Minor Plagal Cadence - Songwriting Lesson

To begin our song writing lessons, we will explore the basics of diatonic chords, and learn how the minor plagal cadence functions. Also we explore several examples of the minor plagal (iv - I) in popular music. Mixing major and minor is sometimes a no-no but it can work to your benefit!


Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors. However, I do hope you find it helpful. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

One of the very first chord changes that I was able to instantly recognize upon hearing. It was the minor plagal chord change and that's what we're going to talk about today. What is it how to use it? How do we apply it and all sorts of good stuff like that. It's a really cool chord change. You're going to hear it quite often in popular music all sorts of different genres. And once you get a grasp of how to form it, you can apply it anywhere you need so I think it's a very good place to start if you're getting into song writing and music theory essentially what we're going to do is we're going to start off by doing a quick recap on diatonic chords if you're not familiar, Her with it. I'm going to blast through some basic concepts here. And then we're going to go straight into the actual minor plagal change and how to use it. And then I'll show you a few examples of it in popular music and I'll give you a few final thoughts on the theory behind it and what you can do to accommodate something like a minor play minor plague will change. Okay.

So for starters, let's talk about diatonic chords. Those are chords within a key and essentially all we need to do is we need to know a major scale we are going to do let's do a major today seven notes of a major and the eighth note is the octave. Here's the deal with diatonic chords. Is that every one of those notes one, two, three, four, five six seven every one of those notes. I'm going to assign it its own cord.

Okay. So the first note it's going to get a chord. The second note is going to get a chord. Third note. You get a chord you get Accord they all get chords. All right, and if you see we write these numbers not as just numbers, but we write them as Roman numerals. All right, and some of those Roman numerals will be upper case and some of those Roman numerals will be lower case and that just tells you what kind of cord that numbers going to get. So for example, the first note is an uppercase. Numeral that means that first note will get its own major chord A major. The second note is a lowercase numeral. That means that that note would get its own minor chord B minor and so forth and so forth. All right, what we need though is the 4th note. That's what this is all going to be about. Alright, so let's go to our first note, which is the first finger. All right on 5th fret and like I said, we're going to a today. So if I want to find out the first chord and the fourth chord, here's what I would do. The first note is obviously a right and it's a major chord. So there's my 1 chord. That's pretty Z but the 4th note, let's count up to a 1 2 3 4 that note right there is D. We're going to give it a major chord and that would be the actual for cord and it would resolve to the one chord. Now this change going from four to one that's called a plagal Cadence or an amen Cadence. You might hear it referred to as very nice soft little resolution right there and you hear it all over the place. It's not too special and it's very common. But what's a little more unique and that's what we're getting into is the Minor play goal and that means instead of making it a major four chord. We're going to leave the key and we're going to make it a minor four chord and that will resolve to my 1 chord. All right, you hear that and change that wistful minor for two one. It's very very nice. And that is the minor plagal change. So essentially all you have to do is find a note of your key. Alright, like I said, we're in a there's your 1 chord go up 4 notes 1 2 3 4 and make it a minor chord and there's your minor forward to your major and there's your mind. Legal change now what's more common is to hear a major four chord first, then the minor four chord and then the one chord and that sounds like this. So I'm in the key of A.

Here's my four chord right here.

Here's my minor four chord and then I'm back to my one.

So that's a major D Major D minor and then back to a major.

All right. Now we're starting to get into the love song depressing, you know heart pulling chord changes. We hear a little bit more. Frequently. All right. I really really like that change and I think you can see how easy it is to apply this in different places, right? So right there I was in the key of A if I want to do this in the key of C. Let's just start on C. Alright and play my major scale and all I have to do is start on my first note and give it a major chord go to your fourth note and we'll do the major four chord.

That's that that chord shape right there. And then we'll do a minor shape on the same note.

So in the key of C, we have C major we have F major.

Have minor and then we're back to C major and once you know the names of the chords, you're free to you know, move it into an open position. I you know doing C major down here instead and then F major here and then F minor and then back to see all right, really really nice change. Now.

I want you to be able to identify the emotional content of this chord change. It's very important to be able to know what it feels like not to know what it looks like and you know sounds like it that's important too but really knowing what it feels like means you don't have to Work when you're hearing and you're when you're composing, I mean, for example, if you look at a stop sign, you don't have to calculate that. It's a stop sign. You're not saying. Oh it's red. It's you know an octagon. It's got the white letters on it says St. O P Q just instantly identify a stop sign as a stop sign and in music, you can get the same sort of familiarity with different musical Concepts when I hear a minor plagal change like this. I'm not calculating scale degrees and thinking oh, I think I hear the fourth degree and either. Oh, I think it's it's more of just I recognized it immediately now because I've played with it so many times I've composed with it. I've Learn so many songs word occurs and it's just recognizable to me. Now. That's not something. I was born with that was something that I developed and trust me if I can do it you can you can do it too, but it really comes down to exposing yourself to these kinds of Concepts and really playing with them writing with them memorizing them and labeling them it all helps make them more familiar Concepts.


So now that we've gotten out of the way, what is the minor play go? I want to show you a few examples of where we're actually going to hear it in popular music.

Let's start off with our Kelly. All right, I Believe I Can Fly Also in In My Life by The Beatles in the verse section we go from a major for to a minor for two a one once again in Creep by Radiohead. We've got the verse section which is just, you know ends with a major for to a minor for two one.

So, like I said, I think it's got a pretty distinct feel and I think really what comes down to is that that four chord let's say we're back in the key of A. I think that four chord it when you're on a major four chord.

Very normal and very optimistic.

So you expect something happy, but then you let him down with that minor for to get back to the lon. And I think that's where a lot of the tension here comes from is that you're expecting something you don't get it and then by the time you're back at the one chord, you still kind of have that Bittersweet taste in your mouth. You're not it's not completely gone. You still have the memory of that sadness on the for to get back to one.

So I you know, I encourage you to think as many ways to interpret that emotionally and think of as many ways to As you can use different songs as examples and definitely play with it in different inversions on your guitar last but not least. Let's talk a little bit about the theory here. You can think of this minor for court is being borrowed from the parallel minor scale. So for example in the key of a major, my four chord is D major, but in the key of A minor, my four chord is D Minor so we can think that we just borrowed that for cord from a minor instead, which means if I wanted to sing on top of that or play notes on top of this I would probably pick notes from the a minor scale. That's the parallel minor scale. All right, there's also so a natural minor for two major one progression in the key of mixolydian Flat 6 or the fifth mode of melodic minor so you could actually stay in one key by using these two chord changes and you'd see some pretty guy you get some pretty cool Progressive sounding modal stuff going there. All right. So I mean, I hope this gets you started and songwriting. This is how I think about writing songs and there's a million ways to do it. But I think this is just one tool as you know, kind of identifying chord changes memorizing and becoming familiar with them and then when you're actually composing you want to make somebody, you know, really wistful and heartfelt and you know heartbroken than Can grab in this minor play go and see what happens. All right, so I hope this video helped you out. If you have any questions or comments, please leave me a comment down below or get a hold of me on Twitter or Facebook or send me an email and I'll see if I can answer any questions you might have on these topics. All right. Thanks for watching.


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