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Song structure analysis and terminology
11 March 2015
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Egroeg Evoli
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PeterWeatherby said
 

To use another example just mentioned, the A major chord in the key of C is properly the fifth in relation to the key's second (Dm), so it would be the "five of two," or "V of ii." Paul uses this very sequence in "For No One " when he goes to the bridge. The song is in C (ok, technically it's in B, but for the sake of simplicity, we'll raise it up a half-step), so the first six chords in the scale would be C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor (not major).

Speaking of For No One , I'm a little confused on the chord progression. By ear, I determined that the bass notes would be B(Your day breaks) A#(Your mind aches) G#(You find that all) F#(her words of kind-) E(-ness linger on) A(When she no) B(Longer needs you) Do I have it right so far? And those chords above (when transposed into the key of B) seem to conflict with the notes, but maybe I'm not hearing it right or transposing it right. What would the chords be in the key of B?

Also known as Egg-Rock, Egg-Roll, E-George, Eggy, Ravioli, Eggroll Eggrolli...

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12 March 2015
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Egroeg Evoli said

PeterWeatherby said
 

...so the first six chords in the scale would be C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor (not major).

... And those chords above (when transposed into the key of B) seem to conflict with the notes, but maybe I'm not hearing it right or transposing it right. What would the chords be in the key of B?

That string of chords I named above aren't the chords to the song, just the natural chords (by steps) for that key. In the key of B, the chords in the scale would be B major, C# minor, D# minor, E major, F# major, and G# minor.

But you are correct, the opening chords are:

[B] Your day breaks
[F#, first inversion, so A# is the bass note] Your mind aches
[G#m] You find that
[B, second inversion, so F# is the bass note] All her words of
[E] Kindness linger
[A] On when she no
[B] Longer needs you

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12 March 2015
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Egroeg Evoli
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@PeterWeatherby  I understand now. Thank you so much! apple01apple01apple01

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15 March 2015
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PeterWeatherby said 

That string of chords I named above aren't the chords to the song, just the natural chords (by steps) for that key. In the key of B, the chords in the scale would be B major, C# minor, D# minor, E major, F# major, and G# minor.

But you are correct, the opening chords are:

[B] Your day breaks
[F#, first inversion, so A# is the bass note] Your mind aches
[G#m] You find that
[B, second inversion, so F# is the bass note] All her words of
[E] Kindness linger
[A] On when she no
[B] Longer needs you

 

I'm not so sure about the second chord,  that movement of I to V sounds a little out of place.  I think what actually happens in this song is that the top of the chord stays the same, and the bass note moves throughout, so that would make the second chord B/A#, rather than F#/A#.  

[B] Your day breaks
[B/A#] Your mind aches
[G#m or B/G#] You find that
[B/F#] All her words of
[E] Kindness linger
[A] On when she no
[B] Longer needs you

There's that wonderful clip of Paul playing this solo on acoustic guitar, up a semitone in the key of C, from around the time of 'Broad Street'.  It sounds to my ears (and it looks this way too, although the picture is fuzzy) as if he is keeping a C shape and playing a descending bass line: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbJrXqrLtMw

After a quick listen to the one on Revolver , I think that's what's happening on the keyboard too. 

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17 March 2015
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muzair said

I'm not so sure about the second chord,  that movement of I to V sounds a little out of place.  I think what actually happens in this song is that the top of the chord stays the same, and the bass note moves throughout, so that would make the second chord B/A#, rather than F#/A#.  

Ahhh, great catch! You are quite correct, that second chord is not a V. It's a iii chord in the second inversion:

[B] Your day breaks
[D#m, second inversion, A# bass note] Your mind aches

As you noticed, the top two notes of all of those chords stays the same (the D# and F# notes), so technically, the next line:

[G#m] You find that

Should actually be:

[G#m7] You find that

As long as we're being detailed about it ... :)

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Not a bit like Cagney.

18 March 2015
6.17am
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PeterWeatherby said

muzair said

I'm not so sure about the second chord,  that movement of I to V sounds a little out of place.  I think what actually happens in this song is that the top of the chord stays the same, and the bass note moves throughout, so that would make the second chord B/A#, rather than F#/A#.  

Ahhh, great catch! You are quite correct, that second chord is not a V. It's a iii chord in the second inversion:

[B] Your day breaks
[D#m, second inversion, A# bass note] Your mind aches

As you noticed, the top two notes of all of those chords stays the same (the D# and F# notes), so technically, the next line:

[G#m] You find that

Should actually be:

[G#m7] You find that

As long as we're being detailed about it ... :)

Ha, yes, you are correct; I'm really thinking of it as B/G#, which is of course the same as G#min7.  And I think you're right about the second being D#min in second inversion.

I have to confess I rather enjoy playing and singing this with the second chord as B/A#, because I like the tension that comes from having A# on the bottom and B on the top of the chord.  Must be a flat9 hangover from my past life playing jazz :)

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18 March 2015
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muzair said

I have to confess I rather enjoy playing and singing this with the second chord as B/A#, because I like the tension that comes from having A# on the bottom and B on the top of the chord.  Must be a flat9 hangover from my past life playing jazz :)

LOL -- we should jam together sometime. I think we'd get along just fine. :)

I keep the B/A# tension when I'm playing the song on guitar (as Sir Paul apparently also does, as evidence by the video above), but for some reason, I play it with a straight D#m (second inversion) when I'm playing it on the piano.

Quick note for those following along who might not know: chords are made up of three notes (typically, anyway), and depending on which note is at the bottom of the chord, it's either a root chord, a first inversion, or a second inversion.

Taking C major as the example, it's made up of the notes C, E, and G. Played in that formation, CEG, it's a "root" chord because it has the C as the lowest note.

Played in the formation EGC, we've moved the C note to the top, so now it's in its first inversion.

Played in the formation GEC, it's in its second inversion.

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18 March 2015
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Probably an unnecessary post, but here's how I hear it: 

B (D#F#) Your day breaks 
A# (D#F#) Your mind aches 
G# (D#F#) You find that  
F# (D#F#)All her words of
E (E G#) Kindness linger
A (E G#) On when she no 
B(D#F#) Longer needs you. 
F#(D#F#) 
On repeat, replace final F#(D#F#) with B(D#F#) 
 
Not sure about the chorus/refrain, but I know the bass alternates between C# and G#. 
 
PrrPrrprprprprrrpprrprrrprrr (French horn) prrprprprprrprprprprpprrrrrr! a-hard-days-night-paul-8

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18 March 2015
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PeterWeatherby said

Quick note for those following along who might not know: chords are made up of three notes (typically, anyway), and depending on which note is at the bottom of the chord, it's either a root chord, a first inversion, or a second inversion.

Taking C major as the example, it's made up of the notes C, E, and G. Played in that formation, CEG, it's a "root" chord because it has the C as the lowest note.

Played in the formation EGC, we've moved the C note to the top, so now it's in its first inversion.

Played in the formation GEC, it's in its second inversion.

I really appreciate what you did there @PeterWeatherby: explain for those of us who aren’t professional musicians and just strum the guitar singing tunes. At times this thread has become a forum for music savants who exchange almost esoteric information while some of us –at least that’s my case– are left out. I’d appreciate it if the posts always included and explanation in simple English, not in Greek (*wink*), something like “Song structure and analysis for Dummies”. Thanks, I know that it would require more effort and be boring for you guys; but many of us could follow the thread in a way we now can’t. 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)

19 March 2015
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Oudis said
I really appreciate what you did there @PeterWeatherby: explain for those of us who aren’t professional musicians and just strum the guitar singing tunes.

I don't mind doing it, I just didn't want to seem like I was "talking down" to anyone, y'know? But I definitely want even the non-musical people who read this thread to be able to get something out of it and be able to enjoy The Beatles better as a result, so I'll try to over-explain things at the risk of having someone say, "yeah, no shit man, we're not idiots." :)

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19 March 2015
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Dumb it down for me man, by all means! a-hard-days-night-ringo-14

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2 April 2015
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Oudis said everything I wanted to. I'm really enjoying this thread. I studied grade five music theory many years ago but now can barely read a treble clef. The explanations of terms here have been hugely enlightening. Thanks to everyone who has contributed.

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2 April 2015
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I was just looking over the chord structure in the verses of Lovely Rita and thought this was kind of cool. They talk in music theory about a circle of fifths (where each subsequent chord is a fifth above the previous chord - this is used in the "ahhh" section of A Day In The Life , C -> G -> D -> A -> E ), but in the verses of Lovely Rita , Paul uses a circle of fourths.

[Eb] Standing by a [Ab] parking meter
[Db] When I caught a [Gb] glimpse of Rita

I don't recall ever running into that before. Very daring, that!

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I know Paul was largely composing on the piano at this stage, but I'm tempted to imagine that he wrote at least part of Lovely Rita on the bass, because it's a very strong walking line and this might be why he used such an unusual progression. I also think he had the melody and just found the chords to go with it. Those chords suggest a different key but the melody brings it back.

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 A fifth up is a fourth down, so the cycle goes both ways. You can have a cycle of perfect 4ths or 5ths, or a diatonic cycle, which follows the scale, usually major. If the 7th degree is confusing, a 'half-dimished' chord - just think of it as a nice substitute for the 5.

 Todays fave chord progression is from 'Man of Mystery'. Shadows did it, Chet Atkins did a great version.

Essentially it's a descending chromatic line, against a minor triad. Lke Stairway to Heaven Yes? Beatles used it a few times before then. Other tunes would include Charade, Feelings, April in Portugal, Spiderman theme, and of course some classical pieces, Gayne Ballet Suite, some Charlie Parker choruses(double time!) and etc.

 really wot's happenin in these tunes is, well take Hairway to Steven: Ami/E7+/C/D/F/

Not so complicated when viewed thus, but what key is it in?

A for annoying? Or C for confusing? Maybe F for fab. **********

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8 April 2015
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PeterWeatherby said
I was just looking over the chord structure in the verses of Lovely Rita and thought this was kind of cool. They talk in music theory about a circle of fifths (where each subsequent chord is a fifth above the previous chord - this is used in the "ahhh" section of A Day In The Life , C -> G -> D -> A -> E ), but in the verses of Lovely Rita , Paul uses a circle of fourths.

[Eb] Standing by a [Ab] parking meter
[Db] When I caught a [Gb] glimpse of Rita

I don't recall ever running into that before. Very daring, that!

 

Once you get a handle on it, the cycle of fourths is very handy to know. It's quite common in jazz, tin-pan alley, broadway etc, but turns up a lot in pop music, and appears plenty of times in Beatles songs. 

It allows for strong movements and resolutions within a key, and can allow for very smooth changes between keys . So smooth that you don't even notice, in a lot of cases. The placement of the chord within the key will usually dictate whether it's major, minor, dominant etc.  Melody notes change these qualities also. 

If you start at C and ascend in intervals of a 4th, it goes round like this:

C - F - Bb/A# - Eb/D# - Ab/G# - Db/C# - Gb/F# - B - E - A - D - G - C

 

Some songs are built almost entirely from this movement, like the jazz standard Autumn Leaves (here in the key of E minor).

The falling  leaves                     drift by my       window                      The falling

               /  Amin7             / D7                   / GMaj7             / CMaj7             / 

leaves                Of red and       gold                      I see your

F#min7b5     / B7                  / Emin7           /  Emin7    E7/   ETC

 

In each set of four bars, you have a big chunk of the cycle of fourths.  A little skip from C to F# (instead of to F), keeps the song in the key of E minor.  Indeed, if you flipped those four bar pieces around, you would have half of the cycle in one go. Just follow the root notes:

F# - B - E - A - D - G - C

 

Interestingly enough, the exact same chords are found in 'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor (if we transpose it to E minor):

At first I was afraid    I was petrified      kept thinking    I could never live without you     by my side     but then I

Emin7                   /   Amin7                                     / D7                                         / GMaj7                             /

Spent so many nights  thinking     how you did me wrong   and I grew strong        And I learned how to get along

CMaj7                                     / F#min7b5                                      / B7                          /  B7                         /

 

It starts in a different part of the cycle, but follows the same sequence.  You get two songs for the price of one!

I hope that hasn't been super confusing.  Next post will relate to how the cycle appears in some Beatles songs.

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8 April 2015
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muzair said

PeterWeatherby said
I was just looking over the chord structure in the verses of Lovely Rita and thought this was kind of cool. They talk in music theory about a circle of fifths (where each subsequent chord is a fifth above the previous chord - this is used in the "ahhh" section of A Day In The Life , C -> G -> D -> A -> E ), but in the verses of Lovely Rita , Paul uses a circle of fourths.

[Eb] Standing by a [Ab] parking meter
[Db] When I caught a [Gb] glimpse of Rita

I don't recall ever running into that before. Very daring, that!

Once you get a handle on it, the cycle of fourths is very handy to know. It's quite common in jazz, tin-pan alley, broadway etc, but turns up a lot in pop music, and appears plenty of times in Beatles songs. 

Well, I threw down the gauntlet, I suppose, by saying I'd never run into this progression before. I suppose I'd better clarify: Paul uses the circle of fourths here in Lovely Rita , using all major chords -- Eb major to Ab major to Db major to Gb major, no minor chords mixed in -- and never once leaves the key of Eb major.

That's four chords he uses, all major, all without leaving the original key signature.

If you can show me another Beatles song where that progression takes place, I'll be shocked. And maybe stunned. Possibly giddy, at the end. But mostly shocked.

Not a bit like Cagney.

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MOCKSWELL said
 A fifth up is a fourth down, so the cycle goes both ways. 

But a fifth up is not a fourth up, so no, the cycle really doesn't go both ways. I was talking about a song using a progression of ascending perfect fourths.

MOCKSWELL continued

Essentially it's a descending chromatic line, against a minor triad. Lke Stairway to Heaven Yes? Beatles used it a few times before then.

Again, we're talking about an ascending line of perfect fourths, not a descending line. So, no, I don't think the Beatles used it prior to Lovely Rita , at least not as far as I've found.

MOCKSWELL belabored

really wot's happenin in these tunes is, well take Hairway to Steven: Ami/E7+/C/D/F/

Not so complicated when viewed thus, but what key is it in?

Stairway to Heaven has about as much in common with Lovely Rita as Yoko Ono has in common with good art.

And, as long as we're answering easy questions, Stairway to Heaven is in C major, which is not opposed to A minor, since one is the relative minor of the other, and they share most of their chords in common.

Not a bit like Cagney.

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PeterWeatherby said 

Well, I threw down the gauntlet, I suppose, by saying I'd never run into this progression before. I suppose I'd better clarify: Paul uses the circle of fourths here in Lovely Rita , using all major chords -- Eb major to Ab major to Db major to Gb major, no minor chords mixed in -- and never once leaves the key of Eb major.

That's four chords he uses, all major, all without leaving the original key signature.

If you can show me another Beatles song where that progression takes place, I'll be shocked. And maybe stunned. Possibly giddy, at the end. But mostly shocked.

Ah, now I getcha. Apologies, I misunderstood exactly what you meant.  Hopefully someone will find my post useful in some way :)

Yes, I'm not sure I can think of another Beatles song where all four of those chords appear as majors in that order.  Off the top of my head...  You've Got To Hide Your Love Away has three (from memory).  But not four.  Michelle  has a lot of similar cycle 4 action, but the chords are a mixture of qualities.  Back In The USSR uses all four of those majors, but not in that order...

That's an excellent find, Pete!  It's also a bitch of a song to play along with, since it's slightly in the cracks pitch-wise, if I remember rightly. Good old varispeed again :)

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