojoJim »

Cruisemates,
Fantastic lesson. I understand the theory of major and minor scales, pentatonic scales, I-IV-V progressions, 7th chords, blue notes, etc. I can work them out with pencil and paper. But I haven't translated all that good theory into my playing yet. At least not in a way that is natural and automatic. When I finally absorb your lesson I will probably have questions - I'm not that far yet. But it's the sweet spot and a perfect bit of information for me. Hopefully, there are many of us learners who will make good use of it.

I used to hear people say that mathematicians study music because both disciplines are built up from simple basic principles and, in practice, both are both very complex in a well-regulated way. Being to a very small degree both mathematician and musician I now think it is the surprising and mysterious cosmic irregularities that make them similar. (Why is there a Pythagorean comma? Why is Pi so weird?) It continues to generate a sense of wonder for me.

Since your analysis centers around the backing track and the piece I posted I'd like to repeat some background and give some clarification.

Clearly the backing track is in A minor and is called A Minor Affair. I attributed it to Lawrence Fritts but I was wrong. VikingBlues had it right when he attributed it to Pete Anderson.

VikingBlues posted an excellent song played over this backing track and used the title "A Minor Affair". I listened to his work many, many times and the influence on my song should be obvious.

I shortened the backing track significantly and also because my song was a beginner's effort I labeled it "A Very Minor Affair".

I'm beginning to think it should now be labeled "A Very Strange Minor Affair". Or "A Very Complex Minor Affair".

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HalfBlindLefty
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by HalfBlindLefty »

:thumbsup: Awesome lesson Cruisemates. :clap:
I read it, tried to absorb what you told. I'm afraid however that bringing it to practice is way beyond me :)
For some reason, -and I tried many times- I'm not able to use theory while playing. I just use notes I feel will sound good and use them while playing.
It goes even further, I don't study other peoples licks or runs, I may pick up a lot of them whilst listening to music, but I don't figure them out to copy and use them.

I know the above will always will render my playing to simple, but I'm afraid I will have to life with that fact and go for tone.
My brain simply refuses to coperate. :wall:

So the big secret is out now, -think about it- Even finding out chords for a song is a problem to me :shy: :oldie:
But hey :wink: I seem to be able to pick the right notes while playing lead :dance:
A long time ago, in the old forum : Registered: Mon, 27 Nov 2006. Wonder were the other old members all went....

cruisemates
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by cruisemates »

Let me boil everything I said down into one easy concept - there are many different minor scales, depending on whether you are going minor with ALL the chords in the song (as this one does) or if you are just going minor on the I chord (a lot of songs start in I-minor but have a IV and V-major).

This is the typical FULL blues scales in A

1 -----------------------------------------5------------------------------
1 -------------------------5----7----8------------
1 ----------5---7---8-----------------
1 ------7------------
1

You all recognize this, right? - all I am saying iS that the sixth note FROM THE BOTTOM (the sixth of the scale 7-fret, 2nd string) has to be moved down a fret, because other wise the song has a d-Major chord in it, not a d-minor.

1 -----------------------------------------5------------------------------
1 -------------------------5----6----8------------
1 ----------5---7---8-----------------
1 ------7------------


because the A-minor song uses the minor IV chord ( D-minor ) then your playing scale gets changed - you have to use the f-natural instead of F3 which is what most blues players would shoot for most of the time - I am referring to the 6th of the scale, because it is the 3rd of the IV-chord.

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VikingBlues
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by VikingBlues »

I can't help but admire the depth of the technical knowledge and the ability of some members of the forum to interpret and understand the reasoning and logic of the music we try and play. I am also envious of those peoples ability to apply those techniques to their playing with such success.

I keep trying (with gradually reducing frequency) to get into, understand ,and apply theory. :sad:

But ... ho, hum, ... it just don't happen for me. The mind shuts down and refuses to store anything in long term memory - so I can look at or try the same instruction or excercise as the previous day and I've got to look at it all again as its not "stuck" - and again the next day. etc.
HalfBlindLefty wrote:For some reason, -and I tried many times- I'm not able to use theory while playing. I just use notes I feel will sound good and use them while playing.
This sounds very familiar. I spent over 30 years, on and off, trying to play by logic and scales and "understanding. At the end of that time I could play sort of OK and my rhythm work was reasonable, but boy, did my lead work suck big time. In the last two years I have finally got somewhere on lead work by understanding how to listen, and to listen by instinct. And to translate what I hear in my head to what my fingers play on the guitar - not by any conscious effort but by mental / physical memory. I have really no "licks" in my armoury - I have a little man singing in my head and he tells my fingers what to do on the strings and fretboard. I'm so glad I found that little man, but I wish I knew where he was hiding for all those years.
HalfBlindLefty wrote:It goes even further, I don't study other peoples licks or runs, I may pick up a lot of them whilst listening to music, but I don't figure them out to copy and use them.
This also sounds very familiar. In attempt to get the learning process going again I thought get a DVD of one of my "heroes" and study and learn from that. Of the electric blues players from these shores I admire and respect Peter Green's early work above all else - I absolutely love listening to his playing for the choice of notes, the phrasing and the tone - yet, on getting an in depth DVD totor on some of his best work, I find I get no joy from it, and no incentive to keep on with it. I can play the bits I've looked at so far, but they do not feel like "me" playing and how the hell can I think I could play anything up to anywhere near the standard of a Peter Green anyway. :roll:

Anyway I know that a lot of members of the forum will find great use for your detailed analysis and the simplified concept Cruisemates. They're written with skill that even a "techniquephobe" like me can see. But I thought I should post so that if any of you trying to understand theory get the same mental blanks as me don't despair, there may be other options for us where we can work around our ignorance of what we are doing.

It was sort of weird, as a poster to the blues room on the old forum a couple of months ago of "A Minor Affair" as noted by JimRR, to find out that the backing track had these various factors which make it a more complicated backing track - to be honest I had no idea about any of these complexities and just tried to play what sounded as if it fitted - in a way I'm glad I was unaware as if I had known I'd probably have avoided using the BT! :alright:
An improv a day keeps the demons at bay!

mjo
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by mjo »

Cruisemates: I'm a little confused by your post. You've highlighted an F# as a note to be changed / modified, yet there is no F# indicated anywhere in the chord progression, nor the scales for this tune. It is, actually all A minor, (note the G# in the dominant V chord is from the Harmonic Minor). There should be nothing tricky about this tune, just remember to use a G# instead of G when the dom. V rolls around.

The "full blues scale" you diagramed should not have an F# in it. The A Blues Scale should be: A,C,D,Eb,E,G. In this case, the b5 (Eb) would be avoided, or used as a passing tone resolving, usually to E. For this tune, I'd say be careful of the Blues Scale and stick to minor Pentatonic.

Note: the A,(natural) minor scale = A,B,C,D,E,F,G. This scale includes D minor, F major7, E minor. Raising the 3rd of the E chord to get the E dominant is the same as raising the seventh degree of the A natural minor scale = A harmonic minor.

-best,
Mike

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HalfBlindLefty
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by HalfBlindLefty »

Blimey :)

* select object brain
* with (brain) do
pwrdwnsys option(*immed) restart(*no)
*end do(brain)
* deselect all
* call freemem

Run (play)

:lol:
A long time ago, in the old forum : Registered: Mon, 27 Nov 2006. Wonder were the other old members all went....

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Golfxzq
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by Golfxzq »

VikingBlues wrote:In the last two years I have finally got somewhere on lead work by understanding how to listen, and to listen by instinct. And to translate what I hear in my head to what my fingers play on the guitar - not by any conscious effort but by mental / physical memory. I have really no "licks" in my armoury - I have a little man singing in my head and he tells my fingers what to do on the strings and fretboard. I'm so glad I found that little man, but I wish I knew where he was hiding for all those years.
This has me thinking... as a beginner... something has been stuck in the back of my mind which was posted here a while back, I think by JimRR or maybe by someone responding to his A Very Minor Affair post. I tried to find it but could not. Something like "I learned when to change notes with the I, IV, V chord changes". I'm not sure if that was the exact phrase, but something like that. And now I learn that VB has a little man telling him when to change notes depending on what sounds right. I guess my question is do I tell my "little man" to change notes when the chord progression changes or do I just play on with what sounds right as long as I am staying on the proper scale notes within the proper key?

Thanks
"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right."
- Henry Ford

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weelie
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by weelie »

I am essentially a beginner too, but I tremendously enjoyed the way I've recorded a couple solos so that I first play whatever, take the beginning few notes, then listen to it again and again until I hear how it might continue, then record a few more notes (once I've found them on the fretboard), then again listening...

That's what I did with this country practice thing and tremendously enjoyed it, mainly I mean the solo form 55 sec onward: http://www.box.net/shared/xql16hfhzs (it's just a country style practice thing, doesn't really go anywhere), but I did do the lead up guitar bits the same way too, just listening in a loop until I heard in my head something and tried finding it on the guitar neck and playing it then.

Too bad I just don't have the time for that now! But with the loop pedal, I am essentially doing the same thing. Recording a rhythm track, and a little bit of solo, then thinking what might might sound good on it.

I've heard somewhere a way of practicing soloing, where you start with one note, the note before a chord change, then work into adding the solo one note at a time until you feel the solo is all done.

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MojoJim
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by MojoJim »

It almost certainly wasn't me that said, "I learned when to change notes with the I, IV, V chord changes" - because I haven't learned that yet.
I'm sure the better players would say that there can't be anything wrong with "just play on with what sounds right".

There's seems to be a lot you can read on the subject of playing over chord changes. Some say that as long as you are playing scale notes that sound good then you just play over the I-IV-V chords and don't worry about the changes. I've read that you should finish playing over one chord by playing the root note of the next chord. I've also read that when the chord changes you shift your playing box to have the same root as the chord. I don't know if any of that really makes sense.

Since the I-IV-V chords have some notes in common and some notes that are different (including notes that are not even in the underlying scale!?) maybe you play more of the notes unique to each chord.

Well, that's all I know about it. Maybe we will get some good advice from others.

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12bar
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by 12bar »

Some thoughts about this BT and cruisemates great analysis:
cruisemates wrote: Now - forget that - and lets take a look at a BLUES scales in key of C

C Eb F G Bb C
This is just the pure minor pentatonic, as you've written below the Blues scale usually (there are more than one definitions of it) contains the Gb as Blue note.
The minor pentatonic can directly be taken from the natural minor (Aeolian) without flattening any note (but IMHO this doesn't help much while playing).
cruisemates wrote:Note from this: CDEFGBA to this C Eb F G Bb C you have made flat the THIRD note in the scale ( E to Eb) and the seventh ( B to Bb ). Then in blues you ADD in the famous blue note Gb (you don't replace G with Gb, you add in Gb but also still play G). So you have flatted the chord tones of the scale - the III, V and VII notes of the scales ( E G B ). Note: you don't make the root flat, it is the root, the note of the key you are playing.

With this blues scale you can play over a typical I IV V blues pattern.
If you compare the minor pentatonic (C Eb F G Bb) with the C7 (C E G Bb) chord usually played in dominant Blues, you'll see that except the Eb all notes are there. The E/Eb is an essential Blues thing - you can borrow the E from the major pentatonic plus it's in the IV chord F7: F A C Eb. Now guess where you can get the missing A: from the major pentatonic. Now we need the G7: G B D F. If we put them all together we get: C D E F G A Bb, which is simply the mixolydian scale most players use in Blues or Rock. It can also be described as a combination of minor and major pentatonic, the notes are the same. It's just another approach to apply classical music theory the Blues.

Now we have a minor Blues from Pete Anderson. This is what Pete writes about it (http://gc.guitarcenter.com/kingoftheblues/tracks/):
A Minor Affair

"A Minor Affair" - Classic B.B. King - a modernized version of a '70s Bobby Bland "uptown NY to LA" minor blues romp. This version substitutes a major 7th chord a half-step up from the V chord and an augmented V chord for the IV. Try using pure minor pentatonic scales throughout. Be sure to capitalize on the altered turnaround with arpeggios.
Minor Blues use minor chords - no surprise. In C this would normally be Cm(I) Fm(IV) Gm(V), in A it's Am(I) Dm(IV) Em(V), which can also be played as 7th. But now we have some chord substitutes: FMaj7 (F A C E) and Eaug (E Ab C). The A minor pentatonic is A C D E G - save to play in any way, but we can also use F and Ab. While F is part of the natural minor scale, Ab is from the major scale. :nuts:
cruisemates wrote:If you look at the common notes here and add them up (to find your scale) you see A B C D E F G A
- all the notes of the blues scale in A ( A C D E G ) but there is a surprise in there: the F is not normally played in the typical 1st position blues guitar, most guitarists head for F#, as in this blues licks:
The scale is also the A natural minor (relative minor to C major sharing the same notes).

Now the problem is to apply all this stuff in real time while playing... :wall:
I always end up with HBL's program.

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BadBluesPlayer
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by BadBluesPlayer »

:icon_whoknows:

:think:

I'm with HBL - I have to play by ear. I'm just not fluent with tablature. I'm trying, though.

mjo
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by mjo »

I hope you guys don't think I'm some sort of, arbitrary "theory hugger", I honestly don't feel that way. I'd rather hear one note, played with feeling (and good timing) than all the theoretically possible notes in a given span.
It's just that I found the original post / concept to be confusing and possibly misleading, (no offense intended, I really like cruisemates take on Mainline, very well played !)

-best,
Mike

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12bar
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by 12bar »

mjo wrote: I really like cruisemates take on Mainline, very well played !
That's the difference - he knows how to apply all this theory stuff while playing, I don't... :cry:

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MojoJim
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by MojoJim »

I've been using pencil and paper and working out scales, chords, etc. so that I can follow the theory here. I'm doing OK on the theory - but I'm really not doing so good with my ears. I'm having trouble hearing the chord substitutions described here. I'd like to work on that a bit - play the BT, play some chords - and see if I can train my ear. But I need to be clear on what the chords are that I'm listening to.

Cruisemates says the BT contains:

".....a surprise FMaj7 (and I said you never hear that in blues) leading into the V chord."
and
"Sometimes the V chord is minor in the song, and sometimes it is major....."

Pete Anderson says:
"This version substitutes a major 7th chord a half-step up from the V chord and an augmented V chord for the IV."

So I'm not real clear on where these substitutions appear in the 12 bar progression.

Can someone confirm that the chord sequence in this BT is:

Am - Am - Am - Am
Dm - Dm - Am - Am
Fmaj7 - Eaug - Am - Am

Or is it more complicated than that?
Thanks

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MojoJim
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by MojoJim »

Here's another question:

mjo warns that the use of the blue note (Eb) should be avoided in this tune. That's interesting because when I was trying to come up with something to play for "A Very Minor Affair" I was studying the A minor scale on the fretboard that I printed out using the Scale and Chord Generator. I spotted the blue note and I thought, "Well, this is supposed to be a blues song - shouldn't I be using the blue note?" I tried it and it sounded terrible!

How can the blue note sound bad in a blues song?

I worked it in by using it very lightly in the first line of the second chorus - but it really wanted to pull the sense of the song completely off track. I don't understand.

This seems like a great mystery to me. The answer may be simple - or it may warrant a separate topic. Any thoughts/explanations?

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12bar
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by 12bar »

OK, I have to sit down and listen with guitar in hand... not just comparing scales and chords. guitar_fire::

mjo
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by mjo »

JimRR wrote: Can someone confirm that the chord sequence in this BT is:

Am - Am - Am - Am
Dm - Dm - Am - Am
Fmaj7 - Eaug - Am - Am

Or is it more complicated than that?
Thanks
Honestly, I'm having a hard time hearing that F Maj 7, but the Eaug stands out, it's the last chord in the sequence. So the last 4 bars would be: Fmaj7 - Dm - Am - Eaug starts on beat 2 of the last measure. * I'm really guessing on the maj7 chord, it could continue through the 10th bar *

As for the Eb: it's out of key by a 1/2 step which means it will clash with the chords, (generally speaking). You can get away with using it, but just as a quick passing tone leading to either: the E note-(most likely), or the D note. ....honestly you can "get away" with using it anytime it sounds good to you, it's just most likely under these circumstances.

I'll be curious to see what 12Bar comes up with for the chord sequence, to see just how that major7 fits in.

-best,
Mike

cruisemates
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by cruisemates »

Here is what I hear:

Intro:

1 ------8---------8---------5--------8----------------------------5------------------------------
1 -----10---------5---------5--------6----------------------------5-------------------------------
1 ------9---------5---------5--------7----------------------------5-------------------------------
1 -----10---------6---------7--------6----------------------------7---------------------------------
1 -----8----------7---------5--------8----------------------------5--------------------------------
1 -----x----------x---------5--------6----------------------------------------------------------

------Fmaj7--- Eaug----Am7-----Bb9 - - - - - - - - - - - - --dm9 (in case you need to know, not part of intro)

On the intro, I am not sure if it is Eaug or just Em9. Eaug is easier than it looks - use an f-chord fingering but starting on the fifth string and add your pinky on 1-string 8-fret.

Song: Am Am Am Am
dm(9) dm(9) Am Am
Fmaj7 Eaug Am Bb9

The dm(9) means you drop the third (f; 6-fret 2nd-string) down a fret, it is on on/off kind of note as you feel it. By the way, I know I am changing what I said the chords of the song were a few days ago, but I dont hear the V7 anymore (not sure, it might be at the end, I just did this on the fly from the beginning).

By the way - here is a nice clean copy of the backing track: http://gc.guitarcenter.com/kingoftheblu ... s/?track=9

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12bar
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Re: Notes on Major/Minor chord progressions

Post by 12bar »

The intro sequence sounds right to my ears. :thumbsup:
Maybe the opening chords are played a bit lower:
FMaj7: 132211
Eaug: 0x2110 (not Em, it has G# and C)

Search youtube for "a minor affair" and you'll find some nice stuff :D

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