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Music theory - sharps or flats?

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Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby BJG145 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 1:58 pm

This is something I never properly understood.

I'm currently trying to write out a simple version of the chords for Paul Young's "I'm gonna tear your playhouse down" transposed from G to Eb.

So, for the verse:

https://youtu.be/YTWt_pKiMl4?t=20

I've put:

Ebm Abm Ebm Abm
You think you got it all set up, you think you got the perfect plan
Ebm Abm Ebm Abm
To charm everyone you see, and playing any game you can
Bbm Abm Bbm Abm
But I've got news for you, I hope it don't hit you too hard
Db B B Db
One of these days while you're at play, I'm gonna catch you off guard

...now, those might not be exactly the right chords, but I'm not bothered about that at the moment; it's in the ballpark.

What I'm unsure about is whether I should have written B or Cb in the last line (or even C# instead of Db), and I'm hoping someone can give me a quick explanation of the music theory there. I've gathered that how you write a note depends what key you're in, but I'm not sure if there's been a key change...?
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:19 pm

Db Cb Cb Db

If it's in Ebm the scale notes are: Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, and Eb. So it would be logical to write those chords as Cb. ...but my musical theory stopped at Grade V a very long time ago! ;-)

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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby Guest » Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:34 pm

I would say definitely Cb. From the chords you gave the piece appears to be in Eb minor and there is no B in either Eb harmonic minor or Eb melodic minor: Eb melodic minor has C♮ascending and Cb descending and in Eb harmonic minor it is always Cb. It is not a key change within the context of a pop song although some classical theorists would probably say it is modal.

If I were sight reading these chords and saw Db B B Db I would probably assume it was a copying mistake and play Bb minor.
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby Guest » Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:43 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Db Cb Cb Db

If it's in Ebm the scale notes are: Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, and Eb.

Actually they're not, that is an Aeolian mode on Eb you have shown. The Eb minor scales are:

Harmonic minor: Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb D♮ Eb - ascending and descending

Melodic minor ascending: Eb F Gb Ab Bb C♮ D♮ Eb
Melodic minor descending: Eb Db Cb Bb Ab Gb F Eb

However I think you are correct in treating this as an Aeolian mode instead of an Eb minor scale - so you are right, but gave a wrong reason.
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:46 pm

This thread perfectly encasulates why every time I have tried to think about learning to understand music I just go off for a cry in the corner instead.
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby ef37a » Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:58 pm

Whaaaa!

Wen I was in a band the Beatles were just coming into their stride and we would buy the piano copy sheet for the latest words and chords.
Invariably it would be in a key nobody could sing or, often in e flat which is a puny chord on guitar. I got the job of transposing the chords just by moving them en bloc up or down the fretboard.

It was decades later that a musically educated son made me realize (but still not properly understand!) that A sharp is not always the same chord as B flat.

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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby Guest » Sun Apr 14, 2019 3:05 pm

ef37a wrote:It was decades later that a musically educated son made me realize (but still not properly understand!) that A sharp is not always the same chord as B flat.

Dave

Much of it is just clarity and convention. A rock chord chart written C Bb F G is easy to read; C A# F G would be really confusing. The other thing is much rock music is often better considered as modal instead of diatonic.

Regarding A# and Bb, before equal temperment they were different. However some violinists still claim they play a slightly different note if it is A# or Bb: this is not borne out in practice when playing in equal temperment.
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby ef37a » Sun Apr 14, 2019 3:08 pm

Still Vibrations wrote:
ef37a wrote:It was decades later that a musically educated son made me realize (but still not properly understand!) that A sharp is not always the same chord as B flat.

Dave

Much of it is just clarity and convention. A rock chord chart of C Bb F G is easy to read; C A# F G would be really confusing. The other thing is much rock music is often better considered as modal instead of diatonic.

Well of course, goes without....

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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby CS70 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 6:06 pm

ef37a wrote:Whaaaa!

Wen I was in a band the Beatles were just coming into their stride and we would buy the piano copy sheet for the latest words and chords.
Invariably it would be in a key nobody could sing or, often in e flat which is a puny chord on guitar. I got the job of transposing the chords just by moving them en bloc up or down the fretboard.

It was decades later that a musically educated son made me realize (but still not properly understand!) that A sharp is not always the same chord as B flat.

Dave

Lots of rock is played tuning guitars and bass half step down, but probably the people writing the scores had no idea so wrote down E flat :-D

For accidents, it’s the same in theory for fretted or keyboard based instruments in equal temperament; but in practice, everyone apart from piano players often uses micro-bends, so depending on the pitches one’s used to, they can still be played slightly different when coming from below or above. Never knew anyone notating this tough in any way but it’s the same with most things you do with the guitar, there’s just no notation for it
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby BJG145 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 7:00 pm

...OK! Thanks for the explanations...
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Apr 14, 2019 7:47 pm

Or to put it more simply (my theory didn't get past grade 1, or up to it actually) you can't have two B's in a scale 'cos they'd be sharing the same line/space on the manuscript.
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby Guest » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:50 am

Sam Spoons wrote:you can't have two B's in a scale 'cos they'd be sharing the same line/space on the manuscript.

That occurs in an octatonic scale:

http://decipheringmusictheory.com/?page_id=724
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby BJG145 » Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:04 pm

...incidentally I just dialled up a Top of the Pops version on YouTube to see what they used for the organ sounds, and I was shocked to see the keyboard player giving his Oberheim OB-XA a sharp knee jab for emphasis.

https://youtu.be/148bTZCc6E8?t=61

I don't think you'd see many players treating their analogue polysynths like that these days.

(All mimed of course. Pino Palladino tends to get more praise than Paul in the comments sections...what a bassist...)
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby MOF » Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:42 pm

incidentally I just dialled up a Top of the Pops version on YouTube to see what they used for the organ sounds, and I was shocked to see the keyboard player giving his Oberheim OB-XA a sharp knee jab for emphasis.

I wouldn’t use any music show for reference as to what instruments were used, many a time I’ve heard Grand Piano emanating from a Wurlitzer or Rhodes piano or indeed a Hammond organ.
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby BJG145 » Fri Apr 19, 2019 4:40 pm

...yep, quite right. I was naive enough to be surprised to see the same OB-XA being used to reproduce the legendary "Orch 5" Fairlght orchestral hit used on this track.

(...then tried tracking that down, without success. I have Arturia's Fairlight, but their version is diabolical. Sounds like gunfire.)
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby Jimmy T » Sat Sep 07, 2019 12:00 am

It's
Key Eb minor . I IV I IV
I IV I IV
Key Gb Maj . III II III II
V IV IV V

So in Gb maj chord IV is Cb and chord V is Db

Incidentally, I just thought Natural or Aeolian minor and then Major.

It's only if there had been a major V chord in the minor key that I would have been aware of the Harmonic minor scale, or if the melody indicates it.
But from the chords, this is the most immediate harmonic analysis.
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby BJG145 » Sat Sep 07, 2019 9:23 am

Jimmy T wrote:It's
Key Eb minor . I IV I IV
I IV I IV
Key Gb Maj . III II III II
V IV IV V

Thanks Jimmy T - that's very helpful. I thought there was a key change in there but I didn't know where/what it was.

It makes more sense now I look at this in terms of I IV V etc.

Is there an unambiguous way to work out where and what the key change is, or is it open to interpretation...? For instance, would it be possible to see the third line as staying in Eb minor on V IV V IV...? Or the last line as being in Db...?

Also, if writing out a chord sheet for a jam session, would you expect to indicate the key change(s) or is that not necessary...?

(Just trying to get a wider grasp of this beyond Paul Young!)
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby GilesAnt » Sun Sep 08, 2019 6:49 pm

Modulations are often open to interpretation in my opinion. The first couple of lines are simply tonic/subdominant, and the third line could be seen as dominant/subdominant.

Being minor chords this does suggest an Aeolian mode as Jimmy mentions, but otherwise I would treat it as still in Eb minor.

The 4th line does sound like a key change but if you take the modal route these would still be triads within the Aeolian Eb. In the Aeolian mode triads built on the 6th and 7th degrees are major, e.g. Cb major and Db major. Triads on 1st, 4th and 5th are all minor.

So for me this is non-modulating Aeolian mode. Or at least it's one way of looking at it. Maybe best not to mention all this on the lead sheets for your jam session though!
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby BJG145 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 8:32 pm

GilesAnt wrote:The 4th line does sound like a key change but if you take the modal route these would still be triads within the Aeolian Eb. In the Aeolian mode triads built on the 6th and 7th degrees are major, e.g. Cb major and Db major. Triads on 1st, 4th and 5th are all minor.

OK! Thanks GilesAnt. This is all a bit over my head, but it seems unanimous that I should have written Cb instead of B here so I'll take that as my lesson from this experience... ;)

(I'm kind of acquainted with ideas like non-modulating and Aeolian; I'll just have to sit and concentrate a while to understand this example.)
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Re: Music theory - sharps or flats?

Postby GilesAnt » Sun Sep 08, 2019 8:44 pm

Mercifully nobody has suggested it might be A## - not yet anyway.
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