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I'm currently trying to transpose songs from numerical notes(doremifasolasido) into fingerstyle guitar tabs. However, I have absolutely no experience in music, so I am now stuck because I do not whether notes in a song sticks to it's main scale or not. So, let's say a song is written in D major, with the chord progression D, F, G, and C(in that order).

example: song is written in D major, the chords along with the notes(in numerical notation) are D 1 3 3 5 7| F 3 4 4 2 | G 1 3 3 5

Now when the song changes chords(from D to F let's say), does the notes adjust themselves(from the D maj scale to the F maj) according to what scale the current chord uses? So after changing chords to F, rather than using the 3rd note in the D scale(which is F) do we use the 3rd note in F(so we play A)? Or do we stick to the D scale and play the F note again?

I know maybe this is a bit basic and the answer's probably somewhere around the lines of "there are no rules". But if so, I'd like to know the common practice among most musicians. Sorry if i'm a bit unclear.

  • Only knowing the chords are D, F, G, and C, and assuming all of those are major chords, I would say the song is either in C major with an altered D chord or it’s in D Dorian or D minor with an altered D chord. F and C are not chords in the key of D major. – Todd Wilcox Oct 16 at 19:37
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    Your question isn't very clear. Maybe an example of the sheet you're trying to "decipher" might help. Why aren't you just playing the music on the sheet? – Michael Curtis Oct 16 at 21:33
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    What are 'numerical notes'? – Tim Oct 17 at 9:23
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    Are you trying to play an existing written melody correctly? And to do that you want to know the meaning of this "numerical notation" (whatever it is, I don't know what you're talking about, an example picture is needed). Or are you trying to improvise or compose your own melody lines over chords, in which case the question is about finding suitable scales when some of the chords don't seem to fit the scale you started with? – piiperi Reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 9:37
  • @Tim I don't know the precise name for it, but its the numbers 1 - 7 spelled as doremifasolasi – penjelmaan katak Oct 19 at 5:45
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Now when the song changes chords(from D to F let's say), does the notes adjust themselves(from the D maj scale to the F maj) according to what scale the current chord uses? So after changing chords to F, rather than using the 3rd note in the D scale(which is F) do we use the 3rd note in F(so we play A)? Or do we stick to the D scale and play the F note again?

The chords you gave are D F G C

You are trying to make some association between the chords and scales. It seems like you are trying to do it like this...

  • D major chord is associated with the D major scale
  • F major chord is associated with the F major scale
  • G major chord is associated with the G major scale
  • C major chord is associated with the C major scale

But it's more typical to find groups of chords that all share a common scale (or all fit into the same key.)

F, G, and C all fit into the C major scale. That leaves the D chord as the odd one out. It would require one chromatic alteration of the C major scale, it needs an F#.

How exactly you would describe the chromatic D chord, what scale to associate with it, can be a bit complicated. If you use an F# instead of F natural in the C major scale you can call it a lydian scale (the lydian mode.)

Another complication is how the chord and scale are used together. It's common for a song melody to be accompanied with chords and the melody thought of as derived from the scale. In your example, when the D chord is played the melody could simple avoid the F and move around the D and A tones. In such a case you could say the song is in C major and the D chord - with the F# only found in the accompaniment chord - gives it a bit of lydian flavor.

It's hard to be more specific without knowing what you mean by "deciphering" sheet music.

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This is a genre-specific question, depending a lot on how deep into harmony the music we're talking about is.

With pop/rock music, in general, the song is in a key, and the chords and notes are derived from that. As an example, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" is arguably in G, and the chords are D, C and G, and the notes you can reach for are G, A, B, C, D, E and F#.

(It's equally arguable that's it's in D Mixolydian, but that gets deeper than I can explain.)

In jazz, the melodic notes come from the chords, and the chords need not be related to the ones before or after. As the chords change, the available notes change. Accomplished players from rock often engage with the key and not the chords, and thus "blow through the changes".

So, let's say a song is written in D major, with the chord progression D, F, G, and C(in that order).

Let's say that. The notes for D major are D, E, F#, G, A, B, and C#. The diatonic chords would be D major (D,F#,A), E minor (E,G,B), F# minor (F#,A,C#), G major (G,B,D), A major (A,C#,E), B minor (B,D,F#) and C# diminished (C#,E,G).

By those chords, I would guess that, rather than being in D major, it's in the D Lydian mode (D,E,F,G,A,B,C), and thus would be Dmin, F, G and C. But, going by your word that we're thinking D major, we would push to D, F#m, G and C#dim, which might be cool. (I have a laptop in my lap, not a guitar, and can't try it.)

I'll say I don't fully get how 1 3 3 5 7 corresponds to D or F becomes 3 4 4 2. I would suggest you look into the Circle of Fifths to point you to how chords interact and how to transpose.

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As it stands, the question is a little confused, but here goes.

Generally speaking, notes in a bar with one chord will reflect the make up of that chord. If they don't, either they or the chord is in the wrong place. Using diatonic notes and diatonic chords - all of which will be made up from purely the notes belonging to that key, there are so many notes which will fit any of the chords that, yes, you'd use diatonic notes.

However, with the chords you use here, there are some that aren't diatonic, so more notes from the original scale (D major) won't fit. For instance, D major has F♯, so that won't be a good match for the F chord. At that point though, notes from key F might fit better - but it will depend on where they are in the bar. Often beats 2 and 4 use not-so-important notes, so you'll get away with using odd notes there. Not talking Blues here - that's a different kettle of fish.

Safest bet is to use common notes from both the key and the bar concerned. On that F bar, notes G, A, and D are common.

But, bottom line, there won't be a hard and fast rule, it depends on the tune, and where in the bar certain notes are put. So, I guess by now, you're still confused..!

EDIT: listen to the riff of Hold on I'm Coming - that uses at least the first three of your chords in the same order. Where do the notes fit? Same notes in all. Where are they from? Leave that one for you...

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  • Well, this is kinda off the mark, but thanks anyway. Let me rephrase my question, do we use ONE scale throughout a song, OR do we change scales based on what chord(s) are we currently playing? – penjelmaan katak Oct 16 at 12:35
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    @penjelmaankatak Yes. Sometimes we use one scale for an entire song. Sometimes we switch scales based on the chords. It depends. – Todd Wilcox Oct 16 at 19:35
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"Now when the song changes chords(from D to F let's say), does the notes adjust themselves(from the D maj scale to the F maj) according to what scale the current chord uses?”

Simple answer: yes.

Chords are built according to the scale of the root note, regardless of the key in which the chord is utilized.

So an F Major chord is always F, A, C (1, 3, 5 starting on F.)

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  • I don't think that's exactly what OP is asking. – Tim Oct 17 at 6:25

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