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C major and closely related keys, modulation, cadence and common guitar scales
In our last lesson we covered different types of Cadence. Each type of cadence was explained in the key of C major or Am. In this lesson we will continue to work on progressions and modulation. Before we begin we need to review the key of C major.
The key of C major is made up of the following notes and chords: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am and B dim.
In the key of C major and in every key, there are 3 major chords, 3 minor chords and 1 diminished. This holds true for every major key.
For example, in the key of F major you will find the following notes and chords: F, Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, E dim and F. Every major key is constructed the same way, WWHWWWH steps. MmmMMmd. Every major key also has a relative minor. The relative minor shares the same key signature with the major key it is in. The relative or natural minor is always the sixth note in the major key. Look at the sixth note in the key of F major; you will notice that Dm is the relative minor.
The key of G major would have the following notes. G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F# dim. Notice that Em is the relative minor to G major.
In the key of C major, Am would be the natural minor. Once again look at the notes in the key of C major. C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am and B dim.
Each note in the key of C major above is illustrated with its major and minor relationship. The C is relative to Am in that they share the same key signature. Look at the illustration above and notice how each major and its relative minor are linked together. (C-Am). (Dm-F), (Em-G).
The sentence to follow is very important and should be fully understood before moving on.
Every major key has 3 minor keys and 2 major keys that are in common or are closely related. A closely related key differs by no more than 1 sharp or 1 flat.
Look at the major keys that are closely related to C major below.
C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E
G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
If you evaluate the notes above, you will notice that each of these scales, share 6 of the same notes. In the key of F, Bb is the only different note compared to C major. In the key of G major, F# is the only note that is different to the key of C major.
Each of the major keys illustrated above also have a relative minor scale that only differs to each other by one note. The minor keys are illustrated below.
A, B, C, D, E, F , G
D, E, F, G, A, Bb C
E, F#, G, A, B, C, D
Since each scale above only differs by one note, it can be classified as a closely related key. A closely related key only differs by either 1 sharp or 1 flat. Notice that the key of F has 1 flat and the key of G has 1 sharp. Since each of these scales share six of the same notes, they should also share some of the same chords. These chords are called Common Chords. Once again the notes of C major, F major and G major will be illustrated.
C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, B dim
F, Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, E dim
G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F# dim
Look above and notice that each of the major keys illustrated have the C and Am chords. By knowing the closely related keys and chords, modulating to that key can be accomplished very easy.
What is Modulation? Modulation means to establish a new tonal center. For example, if you wrote a song in the key of C major, you would be in the tonal center of C major. If the composition were long, it would begin to sound very monotonous using the same chords or same key. To make the composition more interesting, it is possible to move to a new key. This shift to a new key can be accomplished in a number of different ways.
One of the easiest ways to change keys is from the Major scale to its relative minor scale. However, this wouldn’t be very dramatic since each of these scales shares the same notes. Another way to switch keys is by using common chords (also at times referred as the pivot chord). To understand this lets take the key of C major. Every major key has scales that are common to it. The common scales will be the diatonic triads in the given key. Look at the chords below that make up the key of C major.
C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am and B diminished. The chords that we’re concerned with are the major and minor triads within the key of C major. To figure out the closely related major keys, take the sub dominant and Dominant chords. In the key of C major, these chords would be the F and G, (IV and V). These represent the major scales that are closely related to C major.
To figure out the closely related minor scales, take the super tonic, Mediant and sub Mediant, ( ii, iii and vi).
The major triads in the key of C major are, F and G.
The minor triads in the key of C are Dm, Em, and Am.
Each of these triads represents the closely related scale from which they are the tonic. Every major key has 2 major keys and 3 minor keys that are closely related. Recall that to be closely related a scale cannot differ by more than 1 sharp or 1 flat.
F major = F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E and F. Bb is the only different note from the key of C major.
Dm is the relative minor to F so they will share the same key signature and same notes.
D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C and D.
G major = G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and G F# is the only different note. Em is the relative minor to G major and shares the same key signature and same notes.
E, F#, G, A, B, C, D and E.
C major and Am are relative and share the same notes.
C, D, E, F, G, A B and C
A, B, C, D, E, F, G and A
So what does all of this mean? By knowing the closely related keys, it will be possible to modulate to any of these keys. Modulating to any of these keys will be accomplished by using common chords. Common chords are chords that can be found in the present key and the one we will be modulating to.
For example, you will find the Am and the C major in each of the closely related keys G and F and their relative minor scales.
One technique used to modulate to a closely related key is to use a pivot chord that is found in both keys. For Example, since the Am chord is found in all the closely related keys, we could use this chord to lead into the next key. Common chord modulation will allow you to change keys without too much of a sudden shift. The pivot chord should lead to the Dominant chord of the key you would like to modulate to.
Let’s look at the key of Am. The chords that make up this scale are, Am, B dim, C, Dm, Em, F and G. Say we had the progression, Am, F and G and we wanted to modulate to Em.
The notes of Em are, Em, F# dim, G, Am, Bm, C and D. We could play Am, F and G and then Am, Em and B. From here you could go into Em, Bm7, C and Em. You have just modulated from Am to Em. You may be wondering where that B note came from? Bm is the dominant or 5th note in Em, but recall that the minor chord as a dominant gives the weak cadence. You can substitute a Major chord in its place. This will take some heavy explaining and that will be down the road. Just to give you a heads up, you can play all dominant chords if you like. For example, say your playing a progression with the Am, Dm and Em. This is a 1, 4, 5 progression in Am.
You could play each of those chords as dominants if you wanted to. A7, D7 and E7. This is very common in blues. Try playing those chords and you will find that Am pentatonic will work over them.
Some people say you can play any chord you like in place of another if it shares one note. Not getting to involved lets take a look at that and use the following progression, Am, Dm and Em. The notes that make up the Am are A, C and E. What other chords share one of those notes? The C chord has the C and E, the notes of the C chord are C, E and G. So now you could have a progression, C, Dm and Em. The notes that make up the Dm chord are D, F and A. What other chords share at least one of those notes? The F chord shares the F and A notes. So now we can play, C, F and Em. The Em chord has the notes E, B and G. What other chords share at least one of those notes? The G chord has the G and B. The notes of the G chord are G, B and D. So we could play, C, F and G. Do you see where I’m coming from? We will be covering this more as we move along, but this is a great way to come up with other chords.
I figured these out, but did stay in the key of C major. What about leaving the key of C major. Lets take the progression C, F and G. We could substitute the Cm for the C chord. The notes of the Cm are, C, Eb and G. This chord shares two of the same notes. Now we would have Cm, F and G. We actually didn’t switch keys by using the Cm chord. Cm is the parallel minor to C major. You can use the notes of this scale anytime you like and will not be considered a change of key. However, it is considered a modal change. Cm is the relative minor to the key of Eb. The notes that make up this key are
Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm, D dim.
The notes that make up the key of Cm are Cm, D dim, Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab and Bb.
Notice that the Cm scale has the same (tonic C), (subdominant F and Dominant G) as does the key of C major. These two scales, Cm and C major are called parallel keys. Even though Cm only shares 4 of the same notes as C major they are considered being in the same tonal center. This is because the tonic, sub dominant and dominant notes are the same as the key of C major. By knowing this you now have more chords to add to your vocabulary and to your progressions.
How about a progression consisting of the following chords, C, Ab, Bb, Cm, Gm, Fm, G, C, Am, F and G. This is called a change of mode. Now you don’t have to just play the C, F and G or C, Dm, G. You can now throw in the chords of Eb, and Cm and never skip a beat.
Always make sure you have your table in front of you. The table illustrates all the keys and the chords that make up each key. You can find it here. Copy and paste that table to a word document and print it out. Always have it handy.
Once you have your table handy, look over the key of Eb. Check out the chords and play them all. Mix them in with the key of C major. Play lead in Cm pentatonic or Gm, Fm. Mess around with it.