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Don Claybrook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:46 PM
Original message
Music Theory / Piano Question
This may qualify as a dumb question, but here goes anyway...


In all of the books and web pages Ive seen, the key of C is used as an example. This is understandable; no sharps, no flats, easy. Any diatonic chord I play will consist of white keys. My question is about keys other than C.

For example, in the key of B-flat, the B and the E are flatted, so that the scale is:
Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G-A.

If a II chord is called for, should I play C-Eb-G, staying in the Bb scale?
Or should I play C-E-G, e.g., the major triad built on the first degree of the C scale?

If a song is in the key of B, the scale looks like this:
B-C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A#
If I see notation calling for a D chord to be played, should I:
-play D#-F#-A# (in keeping with the B-major scale), or,
-play D-F#-A (the major triad on the first degree of the D-major scale)?

I guess Im wondering if chord notations are absolute, or if theyre seen within the context of a given key (or is it a trick questiondoes one see this both ways depending on the type of notation)?

Bonus question: does anyone know of a website that shows lots of triads and 7ths in all the keys, as opposed to just in the key of C?

Thanks very much.


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arcane1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:48 PM
Response to Original message
1. I'd presume that the II would be played in-key
to make it a minor chord, vs a major

C-Eb-G instead of C-E-G... unless the score says otherwise

:shrug:
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Don Claybrook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:56 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Thanks.
I appreciate the quick reply.
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XNASA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:48 PM
Response to Original message
2. C-Eb-G
Edited on Tue Jan-11-05 12:51 PM by XNASA
The II chord in any major key is always a minor chord. As are the III and VI chords.

As far as the D chord question...I don't know. If it says to play a D chord, then I guess you play a D chord.
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Don Claybrook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:00 PM
Response to Reply #2
6. And thank you...
If I'm recollecting correctly, you're a professional musician, so thank you for your assistance. I had a follow-up question, but it's still too vague for me to even verbalize it clearly.

I really should've learned this when I was younger. Wasted time.

Thanks for your help.


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Modem Butterfly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:00 PM
Response to Reply #2
8. Minor point
Minor chords are always in lower case Roman Numerals - so I ii III, or i II iii. Etc.
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XNASA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:19 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. Minor point, tee hee.
I'm a guitar player, what do I know? Play it loud enough and stick to 5ths only and nobody can ever tell the difference.
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Modem Butterfly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:29 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. And if you can't nail that 7th just hammer it down baby!
Man I love guitar!
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:41 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. I Can Tell The Difference!
Edited on Tue Jan-11-05 01:41 PM by ProfessorGAC
Trust me. I Hear ALL! Does that make me omnipaudent?
The Professor
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XNASA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:50 PM
Response to Reply #13
16. Then just turn it up until you can't.
Another method I have is to just keep moving my fingers around until it sounds OK. I couldn't tell you what chord it is....but I don't have the time to sort that kind of stuff out.
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:55 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. Just My Training I Guess
For some reason, without really thinking about it, i always just know what i'm playing. I don't plan it, i just play what i hear in my head. (Yeah, i'm hearing voices or something!) But, once i play it, i just know what chords those are.

Competition jazz will do that, i guess.
The Professor
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ladjf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:57 PM
Response to Original message
4. When the chords are referred to by Roman numerals,
you stay within the seven notes of the key. If the chord specifically states a name such as D, that means D major chord. That would be a very unusual chord in the key of B.

There are numerous software programs that teach music theory.
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Don Claybrook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:15 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. That's what I was looking for!
Thank you very much. If you see a "lettered" chord with possible suffixes, it's an absolute value, e.g., D-min, C#-Maj, F7, etc.

Roman numerals tell you to stay in scale.


Thanks for making this easy for me.
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arcane1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:59 PM
Response to Reply #9
19. that sums it up perfectly
:thumbsup:
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ladjf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 08:55 PM
Response to Reply #9
31. Well, that was the simplified version.
Often the Roman numeral chord will have some subscript notations. These tell you more information.

For example V with a subscript 7 in the key of C will tell you to plan
a G-B-D-F four note combo. I with a 6 with a 4 under it would tell you to play a C chord but with G as the lowest note. That's called figured. You might look that up on the Internet. It's a useful system
that was widely used, particularly during the Baroque period.

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bobbobbins Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:58 PM
Response to Original message
5. if the notation specifically asks for a D, you play a D....
chord notations are absolute, but if you play a ii, you'd play it relative to the key you're in.
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:00 PM
Response to Original message
7. You Are Correct
However, in jazz the chords are all 4 tone. So, the I & IV chords are the Major 7ths; the II, III, & VI are minor 7ths; the V is a dominant 7th; and the VII is a Half-diminished.

As you sharp or flat each one, the character of the chord is MAINTAINED, no matter whether all the keys are in that chord. In other words, if in the key of C, the IIIb, would be an Ebm7, even though there is an F# in that chord.

Hey, i didn't develop the theory. I just know it.

Hope this helps.
The Professor
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Don Claybrook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:23 PM
Response to Reply #7
11. You spoke the name that I can't say out loud
My secret hope is to one day be able to do a little bit of jazz improvisation, but I'm very much a beginner so I don't want to make grandiose claims. Baby steps, etc.

Thanks.
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:44 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. Oh, You Can Say It!
The tricky part is doing it. I studied jazz piano from age 9 to 18. Played in competitions, the whole schmear. I quit when my playing got too obtuse for such competitions. Cecil Taylor never won a competition, and playing like him didn't do much for my chances either. My coach hated it when i got that out there, too!

So, i quit. That'll show 'em.

Actually, i never quit playing, just quit competitions. Then, i became a rock singer, then rock keyboardist, then a guitar player. Now, i play whatever the band needs played. Bass, keys, guitar, just sing. Makes them happy. Makes me happy. See how simple this all is?
The Professor
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Ron Green Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 02:24 PM
Response to Reply #7
22. Triads are used in jazz, too, and don't forget 9ths, 11ths and so on...
so not ALL jazz chords are 4-tone. And of course, jazz notation doesn't use the "number system," although that's found in Nashville and in Bach's "improv."
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 02:28 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. The Theory Is Based On Tetratonics
ALL (yes, i said ALL) jazz theory is rooted in tetratonic theory. Triads are used, but seldom. Three tone chords are generally expected to leave out the root or the 5th. Hence, a 4 tone character is still created.

The 9th's and 11th's, 13ths, and addeds are 5 or 6 tone chords. And, with compound chording, 7 tone chords are common.

Think jazz guys use triads much? Listen to Monk, Taylor, Tyner, Hancock, Alice Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, Tatum, Peterson. When you find the 1-3-5 triads, you'll have found something unusual.
The Professor
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Ron Green Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 02:33 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. You said the chords in jazz are ALL 4-tone. I was just letting the OP
know that this isn't exactly true. Of course triads are not as "jazzy" as extensions, but they are used (they are unusual, as you point out.) As are chords with the tonic, third, fifth, seventh AND a ninth or eleventh.
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 02:42 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. OK. Same Page Now
I figured, originally, that the poster got the answer he was looking for. I was trying to expand on the concept a bit by bringing up the four tone idea. Didn't mean to create any confusion.
The Professor
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Don Claybrook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 02:55 PM
Response to Reply #25
26. One more question for you, ProfessorGAC
Here's the ASCII lead sheet for Autumn Leaves--I got it on one of the Internets:

AUTUMN LEAVES
Key of G (Em) 4/4


Pickup | E7 |

<: Am7 | D7 | G | G |[br /> 1._____________________________
| F#m7b5 | B7 | Em | Em :]
2.______________________________
| Em | Em | B7 | B7 |

| Em | Em | Am7 | D7 |

| G | G || F#m7b5 | B7 |

| Em | Em | F#m7b5 | B7 |

| Em | Em |


I can see it's in the key of G; it says so right at the top. But it also tells me which chords to play, bar by bar, and many (most) of the chords shown are chromatic. For the purposes of playing this piece, why does it matter which key its in? Is it listed for improvisers who want to play different chords than the ones shown and who also know the requisite "rules" for substituting different chords?

Conversely, if you have a "real" sheet and know what you're doing, can you just look at the key and the melody and comp based on your knowledge of keys/chords?

I'm trying to make my practice and learning a systematic thing, trying to find out which areas will need special attention, and which areas I can study in passing. Thanks to you and everyone in the thread for helping to diminish my ignorance on the subject.

Thanks again.
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 03:28 PM
Response to Reply #26
27. No, It Doesn't Matter
One of the most common reasons for changing the key of the song, vs. what is charted, is for voice. If you're singing, or have a vocalist, it's common to find the key that is the most comfortable for the singer to work the song as well.

Obviously, there are keys that some of us find easier to vamp. I like playing in B, in F (II-V-I), and D. My scalar and modal ideas seem to flow better in those keys, but i can do it any key. I think sometimes that i "hear" those keys in my head better, and it has little to do with fingering. I could be wrong about that, though.

I'm assuming the melody works best when thought of as a "G". It looks like it could Em to me as well based upon the changes, except for the use of F#m7b5, which is essentially the same as a D9, with a different bass tone. A D9 would be a nice counter off the Em into the B, but that's also a II-V-I change (F# to B back to E), in the key of E. So, go figure!

But, this song is in G or Em, take your pick. The knowledge of the key also leads one to substitutions. Rather than play just those chords on the lead sheet, (as you transcribed), knowing the key allows substitutions that are more likely to stay in sync with the melody line. If you get too far from , you end up playing as weirdly as i do!

Last answer: Yes knowing the key and melody should be able to allow one to improvise without reading the chord sheets. However, in actual practice, there are only a few great players that can do that instantaneously. More likely, folks (like me) would have to play through it as written once or twice, then without bothering to look at the chord charts anymore, sub and vamp around the written changes in line with where the melody goes.

Listen to Oscar Peterson some time. He almost always played the first pass (verse) straight. Second time, the changes are in the same place, but their extended. Then, he starts subbing the chords. By then, i seriously doubt Oscar was reading the sheet music. The song probably imbedded itself into his head by then, and he was playing on feel.
The Professor

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Don Claybrook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 03:40 PM
Response to Reply #27
28. Thank you very much n/t
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billyskank Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:45 PM
Response to Original message
15. Actually the key of C is not easy
on the piano, at least. Some black notes are helpful to get your fingers underneath each other. C major is something of a handful to play in.
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:57 PM
Response to Reply #15
18. Really?
Geez, i think key of C players are just those guys who aren't facile in all 12. Besides, the dominant 7th in C is a black key! Probably depends on how one plays. You really shouldn't need any "tricks" to cross the fingers over one another. It shouldn't matter what color the keys are. That's what i think, anyways.
The Professor
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Pied Piper Donating Member (363 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 02:13 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. Not be be a nit-picker..
but the dominant 7th "in" C would be a G7 chord, which is G-B-D-F, and F is a white key. However if you meant a dominant 7th "on" C then you would be refering to a C7 chord which is C-E-G-Bb, and Bb, as you know is a black key!
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 02:16 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. Dominant 7th of the Scale
I was unclear. Mea Culpa. You are of course, correct. But, i was talking about scales, since the poster to whom i replied was talking about working fingers underneath one another. That's not critical for chording but for modes, scales, and arpeggios. So, that's where i was going with it. I was not clear enough, though.
The Professor
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vlas Donating Member (21 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 03:50 PM
Response to Original message
29. link
I don't know if this is what you're looking for, but it's a neat site

http://www.looknohands.com/chordhouse/piano/
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Don Claybrook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 03:54 PM
Response to Reply #29
30. Thank you.
This is just what I was looking for. Thanks.
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