Banjo Ben

Playing in a Key

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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby verneq » Wed Apr 30, 2014 3:00 pm

beardedbanjo wrote:Regarding the Nashville Number System:

Ben has Old Joe Clark in the key of G. The chords and corresponding numbers would be:
G - I
D - V
F - ?? (F# would be the VII chord, yes?)

So how do you number an F chord when in the key of G?


Great Question and good observation!

Although Fiddlewood is exactly right F is the flatted 7th note, (used a lot in blues, rock, & bluegrass) I think you were talking chords and you would not refer to the F Major chord here as a flatted 7th since the 7 chord is actually a diminished/flat 7, and flatting that is way off the subject of this thread.

SHORT ANSWER: Old Joe Clark, like some other old fiddle tunes,(like June Apple) is Modal (mixolydian to be exact) or references an older system of music, which is still with us, that predates the current system of major minor , and modern chords (7ths, flat fives, diminished etc.) So the Nashville numbering system won’t quite work perfectly on some old time tunes.

LONG ANSWER: SO …. Welcome to the Modes! The good news is it is not rocket science. In this case OJC is based on the mixolydian mode or G to G in the C scale (which has the flat 7 F note BTW). So what the heck is a Mode. Well before people figured out to classified major and minor, they would break up each major scale into 7 sub scales, each part starting on a different note to get different feels. So C to C in the C major scale CDEFGABC is Ionian but D to D in the C major scale is dorian, E to E in the C scale is phrygian etc.... (see the chart at the bottom). BTW Dorian is used a lot in bluegrass.

So since we call Old Joe Clark “G” and it pretends to be in “G major” for the first part of the song with the D chord (the Keys of C and G only have a one note difference F and F#) it switches to G Mixolydian on the F chord or the IV of the C scale.

Fun fact: Ionian is also called the Major scale, but Aeolian is called the Natural Minor Scale. So A minor and C major are really the same scale, they just start on different notes. So when people say what is the relative major or minor scale this is what they mean. What is relative minor scale to G major? E minor ..same notes . Congrats you kind a know twice as many scales as you thought.

Mode Tonic relative to major scale Interval sequence (T=whole tone or full step; s=semi tone or half step). This works with other Keys- just using C as and example.

Example
Ionian I : T-T-s-T-T-T-s : C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C
Dorian II : T-s-T-T-T-s-T : D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D
Phrygian III : s-T-T-T-s-T-T : E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E
Lydian IV : T-T-T-s-T-T-s : F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F
Mixolydian V : T-T-s-T-T-s-T : G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G
Aeolian VI : T-s-T-T-s-T-T : A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A
Locrian VII : s-T-T-s-T-T-T : B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby mreisz » Wed Apr 30, 2014 5:49 pm

Music Teacher: "Johnny, can you use 'phrygian' in a sentence?"
Johnny: "Yes ma'am... verneq is phrygian smart."
:D
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby verneq » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:23 pm

mreisz wrote:Music Teacher: "Johnny, can you use 'phrygian' in a sentence?"
Johnny: "Yes ma'am... verneq is phrygian smart."
:D

'Twas a bit long but think of it as my "epistle to the mixolydians"
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby mreisz » Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:06 pm

I enjoyed your post very much! It's amazing what one can do with with it once you get a basic feel for modes (like you were saying about the relative minors).
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby fiddlewood » Thu May 01, 2014 8:06 am

Guess I stand corrected.

So I guess there is no easy way to communicate a quick chord while playing without having the confusion of capos, keys,modes, etc.

Can't imagine trying to explain modes in the middle of a rousing jam on Old Joe Clark :lol:
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby mreisz » Thu May 01, 2014 9:22 am

fiddlewood wrote:Guess I stand corrected.

You and me both :D But that's ok, I like learning stuff. For what it's worth if we were playing in G and you told me to go to the flatted 7 chord, I'd go to F, so even if we were both wrong, it would still be effective communication.

I am still thinking about a good name for a pentatonic with a flatted third added... maybe a hexagrassian arpeggio? Quick! Somebody patent that and we can all retire off the profits and I'll open up a retirement home for parking lot pickers (complete with many community picking areas).
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby verneq » Fri May 02, 2014 8:28 pm

fiddlewood wrote:Can't imagine trying to explain modes in the middle of a rousing jam on Old Joe Clark :lol:


Yeah most people just say either what you said .. flat 7 or " it's modal whatchout there is an F" Most fiddle tune chords were added way later( sometimes 100 years later ) to tunes that were meant to be played by a solo fiddle. So the chords were just added to match the notes being played not the key, so you get Ds and Fs in the same song. Also Chords are relatively new to the music scene, people knew C E G sound good together but calling it a C chord and that chords are part of a key is a newer idea than some of these tunes. It is also why the tune is consistent but the chords can change from jam to jam.

Fiddlewood- in a jam your statement would work best for communications sake, it is similar to a song that goes to the II chord, technically if you go to the II and it is a major chord it is a key modulation or the II should be minor but it is so common if people say there is a II, I and many assume major.

mreisz wrote:It's amazing what one can do with with it once you get a basic feel for modes (like you were saying about the relative minors).


I agree, the modes were game changers for me on guitar. Especially those hair band licks in the 80s. On mando I find arpeggios to be that but modes help as well.
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby 5stringpreacher » Fri May 02, 2014 10:37 pm

Just when I thought I was starting to figure things out…
I pick, therefore I grin.
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby verneq » Sat May 03, 2014 7:57 pm

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” D.Adams

Music theory can seem like this in the beginning. It does have a system, but there are always exceptions particularly because people keep experimenting, and because it is a human language issue with describing a sonic phenomenon. Similar to color. We all know ROY G BIV, but try to paint the spare room with your significant other and your are dealing with serious taupe, off egg shell and free range mauve. I would say understand the Nashville number system, major and minor scales, know that the modes are just starting the same scale at different points, and some basic chord construction and you are more than good. Also know we who are posting and debating have had, at least in my case, 30 years of playing and learning. Most important trust your ear, and apart from practice, noddle and play.
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Re: Playing in a Key

Postby fiddlewood » Mon May 05, 2014 4:39 pm

Trusting your ears and spending time playing is good advice.

Understanding theory has it's uses, but so does just playing what sounds good to you without totally understanding the "why" of every note and chord.

a little story:
Last fall I took an entrance/placement exam for the local college music program. As I have been performing many types of music on several instruments for over 35 years I had to laugh that I couldn't answer over 90% of the music theory questions! :lol:

I use what I can of it, if it helps me play better and get more enjoyment from the music. The rest I leave for those who need or want to use it.
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