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I'm trying to find some good places to start an electric guitar solo for the song Cosmic Girl by Jamiroquai . The solo will go over the verse progression.

The verse progression seems to be some sort of II V I. I'm guessing a minor 2-5 in Em. However the chords don't fit into any key I recognize. The Chords are Em7, F#m7, B7#5 (just for reference the chorus goes G#m7, F#m7, B7, C#m7)

My problem is that in Em the chords would be : i(minor) ii(diminished) v(minor) And this clearly isn't right as we have a minor F# instead of a diminished, and a B7 instead of a Bm7.

So what about E Dorian? That would give us i(minor), ii(minor) v(minor), and yet again v is B7#5 not Bm7

Is this actually in E Major, but just with the I chord made minor? If so, how does this work!? Can anyone give me some advise as to how I can construct a solo over this?

Of course I can just play arpeggio shapes, but my brain won't sleep until I know what key this piece is in, and why!?

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    I can't comment on the particular piece, but it's incorrect to assume that a song can only use chords directly from its key. – Matthew Read Jul 27 '15 at 17:35
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The verse is just plain E minor. I understand your initial confusion, but you have to remember that you can bring things in from outside the key without changing the key. In this the harmony is simply built on and utilizes the different scales used for minor which are the natural, harmonic, and melodic minor.

If you were to naturally build 7th chords off the different minor scales with the root of E, you would get:

E natural minor:
Em7 F#m7b5  GM7 Am7 Bm7 CM7 D7
E harmonic minor:
EmM7 F#m7b5  G+M7 Am7 B7 CM7 D#dim7
E melodic minor(ascending):
EmM7 F#m7  G+M7 A7 B7 C#m7b5 D#m7b5

As you can see, using all three scales, the chords you describe pop up with one exception that can easily be explained.

The B7 naturally exists, but you may wonder where the B7#5 comes from. The #5 of that chord is F## which is enharmonically equivalent to the note G which is in all the scales above. To better state the spelling, I may have used the chord symbol G+add9/B, but then the intended dominance of the chord is covered up.

Solo wise just be aware of the notes used in each chord and which minor scale they fit into and you should be fine.

The verse is definitely more built around C# minor/ E major then E minor.

  • Are you sure about the second chord in each group? Should it be based on F#? Maybe in E Phrygian it'll be F. – Tim Jul 28 '15 at 9:55
  • The B7 augmented has even more push (dominance) that plain old B7, so there can be nothing wrong with using notes that are not in a particular key, though it does work better resolving to E major. – Tim Jul 28 '15 at 10:04
  • The chords on the second degree are all chords with root F# (not F); also the chord on the seventh degree in E melodic minor is D#m7(b5), not D#7b5. – Matt L. Jul 28 '15 at 13:25
  • Thanks for this. I'm not following you entirely. When you say B7 naturally exists, what do you mean by that? – Richard Jul 28 '15 at 14:02
  • @Richard in the harmonic and melodic minor scales, B7 is made naturally and in fact in many pieces that you have in E minor use this because it has such a strong pull back to Em. – Dom Jul 28 '15 at 18:33
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The 3 chord progression fits exactly with E Bebop Dorian (1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 7). The chorus is in E major or C# minor.

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It's really simple if you study music theory and the chords built on scales and modal scales. Em7 and F#m 7 as you say, are built on a Dorian scale in E (minor, of course) , the 3rd chord, a B7 augmented (5th) is just a variant of a simple Dominant chord, and here, you can see it as a final chord, built on a normal harmonic minor scale in E (minor) - So far, interchangeability of modes /scales, it's common. In the chorus he changes key: the G#m is a fast passage to the F#m that seems to be a tonic, but immediately resolves to the real tonic (tonal center) in C# minor (with the help of B7) - it's simple as that: verses = E minor (with 2 modes that vary) , Chorus = C# minor

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