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What is the theory behind this simple riff?

Ed DeGenaro

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
24,466
It certainly seems like it’s all relative to what you are tying to accomplish with your lines.

Some people don’t have a goal when playing - nothing really wrong with that. They will figure it out someday. (“‘Till we have faces” and all that). And I’m not sure where I stand in all that specific frequency or specific interval stuff people get all fired up about - not advocating for that at all. But at the same time I’ve seen some amazing stuff done with it (some of the Peruvian whistling stuff can be nuts).

Seems, though that a “bass player playing nothing [well mostly] inner voices” would include blowing over Phil - essentially the exact topic of the OPs post here.

But, give the thirds trick a try. It may be silly but you’ll be surprised. Nothing ever accomplished with a melody that starts on the root.
You're still ignoring the point...last try...
The harmony can't be defined quite well with nothing but the bass tone (in your usage root note).
Not one word about melody...

What I'm saying is to lay out any progression and it's function (the stuff you wanna blow over) you need nothing more.
It also doesn't mean that no additional voices are required it means that they are optional as in interchangeable by function
 

Furious George

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
294
BTW I resist the "Circle of 5ths" answer. This is a common misconception (right along with "chords out of the key can't work!").

The Circle of 5ths has nothing to do with chords or chord progressions.

But 4th motion is absolutely common in music and this is another reason this "sounds familiar enough not to bother us".
(btw, I agree with the vast majority of your post that this was excerpted from)

My point was that the circle of fifths is a convenient way of describing (or naming) a sequence of plagal cadences. In the same way it can describe how a ii-V-I sequence resolves into the next ii-V-I sequence. Or, if one prefers, why these chord progressions that modulate to a different key, modulates in a natural sounding and pleasant way.

Also agree with other posts that one could also look at it as bVII IV I V. Perhaps this may be the more accurate way of looking at it since the song doesn't really dwell on the IV-I movement in any kind of cadence-y way. It's definitely more like the pattern of the 1st two chords being repeated one whole step up.
 

TedJames

Senior Member
Messages
917
You're still ignoring the point...last try...
The harmony can't be defined quite well with nothing but the bass tone (in your usage root note).
Not one word about melody...

What I'm saying is to lay out any progression and it's function (the stuff you wanna blow over) you need nothing more.
It also doesn't mean that no additional voices are required it means that they are optional as in interchangeable by function
Im not trying to ignore at all. I actually think we are both in complete agreement on 90% of it.

Where we differ, if at all, may be in emphasis. You and I 10O% on need more than the bass/root or whatever you want to call it. But I think that of all the notes being played either putting the root in the bass or putting emphasis on the root (two separate things) while effective to accomplish certain things really kills any duende. Certainly easy to add energy that way. But, I’m not sure you can take it out of the room that way.

And too many people miss the magic and get stuck worrying about the root and start thinking that that’s where they should be focusing.

I’m also a big believer that the bass is more for grounding - which is why it can be so powerful.

But at the same time it can only be stabilizing or unstabilizing. But that’s it. Can’t do much with it.

Then again who knows, I think 90% of my musical theories come out of the Jenaro Herrera school (which I just realized is a hell of a coincidence given your name - I assume you use your actual name here and Ed Degenaro is not some pop culture or movie reference I’m missing) and I may be doing it all wrong, . Maybe all that’s necessary is the melody. Maybe I need to spend more time practicing whistling in the dark - they seem to have figured it out. But I still think it’s not in the roots.
 
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rednoise

Member
Messages
881
Listening to Grateful Dead’s ‘touch of grey’. The opening riff is a common one. Appears in a ton of punk songs, actually. I’m doh g this from memory so I’m probably getting the key wrong, but what is this progression:
A, E, B, F#. All major. When the next section starts, it becomes a straight B major progression. But I can’t tell how the A fits into this. is that opening riff in a different key? And if so, what key? or is it borrowing a chord from another key? Or is it a modal thing?
I just can’t figure out how those four major chords fit together, theoretically.
I hear this as being solidly in the key of B major. The A (bVII) is borrowed from the Mixolydian mode - a common cliche in rock/blues/country, etc. The progression is a related to/derived from the main verse and chorus:

Code:
bVII   IV    bVII   IV
A      E     A      E

I     V      I     V
B     F#     B     F#
 

mlynn02

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,179
lots of good points here, and solid explanations.

i'll just add one thing...as a jerry fan:

this kind of thing is pretty common in the dead catalog and garcia's songwriting. the intro as it's own little vamp. it's also the coda/outro of the tune, and served as a segue into other songs when they played live.

as far as the theory, just accept that this intro actually changes keys halfway through. the first half (B, F#) is in B, the second half (A, E) is in B myx.

there are lots of examples of this kind of thing in jerry's playing with the dead. reference "fire on the mountain" as another example. it's even in the same key and uses the same chords. a lot of players do this tune as straight B myxolydian. but if you listen closely to the band, and jerry's soloing, he plays B major over the B chord and B myx over the A chord.

there are many examples like this where he modulates keys, or alternates between different modes implying a key change, sometimes from one measure to the next, over very simple chords. it's what makes his playing sound interesting and engaging, and why other people sound boring and noodly when they just play straight myxolidian.
 






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