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Song structure analysis and terminology
27 November 2014
5.58am
muzair
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Musketeer Gripweed (kezron9) said 
Would love to know how they decided to use a chord out of key or why in certain situations they chose alternative chords instead of the standard chord for that key and in other songs they didn't. I guess a good example is the Gm  at the "caressing me" part in Across The Universe .  I believe many of their choices had to do with wanting to create a certain mood or feeling musically with the song. 

 

I would love to know too - I guess if we all thought the same way as they did then we could write those brilliant songs as well! :)

I think it has a lot to do with imagination, not getting stuck in the same patterns, and always expanding one's musical vocabulary.  Also the freedom with melody: not being bound by just the notes in the key, allowing the melody to go to interesting places, and then adjusting the chords to fit the melody. Or vice versa.

It's fascinating too that if you follow the Beatles harmonic progression - so dealing with just the use of melody and chords - it gets more sophisticated as they go along.  It's actually almost like taking a harmony class - you start off very simply with (mostly) 3 chord rock and roll type songs, and gradually bits get added until the vocabulary expands to where you have things that are very complex or unusual (eg I am the walrus) and songs that have similar harmonic patterns/ideas to 'standards' (Honey Pie , long and winding road etc).  Without abandoning the simpler 3 or 4 chord rocker type stuff, but ALWAYS looking for new ideas. Meaning new for them: it doesn't matter if it had already been around somewhere else if you didn't know about it.

We know that all the Beatles were always experimenting and looking for new sounds and ideas but I love it when there's concrete evidence, for example Paul talking about the bridge change on 'From Me To You ' being a major turning point ("I've got arms that long to hold you").  And you can see how John liked to milk an idea once he found it, like the batch of songs in G from 1964/65 that have the F9 chord (the F voicing with the g on the top) - I Don't Want To Spoil The Party , I'm A Loser , You've Got To Hide Your Love Away , and I believe maybe part of the opening chord of A Hard Day's Night .

It's also cool when you see things 'pinched' from other non-Beatle composed (but covered) songs and used later in their own songs, eg the chord walk down in Till There Was You later used in Do You Want To Know A Secret

I may have diverted a little away from your original point, @Musketeer Gripweed, but my did it get me thinking! :)  

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@muzair No not off topic at all, all valid. Also the I Saw Her Standing There bassline is another example pinched off the top of my head. 

I've been trying to see if there is any pattern of formula they used for changing keys or using alternative chords but can't seem to see any yet. I guess that would hampered them musically and creatively. 

1 December 2014
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muzair
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Musketeer Gripweed (kezron9) said
@muzair No not off topic at all, all valid. Also the I Saw Her Standing There bassline is another example pinched off the top of my head. 

I've been trying to see if there is any pattern of formula they used for changing keys or using alternative chords but can't seem to see any yet. I guess that would hampered them musically and creatively. 

 

Perhaps we should put together a list of Beatles songs that have big key changes in them, and see if we can spot a trend or pattern? Like the sorts of modulations used/not used, which are more common etc.  Might be interesting, especially when looked at chronologically; it's quite a progression from key changes like the bridge of I Want To Hold Your Hand, to the way the modulations are used in Penny Lane .  We could do the same for the songs with no key changes but with some out-of-key chords.

My feeling is that there isn't any formula as such, but I'd be very interested to see which common ideas pop up across the catalogue, especially within each writer's set of songs.  

1 December 2014
6.07am
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muzair said

Perhaps we should put together a list of Beatles songs that have big key changes in them, and see if we can spot a trend or pattern? Like the sorts of modulations used/not used, which are more common etc.  Might be interesting, especially when looked at chronologically; it's quite a progression from key changes like the bridge of I Want To Hold Your Hand, to the way the modulations are used in Penny Lane .  We could do the same for the songs with no key changes but with some out-of-key chords. My feeling is that there isn't any formula as such, but I'd be very interested to see which common ideas pop up across the catalogue, especially within each writer's set of songs.  

That’s a great idea, @muzair; unfortunately most of us cannot help I believe. It would be up to you guys to do it for us to learn from it. If you go ahead, I will be most grateful.

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)

1 December 2014
10.42am
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Sounds an intriguing idea but like Oudis i wouldn't be able to contribute to as i have next to no idea about key changes etc. Sorry.

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

1 December 2014
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@muzair There's an old thread on key changes here.

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1 December 2014
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@Joe's link is interesting but, if I may, I’d like to say that with one exception it is only a list of songs with “chord progressions” and “key changes”, but it doesn’t explain what they are or how they work in the songs. Should anybody (wink wink @muzair) be willing to give us a few examples and explain how those changes work, it would be great. Thanks, Oudis.

EDIT: @muzair, maybe we are asking too much from you. If that is the case, don’t feel obliged in any way –and we apologize.

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)

3 December 2014
12.15am
muzair
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Oudis said
@Joe's link is interesting but, if I may, I’d like to say that with one exception it is only a list of songs with “chord progressions” and “key changes”, but it doesn’t explain what they are or how they work in the songs. Should anybody (wink wink @muzair) be willing to give us a few examples and explain how those changes work, it would be great. Thanks, Oudis.

EDIT: @muzair, maybe we are asking too much from you. If that is the case, don’t feel obliged in any way –and we apologize.

@Oudis, not at all, I LOVE looking at this kind of stuff, and I've never had the chance to really go into it with Beatles songs the way I would like to.  It's a fairly big topic though, so it may take me a while to get going, especially since it's the pre-Christmas gig season and I'm working my tail off in the real world :)

I had a quick look at the old thread that @Joe posted the link to, and we can use some of the examples mentioned to get started, when we get started.

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3 December 2014
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@muzair Would you be OK continuing that thread? It would be useful to keep the conversation in one place.

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3 December 2014
2.05pm
muzair
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Joe said
@muzair Would you be OK continuing that thread? It would be useful to keep the conversation in one place.

I think I'd rather keep it on this one, if it's all the same - I can build on a couple of the previous posts about chords from this thread, also the way I'm thinking of the key change idea relates directly to song structure as we've been it discussing here;  harmonic function,  modulation and tonicization all come into play as well (don't worry, I'll explain what all that means!)

When I mentioned using examples from the other thread, I really meant just using some of the listed songs from there as a jump off point, simply because there was a list and I didn't have to think of a new one!  I will probably end up ignoring that list though, now that I think about it. 

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3 December 2014
7.07pm
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muzair said

Joe said
@muzair Would you be OK continuing that thread? It would be useful to keep the conversation in one place.

I think I'd rather keep it on this one, if it's all the same...

@muzair 

Thank you.

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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)

7 December 2014
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 Very nice. Just nice people, what can I say>?

Crazy stuff, innit? Dave Icke and the reptiles and Savile and the madness that is boiling up, not in here, but in the bloody so-called real world.

Well, nevermind. All I really care about is the tunes, yknow? If the music biz hadn't gone off the rails I probably wouldn't have said a word.

We were talking about chords and stuff, and the use of finger signals. Not that finger! And how the jazz musicians don't need the number system so much, though they understand it implicitly, because they read from the dreaded charts. Pop/Rock musicians don't need it either, because they have rehearsed their songs. Only people who are jamming need it and jamming is all there is left here.

 I sat around with a pal, now deceased, for about 15 years, and listened to what we thot of as 'golden age' rock music. Basically, 67-72.

SO many good rock albums hiding in those years. They were overshadowed by the big acts, Beatles, Hendrix, everyone else.... and many were foreign groups whose albums received little promo in N. Am. especially. People refer to this stuff as 'psych' or etc. but I think it's all just rock music.

 The bands understood in them days, that blues was a great thing, and they often wrote their own bluesy tunes rather than desecrating classics.

7 December 2014
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stay-on-topic

Please do not make posts like that in this thread, mockswell. Only make posts that are instructive per the purpose of this thread. We thank you in advance for respecting the others on the forum by following the rules.

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21 December 2014
6.18pm
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MOCKSWELL
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 Y'know WOT? I can't even read this forum. I can barely come in here and look at this stuff. I didn't for yrs. and yrs. This conditioning, heavy heavy stuff that nobody wants to talk about.

 I couldn't come in here for the last weeks, had to sorce myself to clik on this forum, and felt queezy doing so.

 Enough of that. Beatles still the best band, and the best guys, I'm off, might be back, who knows? I have to go play now... for less than peanuts... in the damnable 'music biz' which is worser than ever, sfar as I can tell.

Later.

 

Mockswell btw was the named used by (can't remember) at one point, a sarcastic spin on Maxwell. Twasn't me but I remember that name from the 60s.

Seriously, cant even read these posts/response, don't feel riht, gotta go.

21 December 2014
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Ron Nasty
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@MOCKSWELL Please, you have been asked to

stay-on-topic

Yet you keep posting things in this thread that have nothing to do with the subject of this thread, and have been politely asked not on more than one occasion, and yet you keep doing it! Please, respect the other forum members, and

stay-on-topic

You obviously have things you want to say, but this thread is not the place for the comments you are making (maybe the Derail thread?), and the comments you are making here have virtually killed this thread.

I used to enjoy reading this thread, I didn't have much to contribute because I'm not good at the technical side of music, but I did enjoy reading it. You've made it somewhere other forum members are avoiding now because, despite the repeated polite requests, you won't

stay-on-topic

Please, please, please

stay-on-topicstay-on-topicstay-on-topic

Thank you.

@Joe, @Ahhh Girl, @meanmistermustard, @Zig

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21 December 2014
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Mockswell, final warning. If you're going to post here again please make it relevant and interesting. If you continue to go wildly off topic I'll have to suspend your account.

If you really don't like it here it might be better for everyone if you found somewhere more in tune with your beliefs.

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24 December 2014
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Hello again everybody.

Things seem to have clamed down in this thread; or at least I hope so. I thought I would try to analyze one of our favorite Beatles songs –Norwegian Wood – and see what you guys say in your comments. It’s going to be a very basic analysis, made by an amateur songwriter for non-musicians. Please, if you are a musician and read this, don’t laugh or be rude, I’m doing my best.

Let’s start with the ABC (literally). In music theory, a diatonic scale is a scale composed of seven distinct pitch classes. The diatonic scale includes five whole steps and two half steps for each octave. What am I talking about? I’m talking about a scale of notes, e.g. C D E F G A and B, AKA do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti. For each scale you have a set of chords that go with it. There’s a scale in C, one in C#, one in D, one in D#, etc. A major chord is a chord having a root (the note that gives the chord its name), a major third, and a perfect fifth; a minor chord differs from a major chord in having a minor third (half a step down) instead of a major third. The key of a piece is the tonic note and chord, which gives a subjective sense of arrival and rest (in Norwegian Wood , it’s Re). Other notes and chords in the piece create varying degrees of tension, resolved when the tonic note and/or chord returns.

Norwegian Wood was mainly written by John, with the middle eight perhaps co-written with Paul. Let’s see its structure. I include the lyrics and the chords in case someone wants to play the song.

Intro (guitar and then sitar; the melody is the melody of the verse and is repeated twice)

After the intro we have what I think can be called the first verse, in the D key:

D                                                  C        G   D

“I once had a girl or should I say she once had me

D                                                          C     G   D

She showed me her room isn't it good Norwegian Wood ”  

Then John and Paul changed the chord (a D major turns into a D minor; such changes –also from minor to major– were a common trick of theirs I’ve noticed); they do it in what I think we can call middle eight. It’s likely that this is a change in the key of the song, or modulation

Dm                                                                       G

“She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere

Dm                                                               Em     A

But I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair” 

Then they return to a verse 

D                                              C           G   D

“I sat on a rug biding my time drinking her wine

D                                                          C    G         D

We talked until two and then she said it's time for bed” 

Solo (sitar twice, the same melody as the verse

And the middle eight again: 

Dm                                                                             G

“She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh

Dm                                                                  Em   A

I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath” 

And then a verse again: 

D                                                C      G          D

And when I awoke I was alone this bird had flown

D                                       C    G         D

So I lit a fire isn't it good Norwegian Wood

Outro (sitar, same melody only once)

 

So we have the simplest possible structure of a song:

Intro (Verse melody) – Verse – Middle Eight – Verse – Solo (Verse melody) – Middle Eight – Verse – Outro (Verse melody)

OR

A – A – B – A – A – B – A – A

What amazes me (well, lyrics aside) is the simplicity of the song. It proves that you can compose masterpieces with very little. More sophisticated songs aren’t that good. Its structure is very simple and it only uses six chords.

For all of you musician lurking in the forum: feel free to comment, correct, add information. I’d appreciate it very much.

Oudis.

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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)

26 December 2014
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Oudis
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C’mon everybody (and especially you @muzair), please reply, I need your comments, don’t let this thread die. How was my analysis? Too simplistic and shallow? Too abstruse? I need some feedback. And please can somebody else try to do the same thing I did with another song? Yes?

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)

26 December 2014
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@Oudis, its Christmas so give folk time to come back on the forum after all the festivities, spending it with family and friends, and eating so much they fear they will burst with any sudden movement. Sadly this thread has taken a bit of a beating over the last month or two so may need a bit of breathing space before folk start posting again.

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31 December 2014
4.21am
muzair
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Oudis said 

Let’s start with the ABC (literally). In music theory, a diatonic scale is a scale composed of seven distinct pitch classes. The diatonic scale includes five whole steps and two half steps for each octave. What am I talking about? I’m talking about a scale of notes, e.g. C D E F G A and B, AKA do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti. For each scale you have a set of chords that go with it. There’s a scale in C, one in C#, one in D, one in D#, etc. A major chord is a chord having a root (the note that gives the chord its name), a major third, and a perfect fifth; a minor chord differs from a major chord in having a minor third (half a step down) instead of a major third. The key of a piece is the tonic note and chord, which gives a subjective sense of arrival and rest (in Norwegian Wood , it’s Re). Other notes and chords in the piece create varying degrees of tension, resolved when the tonic note and/or chord returns.
 

Hi folks,  back after a Christmas away (and a chance to leave technology behind for a week!).

@Oudis, I'm replying to your post in a couple of messages because I'm no good at breaking the quotes up and replying in between. 

As for the first bit I've quoted above - perfect!  Only one thing to mention:  Where you say the key in Norwegian Wood is Re;  yes, it is if D is relative to C (is that what you meant?), but otherwise D would be Do.  I think of it instead as one.

Once you think of the scale degrees in numbers, then it becomes easier to build chords off each degree, and it can make analysing chords and songs more systematic, because often we get chords where the root note that belongs to the home scale but the rest of the chord doesn't.   

A quick question, because my wife is asleep and I don't want to make noise to answer it myself:  Is Norwegian Wood the one that is in D on the record but take 1 is in C?  Or is it Take 1 in D and the record is in E?

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