Need help applying theory to song

fsenseman

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Greetings all,

I'm trying to learn "Knowing" by Lucinda Williams. A Gm pentatonic scale works over it very well. It's right on with respect to the opening intro solo.

I think I've found some chords that work, namely Bb, Eb and Cminor. If the key was Bb than G is the relative minor and a solo in Gm pentatonic would make sense. Anyway I'm lost, I can't yet figure out the chords, what I've come up with so far doesn't sound quite right. Close, but not there. Anyone know the song and could give me some tips?

More generally speaking is it common to play in a particular key but pick up the chords from the relative minor as well?

To summarize it seems the song in in Bb, soloed in the relative minor G, uses the 4th (Eb) and the relative minor of that fourth which is Cm. So far I don't see any Dm which would be the fifth of Bb. (I'm starting with the assumption that the chords will follow somehow the standard 1,4,5 progression) I feel so close to putting the circle of fifths to work helping me transcribe but I'm just not there yet.

Just as an aside, although I can't find chords for this particular song I have them for a lot of her other stuff and quite frequently find that she uses a capo and may very well be using one for the rhythm while the lead is done without one. I'm trying to learn it without. I don't mind using one on my acoustic but I want to be able to play on my LP without one.


Thanks for any and all help,
Kind Regards,
Fleet
 

JonR

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You're right about the chords: |Bb - |Bb - |Cm - |Eb - |. I hear no other chords in the entire song.
And you're also right about Gm pent; except in this context it's Bb major pent, Bb being keynote. The vocal, like the guitar fills, is almost entirely Bb major pent. (There may be the odd Eb note here or there in the solo.)
As such, it's classic gospel-soul R&B, which is based around major pent sounds.
That scale will give a Cm9 sound on the Cm and an Ebmaj7 sound on the Eb - which helps create the mood you hear.

The major and relative minor use the same scale and chords, so for a major key to "pick up" chords from the relative minor doesn't make sense: those chords are already available in the major key. (Gm, Cm and Dm belong to Bb major as much as to G minor.)
In this case, Bb is quite clearly the keynote: a Gm chord doesn't even appear. It's just I-I-ii-IV in Bb all the way.

Nice song, btw! (not heard it before) A little too long, but only a little... Beautiful changes to solo on...
 

fsenseman

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Thank you so much for your help. I had posted a bunch of minor pentatonic scales for practice and I haven't looked much at major pentatonics yet. Time to do so I reckon. I believe I've read that there is a very simple relationship between the two. You know, 2 months ago I wouldn't have had a chance of figuring this out. Now I can get halfway there on my own:) I've got a really good graphic of the circle of fifths as my desktop background. Shows all the sharps and flats in each key as well as the relative minors. I refer to it all the time and it's finally starting to make sense.

I'm going to go over it all again with the info you've provided, should be able to get it down now.

Next project is figuring out "Hard to Explain" as performed by The Cowboy Junkies, written by Ray Agee. It's got some killer blues solos in it. I'm afraid my blues technique won't be up to par for that one but I can probably get 2/3s of the way there. I found one video online that tries to show how to play it, free sample from some pay site. I wasn't that impressed with the video, I'd much rather have tab. I suppose the video was good for showing me where, approximately, on the neck it's played but there really wasn't a lot of explanation or detail.

Thanks again for taking the time to help me. If you hadn't heard it before then you must have searched it out to give it a listen and I know that takes time. It is much appreciated. After I study what you've written above, and try to put it into context I may have another question or two.....

Kind regards,
Fleet
 

JonR

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Thank you so much for your help. I had posted a bunch of minor pentatonic scales for practice and I haven't looked much at major pentatonics. Time to do so I reckon. I believe I've read that there is a very simple relationship between the two. You know, 2 months ago I wouldn't have had a chance of figuring this out. Now I can get halfway there :) Thanks again for taking the time to help me. It is much appreciated.

Kind regards,
Fleet
Relative major and minor are exactly the same notes and patterns - for pentatonics as well as for full 7-note scales. So you don't need to learn any new patterns, or use different ones. The only difference is which note sounds like the root - and this depends mostly on the chord or key context of the song.
IOW, if you play G minor pent over a Bb major chord, it will sound like Bb major pent. Likewise, play Bb major pent over a Gm chord, it will sound like G minor pent.

This is the same as the mode principle: the root is not the lowest note of the pattern you choose; it's the root of the chord you're playing over.

More interesting things happen - as I suggested - when you play the pentatonic over other chords in the key.

Eg, on those Cm and Eb chords.

Cm chord = C Eb G
Bb/Gm pent = Bb C D F G = 7th, root, 9th, 11th and 5th of chord.

Eb chord = Eb G Bb
Bb/Gm pent = Bb C D F G = 5, 6, maj7, 9 and 3 of chord.

These notes are all cool, and many of them provide very expressive extensions - eg maj7 and 9.

You could switch to C minor pent on the Cm and Eb major pent (same notes actually, relative pents) on the Eb - but that would be more "inside" and less expressive.
Eb/Cm pent is still within the Bb major key, so there are no wrong notes there.
In fact there is only one difference between that and Bb/Gm pent: the former has Eb in place of D. It just happens that D is a great note to use over both Cm and Eb chords, at least in a soul ballad like this.
 

fsenseman

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>>Eb/Cm pent is still within the Bb major key, so there are no wrong notes there.


Does this work in all keys? In other words the notes in the pentatonic of the 4th (and it's relative minor) are in the original key. For example, in the key of Ab the pentatonic notes from Db(Bbm) will work? Just curious from a theory point of view. I've avoided theory for so long but I've found that now I need it as it's helping me to breakdown and learn new songs.

BTW, I edited my original post, recognizing the time you took to help me. Many thanks again!

Kind Regards,
Fleet
 

fsenseman

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One more quick question if I might....

If I start with C on the circle of fifths, and count up 5 (C,D,E,F,G) I get G as my next note on the circle. Makes sense. Until I get to B and count from there. I end up on F but the next is Gb instead of F. Is this because there are 2 half steps from whole note to whole note (B->C, E->F) between B and F whereas in the keys before that point there is only one instance of a half step between 2 whole notes. Which would mean that instead of counting 5 I need to count how many steps between each note. Therefore, there are the same number of half steps between C and G, and B and Gb.

Kind Regards,
Fleet
 

JonR

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One more quick question if I might....

If I start with C on the circle of fifths, and count up 5 (C,D,E,F,G) I get G as my next note on the circle. Makes sense. Until I get to B and count from there. I end up on F but the next is Gb instead of F. Is this because there are 2 half steps from whole note to whole note (B->C, E->F) between B and F whereas in the keys before that point there is only one instance of a half step between 2 whole notes. Which would mean that instead of counting 5 I need to count how many steps between each note. Therefore, there are the same number of half steps between C and G, and B and Gb.

Kind Regards,
Fleet
Yes, you've just about got it. The circle of 5ths is a circle of perfect 5ths (7 half-steps). So following B will be F#, and then C#.
It works by adding a sharp to the scale each time. So when we go from C to G, we add 1 sharp (F#); from G to D adds another (C#). Eventually by the key of C# major we have 7 sharps.

F# and C# are enharmonic with (sound the same as) Gb and Db - and we switch to flats to continue round the circle: removing a flat each time. Db (5 flats) will be followed by Ab (4 flats), Eb, Bb, F and back to C.

In fact there is also a key of Cb, enharmonic with B, because a perfect 5th going the other way (down) from Gb is Cb, not B. In that direction we are adding flats, ending up with 7 flats in Cb major.

So there are 15 keys in all: C major, 7 sharp keys and 7 flat keys. There's still only 12 key sounds, it's just that 3 of them have two possible names and spellings.

It would be very rare (and a little perverse!) to use C# or Cb major to compose in (Db and B are easier to write and read), but they might occur as key changes within other pieces of music.
Eg, if you start off in C# minor (4 sharps), a modulation to C# major (quite a common move) would be easier for musicians to read than one to Db, because C# only needs 3 sharps to be added: Db would need 4 sharps removed and 5 flats added.

"Enharmonic" means one note (or chord or key) with two different names. It can be important to choose the right spelling for the context.
Eg, B-Gb is strictly speaking a "diminished 6th", not a perfect 5th, because B-G is 6 notes (BCDEFG). There is no scale or chord that contains both B and Gb. Either we need to call Gb "F#", or call B "Cb".
Circle_Of_Fifths.gif
 

fsenseman

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Thank you so much again. I was able to play the rhythm and my wife has started to try to learn to sing it. I can lay down tracks in my DAW, rhythm first, then lead, then give her a mix she can sing to. It is coming together. I'll spend much time going over what you just posted. Sometimes you have those moments where, after running into a brick wall over and over again, you break through. This has been one for me.

Kind Regards,
Fleet
 

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