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i've got a problem trying to identify theory in rock music

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Megalomaniac
(@megalomaniac)
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Joined: 15 years ago
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now i'm probably coming at the at the wrong angle, but i understand the basics of how jazz works. the basic 2 5 1 structure within songs and the scales to use underneath whatever the chord may be. but when it comes to rock i'm lost!
it seem's more straight forward but is there any underlying theory to try and piece songs together?
i'll give you a couple examples,
say for jazz you use the 2 5 1 progression in the key of C, you would use the C dorian, then switch to C mixolydian then C ionian (major) scales underneath each of the chords.
using that concept of switching what you're scale or mode your playing underneath the chord i'll try maybe to transfer it to the blues and the 1 4 5 progression in the key of C again.
you might start the blues scale at C then go to the same blues scale in F then again in G under the chords you're playing.
now would that be correct or would it be better to use modes of the blues scale ( C ionian blues scale, C lydian blues, C mixolydian blues) or would that not be preferable to work with?

when it comes to rock the 1 4 5 pattern appears again alot, and the penatonic scale along with blues appears alot again.
now was if i wanted to solo on top of the chords would i use the different modes of a particular scale or rather just the scale with the root starting at different locations?
any other theory involving rock would be helpful
thanks oh so much!


   
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NoteBoat
(@noteboat)
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Joined: 20 years ago
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Well, your approach to jazz changes works - C Dorian contains the chord tones of Dm7, C Mixolydian works over the dominant chord (Bb against the G7 gives you a b9 for more tension), and of course C Ionian wraps things up. You're introducing a lot of chromaticism in your melody that way, but keeping a focus on the tonic. You could also keep a focus on the structure - for instance, by keeping the same scale but changing roots - a bit more bebop oriented (for example: D Lydian over Dm7 gives you a conflicting third and a #9 to use for tension and a C# leading tone to the fifth of G7; G Lydian gives you a b5 tension and a leading tone to the fifth of Cmaj7, etc)

But rock ain't jazz. For one thing, rock tends to be strictly diatonic (with just a few exceptions) - jazz uses lots of modulations. Although your approach could work, it's probably going to give you a fusion sound.

Most rock stems from blues, and keeps to the blues scale in a single root. The typical alterations are the addition of tones not found in the blues scale (2 and 6 are common... you can dwell on 2, but not so much on 6 as you might in jazz). Chromatic elements in rock solos tend to be a bit more pedestrian than in jazz: passing tones or leading tones as appogiatura.

For all its simplicity, rock is still a pretty big playground. You'll find some rock that draws extensively from classical theory (Keith Emerson, Yes, etc), or jazz theory (Phish, Steely Dan, etc). But for the most part, rock musicians don't over-think things - they just wing it :)

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kingpatzer
(@kingpatzer)
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now i'm probably coming at the at the wrong angle, but i understand the basics of how jazz works. the basic 2 5 1 structure within songs and the scales to use underneath whatever the chord may be. but when it comes to rock i'm lost!
it seem's more straight forward but is there any underlying theory to try and piece songs together?

First, theory doesn't tell you what to do, it provides one possible explaination of you why something you did sounds ok, or doesn't.
i'll give you a couple examples,
say for jazz you use the 2 5 1 progression in the key of C, you would use the C dorian, then switch to C mixolydian then C ionian (major) scales underneath each of the chords.

One of the reasons I encourage people to not use modes is precisely this sort of thinking. You COULD use those scales, but you can do a host of other things too . . .most of which will sound much more interesting to the listener.

How about: C# diminished whole tone scale, Ab diminished scale, C bebop.

Yes, it will work, and it'll sound fine.

Or how about just using the C Bebop scale for the whole progression?

Theory doesn't tell you what to do.
using that concept of switching what you're scale or mode your playing underneath the chord i'll try maybe to transfer it to the blues and the 1 4 5 progression in the key of C again.
you might start the blues scale at C then go to the same blues scale in F then again in G under the chords you're playing.
now would that be correct or would it be better to use modes of the blues scale ( C ionian blues scale, C lydian blues, C mixolydian blues) or would that not be preferable to work with?

Whatever sounds good to your ear.

Don't worry about modes, names of scales, etc. They help you remember various fingerings and give you starting points, but they don't give you music. Know your scales, so that you know how intervals sound together, but don't solo with scales. Instead, use the knowledge that working with scales gives you about intervalic relationships to build solos based on what you have learned sounds good to you.
when it comes to rock the 1 4 5 pattern appears again alot, and the penatonic scale along with blues appears alot again.
now was if i wanted to solo on top of the chords would i use the different modes of a particular scale or rather just the scale with the root starting at different locations?
any other theory involving rock would be helpful
thanks oh so much!

You should do what sounds good to you.

It really is that simple.

Don't try to worry about what theory tells you you should do. Theory doesn't do that. Instead worry about taking a melodic idea and developing it. Embrace tones that are outside the expected scales as colorfull adornments to your melody. Create disonance then resolve it. Mess up and then make it sound like it was exactly what you intended. Forget scales shapes and modes and focus on what you're playing sounds like.

When you have something that sounds good, then you can apply some theory to it to figure out why.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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Kaspen
(@kaspen)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 57
 

It's always hard to apply your jazz theory in a rock song. What helps for me is;

1. Imagine chords that aren't there. Like, if you're playing like a E5 vamp, just think of it as a 2-5-1. So, play your 2-5-1 licks, starting with F#Mi7b5, b7 Em... The point is, it gives you a little jazz vibe and also it resolves nicely right back to your Em pentatonic licks. Also, if you don't have that much space, just think of the 5 to the one over a 1 chord. So, play like A altered over an Em.

2. Play chromatic. Use some LCN (lower chromatic neighbor) in your playing, and if you're playing like in the 4th position, all notes within the pentatonic box are free game that can be used to add some spice. You don't want to land on a major third over a heavy rock song but it's a cool passing tone.

Thsi is really all you can do. Realize that rock is rock and jazz is jazz. Unless you're playing fusion.

Edited because I wrote a wrong chord *slaps head*


   
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