Chord progression and key signature?

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kvsealegs

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Joined: 03/14/15

Posts: 52

I was working on a chord transition from an open Am to a barre F the other day, and as usual got bored with just jumping back and forth so I decided to try to work some other barre chords in as well within a key signature of G. OOPS, the F should be sharp....

I found that doing the progression correctly didn't sound quite right. I tried it on several different guitars all tuned correctly and still I came to the same conclusion that it sounded best in the way that I played it and it doesn't fit into any key signature that I know of. It may be closest to the key signature of C, but the B should be diminished.

The sequence went as follows. open Am - barre F - barre G - barre C - barre Bm - open Am.

Is there an explanation why this works. The sequence does seem to work regardless of the rhythm I put to it. Maybe it only sound right to just me...

#1

I was working on a chord transition from an open Am to a barre F the other day, and as usual got bored with just jumping back and forth so I decided to try to work some other barre chords in as well within a key signature of G. OOPS, the F should be sharp....

I found that doing the progression correctly didn't sound quite right. I tried it on several different guitars all tuned correctly and still I came to the same conclusion that it sounded best in the way that I played it and it doesn't fit into any key signature that I know of. It may be closest to the key signature of C, but the B should be diminished.

The sequence went as follows. open Am - barre F - barre G - barre C - barre Bm - open Am.

Is there an explanation why this works. The sequence does seem to work regardless of the rhythm I put to it. Maybe it only sound right to just me...

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 4880

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I found that doing the progression correctly didn't sound quite right.

Exactly what were you playing that didn't sound right?

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
I tried it on several different guitars all tuned correctly and still I came to the same conclusion that it sounded best in the way that I played it and it doesn't fit into any key signature that I know of. It may be closest to the key signature of C, but the B should be diminished.[/p]

The sequence went as follows. open Am - barre F - barre G - barre C - barre Bm - open Am.

Is there an explanation why this works. The sequence does seem to work regardless of the rhythm I put to it. Maybe it only sound right to just me...

You are right that those chords do not all belong to one key. That means you've got a modulation.

You could be in A minor (or C major) until you get to the B minor chord. At that point you are modulating to G major.

Or you could be in G major until you arrive at the F major. At that point you are modulating to A minor (or C major).

I would regard the progression as being mostly in A minor because you start and end on that chord. But you really need to specify a melody to be clear about it.

Hope this helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#2

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I found that doing the progression correctly didn't sound quite right.

Exactly what were you playing that didn't sound right?

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
I tried it on several different guitars all tuned correctly and still I came to the same conclusion that it sounded best in the way that I played it and it doesn't fit into any key signature that I know of. It may be closest to the key signature of C, but the B should be diminished.[/p]

The sequence went as follows. open Am - barre F - barre G - barre C - barre Bm - open Am.

Is there an explanation why this works. The sequence does seem to work regardless of the rhythm I put to it. Maybe it only sound right to just me...

You are right that those chords do not all belong to one key. That means you've got a modulation.

You could be in A minor (or C major) until you get to the B minor chord. At that point you are modulating to G major.

Or you could be in G major until you arrive at the F major. At that point you are modulating to A minor (or C major).

I would regard the progression as being mostly in A minor because you start and end on that chord. But you really need to specify a melody to be clear about it.

Hope this helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

jarkko.eklund

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Joined: 09/25/13

Posts: 118

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I was working on a chord transition from an open Am to a barre F the other day, and as usual got bored with just jumping back and forth so I decided to try to work some other barre chords in as well within a key signature of G. OOPS, the F should be sharp....

In the key of G major, chord F# is diminished

G - Am - Bm - C - D -Em - F#dim

#3

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I was working on a chord transition from an open Am to a barre F the other day, and as usual got bored with just jumping back and forth so I decided to try to work some other barre chords in as well within a key signature of G. OOPS, the F should be sharp....

In the key of G major, chord F# is diminished

G - Am - Bm - C - D -Em - F#dim

kvsealegs

Full Access

Joined: 03/14/15

Posts: 52

I am not certain that I understand what modulation is. I borrowed another persons ear, and they agreed that the progression sounded correct and If I were to play the sequence say in the key of F and play the B as B flat, it just doesn't work. I will assume that it is most closely playing the key of C with the B minor closely assimilating a B dim which I don't understand anyway.

In looking up modulation, I found another term tonicization, which is likely the occurrance. As I understand it, modulation would follow the key change, as the key changes in "without you" by Nillsson. I also have found E G D E to sound fine when played in sequence. I did an experiment to see if that sequence would work when changing the key with the use of a capo and in both cases it sounded fine. The only difference is that with E G D E the E could be played as either major or minor and sound correct. As expected the E major sounds happier.

At first , I was eager to think that perhaps it was modulation, especially in the Am-F-G-Bm-Am, starting in the key of C and modulating to G. But adding the second example, there is no key that includes both E major and G major together, and yet they sound ok when played together. When I can do so safely, I will experiment on the keyboard. It's very early in the morning....LOL

#4

I am not certain that I understand what modulation is. I borrowed another persons ear, and they agreed that the progression sounded correct and If I were to play the sequence say in the key of F and play the B as B flat, it just doesn't work. I will assume that it is most closely playing the key of C with the B minor closely assimilating a B dim which I don't understand anyway.

In looking up modulation, I found another term tonicization, which is likely the occurrance. As I understand it, modulation would follow the key change, as the key changes in "without you" by Nillsson. I also have found E G D E to sound fine when played in sequence. I did an experiment to see if that sequence would work when changing the key with the use of a capo and in both cases it sounded fine. The only difference is that with E G D E the E could be played as either major or minor and sound correct. As expected the E major sounds happier.

At first , I was eager to think that perhaps it was modulation, especially in the Am-F-G-Bm-Am, starting in the key of C and modulating to G. But adding the second example, there is no key that includes both E major and G major together, and yet they sound ok when played together. When I can do so safely, I will experiment on the keyboard. It's very early in the morning....LOL

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 4880

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I am not certain that I understand what modulation is.


This tutorial covers the basics of modulation in simple chord progression.[/p]

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=876


Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I borrowed another persons ear, and they agreed that the progression sounded correct and If I were to play the sequence say in the key of F and play the B as B flat, it just doesn't work.

I'm guessing it doesn't sound good to you because you aren't starting or ending on the tonic or relative minor. The G is also a modulation in the key of F so that's another twist!


For example, try those chords in this order:


F / A minor / B-flat / G / C / F

I / iii / IV / VofV / V / I

That's how you might use some of those chords to strongly indicate you are in F major as an example.

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I will assume that it is most closely playing the key of C with the B minor closely assimilating a B dim which I don't understand anyway.

Maybe. I know that until you've listened to some (or a lot!) of music with those kind of chords, it's hard to hear how they fit or even that they sound good.


The other interesting thing about that progession is that by starting and ending on A minor you are setting up an expectation that everything will relate to those chords no matter what else you do.


And "force fitting" a B dim or half-dim in before the A minor doesn't really serve standard functional harmony because the B dim is a sub dominant that typically leads to the V (E), before going to A minor.


Try playing this & see what you think.


|-----------0---------------------------------|
|--1---3---0----1---------------------------|
|--2---2---1----2---------------------------|
|--2---3---2----2---------------------------|
|--0---2---2----0---------------------------|
|-----------0---------------------------------|

That's a typical way of using the B half-diminished to function as a sub dominant to get to the dominant: i - ii half dim - V - i.

Why did the B minor sound good (or better) to you? Likely because the B minor is a more stable sounding chord & the next & last chord is A minor.

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

In looking up modulation, I found another term tonicization, which is likely the occurrance.

Sure, tonicization is essentially a very brief modulation. But the term tonicization means another key is explicitly sounded by voice motion & dominant (V) or diminished (vii dim) chords leading to a root. That's not happening in your chord progression with the B minor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonicization

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

As I understand it, modulation would follow the key change, as the key changes in "without you" by Nillsson.

Yes! And that song also uses tonicization in the verse.

E (I) - G#min (iii) - F#min (ii) - G#7 (V of vi) - C#min (vi) - B (V) - F# (V of V) - E (I) - B (V)

So, you're in E major. Then you've got the tonicization of the relative minor:

G#7 (V of vi) to C#min (vi)

And of the dominant!

F# (V of V) - E (I) - B (V)

Notice the E in between is just delaying the arrival of the V of V to V.

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
I also have found E G D E to sound fine when played in sequence.

[/quote]

Sure, you can get just about any series of major chords to sound good if you play or expect a melody that works with all the chords.

That's more of a modal approach than any kind of functional harmony. Those are typical chords of pop rock & blues influnced songs. For example:

Please Please Me (Beatles)

Stepping Stone (Monkees)

There are probably hundereds of modern examples. Those are just the first two that occured to me because it's Sunday morning, I'm on my first cup of coffee & mostly I am old. :)

Those chords are pretty closely related, the B is a common tone between the E & G, then the D is a common tone between the G & D. It helps to look at voice motion, how the notes of the chord move from each to the next.

But the glue that really holds them together is the melodic voice motion that leans on the chord tones as the chords change. Moving the melody from G# to G while the E moves to G is a great & fun sound. Then, the G# moves to F# on the G to D chords.

Or you could just stay on B for the E & B, then down the E minor penatonic until you get back to the E. That's the melody of Stepping Stone.

There's no tonicization there. So, it's just modal modulation. Sometimes called modal interchange, or borrowed chords.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borrowed_chord

Essentially they are just chords that are not in the same key, but share enough common notes that you like the sound of them together. And of course there's a potential for a melody line that snakes through them!

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
At first , I was eager to think that perhaps it was modulation, especially in the Am-F-G-Bm-Am, starting in the key of C and modulating to G.

Well, it still could be thought of that way.

Amin (i) - F (bvi) - mod to G (I) - Bmin (iii) - Amin (ii)

But the problem here is two fold:

1. Unless you have a melody that really strongly indcates this, there no reason to force fit those keys.

2. The chord progressions don't center on or lead to C (no G (V) > C (I) motion) or G (no D (V) > G (I) motion).

Without some melodic or chordal reason to think you are in C or G, it doesn't really clarify or illuminate anything. Even though those chords belong to those keys.

Without more info I'd say the whole thing is in A minor & the B minor is a borrowed chord that substitutes for a V chord.

You might find my tutorial on the basics of functional harmony & circle of fifths useful if you are really interested in how voice motion works & chords function.

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

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

Hope this helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#5

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I am not certain that I understand what modulation is.


This tutorial covers the basics of modulation in simple chord progression.[/p]

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=876


Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I borrowed another persons ear, and they agreed that the progression sounded correct and If I were to play the sequence say in the key of F and play the B as B flat, it just doesn't work.

I'm guessing it doesn't sound good to you because you aren't starting or ending on the tonic or relative minor. The G is also a modulation in the key of F so that's another twist!


For example, try those chords in this order:


F / A minor / B-flat / G / C / F

I / iii / IV / VofV / V / I

That's how you might use some of those chords to strongly indicate you are in F major as an example.

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

I will assume that it is most closely playing the key of C with the B minor closely assimilating a B dim which I don't understand anyway.

Maybe. I know that until you've listened to some (or a lot!) of music with those kind of chords, it's hard to hear how they fit or even that they sound good.


The other interesting thing about that progession is that by starting and ending on A minor you are setting up an expectation that everything will relate to those chords no matter what else you do.


And "force fitting" a B dim or half-dim in before the A minor doesn't really serve standard functional harmony because the B dim is a sub dominant that typically leads to the V (E), before going to A minor.


Try playing this & see what you think.


|-----------0---------------------------------|
|--1---3---0----1---------------------------|
|--2---2---1----2---------------------------|
|--2---3---2----2---------------------------|
|--0---2---2----0---------------------------|
|-----------0---------------------------------|

That's a typical way of using the B half-diminished to function as a sub dominant to get to the dominant: i - ii half dim - V - i.

Why did the B minor sound good (or better) to you? Likely because the B minor is a more stable sounding chord & the next & last chord is A minor.

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

In looking up modulation, I found another term tonicization, which is likely the occurrance.

Sure, tonicization is essentially a very brief modulation. But the term tonicization means another key is explicitly sounded by voice motion & dominant (V) or diminished (vii dim) chords leading to a root. That's not happening in your chord progression with the B minor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonicization

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs

As I understand it, modulation would follow the key change, as the key changes in "without you" by Nillsson.

Yes! And that song also uses tonicization in the verse.

E (I) - G#min (iii) - F#min (ii) - G#7 (V of vi) - C#min (vi) - B (V) - F# (V of V) - E (I) - B (V)

So, you're in E major. Then you've got the tonicization of the relative minor:

G#7 (V of vi) to C#min (vi)

And of the dominant!

F# (V of V) - E (I) - B (V)

Notice the E in between is just delaying the arrival of the V of V to V.

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
I also have found E G D E to sound fine when played in sequence.

[/quote]

Sure, you can get just about any series of major chords to sound good if you play or expect a melody that works with all the chords.

That's more of a modal approach than any kind of functional harmony. Those are typical chords of pop rock & blues influnced songs. For example:

Please Please Me (Beatles)

Stepping Stone (Monkees)

There are probably hundereds of modern examples. Those are just the first two that occured to me because it's Sunday morning, I'm on my first cup of coffee & mostly I am old. :)

Those chords are pretty closely related, the B is a common tone between the E & G, then the D is a common tone between the G & D. It helps to look at voice motion, how the notes of the chord move from each to the next.

But the glue that really holds them together is the melodic voice motion that leans on the chord tones as the chords change. Moving the melody from G# to G while the E moves to G is a great & fun sound. Then, the G# moves to F# on the G to D chords.

Or you could just stay on B for the E & B, then down the E minor penatonic until you get back to the E. That's the melody of Stepping Stone.

There's no tonicization there. So, it's just modal modulation. Sometimes called modal interchange, or borrowed chords.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borrowed_chord

Essentially they are just chords that are not in the same key, but share enough common notes that you like the sound of them together. And of course there's a potential for a melody line that snakes through them!

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
At first , I was eager to think that perhaps it was modulation, especially in the Am-F-G-Bm-Am, starting in the key of C and modulating to G.

Well, it still could be thought of that way.

Amin (i) - F (bvi) - mod to G (I) - Bmin (iii) - Amin (ii)

But the problem here is two fold:

1. Unless you have a melody that really strongly indcates this, there no reason to force fit those keys.

2. The chord progressions don't center on or lead to C (no G (V) > C (I) motion) or G (no D (V) > G (I) motion).

Without some melodic or chordal reason to think you are in C or G, it doesn't really clarify or illuminate anything. Even though those chords belong to those keys.

Without more info I'd say the whole thing is in A minor & the B minor is a borrowed chord that substitutes for a V chord.

You might find my tutorial on the basics of functional harmony & circle of fifths useful if you are really interested in how voice motion works & chords function.

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

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

Hope this helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 4880

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
[/p]

The sequence went as follows. open Am - barre F - barre G - barre C - barre Bm - open Am.

Okay! Now that I've had a second cup of coffee I realized what I should have also mentioned.

Try to simply replace the B minor with an E major (or better yet E7). That get's you right in A minor with a dominant-tonic relationship.

Amin (i) - F (bVI) - G (bVII) - C (III) - E (V) - Amin (i)

That C to E to A minor move is right out the classic House of the Rising Sun. :)

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#6

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
[/p]

The sequence went as follows. open Am - barre F - barre G - barre C - barre Bm - open Am.

Okay! Now that I've had a second cup of coffee I realized what I should have also mentioned.

Try to simply replace the B minor with an E major (or better yet E7). That get's you right in A minor with a dominant-tonic relationship.

Amin (i) - F (bVI) - G (bVII) - C (III) - E (V) - Amin (i)

That C to E to A minor move is right out the classic House of the Rising Sun. :)

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

kvsealegs

Full Access

Joined: 03/14/15

Posts: 52

Christopher, YOU are really AWESOME. Thanks so much for your patience in trying to understand and explain my question. I know my questions can be a little convoluted. I will likely have have a months worth of study from all the links you provided, but it will be good to try to grasp the material.

Your explanation of the modal interchange is, I think what I was trying to explain. It is the similar transitions between chords that did not have a common key that confused me. I also learned the rifts from stepping stone in the process of understanding the relation. (Far Out, Man) Hey, I'm old too.....LOL

Thanks again!

Kevin

#7

Christopher, YOU are really AWESOME. Thanks so much for your patience in trying to understand and explain my question. I know my questions can be a little convoluted. I will likely have have a months worth of study from all the links you provided, but it will be good to try to grasp the material.

Your explanation of the modal interchange is, I think what I was trying to explain. It is the similar transitions between chords that did not have a common key that confused me. I also learned the rifts from stepping stone in the process of understanding the relation. (Far Out, Man) Hey, I'm old too.....LOL

Thanks again!

Kevin

kvsealegs

Full Access

Joined: 03/14/15

Posts: 52

Christopher, YOU are really AWESOME. Thanks so much for your patience in trying to understand and explain my question. I know my questions can be a little convoluted. I will likely have have a months worth of study from all the links you provided, but it will be good to try to grasp the material.

Your explanation of the modal interchange is, I think what I was trying to explain. It is the similar transitions between chords that did not have a common key that confused me. I also learned the rifts from stepping stone in the process of understanding the relation. (Far Out, Man) Hey, I'm old too.....LOL

Thanks again!

Kevin

#8

Christopher, YOU are really AWESOME. Thanks so much for your patience in trying to understand and explain my question. I know my questions can be a little convoluted. I will likely have have a months worth of study from all the links you provided, but it will be good to try to grasp the material.

Your explanation of the modal interchange is, I think what I was trying to explain. It is the similar transitions between chords that did not have a common key that confused me. I also learned the rifts from stepping stone in the process of understanding the relation. (Far Out, Man) Hey, I'm old too.....LOL

Thanks again!

Kevin

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 4880

You're welcome. Thanks for hanging in there with me until I got to what you wanted to know. :)

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
Your explanation of the modal interchange is, I think what I was trying to explain. It is the similar transitions between chords that did not have a common key that confused me. I also learned the rifts from stepping stone in the process of understanding the relation. (Far Out, Man) Hey, I'm old too.....LOL

Right on. :) Glad that helped. Let me know how it goes & if you have more questions!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#9

You're welcome. Thanks for hanging in there with me until I got to what you wanted to know. :)

Originally Posted by: kvsealegs
Your explanation of the modal interchange is, I think what I was trying to explain. It is the similar transitions between chords that did not have a common key that confused me. I also learned the rifts from stepping stone in the process of understanding the relation. (Far Out, Man) Hey, I'm old too.....LOL

Right on. :) Glad that helped. Let me know how it goes & if you have more questions!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory