Typical Keys or Modes of metal genres and bands

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Milchek, Jul 1, 2018.

  1. Milchek

    Milchek SS.org Regular

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    So I wanted to have a discussion about what you guys feel are the typical 'characteristics' of certain styles or even bands in terms of the keys and modes they tend to gravitate toward

    For example:

    Metallica
    E Minor (Natural Minor/Aeolian) with flat 2nd and tri-tone palm muted

    Yngwie Malmsteen
    E Harmonic Minor arpeggios and legato

    Devin Townsend
    C Major (or at least Open C tuning - probably a bad example)

    etc...

    (I know these are two very basic examples and the first that came to mind)

    Are there keys or modes that immediately jump to mind when you think of an artist or a genre? Like, I'm pretty sure Slayer aren't writing songs in C Major/Mixolydian, but what would be their "go to" key or mode?

    This is a little harder for more modern bands that err on the prog/jazz side of things, but even then, a lot of djent and progressive metal I hear these days is basically straight Lydian.
     
  2. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Joe Satriani seems to really like Lydian Mode.

    Buckethead and the chromatic scale with a harmonizer pedal doing ± 1/2 step.

    Dick Dale and double harmonic.

    Hungarian minor scale seems to be the favourite of theme songs (The Pink Panther, Inspector Gadget, multiple Danny Elfman works)
     
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  3. Emperor Guillotine

    Emperor Guillotine The Almighty Ruler

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    Fixed. :lol: Let me break down my answers here.

    Vai is the undisputed abuser of Lydian Mode. I mean, his stuff is all Lydian. (At least Satriani changes it up regularly. I've heard a lot of Satch's stuff utilizing Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. God forbid that someone figured out how to implement the Locrian tonality properly in a good-sounding context.)

    I know what you mean regarding Buckethead utilizing the chromatic scale with a harmonizer that was set a semitone up, a semitone down, or both. But that was mainly for those "computer-going-nuts", robotic-sounding tapping flurries from his earliest days ('88 through the late '90s). He ditched that effect a long, long time ago. Most of his solos from his later period (2007/2008 onwards maybe?) are all Aeolian (minor scale), minor pentatonic, some major pentatonic, etc. Just basic stuff.

    Josh Travis of Danza, Glass Cloud, and Emmure though... Now HE is known for his chromatic approach and for his tapping licks that integrated a harmonizer set a semitone up, a semitone down, or both that forged the "Danza" sound. Josh even stated recently in an interview that he writes chromatically. (Granted, not really utilizing the chromatic scale, but more so just approaching the guitar like a piano with all of the notes laid out chromatically in octave chunks.)

    Harmonic minor is a popular parent scale for a temporary shift in a lot of film and TV scoring (not just themes). But I've heard it so much. Kind of explains why Jason Richardson writes pretty much exclusively in harmonic minor. He wants this pseudo-cinematic sound. Outside of the stereotypical, generic metal bands that write utilizing harmonic minor, the scale itself can yield a pretty epic, classical-inspired sound if done right. (I think Yngwie already proved that more than most though.)
     
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  4. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire gearwhoricus americanus

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    loomis- diminished
    he abuses the shit out of diminished
     
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  5. guitaardvark

    guitaardvark SS.org Regular

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    Misha Mansoor - Ab Byzantine/Double Harmonic Scale

    JamUp Test:
    Rainbow Gravity:
    Zero:
    Icarus Lives:

    Our boy likes that minor 2nd with that major 7th.

    Intervals - F# Minor (with occasional emphasis on a borrowed IV 7 chord or some substitution of that to get a spicy harmonic minor flavor in there sometimes)

    Black Box:
    Sure Shot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NADqpeFguE&list=PLuj-WzKNCr7-QfPCi5VEkvFErx2oCwxof&index=2
    Touch and Go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-EmWgj4GJg&list=PLVAI203mXrQMSoudqW6Rp7UUqgsIn4c7d
    Rubicon Artist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO2v6WPIvfI&index=6&list=PLVAI203mXrQMSoudqW6Rp7UUqgsIn4c7d
    The Waterfront: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQoDY-fhyBg&list=PLVAI203mXrQMSoudqW6Rp7UUqgsIn4c7d&index=7

    This is actually a really fun post idea OP!
     
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  6. Milchek

    Milchek SS.org Regular

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    These are all great answers and interesting to review. I'll try to add some more observations later.

    Big fan of Glass Cloud and some of the Danza stuff. Danza is hectic, never thought about looking into what they focus their sound toward in terms of theory. Carbomb are similar in that regard, would be interesting to break down their approach in this way.
     
  7. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Everybody uses harmonic minor, though, so I think that one's a stretch. If I hear a harmonic minor scale, I certainly don't think "oh, theme from TV," like I do with hungarian minor, which you can't help but either hear Danny Elfman or Henry Mancini or Inspector Gadget, depending on how it's used. Fun fact about hungarian minor and double harmonic (mentioned above): they are modes of each other. E double harmonic is the same template of notes as A hungarian minor, just around different tonal centers. Interesting how differently they work, though.

    You're 100% right about Vai and Satch.
     
  8. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    Marty Friedman and the Iwato scale... Basically a Locrian pentatonic without the 3rd and 6th (1 b2 4 b5 b7).



    He uses different versions of the "Hirajoshi" scale... but that is open to debate as to whether it is genuine or really just a western mode with some passing tones.
     
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  9. Emperor Guillotine

    Emperor Guillotine The Almighty Ruler

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    Honestly, to stuff like Danza and Carbomb, there isn't much "music theory" involved in the note selection and harmony side of things. It's just a bunch of random movements based on chromaticism along with minor second harmonized licks (I guess you could refer to this as "chromatic harmonies") to build tension...build tension...build tension...and give that chaotic sound...until there is an occasional (and I really mean occasional) release or melodic section. Later Danza during the Danza IIII album was far better about integrating more consonance and ear-pleasing musicality, whether it was a melodic chorus like in "This Cut Was the Deepest" or just ambient tones/chords that passed by in the background and gave a little sort of harmony that functioned as "melodic glue" behind the static chugs like in "Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox" and "Behind Those Eyes".

    I love that you mentioned this. I've been dissecting Marty Friedman's approach to harmony over the past few days by watching those super short videos that he did in that interview for Total Guitar. I've been curious how he has been able to adapt and work with so many skilled musicians/composers/producers as a Westerner in Japan who creates essentially J-Rock and J-Pop.

    The Hirajoshi scale really is just the Eastern's version of the minor pentatonic scale. And then it has its modes with the Iwato scale being a mode of the Hirajoshi. Marty seems to opt for the Hirajoshi scale for flavor when shifting in and out of the minor pentatonic since it is so easy to do. (Any time I've heard him using the Hirajoshi scale or one of its modes though it always just sounds like "the Hirajoshi scale"...and not like *insert name of mode*...I'm not sure if its modes are hard to color over chords or if Marty just does a lot of copy-and-pasting in his playing or what...)

    Anyway, that particular progression that Marty played in that video isn't based on the Hirojoshi scale. It's based on the C-Major scale, except with the vii° chord being a viiø7 (m7b5) chord. I'm not exactly sure what you would call this parent scale, but it makes sense.

    The progression is just a lengthy series of ii-V-I movements again and again and again using secondary dominants with Marty's target tonic being that Cmaj. chord (or Cmaj. 7) that he plays in the progression. There are small changes to only like two chords in the progression that meant to smooth transitions; but really, it's just a C-Major progression using a ton of secondary dominants.

    If you really emphasize the notes that are different between the Eastern minor pentatonic scale (Hirajoshi) and the Western minor pentatonic scale, then it can be seen as genuine. (The contextual harmony also helps determine that.)

    Example in the key of Em:
    Eastern minor pentatonic (Hirajoshi)
    Notes: E, F#, G, B, C
    Intervals: 1, 2, b3, 5, b6​

    Western minor pentatonic:
    Notes: E, G, A, B, D
    Intervals: 1, b3, 4, 5, b7​

    So, for this example, you would really want to draw focus to those F# and C notes for flavor while playing around in the Hirajoshi mode. Although, if you're just blazing by those two non-shared notes, then yeah, it can simply be seen as simply a Western scale/mode with some passing tones.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
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  10. Vyn

    Vyn Not a Sparkly Vampire Contributor

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    You can cover a LOT of metal bands just with the Double Harmonic Minor scale.
     

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