Breathe In The Air (Electric Guitar) by Pink Floyd Lesson

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Hi Justin, really enjoying learning this in what is of course the 50th anniversary year for Dark Side of the Moon!

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Great lesson, Justin, Thanks.
I’m trying to learn about modes at the moment. What key is this in? Is it in E Dorian? If so, why does F and Dm appear when the E Dorian/D major scales have Fm and D in them?

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Hello @AndyDowns and welcome to the community.

The main verse section throughout is modal (using E Dorian). It bounces between the tonic Em chord (it is extended to Emadd9) and the IV chord A (it is extended to A7).

The chorus changes things slightly and the progression becomes (as simplified triads, not extensions):

C β†’ Bm β†’ F–> G β†’ D

Not so simple as you have found.

Think of the entire song as being mainly in E minor keys (plural).

There are three such: E Aeolian (the natural minor) plus E Dorian plus E Phrygian.

E Aeolian is the relative minor to G major and we will look at it first.

Chords of E Aeolian:

Em, Fdim, G, Am, Bm, C, D

Chords of E Dorian:

Em, F#m, G, A, Bm, C#dim, D

Chords of E Phrygian:

Em, F, G, Am, Bdim, C, Dm

Only Dorian has E minor and A major chords so the verse is E Dorian.
Em, F#m, G, A, Bm, C#dim, D

For the chorus we need to match five chords. E Aeolian has four of them but the Fdim doesn’t match. E Dorian only has three (F#m and C#dim do not match). E Phrygian has four (the Dm doesn’t match).

The only conclusion is that we have a progression that is not wholly diatonic.
It can be viewed in three ways (due to the three minor modes.

E Aeolian with a borrowed F major chord.

C β†’ Bm β†’ F β†’ G β†’ D = VI β†’ v β†’ bII β†’ III β†’ VII

E Dorian with a borrowed F major chord and borrowed C major chord).

C β†’ Bm β†’ F β†’ G β†’ D = bVI β†’ v β†’ bII β†’ III β†’ VII

E Phrygian with a borrowed D major chord.

C β†’ Bm β†’ F–> G β†’ D = VI β†’ v β†’ II β†’ III β†’ VII

You may wonder at this because the chorus does not contain the E minor chord at all. If that is troublesome then it may be worth considering that the tonal centre has shifted and all this analysis of E minor type keys is a dead end.

If so, what clues can we make use of?

The chorus begins with Cmaj7. In extended form, the only major chords that become maj7 are the I chord or the IV chord. That implies the keys of either C major or G major.
The chorus ends with a D7 (an extended D7 with notes added). In extended form, the only major chord that becomes dominant 7 is the V chord. That implies the key of G major.

Mmh. Interesting. The key of G major is the relative to the key of E minor.
Perhaps the overall feel of E minor has made a little swicth from being minor-ish in the verses (Dorian) to being major-ish in the chorus.

That would mean we can use option [1] from above but switch it around to be viewed from the perspective of G major (G Ionian), not E Aeolian.

E Aeolian with a borrowed F major chord.

C β†’ Bm β†’ F β†’ G β†’ D = VI β†’ v β†’ II β†’ III β†’ VII

becomes …

G major (G Ionian) with a borrowed F chord.

C β†’ Bm β†’ F β†’ G β†’ D = IV β†’ iii β†’ II β†’ bVII β†’ VII

Does that help?


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It helps my mind spin….

Hi Richard,

Erm, err, well, firstly thank you for your prompt and thorough answer to my question.
I kinda expected the answer to be a bit complicated, but… :astonished::joy:
It has definitely helped and I will use it as a reference as I navigate through modes and scales. I am a total novice when it comes to modes and this is probably a bit beyond me at the moment. I think it is going to be something I digest over a period of time.
The explanation must have taken some time to put together and I appreciate the effort you have put into it. I need to continue studying the subject and applying it to my playing.

Again, thanks for your reply.:+1::pray:

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Haha … you asked a modal question and I gave a modal answer.

Okay, put simply, if you want to understand the key of the chord progression just think E minor in the verse changing to the relative G major in the chorus.
If you want to noodle some improvisation over the top you’re good with E minor pentatonic throughout.

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Justin, I’m choosing this as my trial period first lesson having just occasionally looked from the wings. It would be great if the chord shapes were available maybe as a single sheet. Is there any good software I can use to create my own?


Welcome to the community Chris. If your looking for software to create fretboard diagrams then check out