Help me break loose from Diatonic progressions

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by ZeroS1gnol, Feb 18, 2021.

  1. ZeroS1gnol

    ZeroS1gnol SS.org Regular

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    I was a bit in doubt whether this would belong in the beginners/faq forum, but the hell, I guess it's a pretty complicated matter of musical theory. Let me sketch the picture as simple as possible, I have a tendency to build my songs around a single scale, mostly the minor scale. So the song would consist of some riffing and a bit more chord oriented parts for the choruses. My older work would often find both starting with the key of a scale and progressions would be mostly diatonic. I have been trying to divert from starting chord progressions in the scale's key, but in a minor scale starting on a 5th or 6th sounds best, so I almost always revert to those notes as the root for a chord. Frankly, I'm getting a bit sick of always reverting to those patterns.

    I try to divert by switching the key scale, which sometimes is nice, but still, it could be more interesting. I have experimented with just moving up to a different scale in a different key, to make it non-diatonic, but I often have trouble making things come together as a song.

    Now here's where I need some advice: what are interesting and good sounding switches in key and scales while retaining that feeling of coherence between sections? Just to keep it a little bit simple, I would like to discover things around using minor/major scales. I don't really need to go in Jazz territory.
     
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  2. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I definitely recognize the feeling of reverting to the same old same old stuff. It's something I have wrestled with myself and not really come to any great conclusions about. Sometimes I beat myself up about using the same chord progression that I use very often. But then I listen to some music I like and, well hey, that band also uses that chord progression all the time. Maybe that's why I like the music.

    I think for myself I can get a little bit too stuck on the chords when really, there's a lot of different things that can be done with a chord progression or a scale. A melody constructed from a diatonic scale can be many many different things even when just using those 7 notes. It can also be arranged and harmonized differently, and use different timbres and effects to produce a whole that sounds unique.

    I'm having some trouble fully understanding your post though. From your explanation of what it is you're doing, I don't really understand... what it is you're doing... And what it is you're looking for. Can you explain closer? Maybe with some examples? Also "coherence" in music is pretty hard to define and nail down.

    When working in a key, you can of course modulate to a different key. Depending on to where and how you do that it can give be more or less jarring, and have a different sort of effect. You can write stuff that's more modal and could give a certain type of flavor. You could use more spicy notes from outside the key and use borrowed chords from another key. You can use different, more exotic keys and scales.

    Making things non-diatonic I don't really know how to answer other than don't use diatonic scales then? Again it's a little hard to know what kinda stuff you're after.
     
  3. ZeroS1gnol

    ZeroS1gnol SS.org Regular

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    I realise that wat I am asking is vague... it really is. Maybe my question is a bit more concrete when I ask which types of modulations people apply to make a song not sound as if it's entirely in one key, but that it retains a feeling of fitting together (as subjective as that may sound).
    I think my own tried and true method is switching from a E minor chord progression to a C# minor chord progression. C# minor is diatonic with a E major scale, so changes the mood, but still makes it easy to return to the E minor scale. I'm looking for similar examples.
     
  4. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    It's a pretty big question.

    As far as modulations go... I mean, you could modulate anywhere. When you've established a tonality, the listener tends to be alright with that. But as far as doing that, if you modulate very far very suddenly it will be more jarring and more of a noticeable effect. That can work though, and it doesn't have to mean that the song won't sound coherent.

    If you want a subtle modulation, the most closely related key is gonna be one 5th away in either direction, so e minor to b minor or to a minor. Moving to one of those scales only one note in the scale changes, as opposed to three if you go to c# minor.

    If you want a different mood or feel, then maybe it can be more useful to think about where your tonal center is in the key rather than which key it is you're using. So it could be major or minor, but it could also be more of a modal flavor if you're hanging out on the lydian or phrygian or whichever chord. Or you could use other scales of course, like something based in harmonic minor, or something more chromatic, or something pentatonic, or a whole note scale, or really anything you want.

    And then making the whole thing feel like it fits together, well, that's hard to say just like that. There's lots of things that can have an impact on that.

    Sorry, not sure if I'm being helpful at all.
     
  5. SpaceDock

    SpaceDock Shred till your dead

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    I want to throw out a few simple ideas here. I know what’s like to be very comfortable rocking out in a minor or major chord progression that gets a bit boring....

    Start in your traditional minor progression, then find a place to sit on the five chord. Then instead of returning to the minor i, use a quick flat major tonic and then land into the major tonic. This is used in a ton of songs. From there you can naturally sit in the major key of what was previously your minor key. Going back into the minor is super easy from there. I like the quick iiv root note before popping into the I because it really preps the ear.

    start with you comfortable chord progression, but to add some more flavor use the dominant v chord from almost any chord in your progression to segue into a parallel key. I got this from youtuber Jake Lizzio. One of his videos was all about using dominant chords as a tool to exit and re enter keys due to the leading tone.

    use a chromatic tone to add definition. This one is tricky and takes some practice, but the idea is that chromatic tones a few semitones lower than the tonic can sound exotic without being overly bizarre. I am talking about a sharp 5 or a sharp 6 to keep it simple. Adding a flat 2 or other notes just above the tonic get hard to hear your root/tonic. Anyways, use this one supplemental tone as a exaggeration. Normally work through your progression but add int this tone for a melodic emphasis to give some real character. I think about George Harrison when I do this style.
     
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  6. ZeroS1gnol

    ZeroS1gnol SS.org Regular

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    On the contrary, I really appreciate when people just speak their mind, try to theorize a bit.

    I'm trying to grasp what you are saying here. Are you saying that you when you sit on the five chord you're putting that in the major scale?
     
  7. SpaceDock

    SpaceDock Shred till your dead

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    For example if you are in G minor, you have a D minor v. Sit on that v, then try a quick F# then land on G maj. Both major and minor scales will have the same V/v if you drop the maj/min voicing, a dominant V will work here as well. The purpose of the quick vii F# is to push the ear towards your new Major. It doesn’t need to be a vii, it’s just pulling a tone from the Maj scale as a transition out of minor.
     
  8. PonStan

    PonStan SS.org Regular

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    The simplest tips I can think of is that you can use modes. Don't think of them as Jazz teritory. They have been there since the begining.

    Dorian is the one that I would recomend, since you like minor. The 6th is raised, so you can use a major IV chord. It is rather refreshing.

    Phrygian could be very epic or very dark.
    The lowered 2nd can be bright, when used like the classical music uses the Neapolitan II (e.g. Db, G, Cm - IIN, V, I).
    It is also evil-sounded when played like Pantera (e.g. power chords: F, E, Db, C)

    You can use modal interchange to separate the sections. Start on Dorian, go to Aeolian, finish with Phrygia. Experiment.
     
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  9. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

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    You have to first know where you are (key,mode) then decide where you’d like to go. Know the notes that are common between the two, and the uncommon notes that make it distinct. Obviously the less commonalities the bigger the impact of the modulation. Utilize the common notes, where possible, in your transition to the new key.

    You can also just borrow from parallel modes pretty easily; as long as it supports the melody.
     
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  10. Kemono

    Kemono SS.org Regular

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    Learn songs.

    Most good songs have weird things in them. If you find something weird in a song, ask about it. Learn what it is and use it in your own music.

    Secondary dominants are good. If you're only using chords from a single scale, this is a good place to start.

    ABBA uses a lot of secondary dominants.

    Or check out "Still Lovin' You", Scorpions.

    Intro:
    G- | G-/F | Eb∆ | D7

    Verse
    G- | G- | A | D |

    The verse has an A major chord. That's not in the key of G minor. But there is no modulation here, either. This is called a secondary dominant. It's the V of the V chord. D major is the V chord. The V of the V chord (D maj) is A maj (or A7).

    The chorus of that song is AAB form with a 4 bar tag on the B section.

    | G- | Eb | Bb | F |
    | G- | Eb | Bb | F |
    B: | G- | C- | D5 | G- |
    Tag: | Eb | Eb | F | F |

    Over the B section, Matthias Jabs plays a B note over the G- chord. He only does this the second time of the solo, closely following the motif he established the first time, but this time, playing B natural. That one brief note resolves up to C.

    The next chord the band plays is Eb, not C-. It's a deceptive resolution led by the melody, as Matthias is tonicizing C- with this "wrong" note, and the band next plays Eb maj. This one "wrong" note has a poignant effect.

    And that helps explain in part why they made millions of dollars.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2021
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  11. ZeroS1gnol

    ZeroS1gnol SS.org Regular

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    Appreciating all the suggestions ;)
     
  12. Kemono

    Kemono SS.org Regular

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    Please make a video of what you did applying these ideas and concepts.
     
  13. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Radiohead - Creep

    Simplest example of chord substitution.

    Crazy Train - Ozzy

    Relative major/minor tonal shift example.

    For work on how to solo over relative keys, check out Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd.

    Believe - Savatage

    Has a bVII chord substitution, like a few early Led Zeppelin/The Who songs.

    From there, listen to some Beatles or something. Pretty much all of their songs after their bubblegum era had cool chord substitutions in them.

    Or, if you just want to look at a bunch of musical mayhem that looks like chaos, but makes perfect sense if you overanalyze it, listen to some later Death or anything with A Jarzombek brother writing it.
     
  14. Tracker_Buckmann

    Tracker_Buckmann SS.org Regular

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    2nd on learning the modes. If you want help understanding them i can explain them very easily.

    Then watch this:
     
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  15. Tracker_Buckmann

    Tracker_Buckmann SS.org Regular

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  16. Solodini

    Solodini MORE RESTS!

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    I think writing to follow a key is a recipe to be prescriptive rather than descriptive. Keys and scales describe typical note groupings but they don't mean you need to try to stick to that. If you want more interesting chord progressions then try to just focus on the chords, regardless of the key.

    Like what SpaceDock said, you can use notes which are a semitone away from a note you intend to emphasise. Say you're in E minor, so you'd typically be using E minor (Chord I: EGB), A minor (chord iv: ACE), B minor (chord v: BDF#) or B Major (chord V: BD#F# so that the D# leads to E for resolution). The D major (DF#A) would typically be a diatonic chord, but you could use D min sometimes, to have the F lead to E or to F#, so D minor could lead to E minor, C major (or C# minor for extra spice), or A min or maj. The C# in A maj or C# minor could lead to D in B minor or to C in F major.

    You can just start looking for ways that chords might link like this. And that's only exploring triads. You can hugely expand this when you start factoring in 7ths, 9ths, altered chords, suspensions and so on.

    Another thing to pay attention to in doing this is to try to look out for, and create patterns which you can replicate and allude to in the melodic movement of your chord sequences. Let's take B minor, A maj, F#min, E min. There can be a line in there of D C#F#B which is descending a semitone, ascending a 4th, descending a 5th. You could use that same pattern to guide writing another sequence. Let's say we want to resolve to E minor again, but we'll make G the note that the melody lands on. We'll be descending a 5th to that, so the chord before would have D in it so let's go for D minor. We would have ascended a 4th to that from A, so let's use F major. We would have descended a semitone to the A from Bb so let's make use G minor. Gmin, F maj, D min, E min. Bb A D G follows the same intervallic pattern as DC#F#B so will have some familiarity to the ear.

    I hope this helps some. :)
     
  17. Nag

    Nag chugs and screams

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    OP : search Paul Davids on YouTube and once you're on his channel, he's got a bunch of videos labeled "fix your boring chord progressions". They might even be arranged into a playlist. He goes in detail about slash chords, secondary dominants, tritone substitutions, chord extensions... it's good stuff.
     
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  18. dbrozz

    dbrozz SS.org Regular

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    For what it's worth, a friend and I made a modal interchange chord chart a year ago to use for this kind of thing.

    https://modal-interchange-chart.com/

    It has a little write up you can read on the site to help you out. But basically, find the key you're in and the chords you're using. Then you can swap chords out or add chords into the progression using chords from parallel modes.

    For example, you said you write a lot in Minor. Let's just say you have a chord progression in C minor that goes i - iv - v - bIV - i.
    You'd find Aeolian on the chart (which is Minor) and see that your chords are Cm - Fm - Gm - Ab - Cm.
    Maybe you decide to swap the minor v chord for the Major V chord of the parallel major scale. You might also decide to add in the iv from the parallel major before the bV in your progression. Now you have this:

    Cm - Fm - G - Am - Ab - Cm

    Now I just totally made all this up off the top of my head using the chart. Try a bunch yourself! I love the flavours modal interchange adds to chord progressions. And you'll notice as a result your melodies will have to twist through some new scale territory to outline the chords more musically.

    Good luck!
     
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