Harmony Central Forums
Announcement
Collapse
No announcement yet.

minor to major key change pivot chords

Collapse



X
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • minor to major key change pivot chords

    a lot of of beatles tunes change keys from major to minor minor to major... how they do that? like what chords actually allow you to do that



    also

    this song here also seems to have a minor major key change--- during the prechorus, but it goes back into minor for the chorus... how do they do that?
    actually im not even sure the verse and chorus are minor... the main progression for it is like Am7/D9..... but isn't the IV chord supposed to be a minor chord instead of a seventh?
    love is suicide

  • #2
    "Bad" is mostly an A dorian tune, in both verse and chorus (alternating Am7 and D7 chords).
    What happens in the prechorus is they use Bm7 and C#m7 chords - kind of like a rise to B dorian - but that section ends on an E7, dominant of A minor, to lead into the A dorian chorus.

    Modulations (key changes within a song) can be done all kinds of ways. You can often just slam into the new key with no preparation, but typically (and conventionally) the key change is "prepared", usually by introducing the V chord of the new key beforehard, and sometimes a ii-V or IV-V pair of chords.

    A great Beatles example (which plays around with at least 3 keys) is George Harrison's "Something":

    VERSE
    |C - - - |Cmaj7 - - - |C7 - - - |F - - - |
    |D - D7 - |G - - - |
    |Am - E+/G# - |Am7/G - D7/F# - |F - Eb G7/D |

    Already there's a lot going on here. We start in the key of C, pretty clearly. But then C7 (a "secondary dominant") leads us to the IV chord F. This isn't really a modulation, because we don't feel we're really in a new key at that point. (The C7 has just given a bit more "push" towards the F.)
    But then we get a D major and D7 - another secondary dominant leading us to the G, the V of C major. So already he's used the V of IV (C7) and the V of V (D7).
    It then goes to Am, which is of course the normal vi chord of C major, but that descending bass line (A-G#-G-F#) is a pure A minor key sequence.
    And it ends with a very strange way of getting back to the opening C chord: F-Eb-G7 - that almost suggests the key of C minor! (Eb-G7 would be quite a common way of preparing a move to C minor.)
    (And don't you love that long descending bass line in the 3rd line? A-G#-G-F#-F-Eb-D-C. Very neat...)

    The second time through, that Eb-G7 actually resolves to A major:

    CHORUS
    |A - Amaj7 - |F#m - A/E - |D - G - |A - - - |
    |A - Amaj7 - |F#m - A/E - |D - G - |C - - - |

    More clever stuff. Very normal sequence in A major at first. But "normal" would mean using an E in bar 3 to get back to A, not a G! In fact, the melody here is a G natural, so he couldn't have used an E anyway. But G also has a logic, in that A-D-G forms a pretty common chord sequence (roots moving in 5ths). Relative to A major, G is a bVII, a very common addition to a major key in rock, so not specially unusual.
    And then on the repeat, the G comes in handy as the V of the original key (C), leading us back to the verse.

    In brief, this song (apart from anything else) shows various usages of dominant chords to set up unusual changes:
    C7 goes to F;
    D/D7 goes to G;
    G7 goes to A (unusual, that one)
    The only one he avoids - which many composers would have used somewhere here - is E major/E7, the V of both Am and A major. He gets through the whole song with no E chord at all. (That E+ in the verse is really just a passing Am with G# bass.)

    George Harrison used very similar ideas in While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which moves between A minor and A major. The verse begins in A minor, and there's a slightly unusual change on the first title phrase, which goes to a G chord, and then to D major - followed by E7 to lead back to Am. (But the use of D (major) and E does hint cleverly at the later modulation to A major. For now we're brought back to A minor.)
    Second time on the title phrase there's a more conventional modulation to the relative major: the G chord leads to C this time. That seems to "tie things up" neatly at that point, as if we've "come home".
    But it's followed immediately by an E7 chord, leading into the A major chorus (or bridge) section. This section is totally diatonic to A major (no strange chords here). The final E7 leads quite naturally back to the Am of the verse.

    IOW, you can see him trying out fairly safe key change ideas in this song which would become more adventurous in "Something".


    So I can sum up a few things about key changes:

    1. Good keys to move to:
    Parallel major or minor (eg A minor to A major or vice versa)
    Relative major or minor (A minor to C major or vice versa)

    2. Ways to do it:
    Use the V of the new key just before (E(7) to go to A or A minor, G(7) to go to C or C minor.)
    Use the ii or IV of the new key as well for a stronger hint. Eg, Dm-E7 will suggest Am is coming; D-E7, or Bm-E7, will suggest A major is coming. (Doesn't mean you need to then use the predicted chord. Dm-E7 can go to A major, and Bm-E7 can go to Am.
    You can also use the bVI-V to get to a minor key. So F-E7 will strongly signal A minor (making it even cooler to then go to A major instead ).
    The other minor key preparation often used in rock to go to major instead is bVI-bVII. Eg, F-G can be used to get to A major as well as A minor. Even tho its normal function (as IV-V) is to go to C!

    These tricks can be used to get to any new key - not just the parallel or relative ones. In key of C and want to get to E major? Just play a B7 chord at some point.
    "Pivot" chords can help make moves smoother (although they don't have to be smooth of course).
    Eg, to get to that E major, you could play Am-B7-E. Am is shared by the key of C major and E minor. (So the E major is a surprise, but a nice one.)
    Or you can get from the key of C major to D major, by playing Em-A(7)-D. Em belongs to both keys, so is a kind of sneaky way of setting it up.
    You can hear this key change in Otis Redding's "My Girl" in the instrumental break:
    |C - - - |F - - - |C - - - |F - - - |
    |Dm - - - |G - - - |Em - - - |A - - - |

    Em is iii of C, so we don't quite get what's happening until the A makes us realise it was a hidden ii of D major (because Em-A is Dm-G a whole step up). So we emerge into the sunnier key of D major. (Raising the key by a half or whole step is a traditional way of injecting freshness into a song which is starting to flag. The half-step move is cheesy in the extreme; the whole step a little more sophisticated)
    ...

    Comment


    • #3
      i also have a slgihtly related question... yeah so recently i was sent a michael jackson chordbook for a lot of his lesser known songs------ so "baby be mine" on thriller... seems to be in the key of E, but E is like never used. the ii chord or
      Fm9 is used frequently though
      love is suicide

      Comment


      • #4
        My god, JonR, you are making my head spin. Great info! Did you go to school for music theory? Please tell me that you did, you are making me feel horrible about my lack of knowledge.

        On a side note, do you think George Harrison and/or The Beatles actually put that much thought into writing the song or just "played what sounded good" and it just so happened that it came out the way you outlined? I remember reading once that The Beatles were not formally trained and, perhaps, not the strongest when it came to actual musical theory, but not sure if this is accurate.

        Comment


        • #5
          i dont think they were musically trained, but they knew what they were doing with key changes/chord choices

          .... i remember mccartney saying something about how the bridge for "from me to you" was like a big step in their songwriting because of the key change

          Comment


          • #6
            i dont think they were musically trained, but they knew what they were doing with key changes/chord choices

            .... i remember mccartney saying something about how the bridge for "from me to you" was like a big step in their songwriting because of the key change
            Yes. And that "big step" was on the 3rd single, about 6 months into their recording career. 2 years later, McCartney wrote Yesterday, and 2 years after that was Sgt Pepper.
            Nothing to do with our topic here: just another annoying opportunity to genuflect in awe.
            ...

            Comment


            • #7

              On a side note, do you think George Harrison and/or The Beatles actually put that much thought into writing the song or just "played what sounded good" and it just so happened that it came out the way you outlined? I remember reading once that The Beatles were not formally trained and, perhaps, not the strongest when it came to actual musical theory, but not sure if this is accurate.
              That's correct. They had no formal training. But what they did have was three pairs of very good ears, and a very wide range of influences. They listened to everything, and saw no reason to exclude any kind of music from consideration because it wasn't "cool", or wasn't what other people were doing. Their contemporaries were mostly treading one narrow path: R&B, or rock'n'roll, pop, country, or whatever.
              So they wrote according to "what sounded good" - but they had a big pool of stuff to draw from, and good judgement about what worked.

              Plus, Lennon and McCartney had that kind of "friendly-confrontational" relationship, where they challenged each other all the time - not always overtly, but you can tell that the admiration they had for each other's skills meant that each felt they had to up their own game all the time.

              Then later on (around 1965/6) they found other writers to set themselves competitively against: particularly Dylan and Brian Wilson. I think up until then they probably felt (arrogantly but accurately) they were the best around. But Wilson (Pet Sounds in particular) kicked them up another gear.

              They were an unusual songwriting partnership, in that didn't have separate lyrics/music roles. They each wrote both. In later years, of course (in fact quite soon in their career), they wrote whole songs on their own, and many "Lennon/McCartney" compositions are pretty much the work of just one of them. But early in their career they really did collaborate, maybe one writing a verse, the other a chorus or bridge - throwing ideas back and forth. Of course, that meant the element of interpersonal challenge was even greater.
              It's a hugely fertile way of writing, because you have constant feedback on what works, what another creative person thinks of what you've done. Plus, they shared a huge confidence in their own skills - they weren't going to be dragged into covers of Tin Pan Alley songs the way pop singers then were. (They would choose their own R&B covers, but had no need of new songs written for them.)
              They were actually persuaded to make a recording of "How Do You Do It", given them by a pro songwriter, but the story goes they made a deliberately boring job of it. Gerry and the Pacemakers later had a no.1 with it.

              It's significant that (with very few exceptions) they didn't write such good songs after they split. Both of them succumbed to overlong, or overcomplicated compositions, with a lot less humour in evidence. (There's a hell of a lot of wit in Beatles songs, not just in the lyrics, but in the song constructions. They revelled in being "clever", for the hell of it, or to amuse themselves.)

              As for George - he was the kind to watch and wait. He wasn't fazed by the other two, ploughed his own furrow. His early tunes are pretty good pastiches of Lennon/McCartney style ("Don't Bother Me", "I Need You"), but by "If I Needed Someone" (1966) you can hear the Indian/modal influence that was going to dominate his writing from then on.
              He also had a great sense of humour. "Only a Northern Song", whose title is a derisory reference to their publishers (Northern Songs), begins "if you're listening to this song, you might think the chords are going wrong" - and he hits a "wrong" chord (but still a musically valid one). The bridge runs "it doesn't really matter what chords I play or time of day it is, 'cause it's only a Northern Song." As he sings the word "chords" he launches into a very odd chord sequence - but it still makes musical sense.
              IOW, even on a deliberate throwaway song, he came up with the goods. (To be fair, George Martin would probably not have let them get away with a deliberately rubbish song...)
              There are stories that this was some kind of angry denunciation of the commercial business, but it sounds to me more like gentle sarcasm. A tongue-in-cheek "let's see what I can get away with" - plus, of course, in its "wrong" chords, a nod to the psychedelia of the time, which was all about subverting tonality in disorienting ways. (Lennon had done this earlier with "Strawberry Fields Forever", as had McCartney in tunes like "For No One".)

              If you want more on the nuts and bolts of Beatles songs, you can't do better than this website:
              http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/awp-alphabet.shtml
              - and if you want the (non-music-theory) story behind each song, this book is thoroughly recommended:
              http://www.amazon.co.uk/Revolution-Head-Beatles-Records-Sixties/dp/1844138283
              ...

              Comment


              • #8
                i also have a slgihtly related question... yeah so recently i was sent a michael jackson chordbook for a lot of his lesser known songs------ so "baby be mine" on thriller... seems to be in the key of E, but E is like never used. the ii chord or
                Fm9 is used frequently though
                You mean F#m9.

                This is another dorian tune, basically (like "Bad"). The main groove is F#m9, alternating with a G#m9, the dorian ii chord. These are ii and iii in E major, but (as you point out) E is never used, so it would be wrong to describe this as "key of E" - the "keynote" is clearly F#. (In fact, sheet music I've seen gives it a 3-sharp key sig, which indicates A major/F# minor. They use accidentals to show the D#s in the music.)
                In the pre-chorus, you get C#m7 and Amaj7 (both diatonic to F# dorian). The first surprising chord that turns up is a D major (on "perfect love can make") - this is outside F# dorian mode, but is the normal bVII of the F# minor key, and leads (predictably) to a C#7 chord (V) setting up the chorus (in fact a C#7sus).
                The chorus is once again in F# dorian, with B major as the passing chord this time (2nd half of 2nd bar).

                It's very common for rock/pop songwriting to not care too much about modal consistency. A "minor key" could include harmonisations from dorian mode as well as natural (aeolian), harmonic and melodic minor. (Maybe even phrygian too, but that's a lot rarer.)
                It's only really the same attitude as rock major keys, which combine mixolydian bVIIs with the normal Ionian chords (not to mention the common borrowings from parallel minor).

                IOW, you could argue that rock songwriting brings major and minor keys much closer together, not valuing the clear distinction you see between the two in classical and jazz. Rock will darken a major key with bVII, bIII and bVI chords, and brighten a minor key by raising the 6th (to dorian). Often the only way you can tell if a key is major or minor is by the quality of the tonic chord!
                ...

                Comment


                • #9
                  You mean F#m9.

                  This is another dorian tune, basically (like "Bad"). The main groove is F#m9, alternating with a G#m9, the dorian ii chord. These are ii and iii in E major, but (as you point out) E is never used, so it would be wrong to describe this as "key of E" - the "keynote" is clearly F#. (In fact, sheet music I've seen gives it a 3-sharp key sig, which indicates A major/F# minor. They use accidentals to show the D#s in the music.)
                  In the pre-chorus, you get C#m7 and Amaj7 (both diatonic to F# dorian). The first surprising chord that turns up is a D major (on "perfect love can make") - this is outside F# dorian mode, but is the normal bVII of the F# minor key, and leads (predictably) to a C#7 chord (V) setting up the chorus (in fact a C#7sus).
                  The chorus is once again in F# dorian, with B major as the passing chord this time (2nd half of 2nd bar).

                  It's very common for rock/pop songwriting to not care too much about modal consistency. A "minor key" could include harmonisations from dorian mode as well as natural (aeolian), harmonic and melodic minor. (Maybe even phrygian too, but that's a lot rarer.)
                  It's only really the same attitude as rock major keys, which combine mixolydian bVIIs with the normal Ionian chords (not to mention the common borrowings from parallel minor).

                  IOW, you could argue that rock songwriting brings major and minor keys much closer together, not valuing the clear distinction you see between the two in classical and jazz. Rock will darken a major key with bVII, bIII and bVI chords, and brighten a minor key by raising the 6th (to dorian). Often the only way you can tell if a key is major or minor is by the quality of the tonic chord!



                  is the same thing happening in rock with you?
                  love is suicide

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    JonR I'd like to subscribe to your news letter

                    i'm finally at a point where all of this is making PERFECT sense. i need to strengthen it up a bit before i start composing tunes though
                    whoa, maaaaaan.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      is the same thing happening in rock with you?
                      Er, same thing as what?
                      ...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Er, same thing as what?


                        dorian thing
                        love is suicide

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          dorian thing
                          OK, maybe I'm being very literal here, but I'm still not sure I follow.
                          If you're asking "is the dorian thing happening in rock with you?" - and if I understand that question - the answer is: only sometimes. Generally I hear rock as more mixolydian (than either dorian or major key).

                          But more to the point, there's rarely a clear modal interpretation of any rock tune. You might have something that's major key with mixolydian elements - or vice versa. OR you might have something that's minor key with dorian elements, or vice versa.
                          Or you might have other things entirely (including more traditional major and minor keys), although I'd say the above two sounds are quite common (the major/mixolydian being more common).
                          ...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            OK, maybe I'm being very literal here, but I'm still not sure I follow.
                            If you're asking "is the dorian thing happening in rock with you?" - and if I understand that question - the answer is: only sometimes. Generally I hear rock as more mixolydian (than either dorian or major key).

                            But more to the point, there's rarely a clear modal interpretation of any rock tune. You might have something that's major key with mixolydian elements - or vice versa. OR you might have something that's minor key with dorian elements, or vice versa.
                            Or you might have other things entirely (including more traditional major and minor keys), although I'd say the above two sounds are quite common (the major/mixolydian being more common).


                            lol no i mean the michael jackson song
                            love is suicide

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              lol no i mean the michael jackson song
                              Ah OK!

                              Yes, the Michael Jackson is definitely dorian in the main - that's both Bad and Baby Be Mine, which have very similar grooves.
                              In fact Thriller and Billie Jean also have classic dorian grooves. He (or rather "they" perhaps, his other writers and production team) were definitely mining that seam at the time...

                              In fact, dorian and mixolydian are most common as grooves for verses. Choruses or bridges often employ more conventional major or minor key sequences.
                              ...

                              Comment













                              Working...
                              X