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Question about alt tunings/key

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 cnev
(@cnev)
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This should be an easy one for all you theorists out there.

If I have a song that lists the following chord progression A/Dm/F/C/A,
if instead of playing in std tuning I tuned all the strings down a half step to Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb what key would I be in and would would the open chord shapes listed above become?

Thanx,

Chris

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@noteboat)
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Since every string has moved down a half step, every chord name moves down a half step:

Ab, Dbm, E, B, Ab

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(@wishus)
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Everything's a half step down. So the actual chords would be

G#/c#m/E/B

It's probably in E, with the G# being used as a secondary dominant.

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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Note/wish,

Can I assume that if played in std tuning that this is in the key of A?

If that's correct does that mean the new key is a half step down and it's in the key of Ab?

Chris

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@wishus)
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Noteboat can probably tell you for sure, but without hearing the melody, I would say the original is in the key of F (or dm actually) and the A is just a secondary dominant that leads into the dm.

For fun, give this a try: A7/dm/F/C

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 sirN
(@sirn)
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Looks more like C to me. The F would be F# if it were in A.

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(@greybeard)
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The chord progression lists the chord of A. If you were playing in Amajor,
you would need to have C# and F# in the sequence:

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

Most of the chords would fit, if you were playing the progression in Aminor:
A - B - C - D - E - F - G - A
m - dim - M - m - m - M - M - m

A i, iv, VI, III, i progression

Harmonising F:
F - G - A - Bb - C - D - E - F
M - m - m - M - M - m - d - M

A iii, vi, I, V, iii progression.

Or Fm
F - G - Ab - Bb - C - Db - Eb - F
m - d - M - m - m - M - M - m

D, would give you:
D - E - F# - G - A - B - C# - D
M - m - m - M - M - m - d - M

And Dminor, would give you:
D - E - F - G - A - Bb - C - D
m - d - M - m - m - M - M - m

A v, i, III, VII, v progression.

So none of the simple things seem to fit. Sadly my brain has done enough today and refuses to go any further and look into other possibilities. I hope Noteboat will be along soon to help out.

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(@noteboat)
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Whether Ab or G# would be preferred is going to depend on what key the piece is in - either one is actually going to be awkward situation.

I started with the assumption that it's originally in A (that's the opening and closing chord), and moves to the tonic minor - even though Am doesn't appear. That would give:

I - iv - vi - III - I

Transposing it down puts the first and last in Ab (4 flats), and the middle three in Abm (7 flats). If that's the case, calling it G# would lead to the first and last in G# (8 sharps!) and the middle three in G#m (5 sharps). So... if that's the harmonic analysis, Ab would be preferred, as it has fewer accidentals.

If the G# is a secondary dominant, and we're in E as wishus suggests, then it's:

V(of vi)-vi-I-V-V(of vi)

Although that lets us write it with four sharps (plus one accidental), it starts and ends in a foreign key.

One last possibility is that G# is in a dominant function V-i - and we're in C#m. That leads to

V-i-III-VII-V

C#m (4 sharps); which would be preferred to Dbm (8 flats!)... but then you've got an issue with ending on the V - as well as the fact that after a strong harmonic minor cadence it travels to natural minor (because of the III and VII) and ends unresolved.

Any way you slice it, the chord names are a lot easier than a key definition. What's the melody like? Is this your own composition, or someone else's?

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 cnev
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Sorry guys I could have probably made this easier if I just actually told you what this was.

It was from the Easy Song section. Man who sold the World by Nirvana.

Matt posted it and when I played it to the record it sounded off and I remember reading that Nirvana always tuned down a half step.

So after tuning down a half step, playing the same chords sounded correct.

I wanted to play this with some friends of mine and he sent me a copy of a tab and the verse chords are Dm, A7,Dm, C, Gm, Bbm.

Now I may be way off but if instead of tuning down a half step if I played the open A at the first fret instead of the second wouldn't that be the same as tuning down a half step and playing an open A. That would work for the A and C chords but I don't where to go with the F (could I play it at the 11th fret) and I have no idea how to move the Dm.

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(@noteboat)
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That makes figuring out the key a lot easier... it's a cover of Bowie, who did it in Dm. Moving it down a half step goes to C#m (the relative of E major)

You can't just move your fingers down on the A and C (if you want to do it in Nirvana's key). The problem is the open strings.... A works, but only if you limit yourself to strings 2,3,4 - you end up with the three chord tones of G# that way - but C doesn't; the closest open position fingering you could get would be something like

2
0
x
1
2

You can't move the open G string down, so you have to mute it... the same is true of the open E string, but you have a chord tone (F#, the fifth of the B chord) within easy reach on the second fret.

I'd go with barre chords or re-tune... or do it in Bowie's key :)

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(@hbriem)
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That's basically the difference between D natural minor (Aeolian mode) and the key of D minor.

In Aeolian mode/natural minor, the v chord is minor (Am) and the resulting progression will lack dynamism.

In minor key/harmonic minor, you use the major V chord (A) instead and get a much stronger progression.

Bowie either learned this in music theory lessons while he studied saxophone or (more likely) came to this conclusion by playing and listening while he wrote the song.

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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Note,

Sorry for asking that stupid question earlier regarding just moving evrything down. I realized right after I posted it how stupid it was.

Now if I use barre chords instead then I could take those chords A, Dm, A, F, C and just barre them and move them down a half step and then I could play the Nirvana version without changing the tuning, correct?

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It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@noteboat)
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No need to apologize... and yes, that's correct; if you barre every chord one fret lower than you'd normally play it, you'll be in tune with them - barring the A chord at the 5th fret is A; move it down to the fourth and it's Ab/G#.

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