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Song structure analysis and terminology
16 October 2014
6.09am
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Oudis
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I would like to thank @Funny Paper, @muzair, and @meanmistermustard for their kind and insightful contributions or simply your questions to this thread. It is, in my opinion, an opportunity to learn from those that know more about music theory than us. I appreciate your devoting your time and efforts to teach those of us who don’t have a musical background but are willing to learn, some music theory in simple terms. Please keep on posting and sharing your knowledge. Sometimes some of us will be able to follow, some other times we won’t, but I think it’s one of the most interesting threads in this forum –not because I started it, but because of your contributions, guys. Thanks, Oudis.

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muzair, Funny Paper

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)

16 October 2014
8.02am
muzair
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MOCKSWELL said
 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

 

I agree with everything most everything you've said here, and you're dead right when you say people don't put in the hours.  It's always been annoying to me when I encounter musicians who proudly tell me they've never learnt any theory or anything, and then can't explain to me how their song goes, or what they want me to play, and ask for a bass part that's more 'menacing' or more 'aerial'.

I'm trying to keep things simple here, and related to Beatles songs so we have common reference material; if I'd come straight in taking about tritone substitutions, secondary dominants and flat-direction major 7s then it would scare everyone away.

By the way, I was joking when I said the bit about don't tell me if it's major or minor.  I actually did hear a bass player say that once, but he was dead serious.  He was one of those bass players that goes thump in the night.

16 October 2014
11.47pm
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MOCKSWELL
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 Excellent. Gee, a healthy musical attitude, kinda rare these days!

 Beatles... were great, just bloody great, esp. the first five albums.

Three guitarists and three lead vocalists. It is uncommon for even two lead vocalists to hang together, so they were as good as white boys ever got. To be fair, the era of great vocal groups was ending by 1960, and the many US groups the fabfour admired were disappearing - but, many of them could outsing even the Beatles. 

 The reason it's not really worth delving too, too deep into Beatles tunes is, the melody is so strong....; there is no need to 'improvise' or even figure out the complete tonality(scale) for all the chords. I know the boys never worried about it - McCartney made that clear with his 'Aeolian miasmic climaxes' comment.

The book I had, and Beatles and everyone else seemed to have, (besides Mel Bay and Nick Manoloff manuals) was the Mickey Baker book, whence we all learned about 'vamps' and nine-dollar chords - like the 7sharp9 used to make 'Taxman ' as an example.

17 October 2014
1.51pm
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meanmistermustard
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Thanks @muzair, @MOCKSWELL, @Funny Paper, and @Oudis for all of this, it's very much appreciated. I do feel i understand something whereas at times before it was all just mush due to so many terms i'd neither heard of being thrown in and so i just turned off. Its cool knowing what tones and semitones are and how the scale goes on a keyboard. 

I've heard about diminished chords before, never had a clue what it meant tho.apple01

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

17 October 2014
3.32pm
muzair
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meanmistermustard said
Thanks @muzair, @MOCKSWELL, @Funny Paper, and @Oudis for all of this, it's very much appreciated. I do feel i understand something whereas at times before it was all just mush due to so many terms i'd neither heard of being thrown in and so i just turned off. Its cool knowing what tones and semitones are and how the scale goes on a keyboard. 

I've heard about diminished chords before, never had a clue what it meant tho.apple01

 

Cool, @meanmistermustard!  I've been meaning to write up a little thing explaining chords, but haven't had a spare minute to do it.

In short, if you take that major scale and take the notes numbered 1, 3, 5, then you get a major triad (triad being a three note chord).  The interval from 1 to 3 is a major third, the interval between the 3 and five is a minor third. It's as just the note name, eg a c major chord is written as C 

If we flatten the third we get a minor third interval from 1 to b3, and we get a minor chord - 1, b3, 5. Now the interval from b3 to 5 is a major third.  A minor chord is written with min or a - sign, eg C min or C-

If the intervals are stacked minor thirds (meaning between both the 1st and 3rd, and the 3rd and fifth), then we have a diminished chord - 1, b3, b5.   Diminished chords are written as Dim (eg C dim), or with a circle that I can't find on my keyboard!

If the intervals are stacked major thirds, then you have an augmented chord - 1, 3, #5.  Augmented chords are written as Aug, or occasionally #5; eg C Aug / C #5

You can stack another third on top, from 5 to 7; 7 can be major, or flattened (or double flattened on a full diminished chord); this is what gives us major 7, dom 7, minor 7, minor-major 7, dim 7, half-diminished (min7flat 5), Augmented 7.  In fact you can keep stacking more thirds up; that's how we get 9th, 11th, 13th chords etc. More on that later. 

If we go back to that major scale and use the same idea, then we can make a chord starting on every note in the scale; the 1 3 5 idea applies, just with a different starting point each time. So you get this scale:

C D E F G A B C 

Take the 1 3 5 7 and you get C E G B - C Major 7. 

Start on the second (D) and follow the same idea, and you get D F A C. The interval from D to F is a minor third, so that chord becomes D minor 7.  Start on E, E G B D - Emin7 etc etc

You can do this off every note in the scale, and then you give them numbers (often roman numerals). Usually, the number will be followed by the quality, so you know whether it's minor7, major 7 etc. So in the key of C you end up with this:

I           II-7          III-7       IVmaj7    V7     VI-7      VIImin7b5

Cmaj7   Dmin7       Emin7    Fmaj7      G7    Amin7    B half-diminished

You can transfer that number system to any major key, and you'll know what chords are 'diatonic' (naturally occurring within the major scale) to the key.

Note that when spelling chords, the word minor refers to the 3rd, but the word major refers to the 7th; that's how you end up with, for example, C minor-major 7 - a C chord with a minor 3 and a major 7.

We are talking about straight major scale harmony at this point; every chord can be altered to suit your needs. Next time I'll talk about dominant chords (also 7th or 7 chords), which are the basic sound of blues and rock & roll.

19 October 2014
12.45am
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MOCKSWELL
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 There you go. George was a fine chord player, he was trying to match up to Chet Atkins sound in early days, like everyone was and he had a lot of tone and used some very nice chords. He played the odd blues solo as did Richards and all of them and he was OK, but he was easily the best chord guy of the whole beat-o-mania movement. (!)

 12 bar blues is an illusion, it is NOT, 'three chord' and easy. What happened is, somewhere back around 1900, it was discovered that the 5-note pentatonic scale functioned nicely against the 1-4-5 progression.... but: not the diatonic(major scale 1-4-5) .. each chord being a dominant 7.

 Thus, A7/D7/E7... so, technically the 5th (mixolydian) scale for each chord... but that sounds too obvious, like a bass line.

So everyone noodled away at the pentatonic, largely unaware that they were hitting 11s and sharp 9s all over the place.

It's like that today and it drives me a bit mad.  Mad, I tell you.

 

J. (super-locrian) MockSwell

19 October 2014
8.02pm
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Von Bontee
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So do you hate just the pentatonic noodling, or the fact that people don't realize they're doing so?

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!"
-- Paul McCartney

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20 October 2014
12.02am
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MOCKSWELL
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 It the combination of endless solos with the limited vocabulary of pentatonic, plus the ridiculous preponderance of

the straight 12-bar progression. AND the massacre of the great blues tunes, as if they are just 'three chords' to solo over.

Rant will continue tonite, live from the blues jam.

 

J (Lightnin' Slim) MocksWell

20 October 2014
5.08am
muzair
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Yeah, the great lost art (maybe not lost necessarily, but definitely hiding) of great blues soloing.... You hear how great it can be when you listen those old recordings of the real masters in their heyday - guys like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker, for example...

And then you hear how woeful it often is when you go to your local blues jam or your local blues festival.  Nothing worse than four days of lead-footed shuffles.

It's also a shame that often people take away the superficial bits from their favourite recordings and try to emulate that, instead of the good bits.  For example, guys that hear Jimi Hendrix (or Cream or Zeppelin, for that matter) and then try to just play long, LOUD solos with loads of feedback and distortion, when really they don't have enough vocabulary or experience to make it interesting.  They tend to miss the fact that Jimi Hendrix's rhythm guitar playing is exceptional, and that often his shorter solos on record are beautiful, succinct statements that are more worthy of study and emulation.

It's kinda like bass players who love Jaco Pastorius; they go get a fretless bass, learn all the double stop harmonics and the fast licks - and then put them in every song they play, regardless of whether or not it fits.  Forgetting of course to copy the other side of Jaco - the one that could also play funky bass with great groove.

To bring us back to bad pentatonic noodlings....

One of my greatest disappointments as a music listener was when I read a book about the San Francisco psychedelic music scene (Summer Of Love by Joel Selvin, which is a really great read, by the way), then went out and bought albums by the bands talked about (It focuses on Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service and a couple of others).  In the book were all these descriptions about how these bands would play long improvised tunes, with incendiary guitar solos and massive peaks of cosmic musical bliss.  I listened, and all I heard were novice level pentatonic-based solos (or harmonic minor scale when they wanted to sound Indian or Arabic) and lousy musicianship. I get the impression that with a lot of those bands, the ideas were great but they could never quite be achieved because they weren't, well, good enough musicians.  Somehow their English counterparts seemed to be more interesting, and a bit less serious.

The other great disappointment I had as a listener was when I read another book about the pre-punk scene in America, 'From The Velvets to The Voidoids', and then heard a lot of the bands mentioned in there. Same experience in a lot of cases - the concepts far outweighed the musicianship needed to carry it off and make it interesting.   On the other side of that argument, of course, is the fact that a lack of musicianship was kinda part of the equation for a lot of that music.

All in all, this is all just a matter of how you respond emotionally and physically; I for one am allergic to Fleetwood Mac. One man's peanut is another man's anaphylactic shock.  

Wow I shouldn't get on here with a headache. Makes for rant!  @MOCKSWELL, see what you've started? Haha :)  

 

I'll get back to nice sedate (and hopefully helpful) theory lessons soon.

20 October 2014
10.38pm
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MOCKSWELL
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 Muzair for Pres. o' the Musicians Union... is there still one?

Everyone, every band in the 60s was playing blues covers. Many wrote in the form, or tried to, and the competition was so stiff that even Clapton announced he was leaving the real blues thing behind. No way in the world could he compete w/ Jimi/J Winter/Allmans... not to mention the hundred or two good blues guitarists of the fifties who were all still kicking around.

 It was an American black thing, and the chitlins circuit was the training ground. The Brits brought it to the mainstream.

BB King, as an example, was not even a guitar player until it became all the rage. We had 78 rpms of Thrill Is Gone, Sweet Little Sixteen, etc. and there was no guitar, none. Horns. BB sing, man could he sing. Later, when he took up guitar, he quickly learned to solo from horn players. If you try playing BB licks without a funky band backing you, not much happens.

 The piano players were drowned out by guitars and there went most of the subtle chord changes that made each blues song unique. By the time of SRV the 'industry' could only 'afford' one blues guitar 'star.'

 What Muzair is talking about is the youth taking up the music of older players, and running with it. Inside the biz, we called it 'the feeding frenzy' , as every blues riff of the past was resurrected and adapted to electric guitar and the new bigger drum sound. But the riff-food ran out, and by ohhhh 73 we had young rock bands writing their own material, and the hideous, pompous rockBands of the 70s proliferated, until, oh I get a headache just thinking about it. * )

25 October 2014
7.05am
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MOCKSWELL
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Hey, I'm gonna take back wot I said about no hard Beatle songs. Just go try and get all the voicings George uses on Till There Was You .

Waitamint... they din't write that... I take back the taking back.

25 October 2014
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MOCKSWELL
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 Cmon youse guys, we are ready for the next lesson. Poisonally, I care not one whit who is covering Beatles songs, all these centuries later, or even what new jokes Ringo has uttered. Chords, scales, arps, riffs... that's the stuff.

 I DID watch the PleasePlease me thing... where young musicians went in and covered the album, in the same studio, on the same day etc. etc. Was OK. I expected better from Squeeze though.

Meanwhile, how about There's a Place... Niice chordage there...  the melody, against the 4 chord esp., is slightly exotic, all Lydian and pretty. Remember, we can't call it a flat five, it has to be a sharp eleven. Someone can probably explain why, to the fascinated masses and we will all be better off.

- Mockswell McDorian

26 October 2014
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MOCKSWELL said

 It was an American black thing, and the chitlins circuit was the training ground. The Brits brought it to the mainstream.

[...]

 What Muzair is talking about is the youth taking up the music of older players, and running with it. Inside the biz, we called it 'the feeding frenzy' , as every blues riff of the past was resurrected and adapted to electric guitar and the new bigger drum sound. But the riff-food ran out, and by ohhhh 73 we had young rock bands writing their own material, and the hideous, pompous rockBands of the 70s proliferated, until, oh I get a headache just thinking about it. * )

Spot on.

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)

30 October 2014
6.52am
muzair
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MOCKSWELL said
 Cmon youse guys, we are ready for the next lesson. Poisonally, I care not one whit who is covering Beatles songs, all these centuries later, or even what new jokes Ringo has uttered. Chords, scales, arps, riffs... that's the stuff.

 I DID watch the PleasePlease me thing... where young musicians went in and covered the album, in the same studio, on the same day etc. etc. Was OK. I expected better from Squeeze though.

Meanwhile, how about There's a Place... Niice chordage there...  the melody, against the 4 chord esp., is slightly exotic, all Lydian and pretty. Remember, we can't call it a flat five, it has to be a sharp eleven. Someone can probably explain why, to the fascinated masses and we will all be better off.

- Mockswell McDorian

Sorry folks, I've been crazy busy lately.  Just been out of town for a couple of days playing double bass on a (non-traditional) bluegrass recording, and was rehearsing like mad leading up to it.  I was singing all the high harmonies, and everything was cut live, so I really had to have my shit together vocally.  Never sung so many high 'G's in my life!

Next on the calendar is a four day run of a 50's/early 60's rhythm and blues show (doing stuff like The Coasters, Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, LaVern Baker etc).

So I'm not sure when the next lesson will be. Anybody got any specific requests about things they want explained?

and PS @MOCKSWELL, you know full well why it's called #11 :) haha

30 October 2014
11.48am
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meanmistermustard
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@MOCKSWELL, will we be able to hear this recording when its finished? Would be good, plus i like a bit of bluegrass.

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

30 October 2014
12.46pm
muzair
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meanmistermustard said
@MOCKSWELL, will we be able to hear this recording when its finished? Would be good, plus i like a bit of bluegrass.

Hey it's me that's doing the recording!

It was all being filmed for YouTube, so yes, once it's all done and dusted I'll post a few links.  It'll be a little while though; there are still a couple more songs to do in a different location.  Still, 10 songs in 2 days, with no overdubs and including set up and pack down in a remote location is pretty good going these days!

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Oudis
30 October 2014
1.29pm
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Sorry @muzair for getting the name wrong. I think its because i saw the notification you left for him but its a crappy excuse.

Back i go

NaughtyStep1.jpgImage Enlarger

As for the songs it's something to look forward to.

10 songs in two days is very good going nowadays. Still couldn't beat four lads back in February 1963 tho.a-hard-days-night-john-5

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

30 October 2014
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muzair
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meanmistermustard said
Sorry @muzair for getting the name wrong. I think its because i saw the notification you left for him but its a crappy excuse.
 
  
 
As for the songs it's something to look forward to.

10 songs in two days is very good going nowadays. Still couldn't beat four lads back in February 1963 tho.a-hard-days-night-john-5

No sweat dude! :)

It's true - once you do a few full day recording sessions, you realise how much of a massive effort it is to cut an album in a day.  The Please Please Me  album session, the couple of big days for With The Beatles , the huge day in 1964 for Beatles For Sale - all huge efforts.

What The Beatles had on their side, of course, is the amount of rehearsal (what we now call 'pre-production!'), studio staff knowing what they were doing, the studio already set up to go etc.   

The session I just did was tricky because everything was acoustic - double bass, mandolin, acoustic guitar (a Martin D-18... LOUD guitar!), bodhran/snare drum/bass drum/hi-hat, banjo (also LOUD), and fiddle - and the vocals were live.  All in one room in a little cottage.  Because it was being filmed, we kept changing the setup to get interesting shots, so it wasn't like we set it up and left it. It's a ridiculous idea, really, but it makes everybody work that much harder to get a great result. 

31 October 2014
3.42am
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MOCKSWELL
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Well geeee, bluegrass! Also known as country music, hyhuhp.* I play some Doc Watson stuff whenever possible, but it usually turns into R n' R.

 Muzair, can we hear this stuff eventual moi? Sounds very interesting.

As for recording an album in a day like the BEatles did, well they had the best rehearsal there is - gigs!

Ahhh I remember gigs..... * )

16 November 2014
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muzair said
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.

I think Paper Back Writer falls into that category. I think actually only has two chords. Haven't played it in for ever but think it was Gm and C? With the riff based around Gm also?  Not home right now to run through it. 

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