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Help me understand a little bit about keys ...

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by timmytVA, Feb 21, 2013.

  1. timmytVA

    timmytVA Tele-Holic

    Nov 15, 2009
    Reston, VA
    Green Day - "Wake Me Up When September Ends"

    • Verse : G-D-Em-G-C-Cm-G
    • Chorus : Em-Bm-C-G-G/F#, Em-Bm-C-D
    So everything there fits in G except the Cm, which comes on the "when September" line of the chorus.

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "Mary Jane's Last Dance"

    • Verse : Am-G-D-Am
    • Chorus : Em-A (or Asus2), ends on G
    So what's up with the Am and A in the same song?

    I know enough about major and minor scales and chord construction to be dangerous but clearly not enough to know what's going on here.



  2. Lunchie

    Lunchie Poster Extraordinaire

    Sometimes there is no reasoning behind it besides thats what the writer thinks sounds good and/or just to add some Dissonance.

  3. P Thought

    P Thought Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free + Supporter

    I'm relatively new at this, but I've been working on it. Let me give this one a spin:

    That Petty song looks like it's in D, so the I, IV, and V would be D, G, A. I know that major 7ths substitute pretty easily sometimes for minor chords, so it seems reasonable to substitute the other way, thus Am where there might otherwise be the A7. The Em is the ii chord in D.

    For the Cm in the Green Day song, I'm out of my depth, and unfamiliar with the song, but it sounds like some kind of bluesy double-flatted 7th. A diminished 7th?

    **Later in the day: told you I'm new at this! It didn't occur to me to a) try to play the song (and see where the melody lands); or b) look at the Am/C angle. I love this stuff, good at it or not!
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2013

  4. Leon Grizzard

    Leon Grizzard Friend of Leo's

    Mar 8, 2006
    Austin, Texas
    The C to Cm to G at the end of the phrase is a common move. I've seen it described as the Cm being a D7 substitute, evoking at D7b9. The C is the b7 and the Eb the b9. You see it, however in lots of styles of music. A very common end of phrase in G is G G7 C Cm G D7 C G. You often see C#dim in that same role.

  5. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    IV to iv happens all the time in music. It's a composer's technique for the way they want the melody to move.

    The Petty song is in Am with a key change in the chorus. There's no theoretical reason why a song can't use both A and Am.

    Don't have time to expand on this right now but I'm sure we'll get some good answers from the other guys on here.

  6. timmytVA

    timmytVA Tele-Holic

    Nov 15, 2009
    Reston, VA
    Cool. This is fun. Thanks for the feedback guys.

    jbmando ... how do you tell the Petty song is in Am and not, say, D (since it has the I-IV-V chords)? It "feels" minor key to me.


  7. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    A Dorian, a minor mode, would have Am, G major, Em and D major in it because it has the same notes as the G major scale. The A major is there for a different feel in the chorus, in my opinion. It's probably considered A Dorian, but most players would simply call it Am with an A major in the chorus. I would say it is not D major, because it never resolves to D.

  8. dburns

    dburns Friend of Leo's

    Yea, very common move. The Beatles instantly came to mind...'I Saw Her Standing There' in particular.

  9. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 28, 2006
    NELA, Ca
    That it is sir.

    As for the Petty tune. The chorus just momentarily changes key and then gets back. Changing to A major gives it a positive 'lift' from the minor verse. Pretty common songwriting device and certainly not relegated to pop and rock. A lot of 'standards' do it too - maj to min/min to maj.

  10. waparker4

    waparker4 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Nov 9, 2011
    Philadelphia, PA
    Try the Beatles song "Fixing a hole"

    The first chord in the first verse (I'm FIXING a hole) is F major, but the rest of the verse quickly switches to F minor chords.

    Then the chorus revoles around an F major chord, swings by way of a fifth to a C major chord, then goes back to that weird verse.

    The Radiohead song "Creep" has a few funny chords creating tension

    G B7 (instead of Bm) C Cminor

  11. Krah13

    Krah13 TDPRI Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    Yes, IV to iv, a typical chord progression. One of the many songs that use this is the jazz standard tune "All of me".

  12. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    In the Petty song, is the Asus2 the thing that sounds, or is it A major? If the answer is Asus2, the chord is neither major no minor.

    The IV to iv is sometimes explained as a type of mode mixture. This is a term in classical theory when the chords shift from being in major to being in minor, and vice versa. The more common answer is that composers throw in chords not from the key all the time. It is not unusual at all. But I think it is worthwhile to analyze the music and see if there is a larger principle at work. That's the fun part about theory. Theorists like to do this, because it is interesting to them. The cool thing about it is that it offers insights into how people hear.

  13. tjalla

    tjalla Friend of Leo's

    As noted IV to iv is used often to create movement, the tension points to something coming up.

    One that comes to mind as I've been playing alot of late is the outro to "New Kid In Town"


    So the shift from A to Am sets up the change to the next progression.

    MJ's Last Dance:
    Verses are in Cmaj (Am being the relative minor, D being 2maj),
    Chorus is in Amaj - "kill the paaaaiiinnnn" accentuating a C# (ie maj3rd of A).
    Em in the chorus is a 5minor, and cleverly provides the meeting point between the two sections/keys - as its is the 3minor in the key of C.

  14. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    I don't think it's C Major, t. A Dorian feels more like it. Chorus seems to me to be more like ii-V in D Major and pausing on the IV before going back to the Am for the next verse. There's no C anywhere in the song so it's kind of hard to call it C Major. Even a piece written in no sharps or flats can be Am OR C Major.

  15. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Hey D, where does "I Saw her Standing There" go IV to iv? I've been over and over it, and unless I'm playing it wrong it doesn't happen. The way I learned it, it does go A to C in E major, but not A to Am.

  16. tjalla

    tjalla Friend of Leo's

    I considered what it could be from other standpoints eg verse could be technically be ii/I/V in G,

    ... but I'm taking a cue from the melody. The verses are practically all A and C (notes) - which to my ear says Am being the 'home'.

    And the C# resolve on 'pain' in the chorus say maj3rd in A to me, not maj7th in the key of D.

    My .02

  17. tjalla

    tjalla Friend of Leo's

    Correct, its A to C.

    But you still get a C# note down to C, so it implies that minor shift down - it would be if the bassist fell asleep at that point ;)

  18. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Right, but Am being "home" does not necessarily imply key of C. Also, if the A in the chorus were a V chord in D, the same note would be there. Just because it's a C# doesn't mean it's the M7 of a D chord, especially is the chord is definitely an A. Try playing that chorus through to the G, in time, but then hit a D instead of an Am. Sounds like home, doesn't it?

  19. dburns

    dburns Friend of Leo's

    A minor, C...same difference ; )

    As long as the bass player is holding it down, I like to just flatten the 3rd and go A to Aminor.

  20. Telegeekster

    Telegeekster Tele-Meister

    Nov 10, 2012
    The Old Line State
    If you REALLY want to chew on this subject, google Allan Pollack's Beatles analysis. Each song in the Beatles catalog is broken down into a rigorous music theory discussion. Be prepared to put some time into it....

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