Friendly Chords & Transposing

Friendly Chords & Transposing

Postby ebick » Thu Sep 09, 2004 8:05 pm

So, we've spent a little bit of time talking about numbers and intervals and how they relate to notes and music in general.

Chords are groups of notes, so many of the same principals apply to them as well.

One of the questions I get asked from time to time is how I go about figuring out songs. Well, the concept of friendly chords (chords that commonly sound good together) is probably as important as having an ear for it. In looking at the major scale, we discovered that the following notes are members of C Major:

C D E F G A B C

Without wanting to restrict your thinking in any way.......because this not a rule.......it is more likely that these chords (or variations such as 7ths or minors) will be contained in the song than chords not listed here. Again, it's not to say that you'd never see a F# chord in a song in the key of C, but I'm not familiar with to many. (Don't let this comment disuade you from experiementation.....The opening to Doin' That Rag is one of my favorites, and yet those chords would not follow this rule)

The chords are numbered just as the notes are. Ever have someone say "Let's do a I-IV-V in C"? Maybe you knew that that meant you were going to do a blues jam using the chords C-F-G, but maybe you didn't know (or put together) that I=C, IV=F, & V=G, because C is the first note/chord of the scale, F the fourth, and G the fifth.

This concept is the key to very popular topic around here; transposition. Once you understand and master this really fairly simple concept, you can transpose anything. You might have to do it with pencil and paper at first, but practice, practice, practice, and you'll be doing it on the fly in no time.

The key is the interval. Again, I can say, "Let's play a I-IV-V....you pick the key"


I II III IV V VI VII VII
Do Ra Me Fa So La Ti Do
---------------------------------
C D E F G A B C
A B C# D E F# G# A
D E F# G A B C# D
F G A Bb C D E F

If you choose A, we're playing A-D-E
D, we're playing D-G-A
F, we're playing F-Bb-C

Of course, this doesn't simply apply to blues jams.

Let's take a song like Casey Jones and transpose it from the key of C to G. If we count through the major scale, remember its WWHWWWH, we get how far? Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step, Whole Step. So we're transposing up 3 1/2 steps. As long as we stay true to that number, the changes will sound the same......just in a different key. Let's give it a shot. (Remember.....you have to adjust your singing voice too for it to sound right)


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

[C]Drivin' that train, [F]high on Cocaine
[G]Drivin' that train, [C]high on Cocaine

[F]Casey Jones you'd better watch your [C]speed
[C]Casey Jones you'd better watch your [G]speed

[C]Trouble ahead, [F]trouble behind,
[G]Trouble ahead, [C]trouble behind,

[F]And you know that notion just crossed my [C]mind
[G]And you know that notion just crossed my [G]mind


[C]This old Engine, [D]makes it on time
[G]This old Engine, [A]makes it on time

[F]Leaves Central station 'bout [G]quarter to nine
[C]Leaves Central station 'bout [D]quarter to nine

[C]Hits River Junction at [D]seventeen to
[G]Hits River Junction at [A]seventeen to

At a [F]quarter to [E7]ten you know it's [Am]traveling a[G7]gain
At a [C]quarter to [B7]ten you know it's [Em]traveling a[D7]gain


Of course this rule also applies to notes as well as chords. Here's the intro riff in C

E---------------------------------------------
B---8^10---8----------------------------------
G-----------------7^-9---7---------------------7------
D----------------------------------10---7--10-------10--
A---------------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------------

Now in G

E---------------------------------------------
B--13^15--13----------------------------------
G----------------12^14--12--------------------12------
D----------------------------------15---12--15------15--
A---------------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------------


Having this understanding gives you quite a bit of flexibility. Are you familiar with the song "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash? I love that song, but that dude's got a high voice. The song is in C, and I can't hit on a good day. But if drop it down to A.......I'm there!

I try not to get frustrated when folks tell me that, for instance, Dire Wolf is "wrong", because I have it in G (as played on Reckoning) instead of E (Workingman's). The bottom line is that if the intervals are correct, then it's correct. Change the key to suite your needs, as the Dead did here.

One other thought on Friendly chords. There are a lot of songs that use the following chord changes as it's main "theme" or often include the change:

C-Am
G-Em
F-Dm
D-Bm

Me & My Uncle, Big Iron, Jack-A-Roe to name a few.


You'll note that in all of the cases above, the minor chord is the VI chord. This chord is referred to as the RELATIVE MINOR. Let's look at the notes that make up each to see the relation ship.

C = C-E-G (I,III,V)
Am = C-E-A (I,III,VI)

We simply substitute the the VI for the V.

Also, examine the notes in a C Major scale compared to an A Minor Scale

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

The exact same notes with a different tonality because of where you start and end.


* A Chromatic scale refers to going from I - VIII using all half steps (all twelve notes).
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ebick
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Not to nitpick, but...

Postby George Stone » Mon Sep 13, 2004 11:22 am

...I believe it's common to use lower case, i.e. "vi", instead of "VI", when talking about minor chords. Great job otherwise - you da man! :D

Getting the concept of relative chords (using the Roman numerals) opened everything up for me. Hopefully others will have the same epiphany.
George Stone
 


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