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I got inspired listening to a Schubert piece in F# minor and started working on this. I'm not sure what mode it is but the chord progression F#m, Bm, Db, F#m doesn't fit in the standard scheme. Anyway, I'd love to hear what you all think of it so far.

Thank you.

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Hey there,

The chords you give suggest F# minor - the tonic (I); the subdominant (IV) and the dominant (as C# - V).. 

Have you a score you could show to see the piano part in more detail. Up to 0'21" it follows an F# minor scheme with the dominant at 21".

.

Hi Dane. Thanks for helping me sort this out.

My confusion stems from the fact that the chord progression I am using throughout this piece (as illustrated in the ostinatto) is F#m, F#m, Bm, Db (C#). According to the circle of fifths, that Db (C#) should be Db (C#) minor, but I am using the major chord. So does that mean I am in another mode like Lydian? My knowledge in this area is pretty weak.

Also attached is the piano part as you requested.



Dane Aubrun said:

Hey there,

The chords you give suggest F# minor - the tonic (I); the subdominant (IV) and the dominant (as C# - V).. 

Have you a score you could show to see the piano part in more detail. Up to 0'21" it follows an F# minor scheme with the dominant at 21".

.

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Hey again,

Yes, the circle of fifths would show it as C# minor. It's a technical table about organising the keys a perfect fifth apart through the 12 chromatic pitches. But harmonising melodies is a bit different as you're looking at one particular key (although you might change keys during a piece). In harmonising minor-key melodies, the 3rd of the 'dominant' chord (which is C# E G#) in the key F# min) is usually raised a semitone making it C# major when progressing to the tonic (F# major or minor) or supertonic major (usually) (D major).

You haven't mentioned how you are with voice-leading theory (they call it CPP) so you may know all this.

If so, please skip it.

Minor keys are a problem. To give any scale/tune a sense of key, (the key being the tonic) it must have a leading note. The leading note is always a semitone below the tonic note. It's the 7th degree of the scale. Without this the tune will sound modal (Like Greensleeves).

So although when you write out a scale of F# minor, you get -

F#(i) G#(ii) A(iii) B(iv) C#(v) D(vi) E(vii) F# (i)

That vii has to be raised a semitone to make it a leading note. E#. It's part of the v chord, C# (making it C# E# G#), the 'dominant'.

That C# E# G# chord lets you form a perfect cadence by moving on to the F# minor chord F# A C# (as you've done in several parts of your fragment. It's like a musical full-stop/period).

(It also allows you to make imperfect cadences (not sure what they're called in the USA) the other way around: F# minor to C#, as you've also done.) A kind of musical comma, expecting you to go on with something else.

In traditional CPP, these are known as V-I, or I-V progressions, I being the F# minor triad, V being the C# triad with its 3rd raised a semitone to E#. Some people might note the V as V#3 (superscript) to prove they expect the major chord. 

Oh boy, it gets worse though. You may have to look up a few examples and blurbs on this. There are three kinds of minor scale: the natural minor (don't alter the E to E#) making it the aeolian mode. Then there's the melodic minor, it's scale different on the way up than the way down; and the harmonic minor - scale the same both ways but with a minor 3rd gap between degrees vi and vii.

Taking A minor -

natural / aeolian: A B C D E F G...A

Melodic: A B C D E F# G#.....A G F E D C B....A

Harmonic: A B C D E F G#.....A G# F E D C B...A

Melodic and Harmonic are mostly found in classical styles and the reason behind both is buried in history and musical taste. The melodic came first but the use of certain intervals as the 'romantic' era came in, led to the harmonic being acceptable. It still needs care in 4 part harmony though unless you're after special effects!

Hope this makes sense. 

:)

Thank you, Dane for the very generous response.

I was not aware that minor keys are so "high-maintenance" compared to major. Clearly, I need to explore this topic in more detail. One source mentions that minor-key melodies can feel flamenco-like or middle eastern and that struck a chord with me as I encounter that often. I see there is also the concept of chord substitution in the minor, so I have much to learn.

second half more fleshed out.

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