IFR blog > Song analysis > Best way to analyze standards in a minor key

Q&A - Best way to analyze standards in a minor key

Dear David,

Thank you for the excellent method, which I am truly enjoying. I have a question with respect to naming the notes. I understand that you always want us to see where we are in the overall key of the music. So you have us think of the relative minor as note 6.

But I have a difficulty here, in that over the years I learned each harmonic environment with its root as note 1. So rather than visualizing the natural minor as 6, 7, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (which keeps your brain aware not only of the natural minor mood but also of the parent major scale), I am used to visualizing it as 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 1.

Do you think it's necessary to name the notes in a way which always connects them back to the parent key?

Kind regards,

David's response:

Hi Maxim,

In IFR we actually study both points of view. The first view that we want to master is the overall "big picture of the harmony, understanding the minor tonal center to be note 6. But later on we also study the modal point of view in which we think of the tonal center as our note 1. In your own experience it sounds like you gained confidence with the modal point of view first. This certainly isn't a bad thing. There are reasons why we teach the tonal point of view first, but it's great that you already have experience with the modal point of view.

But here's why it's important to add the tonal point of view to your skill set. The vast majority of songs use many chords from the same key, passing freely through both major and minor tonal centers. If you are limited to treating each new tonal center as a new "note 1", then you cannot see the big picture of how all of these progressions fit together. Instead you're imagining the song as an endless series of key changes, which forces you to continually switch to new scales and new naming systems, all of which is totally unnecessary.

Here is a blog post that tells a little more about this:

IFR Q&A: Why do you call it note 6?