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Non Diatonic Chords and what scales (and modes) to use

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Rgalvez
(@rgalvez)
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OK. So I have this progression: E - C - D

If E should be considered I in the key of E, then C could be bVI and D could be bVII both in the key of E. The questions is: what scales should I play over them? C lydian and D mixolydian?

Thanks.


   
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NoteBoat
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At a glance, the notes of A melodic minor.

E = E-G#-B
C = C-E-G
D = D-F#-A

That adds up to A-B-C-D-E-(F)-F#-G-G#

:)

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Dneck
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The C and D will most likely be heard as a IV-V of G major (E minor). Id have to hear it to be sure, but as crazy as it sounds, I bet you an E minor scale would sound good and be the easiest thing to use. Even though you are playing an E major chord, it is functioning as an E minor chord.

Noteboat do you agree? I get what your saying that the A melodic minor would include all of the chord tones, but I don't think it would be intuitive to use for a solo. I think that the context is so strong it won't even matter if you clash a b3 over the major 3rd, unless that E major sound is really stressed, which is unlikely with a C and a D coming before it.

"And above all, respond to all questions regarding a given song's tonal orientation in the following manner: Hell, it don't matter just kick it off!"
-Chris Thile


   
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NoteBoat
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I don't really agree... first off, C-D would be VI-VII in E minor.

Lacking a typical cadence, the movement of the chords alone won't give you a very strong sense of key. So as you say, you'd need to hear it - rhythm will play a big role in defining a center, as will the unknown melody.

That's really why I said "the notes of A melodic minor" rather than "the A melodic minor scale". Since A isn't a chord root, it's probably not the tonic... you'd end up in a melodic minor variant.

When you're faced with a non-diatonic progression, you have three possible strategies:

- change scales to fit the key of the moment. E major over the E, E minor over the others is one choice.

- expand the scale beyond seven notes to include all the chord tones, as with the A melodic minor notes

- restrict the scale to avoid the tones that may clash. Using the hexatonic A-B-C-D-E-F# would work here, or the even simpler D major pentatonic (D-E-F#-A-B). Since the progression doesn't say it returns to E, that's the safest choice - the melody resolves to the root of the last chord.

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Rgalvez
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Excellent comments folks! When I commented that the progression was in the key of E was because it sounds really lively, even majestic, that's why I was thinking about playing with lydian and misolxydiam, or the pentantonic instead.

Cool tips Noteboat!!!


   
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Dneck
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ya I think about the chord intervals in major keys always, thats why I said IV-V.

I've done something similar where I was hitting an E major chord on virutally every beat but the bassline was so clearly in e minor that you had to use e minor over it.

Post a recording or something, I think its going to really depend on how your playing the progression. I was assuming that he was repeating it.

"And above all, respond to all questions regarding a given song's tonal orientation in the following manner: Hell, it don't matter just kick it off!"
-Chris Thile


   
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Rgalvez
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OK..If I'm not mistaken it's more or less like this:

4/4 E / / / - C D / / - E / / / - E / / /

E chord lasts a whole note in the first bar
C lasts a quarter note in the second bar
D lasts a dotted half note in the second bar
E lasts again a whole note in the third and fourth bar

Thanks,


   
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Fretsource
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It looks like it's in E major as the progression is mostly E major with just a brief visit to C & D.
At first I had been leaning towards Dneck's suggestion that E minor was the way to go as the flat third, G, wouldn't really be a problem over the chord note, G#, especially in a rock or blues context, and it would avoid E major's scale notes C# and D#, which could cause cause problems in proximity to the C and D chords.
But on seeing the importance of the E major chord compared to the other two, I'm going with NoteBoat's suggestion of E major, modified to E minor where necessary.

Edit: On second (third?) thoughts I'm wondering if E Mixolydian (EF#G#ABC#DE)might be a good choice given the presence of D and absence of D# notes within the chords - unless it comes along later. The only clash would be scale notes C# and G# over the chord notes C and G in the C major chord. But that C major is so brief it can be ignored as far as selecting a scale is concerned. Just take care not to play a C# or G# when that chord briefly appears.


   
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