No wonder they call it music “theory”

Last night, I totally, completely, and utterly confused myself.

I have been working on a song that so far, is working out to be quite good. It’s got energy, some interesting sounds, and even as an Electronic Dance Music kind of song, has room for some good guitar work (if I could only find a good guitarist to do the work!).

Here is the ‘scratchpad’ portion of the song I’ve done so far in mp3. This is just me putting pieces together to see what works, what didn’t, etc.

I really like how the song was starting. The build up resolves to a nice, energetic ‘drone’. The bass note / tonic is A♭ and the electro-synth sound dances around A♭, G♭, F, and E♭ as well as working in a D♭and a C♭. This leads me to think that this is in the key of G♭ major with a root of A♭ Dorian since the notes G♭, A♭, B♭, C♭, D♭, E♭, F are all used.

Awesome! So the chords I should be able to use are

A♭min (i) B♭min (ii) C♭maj (III) D♭maj (IV) E♭min (v) F dim (vi°)  and finally G♭maj (VII)

When the guitar kicks in, there’s a 3 chord progression that goes from A♭7sus4 to A♭6sus4 (at least, that’s the best guess I can figure out for that chord) to A♭ Major. The last chord is a nice resolve… but isn’t in my chart here.

I have a major version of what should be a minor chord that sounds perfectly valid. In fact, listen to this excerpt with 3 A♭major chords, followed by 3 A♭minor chords. The underlying synth riff doesn’t change (it’s bouncing between octaves of A♭, with G♭thrown in, plus a run of  D♭, F and C♭at the end. But the change from a major (incorrect) to the minor A♭ (correct) completely changes the way the underlying synth sounds even though the notes are identical.

In fact, the proper minor, while it sounds fine, changes the mood of the song in a way I don’t want.

So, it’s confusing. I’m trying to find a new path to take the song down rather than the current drone on the A♭but the chords I used seem to want to defy the key.

Maybe I’m not really in that key? Maybe the # vs ♭ notation in FL Studio is throwing me off? I don’t know. All I know is using an A♭ maj sounds good. Then again, in blues, you play a minor scale over the major (tossing in a flatted 5th for flavor) and it works too.

I guess this is why it’s music theory and not music fact!

P.S. Please feel free to critique the song too. It’s a work in progress (like the other 50,000 ‘songs’ I’ve started) and I’m always up for constructive criticism, praise, or large sums of cash to persuade me to focus more on my music. Or, large sums of money to keep me from ever publishing anything else again. Whatever stuffs my bindle.

posted by by Robb Allen @
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