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Thread: Key/Mode question

  1. #1
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    Key/Mode question

    So 30 Seconds To Mars' song The Kill is supposedly in C.
    That's what all the chord charts say anyway. However I noticed that there is an F# in there. So this isn't in C major. If it were there would be an F. So the D would be a Dm which doesn't fit when played and certainly the F chord doesn't fit either. But since there is an F# wouldn't it be in either G or C Lydian? I'm a little confused about this. I understand modes well enough, so is it an assumed C Lydian or is everyone wrong and it's in G?
    Thanks for all the help in advance.

    By the way this is my first post. I will have a NGD here next week with my first PRS!! Really exited!

  2. #2
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    First of all - welcome to the forum! And congrats on the impending NGD. I look forward to the pics.

    As for your question, I'm looking forward to the answer myself. I'm just getting into modes, but we've got quite a few theory experts in the community.

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  3. #3
    deus ex machina
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    I am not familiar with the song.

  4. #4
    deus ex machina
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    Okay, I managed to find a tab for the “The Kill (Bury Me)” that contains F# (http://www.911tabs.com/link/?6956292). The chords found on the tab are C5, D5, E5, F#5, G5, A5, and B5 (with octave dyads thrown in for good measure). There's only one musical key that contains a single sharp symbol; namely, G major. The sharp symbol in the key signature for G major just happens to reside on the F line.



    Code:
    G Chromatic: G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G
    Interval pattern for a the major scale:  WWHWWWH
    
    G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G
           W      W  H      W      W     W   H
    1      2      3  4      5      6     7   8(scale degree number 1 one octave up in frequency)
    C is the 4th scale degree in G major; therefore, if the tab that I referenced is correct, then “The Kill (Bury Me)” is indeed in C Lydian, not C major. The key of E minor/G major is the most common musical key in rock music. When in doubt, solo in Em pentatonic.

  5. #5
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    Awesome, thanks!
    This stirs up another question. When do you call what key what and when?
    When would you refer a key to G Major as opposed to C Lydian? By what note it starts on?

  6. #6
    deus ex machina
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    The key to determining the mode in which a song is written is the root chord for the progression, which is C. If the "The Kill" contained F instead of F#, we would know that the song was written in the key of C major (a.k.a. C Ionian mode). However, we know that the song has to be in a mode of G major (a.k.a. G Ionian mode) because it contains one sharp; namely, F#. C is the 4th scale degree in G major; therefore, the song in is C Lydian mode. C Lydian is basically G major with C as the tonal center. If G major sounds like do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do, then C Lydian sounds like fa, so, la, ti, do, re, mi, fa.

    When compared to the major scale (Ionian mode),


    • Starting on the 2nd scale degree and playing to the 2nd scale degree one octave up or down is Dorian mode.

    • Starting on the 3rd scale degree and playing to the 3rd scale degree one octave up or down is Phrygian mode
    • 

Starting on the 4th scale degree and playing to the 4th scale degree one octave up or down is Lydian mode
    • 

Starting on the 5th scale degree and playing to the 5th scale degree one octave up or down is Mixolydian mode
    • 

Starting on the 6th scale degree and playing to the 6th scale degree one octave up or down is Aeolian mode
    • 

Starting on the 7th scale degree and playing to the 7th scale degree one octave up or down is Locrian mode



    Adjusting the notes in G major to make C the root note yields the note sequence C, D, E, F#, G, A, and B.

    Let's derive C major from C chromatic.

    Code:
    C Chromatic: C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C
    Interval pattern for a the major scale:  WWHWWWH
    
    C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C
           W      W  H      W      W      W  H
    1      2      3  4      5      6      7  8(scale degree number 1 one octave up in frequency)
    C major contains the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. C Lydian contains a sharp 4th scale degree with respect to C major; therefore, the chord numbers in C Lydian are 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, and 7. The main progression is a C, D, E, and B, which is a 1, 2, 3, 7 progression in C Lydian.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for spelling that out. It really helps!

  8. #8
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    I haven't heard the song, but the progression looks like it's in the key of G and starts on the IV chord (C). In number chart terms, it would be IV, V, VI, Maj VII, I, II, Maj III. In diatonic harmony, VI, II, and III are minor (note that "Maj" in the progression refers to the scale degree, not the chord type), while I and IV are major, V is a dominant 7 (with a major 3rd in the chord, of course) and VII is diminished. However, since they're all root-fifth power chords (no 3rd), diatonic harmony goes out the window, since those chords are neither major or minor. Generally the simplest nomenclature is the best one to use, and that progression can be written out in G without using sharps or flats except for the F#, which denotes the key of G. (Em, of course, is the relative minor of G.)
    While songs often start on the I chord (the one that the key's named for), that's not always true. I can think of at least one song that not only doesn't start on the I, it never hits it once, and it's not in the relative minor key either. It's the Fleetwood Mac song that goes, "Thunder only happens when it's raining; players only love you when they're playing...", and I can't think of the name of it! It starts off going IV-V-IV-V--that's the verse and chorus pattern, and the bridge goes vii (minor--minors are written with lower-case Roman numerals),V, V, IV, and the following verse also starts on the IV. No I chord anywhere, but it's implied in the harmony. I've always figured that the I chord is the only chord in the key that, if you hit it and stop, it sounds like the song's over! In musical terms, it resolves. Now, that Fleetwood Mac song ends on a IV chord, voiced as a major 7, and it just sort of hangs there; it's an unresolved ending!

  9. #9
    deus ex machina
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    However, a song is considered to be written in a mode when it does not start on the tonic of the major key. Case in point, no one refers to an Em, Am, Bm progression is a 6 (vi), 2 (ii), 3 (iii) progression. Em, Am, Bm is a 1, 4, 5 (i, iv, v) progression in E Aeolian. As you know, E Aeolian is the relative minor key of G Major (G Ionian); therefore, it contains the same notes as G major. E Aeolian and G Ionian also have the same key signature when notated on sheet music. The only difference between G Ionian and E Aeolian are the tonal centers of the modes (G for G Ionian and E for E Aeolian) . The Roman numeral-based notation for the chords in Aeolian mode is i, ii°, III, iv, v, VI, VII, not vi, vii°, I, ii, iii, IV, VI. The same rule applies to C Lydian. The Roman numeral-based notation for the chords in C Lydian is I, II, iii, iv°, V, vi, vii. The chords in C Lydian are C, D, Em, F#dim, G, Am, and Bm. The chords in the tabbed version of the song do not contain 3rds; therefore, they are not major, nor are they minor chords.





    From a pure melody point of view, C Lydian is little more than C major with a raised 4th scale degree; therefore, the scale degrees in C Lydian are numbered 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, and 7 when compared to C Major just as the scale degrees in E Aeolian are numbered 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, and b7 when E Aeolian is compared to E Major. The key signature for E major contains four sharp symbols. The three additional sharp symbols fall on the third, sixth, and seventh scale degrees.



    Code:
    E Chromatic: E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E
    Interval pattern for a the major scale:  WWHWWWH
    
    E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E
          W      W   H      W     W      W   H
    1     2      3   4      5     6      7   8(scale degree number 1 one octave up in frequency)
    The notes in E major are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, and D#.
    The notes in E Aeolian are E, F#, G, A, B, C, and D.
    Last edited by Em7; 05-18-2013 at 10:20 AM.

  10. #10
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    Em7--you're right, of course--I always think of a minor-key song that starts on the root minor as being in that key--say, Em rather than G. However, writing it out is a lot easier in G--one sharp--as opposed to writing it out in E (four sharps) and then having to write all the G#'s as naturals. And where does that leave something like the Beatles' "I'll Be Back", which starts on Em, goes to GMa7, then CMa7, B7 (hey, chromatic harmony all of a sudden!), and resolves to E Major. What mode does that put the song in? I've just found out in the last few years that the minor-to-parallel major resolve is called a "Picardy third", but what I'll do with that bit of information I haven't a clue!

  11. #11
    deus ex machina
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfine View Post
    Em7--you're right, of course--I always think of a minor-key song that starts on the root minor as being in that key--say, Em rather than G. However, writing it out is a lot easier in G--one sharp--as opposed to writing it out in E (four sharps) and then having to write all the G#'s as naturals. And where does that leave something like the Beatles' "I'll Be Back", which starts on Em, goes to GMa7, then CMa7, B7 (hey, chromatic harmony all of a sudden!), and resolves to E Major. What mode does that put the song in? I've just found out in the last few years that the minor-to-parallel major resolve is called a "Picardy third", but what I'll do with that bit of information I haven't a clue!
    Em, G, and C Lydian share the same key signature, but the signature of a song does not always tell us the whole story. The note on which a song starts and ends usually defines the mode within the key.

    When I see parallel modulation rock songs, I often wonder if the composers actually knew what they were doing or if it was just dumb luck ("My Guitar Gently Weeps" modulates keys between Am and A). However, I almost never assume the same thing when I see key modulation occur in jazz songs. Jazz musicians live on an entirely different planet where everyone knows the rules and how to manipulate them in a musical way.

    It is often claimed that jazz was the result of Creole musicians fusing classical music with the blues and African rhythms. I tend to agree with this point of view. Some of the the chord changes in jazz make me glad that I am satisfied to be just a lowly rock and blues guitarist. I thought that I was an okay funk guitarist until I watched a master class given by Nile Rodgers. He pushed funk guitar way beyond what Jimmy Nolen did with James Brown (although one can hear Nolen's influences embedded in Nile Rodgers' right-hand technique). Nile Rodgers is really a jazz guitarist in disguise.

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