Scale question

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Senior Member

Joined: 06/22/00

Posts: 207

The key is in the E major chord. If that weren't there, your D minor scale would work (though it might not sound great) and your A harmonic minor wouldn't lock in nearly as well. E major chord is spelled like this:
E G# B
In this case the E is inconsequencial, the B, however, renders the D minor scale unusable, or at least strange sounding, here's why. D minor is spelled like this:
D E F G A Bb C D
Notice the Bb? Notice the G? The Bb will clash with the B in the E major chord. To make matters worse, the G# of the E major chord is the #4 (or b5, lets just say tritone) of the D minor scale. These two factors will add up to make the d minor scale a very dissonant scale to use over this progression.
Let's look at the A harmonic minor scale
A B C D E F G# A
Nails both notes, the B works, and more importantly the G# works. Since A harmonic minor (or any mode diatonic to it like E phrygian dominant) is the only scale with a key signature of just G sharp, it's about the only scale you could use to safely solo over the entire progression.
The Cadd2 (or add9)chord also work nicely with the A harmonic minor. The Cadd2 chord is at least diatonic to the scale, and the A minor chord is the root chord of the scale, so using the A harmonic minor chord will resolve strongly.
The way I like to look at these things is to add up all the chords and see what sharps or flats I get. In this case, all the chords except the E major had no sharps or flats (spell them out, you'll see) so we ended up with one sharp, and it was a G#. A harmonic minor is the only scale that really fits the bill (I know, all you metal heads will say phrygian dominant, for these purposes, they are the same thing.)
If you were to Add 7ths to these chords, they would be
Dm7, Cmaj9, Am/maj7 (cool one there) and Edom7. Any more questions feel free to ask.

#1

The key is in the E major chord. If that weren't there, your D minor scale would work (though it might not sound great) and your A harmonic minor wouldn't lock in nearly as well. E major chord is spelled like this:
E G# B
In this case the E is inconsequencial, the B, however, renders the D minor scale unusable, or at least strange sounding, here's why. D minor is spelled like this:
D E F G A Bb C D
Notice the Bb? Notice the G? The Bb will clash with the B in the E major chord. To make matters worse, the G# of the E major chord is the #4 (or b5, lets just say tritone) of the D minor scale. These two factors will add up to make the d minor scale a very dissonant scale to use over this progression.
Let's look at the A harmonic minor scale
A B C D E F G# A
Nails both notes, the B works, and more importantly the G# works. Since A harmonic minor (or any mode diatonic to it like E phrygian dominant) is the only scale with a key signature of just G sharp, it's about the only scale you could use to safely solo over the entire progression.
The Cadd2 (or add9)chord also work nicely with the A harmonic minor. The Cadd2 chord is at least diatonic to the scale, and the A minor chord is the root chord of the scale, so using the A harmonic minor chord will resolve strongly.
The way I like to look at these things is to add up all the chords and see what sharps or flats I get. In this case, all the chords except the E major had no sharps or flats (spell them out, you'll see) so we ended up with one sharp, and it was a G#. A harmonic minor is the only scale that really fits the bill (I know, all you metal heads will say phrygian dominant, for these purposes, they are the same thing.)
If you were to Add 7ths to these chords, they would be
Dm7, Cmaj9, Am/maj7 (cool one there) and Edom7. Any more questions feel free to ask.

Senior Member

Joined: 06/22/00

Posts: 207

Well to be entirely fair the progression isn't entirely in one key. One thing I forgot is that it's a C major chord, and in A harmonic minor the C wouldn't be minor, like you thought, but rather augmented. This might cause the A hm to sound strange over the C chord, but only cause of that one note, and it's easy to consider the G# an avoid tone for that chord, or at least to realize that it may sound a bit out.
Again, lets spell out A harmonic minor and figure out why C is augmented (not minor) and D is minor (not major)
A B C D E F G# is the A hm scale.
7 1 3 5
The degrees I marked make up the notes in the C chord built from the A hm scale. As you can see it is an augmented 7th chord, not a minor one, but also not a major one. Since you're playing a C major triad in the progression, which contains a G, and the scale contains a G#, there might be some tension, use your ears. The thing is, that maj7 (in relation to the A scale) note is already supposed to create a lot of tension as it is often played against a m7 chord in order to make the resolution to the root note that much stronger. For this reason I'd imagine that continuing to use the G# note in your soloing over the C chord wouldn't sound strange as long as you are aware of what sound it will create and know how to use it.
What makes you say that there is a D major chord in A harmonic minor?
A B C D E F G#
5 7 1 3
F is the minor third of D, not the major third. D, F, A, and C spell out a plain old minor 7th chord. You're playing a minor triad, that also works fine, and as you can see D, F, and A are all contained in A harmonic minor.
That clear it up?

#2

Well to be entirely fair the progression isn't entirely in one key. One thing I forgot is that it's a C major chord, and in A harmonic minor the C wouldn't be minor, like you thought, but rather augmented. This might cause the A hm to sound strange over the C chord, but only cause of that one note, and it's easy to consider the G# an avoid tone for that chord, or at least to realize that it may sound a bit out.
Again, lets spell out A harmonic minor and figure out why C is augmented (not minor) and D is minor (not major)
A B C D E F G# is the A hm scale.
7 1 3 5
The degrees I marked make up the notes in the C chord built from the A hm scale. As you can see it is an augmented 7th chord, not a minor one, but also not a major one. Since you're playing a C major triad in the progression, which contains a G, and the scale contains a G#, there might be some tension, use your ears. The thing is, that maj7 (in relation to the A scale) note is already supposed to create a lot of tension as it is often played against a m7 chord in order to make the resolution to the root note that much stronger. For this reason I'd imagine that continuing to use the G# note in your soloing over the C chord wouldn't sound strange as long as you are aware of what sound it will create and know how to use it.
What makes you say that there is a D major chord in A harmonic minor?
A B C D E F G#
5 7 1 3
F is the minor third of D, not the major third. D, F, A, and C spell out a plain old minor 7th chord. You're playing a minor triad, that also works fine, and as you can see D, F, and A are all contained in A harmonic minor.
That clear it up?

Senior Member

Joined: 06/22/00

Posts: 207

Wow that didn't work out at all, I meant to write what chord degree the notes were under the note names but the post gets all screwed up, I should have previwed, here's what i meant:
A B C D E F G#
To build a C chord from this scale, stack thirds
C = 1 E = maj3 G# =#5 B = maj7
1, maj3, #5, maj7 makes an aug7 chord, without the 7 its just an aug triad, that's better.

A B C D E F G#
To build a D chord from this scale
D = 1 F = m3 A = 5 C = m7
1 m3 5 m7 makes a minor 7th chord, without the seventh just a minor triad.

#3

Wow that didn't work out at all, I meant to write what chord degree the notes were under the note names but the post gets all screwed up, I should have previwed, here's what i meant:
A B C D E F G#
To build a C chord from this scale, stack thirds
C = 1 E = maj3 G# =#5 B = maj7
1, maj3, #5, maj7 makes an aug7 chord, without the 7 its just an aug triad, that's better.

A B C D E F G#
To build a D chord from this scale
D = 1 F = m3 A = 5 C = m7
1 m3 5 m7 makes a minor 7th chord, without the seventh just a minor triad.

Senior Member

Joined: 06/22/00

Posts: 207

You're right about the 1, 4, and 5 being major, but that applies to major keys. What it really i means is that in any given major key (And I mean ionian, based on the one chord, not based on mixolydian or lydian) the fourth and fifth chords will also be major triads (the fifth chord is actually a dom7 chord when you extend it though.)
As for learning theory, there's a lot less stuff to know than most people act like there is. I mean by no stretch do I know all that I'd like to know, I'd like to be more familiar and comfortable with some jazz progressions, I still am not used to the conventions behind the chord progressions of people like thelonius monk, who did some incredibly interesting complex stuff.
I'm going to recomend a site I just found to you, and to everybody. For me, it's probably the most useful guitar site I've found on the web, at least in terms of learning stuff. It's called http://www.jodyfisher.com. I have two books by the guy (jody fisher) that i got at a summer guitar workshop, and looking at his site and the books I realize this guy is a great teacher. It has lots of theory, and lots of ways to apply it too. If you are at all interested in playing jazz you should check it out (it's mostly a jazz site.) If you like playing latin music, it has 25 different written out rythyms that you can use to play chords in a latin style music. If you're trying to work out voicings for a certain progression, it has 108 (!) different ways to voice a ii V I in G major. Along with this it has great theory stuff.

#4

You're right about the 1, 4, and 5 being major, but that applies to major keys. What it really i means is that in any given major key (And I mean ionian, based on the one chord, not based on mixolydian or lydian) the fourth and fifth chords will also be major triads (the fifth chord is actually a dom7 chord when you extend it though.)
As for learning theory, there's a lot less stuff to know than most people act like there is. I mean by no stretch do I know all that I'd like to know, I'd like to be more familiar and comfortable with some jazz progressions, I still am not used to the conventions behind the chord progressions of people like thelonius monk, who did some incredibly interesting complex stuff.
I'm going to recomend a site I just found to you, and to everybody. For me, it's probably the most useful guitar site I've found on the web, at least in terms of learning stuff. It's called http://www.jodyfisher.com. I have two books by the guy (jody fisher) that i got at a summer guitar workshop, and looking at his site and the books I realize this guy is a great teacher. It has lots of theory, and lots of ways to apply it too. If you are at all interested in playing jazz you should check it out (it's mostly a jazz site.) If you like playing latin music, it has 25 different written out rythyms that you can use to play chords in a latin style music. If you're trying to work out voicings for a certain progression, it has 108 (!) different ways to voice a ii V I in G major. Along with this it has great theory stuff.

New Member

Joined: 01/10/01

Posts: 28

hmm lets see.

Dm Cadd2 Emajor Aminor

Well Dm is
Dm - d f a
c+2 - c e g d
E - e g# b


gives the notes

c d e f g# a b

ok is it C? No, we have g#
is it D? No, f#

ok, well the f to g# interval precludes a major or minor.

how about the g# a = 1/2 step
hmmm? g# a b c = looks to be a jazz minor scale,
Why? g# a = .5 step a b = 1 step b c = .5 step.

This is a key of your own making.

Try changing the Emajor to Eminor.

Call it the key of C

#5

hmm lets see.

Dm Cadd2 Emajor Aminor

Well Dm is
Dm - d f a
c+2 - c e g d
E - e g# b


gives the notes

c d e f g# a b

ok is it C? No, we have g#
is it D? No, f#

ok, well the f to g# interval precludes a major or minor.

how about the g# a = 1/2 step
hmmm? g# a b c = looks to be a jazz minor scale,
Why? g# a = .5 step a b = 1 step b c = .5 step.

This is a key of your own making.

Try changing the Emajor to Eminor.

Call it the key of C