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The piece in question is "The Flyest" - O.T. Genasis

Initially I thought it was the 4th mode of Fm, but I'm not sure.

The chords are Bbm, C and Gb. The presence of the Gb major chord puzzles me and doesn't seem to fit into this mode.

How do I figure out the tonality of a piece when a chord doesn't appear fit?

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    Are these pieces actually tonal? – aparente001 Sep 5 '15 at 20:42
  • I wouldn't consider them atonal, if that's what you mean. – 02fentym Sep 5 '15 at 20:43
  • But in the Rihanna, for example, the bass line not only doesn't sound like it's in the same key as the rest of it -- the bass instrument wasn't even tuned to the same A as the rest. – aparente001 Sep 5 '15 at 20:45
  • It is, the producer decided to NOT use the root of the chords, which I think is stupid, but oh well. – 02fentym Sep 5 '15 at 20:46
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    But they're going for a certain effect. If that effect doesn't appeal to you -- why try to analyze it? – aparente001 Sep 5 '15 at 20:48
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As for your second song I can give you some help:

If you searched for an overall tonality of the song I would clearly state that Bbm is the tonic. You can see it as aeolian/minor and Gb being the VI.

I'll give you an example to get the idea - play it on your instrument at home:

Think of this being in Db-major:

  • vi - IV - I - V (Bbm - GB - Db - Ab)

Or in Bb-minor:

  • i - VI - i - VII (Bbm - GB - Bbm - Ab)

Now go back to your song (also seen in Bb-minor):

  • i - VI - i - II (Bbm - Gb - Bbm - C)

With the II-major you can not see it as a traditional mode because there is no minor-like mode that has a II-major except phrygian but it has of course a semitone between I and II. This tune could only be dorian or aeolian. In dorian there is no VI-major but rather a VI-diminished so it is out of question, too.

That leaves us with aeolian/minor and you have to interpret the II-major as an alteration, kind of fallacy as it were - but a nice one.

The idea of having a IV - V progression in Fm is also valid but for my perception the tonic-color of the Bbm-chord is way to strong to hear it that way. And the Gb as bII is even harder to interpret than the color of a II-major that is quite often used in minor-compositions...

So over the first three chords you can play a scale with 5 flats (Db-major) for the last one you have to choose yourself. Something like C - Db - E - F - G - Ab - Bb - C sounds nice or a D instead of Db...

Its 'off' anyway - so chose an 'off' scale... ;-)
Or ask Dom or Matt - they are always in for some crazy stuff...

  • Thanks dude, Bbm is definitely the tonic. Gb as the VI makes sense with an altered ii as II. – 02fentym Sep 6 '15 at 14:11
  • @02fentym: You're welcome... – mramosch Sep 6 '15 at 15:12
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I don't think it makes much sense to try to analyse that chord sequence using the ideas of common practice harmony, because that isn't what it is.

It sounds more like an example of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_harmony to me. The idea is much older than the examples on the wiki page - it was also very popular in western music about 1000 years ago.

  • There are a few 400-year-old examples as well - for example a piece by William Byrd where the harmony of the first half of it is just a repetition of C Dm C Dm C Dm .... C. Several composers of the same period wrote variations on a popular song of the time, where most of the harmony is repetitions of F G F G ..... – user19146 Sep 6 '15 at 4:11
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  • in Fmin, the chord GbMaj can be seen as a tritone substitution for C7
  • or as the IVth degree of the VIth degree of Fm
  • or as the VI of the IV
  • or...

this is the beauty of music : many chords and their degree are ambiguous

  • Tritone substitution works when both chords are dom. 7ths, C7 ><Gb7. – Tim Sep 6 '15 at 8:27
  • Without a functional harmonic structure there is no tritone substitution - so you need at least a C7 chord to give a little flavor of such a thing. But there is only a C ;-) - and for me this C clearly has no DOMINANT flavor... - All other examples you list do also expect to be in a functional environment in order to be interpreted correctly - You might wanna find and explain this in the first place before assigning a functionality to loose chords - although I can see your point... – mramosch Sep 6 '15 at 12:27
  • in F minor, this is a tonality context. obviously the concept of 1st degree and so the concect of degree in general is related to tonality, thus to functionnal harmony. – reuns Sep 6 '15 at 19:25
  • If there just were a chord of 'Fm'... ;-) - But there is none in the whole song - just like there is no C7 - and how would you interpret the Gb in Fm? But, if there were...- well... – mramosch Sep 7 '15 at 21:44

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