Clarification Of Chord Theory


Guitarbuff1
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Guitarbuff1
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01/02/2012 6:20 pm
I'm trying to get a better understanding of chord theory. I have notation on a song that is written with 2 sharps thus I place it in the Key of "D". The song is "All My Trials" (traditional folk). The chords are D Am D G D Em A D. My question is since the 5th of the Key is A (V major), how is it that we have an Am. I thought the minor chords would have been under II and III and sometimes VI. Are there exceptions to the rules around Chords in a Key?

TB
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01/03/2012 6:48 pm
Good Question!

We'll see if we can get that answered for you ASAP.

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ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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01/04/2012 3:17 am
Originally Posted by: Guitarbuff1My question is since the 5th of the Key is A (V major), how is it that we have an Am. I thought the minor chords would have been under II and III and sometimes VI. Are there exceptions to the rules around Chords in a Key?

The short answer is that a key signature is a default setting of a song or melody. It is not a list of the only chords you are allowed to use. You can use any & all chords you like the sound of in your music.

The vast majority of music (classical, jazz, blues, pop) uses accidentals; that is, notes not in the key signature. While the key signature provides the main foundation of the music, the accidentals provide variety that adds spice.

To address your specific example, you are in the key of D major. The V chord is A major. But if the composer likes the sound of A minor in a certain point of the song, then he should use it. Accidentals are used in two ways: structurally & ornamentally.

Using an A minor chord in a D major key structurally means that the accidental, the odd note out, the C natural, is used as part of the melody or in some very important functionally way (to voice lead from one chord to the next, for example).

Using an A minor chord in a D major key ornamentally means that the accidental, the C natural, is used as an ornament or "color note", to add some variety to the chords, but not necessarily part of the melody. Or just because the composer or performer likes the sound of it at that point in the music.

This tutorial covers the basics of music theory, including how chords are built from scales to form the harmonic functions of a key signature.

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=495

These tutorials covers the basics of improvisation, which include using a key signature as the default setting, but how to include accidentals to modulate:

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=876
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=483
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=491

These tutorials cover the basics of blues improvisation, which include lots of mixing major (chord tones) & minor notes (accidentals as ornamental color tones).

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=918
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=217

These tutorials are an intro to jazz guitar, which includes using accidentals as a means of modulation.

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=519
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=1166

Almost any classical piece has accidentals. Fur Elise is a great example because it contains both ornamental (the D-sharp of the intro) & structural (the G-sharp of the E7 chord leading to the A minor tonic) uses of accidentals.

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=168

Hope all that helps. Ask more if necessary. Have fun!
Christopher Schlegel
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Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
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Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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01/04/2012 7:25 am
What a great question/explanation... just wanted to let you guys know i was interested in the question and what the answer would be... thanks Christopher, you really know how to explain this stuff well!

Cal
# 4
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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01/04/2012 3:58 pm
Originally Posted by: Slipin LizardWhat a great question/explanation...

Glad you found it valuable!
Christopher Schlegel
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Guitarbuff1
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Guitarbuff1
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01/05/2012 4:42 am
WOW Chris. Thanks for getting back to me on this. I've never gotten much into this Chord Theory in the past but have some understanding of the CIRCLE of 5ths from my years in Acapella Harmony (Barbershop). I found Lisa's Tool on Chord Theory helpful in solidifying my foundation on the subject of chording arrangements.

Glad to see even this subject is not so structured (ak Black and White), thus allowing the artist to have the perogative to exercise artistic enhancement to his arrangement.

Thanks for such a thorough explanation.

Tom B - Guitarbuff1
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ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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01/05/2012 2:18 pm
You are welcome for the reply.
Originally Posted by: Guitarbuff1I've never gotten much into this Chord Theory in the past but have some understanding of the CIRCLE of 5ths from my years in Acapella Harmony (Barbershop).

Good deal. Then you might also get some milage out of my tutorial on the Circle of Fifths.

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=835

It definitely helps unlock a lot of ideas about including accidental as modulations. This is because modulating with the circle of 5ths is essentially a temporary change of key signature. It's a farily advanced topic, so I usually wait to introduce it until after students have the basics covered; intro to music theory, improv, all the stuff in the tutorials I linked above. :)

I agree, Lisa's tutorial on Chord Theory is very helpful!

Ask more if necessary. Have fun!
Christopher Schlegel
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joshbeetler
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joshbeetler
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01/30/2012 5:10 pm
I am sure the Guitar tricks instructor might have thoroughly answered your questions but I wanted to offer some encouragement for someone that went through all the questions that you might having now.



When you consider the chords in a key, they follow a specific pattern. However, like any art, the rules are learned so they can later be BROKEN!

So your basic chord theory is like this.


In a major key, there are 7 tones, and when you construct a triad on each, you get a different chord.

In they key of C you have.

C major- I
D Minor- ii
E Minor- iii
F Major- IV
G Major- V
A minor- vi
B diminished- vii (dim)

The roman numerals represent the chords function within the key. These chord qualities (major,minor etc.) are consistent within any major key. So in the key of D, you would have

D major
E minor
F# minor
G Major
A Major
B Minor
C# diminished

Now regarding your question with the A minor in the key of D major.

The coool part is that you can "borrow" chords from other keys and superimpose them. So it is not uncommon to see a minor v chord in a major key or a bII in a major key.


So borrowed chords from C minor to C Major would be: Ab, Bb, Gm, Fm.

In C major, this would result in chords like a bVI (Ab), bVII (Bb), v (Gm), iv (Fm)

Alot of great songwriters of yesterday utilized borrowed chords and it is a great way to take any composition in a different direciton.

It all takes time to really utilize and absorb all this knowledge so be patient, and all the riches will be yours!
-Josh Beetler

"When you face the sun, the shadows always fall behind you"

-Hellen Keller
# 8

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