Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Theory In Action

Oh God, not a cold. Not now. As my wife always says: I can't afford to be sick.

So, I'm currently recording tracks for another song by Mizieya for his upcoming release "The God Who Had An Affair With Himself." Our collaboration on "Rites of Passage" went so well that he offered up another track of a distinctly different flavor. I like this one too. It's called "Avalon" and is more of an uptempo dance piece, though still dreamy in its structure. It calls to mind (at least to me) the work of Seal, or maybe just the song "Crazy", in general. You know the one - "we're never gonna survive unless we go a little crazy."


I had absent-mindedly strummed along with it in DAD tuning when he sent me a demo several days ago and found that it was another song in D - perfectly suited for the dulcimer. Or so I thought. Upon closer inspection while running through it today, I discovered that my scale wasn't right for the tune. Even though it appeared to be in D. So what was the deal?

A little sleuthing led me to work out the chords of the chorus, since the verses are sort of built on a sustained Dm. That was my first clue.

Dm contains the notes D - F and A. Of course, the dulcimer, when tuned to D, has two sharps on the scale. C# and F#. So that Dm wasn't gonna happen. The chorus then goes Dm - C - G - F. Well, that F ain't gonna happen either. So what key was this? I plucked around on the piano next to my workstation and discovered that the scale I was using was an F major scale. The relative minor scale (beginning with the sixth scale degree) was Dm.

F Major Scale - F - G - A - Bb - C - D - E - F
Scale Degrees - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - (6) - 7 - 8

D Minor Scale - D - E - F - G - A - Bb - C - D

So, obviously I can play all of the chords in the song except for Dm and F Major. What to do?

Well, I decided to run through and try some alternatives, finally landing on substituting an Am chord for the F as a chord extension. Since Mizieya plays the F chord on the keyboards, it wasn't really necessary for me to play it anyway. So by playing an Am chord (6-4-4) over the F, I'm actually extending the F chord into a F Major 7th chord. Here's how that works.

Am includes - A - C - E (1 - b3 - 5)
F includes - F - A - C (1 - 3- 5)

The E (5) of the Am chord serves as the 7th of the F chord! (Remember, a dominant 7th is flatted. That's the standard seventh chord. This is a Major 7th chord I'm creating.)

With that hurdle out of the way, I set about playing the chords to the song and was pleased and relieved to find that the Am chord worked beautifully. Now I just had to resist the urge to do any soloing into the F territory.

I'm still mixing down the various parts that I've conjured and sending them over to him in Wales - when there's something available as an approved demo, I'll post it here so you can see what I'm talking about!

1 comment:

Julie said...

It soulds really cool! Look forward to hearing it. Be sure to tell the everything dulcimer crowd when this CD comes out. I love the minor tunes!