Black metal chords/theory?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by NaYoN, May 15, 2011.

  1. NaYoN

    NaYoN Heavy Blog Is Heavy

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    What kind of chords/scales are used in black metal? For example to obtain a sound like in this video:



    Yes, I know it's hilarious, but no discussions on being tr00 please.
     
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  2. Waelstrum

    Waelstrum All Fourths Advocate

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    Minor chords. All the time.

    But seriously, I don't think there are that many particular scales or modes that you want to follow. Rather, play chord progressions that DON'T fit into any particular scale that use only minor chords. Also, added note chords such as minor add6, minor add9, minor major7 are pretty kvlt. Then just flutter pick. Also



    EDIT: Some explanations of the chords I mentioned. Minor add six is a minor triad with a minor sixth, such as E G B C, or G Bb D Eb. Minor add nine is minor with a major second (ninth), such as D E F A, or C# D# E G#. Minor major 7 is minor with a major seventh, such as B D F# A#, or F Ab C E.
     
  3. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Yeah, parallel minor chords that aren't in any particular key. Flutter pick this succession, and you have instant black metal:

    Code:
    e-4-5-5-6
    b-5-6-5-6
    G-6-7-5-6
    D-6-7-7-8
    A-4-5-7-8
    E-----5-6
    (Those chords are C#m, Dm, Am, Bbm.)

    Here's a perfect example of this sort of progression:

    Ancient - From Behind Comes The Sword


    The chorus, at 0:30, is Cm Em. Not in the same key!

    A lot of minor chords a minor second apart, as well.

    Emperor - I Am The Black Wizards


    The harmony under the primary theme is Em Fm. At 0:45, it's Bm A#m. 1:59 actually employs more major second action - Cm, Bbm, Dm. This part is also in the meter of 12. Black metal isn't strictly tonal, but I wouldn't call it atonal. What I notice a lot of is deciding on a "tonic" and putting stuff around it. The beginning of I Am The Black Wizards, for instance, centers around Em, and the deviation is to Fm, before it pulls back into the center. The next center is that Bm, and the harmonic motion is the opposite: it goes down chromatically to A#m before pulling back into Bm. Then, the other part I mentioned has Cm, Bbm is a major second below it, and Dm is a major second above it. You hear all these tonic chords, but the chords around them don't necessarily imply that a tonic is there.

    I find that you can create some more melodic passages by staying diatonic, yet still retaining this idea of having nothing but minor chords. In a minor key, you have both i and iv that are minor. v is also a diatonic minor chord, but I personally wouldn't use it for this kind of thing. But, hey, anything goes. I wrote a black metal-esque riff really quickly to explain this:

    [​IMG]

    (Tab included for the notationally challenged.)

    The melody is pretty basic, and more importantly, it follows the chords.

    Hmm. More? I don't like to say "this uses this scale!", because that statement doesn't usually tell you a whole lot and doesn't really portray the compositional style. However, the octatonic scale can be very effective when used with restraint. Pardon me for using the same band twice, but I fucking love Ancient.

    Ancient - Um Sonho Psycodelico


    1:02 uses the C# H/W diminished scale (which you can read more about in this thread: http://www.sevenstring.org/forum/music-theory-lessons-techniques/133908-show-me-some-octatonic.html), but they're keeping it very centered around the tonic note. This riff doesn't go all over the place, and is very effective in its display of the individual intervals rather than the scale as a whole - the minor second, the tritone, the perfect fifth...

    Code:
    e-
    b-
    G-
    D-
    A-4-----5---4---7-8-7-5
    E---4-3-
    (I'm not notating any repeated notes here. Also, these are power chords, but I'm not fucking writing that - the power chords are only used to beef up the riff I tabbed out and don't serve much harmonic function.)

    There is also some octatonic scale riffage in that Emperor song, at 4:05. Come to think of it, I should add these to my list in the other thread.
     
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  4. Solodini

    Solodini MORE RESTS!

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    Whatever you class them as, I remember seeing a vid of Mike from Opeth talking about a new song which is all major chords but it actually sounds pretty dark due to the overall harmony.
     
  5. NaYoN

    NaYoN Heavy Blog Is Heavy

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    Thanks a lot man! That was more in-depth than I expected!
     
  6. Skanky

    Skanky SS.org Regular

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    OMG Vegan Black Metal Chef



    That's the best vid I've seen. Ever.
     
  7. epsylon

    epsylon SS.org Regular

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    If you like Emperor, check out the tab book Ihsahn released. It has a wide range of their songs from the first to the last album, with all guitar + bass tabs. It's quite awesome to say the least. This could help you understand what kind of harmonies they wrote and what kind of chords they use. As far as I remember, it's lots of minor chords, sus chords, or simple third (major or minor) 2-string chords, maj 7th chords, flat5 chords, major and minor triads, etc...
    I think the bottom line is that it has to sound "dissonant" to the untrained ear.
    If you look at the videos Ihsahn made for guitar world (look for "ihsahn left hand path" on youtube), you'll see that basically he didnt care as much for theory and just experimented with weird chord chapes, open strings and stuff.

    see


    for example but the other videos are relevant as well.

    However all this might not be true for other black metal bands as Emperor was really unique in their sound and harmonies. Compared to other black metal bands, like for example Immortal (that I love nearly as much), I feel that Emperor are a lot less power-chord/heavy rhythm centered.
     
  8. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    2:49 - Ihsahn means to say "augmented".

    I'm thinking that most of the second wave black metal dudes didn't have any system that they referred to so far as theory goes. Obviously, there's always the ear, but a lot of it seems to be picking a chord and moving it around. There are a few instances of more advanced harmony. There's a ton of mode mixture in this song, for example:



    (Shit's fucking awesome.)

    But whatever, dude. Just figure out what works for you.
     

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