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Song structure analysis and terminology
7 October 2014
11.26pm
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Oudis
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Hello everybody, I’d like to ask a question to all the professional musicians here, or to those who know musical theory. When I discovered I could play the guitar and compose tunes, twenty years ago, I started to analyze patterns in the songs I liked, but lacked the knowledge I needed and could only call each part of the song “A”, “B”, “C”, etc. (for instance: A,B,A,B,C,A,B,C). I still use that system. Here I’m trying to analyze “She Loves You ” according to that rudimentary method:

 

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah     
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah               Intro Part I

          
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah      Intro Part II

You think you lost your love,
Well, I saw her yesterday.                           A1
It's you she's thinking of
And she told me what to say.

She says she loves you
And you know that can't be bad.                  B
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad.

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind.                              A2
But now she said she knows
You're not the hurting kind.

She says she loves you

And you know that can't be bad.                    B
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad. Ooh!

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah                    Intro Part I    
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah  

                
And with a love like that
You know you should be glad.                         C            

You know it's up to you,
I think it's only fair,                                           A3
Pride can hurt you, too,
Apologize to her

Because she loves you
And you know that can't be bad.                         B
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad. Ooh!

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah                           Intro Part I                          

With a love like that
You know you should be glad                              C

With a love like that
You know you should be glad                              C

With a love like that
You know you should be glad!                              C

Yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah                                      Ending based on Intro I & II
Yeah, yeah, yeah Ye-ah

 

So you see here we have my clumsy analysis of this masterpiece:

Intro Part I, Intro Part II, A1, B, A2, B, Intro Part I, C, A3, B, Intro Part I, C,C,C,

Ending based on Intro I & II

I’m sure most of you can do a much better analysis but what I would like to know is how you apply words such as “bridge”, “middle-eight”, “refrain”, “chorus”, “verse”, etc, to this song and to any other song; the components in the structure of popular music, and roughly what they are and what their function is. They may be pretty obvious concepts for many of you but they are Greek to me, and the definitions that I find in Wikipedia are very abstract; I need those definitions applied to music I know. If somebody could apply that terminology to “She Loves You or any other Beatle song it would be great. I may be asking for too much but there might be someone out there willing to help with a brief explanation and an example. Thanks and sorry for pestering you.

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

8 October 2014
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Funny Paper
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I can't answer most of your questions, but I do recall from my high school piano teacher (from whom I learned what the "blues scale" is) that what you term the "C" part he called the "turnaround".

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10 October 2014
1.40pm
muzair
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Ok @Oudis ,  I've taken what you had above and amended it:
  
 
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah     
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah               CHORUS AS INTRO
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah      

 

You think you lost your love,
Well, I saw her yesterday.                           VERSE
It's you she's thinking of
And she told me what to say.

She says she loves you
And you know that can't be bad.                  PRE-CHORUS
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad.

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind.                              VERSE
But now she said she knows
You're not the hurting kind.

She says she loves you
And you know that can't be bad.                    PRE-CHORUS
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad. Ooh!

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah                    CHORUS   
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah  

And with a love like that                               TAG
You know you should be glad.                                     
 
You know it's up to you,
I think it's only fair,                                           VERSE
Pride can hurt you, too,
Apologize to her

Because she loves you
And you know that can't be bad.                         PRE-CHORUS
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad. Ooh!

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah                           CHORUS                          
 
With a love like that
You know you should be glad                              TAG
 
With a love like that
You know you should be glad                              TAG
 
With a love like that
You know you should be glad!                              TAG
 
Yeah, yeah, yeah                                                 
 
Yeah, yeah, yeah                                                 CHORUS AS OUTRO
Yeah, yeah, yeah Ye-ah
 
  
 
 

Your idea was basically correct as far as the different sections you were labelling.   A standard layout for a lot of pop songs might be like this: 

Intro - verse - verse - chorus - verse - chorus - bridge - verse - chorus - chorus - outro

The combinations of this are endless; plenty of songs omit the second verse and go straight to the chorus after the first verse; some songs don't have a bridge; some go to the chorus after the bridge; some songs have no intro or outro etc etc.

The terms CAN be confusing. A 'verse' in a tin pan alley standard means something different to a 'verse' in a pop song; if you say 'chorus' in a jazz context, it means something different to the pop meaning.  For now we'll stay in the pop world:

Intro - introduction. Can be instrumental, vocal, whatever, and it can reappear later on in the song between other sections.

Verse - This is basically your 'story' bit of song.  The same piece of melody will reappear, continuing the story each time. Some songs have a lot of story and therefore MANY verses (think Dylan etc).

Chorus - In basic terms, this is the bit that gets stuck in your head - eg She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah, or Oh I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends , or She's Got a Ticket To Ri-i-ide etc.  The chorus usually comes after a verse or two, but in some cases, like in She Loves You , it happens first.  It's a technique The Beatles employed sometimes (Can't Buy Me Love and Another Girl are two other examples).  Plenty of songs ram the chorus home with minimal other sections.

Pre-Chorus - This is often an extra piece that isn't really a bridge, but more like an extension of the verse before the chorus happens.  Sometimes the pre chorus will only happen once in the song.   In She Loves You , what I labelled Pre-Chorus could also just be thought of as still the verse, since it happens each time in the same place.

Bridge - a bridge is another piece of melody, with new chords, that can set a different mood.  Take 'Two Of Us , for example. In that song the bridge is the section 'You and I have memories, longer than the etc etc'.  In With A Little Help From My Friends , it's the 'Do you need anybody - I just need someone to love' section.   

In tin pan alley standards, a bridge would sometimes be called 'middle eight', because the bridge was always 8 bars long. Most standards are 32 bars long, broken up in four 8 bar sections AABA, B being the bridge... Listen to Ray Charles singing Georgia On My Mind; the bit that goes 'Other arms reach out to me...' is the bridge in that standard.

What I have called TAG above could be given any number of names.  You could think of it as still the chorus.  In this case that piece is later repeated a couple times before the OUTRO chorus.  Often when ending a song, if you call 'Tag it!' then it means to repeat the phrase you've just played a couple of times as an ending. It's a great musical cue that can happen when you don't have an ending for a song, it means that everyone instantly knows what to do and you sound like you knew what you were doing all the time :)  I Want To Hold Your Hand kind of has a tag ending, but it's phrased differently the last time.

Outro - is the ending version of an INTRO. in can be a repeat of the intro, or something total different. Strawberry Fields Forever would be an example of a song with a distinct INTRO (the mellotron flutes) and a distinct OUTRO (the whole bit before and after the fadeout.  Sometimes an OUTRO is called the CODA.

I hope that makes sense.... there are a lot more terms, but that's the guts of it right there. Any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

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12 October 2014
12.15am
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Hello @Funny Paper and @muzair. Thanks for your replies, both very useful. You have been the only forum members so far that have replied to my question; I thought it could be an opportunity to analyze many of The Beatles’ songs but not many people seem interested.

Thanks you @muzair  for your analysis; it’s pretty thorough, including definitions and examples. I will use it as a “Song Structure for Dummies” manual. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into it.

Oudis.

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

12 October 2014
1.21am
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meanmistermustard
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I'm interested @Oudis, it's just that i try and understand what is being said but everything goes out my head when i see all the notes etc and i have no idea how to contribute to the subject - aside from asking for a tutorial in music starting from the very beginning. Sorry.

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Oudis

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"Don't make your love suffer insecurities; Trade the baggage of 'self' to set another one free" ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)

12 October 2014
3.31am
muzair
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You're welcome, @Oudis!  Glad to help.  With a music degree and 15 years of gigging and teaching behind me, I'd be disappointed with myself if I couldn't help!  I wish I could have made it a little clearer, upon re-reading.

It's actually quite a big topic when you start getting into it and, like many other things in music, it's easy to get confused because not everybody uses the same terms in the same way across genres. Or even within genres. Some terms also fall out of use etc. 

Like I said, any other questions, feel free to ask.  Within Beatles songs you'll find so many variations on the layout I had above (Happiness Is A Warm Gun , anyone?), so there's a lot you can learn just from their albums.  Later in the piece, Paul's songs tend to be a little more conventional than John's, and it's interesting to see how their styles deviate from each other and develop.

This next part is a little complicated, you may need to read it a couple of times, with the song playing. Apologies if it's too much!

Honey Pie on the White Album is an example of a song that could be analysed like an old standard. Since it's a pastiche of an old timey music hall/vaudeville/1920's era song, it actually follows the format used in those songs.  In the songs of that era, a 'VERSE' meant a piece of music that was sung before the body of the song started. It happened once, and then not again, so effectively it functions as an introduction. Because a lot of standards are from broadway shows, that 'VERSE' advances the story, and sets it up in a way that you understand the lyrical context of the song about to happen. 

In Honey Pie , the first section could be called 'VERSE' in 'standard' song lingo, or 'INTRO' in pop land:

She was a working girl,                                                      VERSE/INTRO 

North of England way

Now she's hit the big time,

In the USA

And if she would only see me,

This is what I'd say

 

When the song starts proper, we now have a classic 32 bar AABA section (each section 8 bars). The A sections have the same melody and chords (different lyrics), so that's why we can just call them A. The B section (Bridge) is the departure. In pop land, a B section like this is still called a bridge, but depending on who you talk to, the A sections could be either called 'VERSE' or 'CHORUS', since the story is advanced in these sections, but it's also the hooky part.  Confused yet? 

Oh Honey Pie ,                                                                    A

You are making me crazy                                                   

I'm in love but I'm lazy,

so won't you please come home

 

Oh Honey Pie ,                                                                A

My position is tragic

Come and show me the magic

Of your Hollywood song

 

You became a legend                                                        B (Bridge)

Of the silver screen

And now the thought of meeting you

Makes me weak in the knee

 

Oh Honey Pie ,                                                                       A

You are driving me frantic

Sail across the Atlantic

To be where you belong

 

So now the whole AABA 'form' repeats, with a guitar solo and vocal solo over the first two A sections, then a normal bridge and normal A section. After that, there's an A section that functions as an outro.

Now here's where it gets REALLY screwy: the AABA form, in a jazz context, is also referred to as a 'CHORUS'!  If someone is playing a solo, 'Take another chorus' means to play another 32 bars solo (or however long the form is) over the 'form'. So there you see we have a couple of terms that mean the same thing in one context, but one of which can mean something else in another context.

See why us musicians are a little crazy? :)

12 October 2014
10.26pm
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Funny Paper
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I think in the Songs section it mentions that "Tomorrow Never Knows " was singular at the time for being all one chord (or vacillating between a C and a Bb/C) -- and apparently all just "A" with no real structure?

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13 October 2014
6.09am
muzair
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Funny Paper said
I think in the Songs section it mentions that "Tomorrow Never Knows " was singular at the time for being all one chord (or vacillating between a C and a Bb/C) -- and apparently all just "A" with no real structure?

 

Yes and no.  It's unstructured in that it's all a vamp on (almost) one chord, yet it's structured in that each section of vocal is the same length (8 bars), and these sections are repeated like verses.  Even the solo section in the middle is 16 bars long, although it's broken up (from memory) as 6 bars loop solo, 10 bars backwards guitar, which isn't common; in this case it makes perfect aural sense.  You'll often find in music that where something is unstructured, something needs to be structured in counterbalance or it can all just become a mess.

Incidentally, this is another example of a TAG ending - the repeat of the line 'Of the beginning' at the end of the song.

As far as the one chord business, it'd happened in others forms of music before 1966 (jazz, European and American folk music, soul, Indian classical music, various African music), but not with the same accessibility and prevalence as The Beatles.  Singular is certainly an apt description of Tomorrow Never Knows !  Innovative in every way.  I can't imagine what it must've been like to hear it when it was fresh - what a stunning piece of work. 

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13 October 2014
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Thanks for the posts guys, it's a very interesting discussion so hopefully it goes on for a while.

If i may ask a question what are you're thoughts/breakdown on 'The Word '. It's one song that's always interested me because of it being John and Paul's (first?) attempt at writing a song "with just one chord". Does that fit in with this thread? Apologies if i'm way off course. 

"I told you everything I could about me, Told you everything I could" ('Before Believing' - Emmylou Harris) 

"Don't make your love suffer insecurities; Trade the baggage of 'self' to set another one free" ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)

13 October 2014
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meanmistermustard said
If i may ask a question what are you're thoughts/breakdown on 'The Word '. It's one song that's always interested me because of it being John and Paul's (first?) attempt at writing a song "with just one chord". Does that fit in with this thread? 

I’ll reply, since I started the thread; as long as we can come up with an analysis of the song, its parts, the modulations of its melody, its chords, whatever, it does fit in with this thread; The Word and any other song. And thank for joining the discussion, @meanmistermustard.

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

14 October 2014
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muzair
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The Word is a good one. It's definitely not on one chord, in fact the guts of it are a 12-bar blues form, with a 4-bar 'bridge' section afterwards (Everywhere I go, I hear it said etc).  It's essentially a 16-bar form that repeats throughout the song.  Blues forms don't necessarily adhere to verse/chorus distinctions, since they are basically self contained. 

This is just a quick reply, I'm on my way out somewhere; I'll go into more detail later.

14 October 2014
11.53am
muzair
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Ok I'm back but now I don't remember exactly what details I was going to go into!  Anybody got any questions? Or need an explanation of the 12 bar blues form etc?

14 October 2014
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@muzair If you can do so like you were talking to a 2 year old i'm interested in any of this being explained. The rule being the simpler the better. 

"I told you everything I could about me, Told you everything I could" ('Before Believing' - Emmylou Harris) 

"Don't make your love suffer insecurities; Trade the baggage of 'self' to set another one free" ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)

14 October 2014
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Aside from those relatively rare songs that pretty much have one form all the way through ("Tomorrow Never Knows "), I suppose one could simplify the description in a non-technical way.  Example, "Taxman ":

Brief intro

The first part

a second part with the title sung "Taxman "

the first part again

the second part again

the first part again (with some frosting variations added)

a guitar solo

the second part again

the first part again (with more frosting variations added)

the second part again

the first part again

the second part again

an ending leading away from the second part, then a fade-out guitar solo.

**********

One can then substitute terms for those phrases (e.g., "A" for "the first part", etc.)

It's just a matter of a song having a discernible structure.  Probably 98% of songs never get so complicated that a normal person can't diagram them out.

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...

15 October 2014
5.03am
muzair
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meanmistermustard said
@muzair If you can do so like you were talking to a 2 year old i'm interested in any of this being explained. The rule being the simpler the better. 

Ha, I'll try :)   It can get tricky explaining some of these things in one hit, because often with music theory, in order understand one thing, you need to understand another thing first etc.

15 October 2014
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Dat's right. We end up back at the good old 'Nashville number system' which musicians  largely knew back in the days before drugs. )

The most common progression was 1-6-2-5 , later devolved to 1-4-5, the most common structure a variation of AABA. All of this can be told quickly to the bassplayer or whoever, or flashed with finger signals, which is how we still do it.

The problem is ... is the 6 chord diatonic or an alternate dominant of some type? Same for the 2 and 3 chord. That's where having learned earballs comes in.

15 October 2014
5.46am
muzair
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Funny Paper said
Aside from those relatively rare songs that pretty much have one form all the way through ("Tomorrow Never Knows "), I suppose one could simplify the description in a non-technical way.  Example, "Taxman ":

Brief intro

The first part

a second part with the title sung "Taxman "

the first part again

the second part again

the first part again (with some frosting variations added)

a guitar solo

the second part again

the first part again (with more frosting variations added)

the second part again

the first part again

the second part again

an ending leading away from the second part, then a fade-out guitar solo.

**********

One can then substitute terms for those phrases (e.g., "A" for "the first part", etc.)

It's just a matter of a song having a discernible structure.  Probably 98% of songs never get so complicated that a normal person can't diagram them out.

 

One way to think of labelling the sections and form of a tune, is to think of how easily you want to communicate it to other musicians if you had to play the song together.  That's why looking at the layout above kinda gives me a headache :) but essentially you're on the right track.  I can't quite see where you've marked out the bridge in this song though, the 'If you drive a car' section. 

I'd call the 'Let me tell you how it will be' section a verse, and the 'Cause I'm the Taxman ' section a chorus. These two sections always appear in this order; even when there's a guitar solo, it's still over the verse section.  So it's helpful to think of these two pieces almost as a whole.

Taking what you've got above, I'd call it like this:

INTRO

VERSE/CHORUS x2

BRIDGE

VERSE SOLO/CHORUS

VERSE/CHORUS x2   

TAG ('and you're working For No One but me')

VERSE OUTRO (SOLO)

 

That's a pretty straightforward way (isn't it?), bearing in mind that it's a basic outline of the song and we aren't analysing the variations that happen within each verse (backing vocals etc). 

15 October 2014
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MOCKSWELL said
Dat's right. We end up back at the good old 'Nashville number system' which musicians  largely knew back in the days before drugs. )

The most common progression was 1-6-2-5 , later devolved to 1-4-5, the most common structure a variation of AABA. All of this can be told quickly to the bassplayer or whoever, or flashed with finger signals, which is how we still do it.

The problem is ... is the 6 chord diatonic or an alternate dominant of some type? Same for the 2 and 3 chord. That's where having learned earballs comes in.

 

Numbers, or Roman numerals if you're in jazz land, are great.  The way Nashville number charts work is slightly different to other number charts but the idea is still the same.  I've gotten through many gigs with just number charts, or no charts and someone calling out numbers for the unusual bits.  And @MOCKSWELL, since I'm a bass player, I don't necessarily need to know if it's dominant or minor, just tell me the root note a-hard-days-night-george-10

What we're talking about here, folks, is how to name chords within a key, without referring to the note names.  It makes it very easy to change keys quickly. 

15 October 2014
7.12am
muzair
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Here's a little music theory. @meanmistermustard, let me know if this helps any!

 

keyboard.pngImage Enlarger

 

First, let's take a C major scale (the white notes on a piano), and number each of the notes:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

1  2   3  4  5  6  7   8 (or 1 again as the numbers start over)

A major scale is made up of a series of 'intervals' (an interval is the space or distance between two notes). On a piano, the interval (or distance) between each key is a semitone (each fret on a guitar is also a semitone).  So, if we look at our scale and piano keyboard above, you can see that between C and D is a black key, C# (or Db).  Since it's one semitone from C-C#, and one semitone from C#-D, that means it's two semitones or one whole 'tone' from C to D.  The space from D to E is a tone. 

As you can see on the keyboard, E and F are next to each other with no black key in between, as are B and C, so those notes are semitones.  So our major scale is made up of the following intervals:

Tone - Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Tone - Semitone

(And yes, I would guess that's where Tony Toni Toné got their name from :))

 

You could start on any note on the keyboard, and following that interval pattern, you can make a major scale.

We then number the intervals: 

From C to E  (two tones) is called a 'major third', because it's the distance from note 1 to note 3 in the scale. From C to A (1 to 6) is called a major sixth, C to D (1 to 2) a major second.  You can flatten (by one semitone) any of these intervals, so if you started at C and played the note a tone and a semitone away (not two tones), you'd have a minor third interval.  You can also sharpen (by one semitone) any intervals. 

From the low C (1) of the scale to the high C (8) of the scale is an octave. 

The distance from 1 to 4 and from 1 to 5, while still major, are called 'perfect intervals' (more on that later), so you have perfect 4th and perfect 5th. When a fourth or fifth interval is flattened or sharpened, they are called diminished or augmented.

You can start on any note and play any interval, because the distances are the same from any starting point.  We need to know this to start making chords, which we'll cover next time.  There's a whole lot of info to be going on with already!

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15 October 2014
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8 October 2014
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 I taught for a long time, prolly a thousand or more students. Tisn't complicated. Bass players should be largely ignored. )

Anyone can get the theory, its like grade 3 math. What people don't do is put in the hours.

There are no complex Beatle songs, not even one. They were chordbangers with a great ear for vocal melodies.

George could play a bit of guitar when he had to, but he never really had to.

 

 C major then E7. C majorscale becomes the A Harmonic minor played against

the E chord.... this happens constantly in pop songs, as an example.

Wow, huh? Heavy theory. If the bass player doesn't know this, and just plays along C major... blech.

You can't survive playing with real (adult) musicians with pop music 'theory'. Except in Canada perhaps.

 

Mr. Theory

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