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"Passing Chords" -- More than a passing interest...
1 December 2013
9.45pm
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When, beginning about a year ago (about the time I joined Beatles Bible), I was getting back into Beatles songs after a fallow lull lasting literally decades, I first learned about “passing chords”.

I would define “passing chords” as chords that are not “real” chords, used to transition between “real” chord changes.

Part of what makes a “passing chord” is that it may be fewer notes used: instead of a full-bodied six notes on a full guitar chord (or even up to 8 or 10 notes on a keyboard using all fingers), it may be only three notes.  Another indication of a passing chord is that it is basically the same chord as the one preceding it (and/or the one following it), but will have a different bass note, or a note or two added or substituted — thus G and Em share a lot in common and depending on the fingering one could go from G6 to Em with a G bass and they may sound subtly different but are essentially the same.

So more generally, a “passing chord” is a way of playing essentially the same thing, but making it sound like something different is happening.  This avoids a more radical chord change where you don’t want it.

The song that really woke me up about all this is Hello, Goodbye .  Lots of subtle use of passing chords at various junctures there.

The first part involves all “real” chord changes:

F6 C G7 Am
You say yes__ I say no_ You say stop and I say go go go
G7 Am G7 Am
Then the chorus goes through variations of G and C that are denoted as distinct
but are really passing chords, with of course real chords intermingled
(the F, the Ab, the Bb — all quite novel chord changes):

G7 C/G G7 F/G C
You say goodbye and I say hel-lo
C/B Am7 Am7/G F Ab
hel-lo hel-lo I don’t know why you say goodbye
C C/B Am7 Am7/G F
I say hello hel-lo hel-lo I don’t know why you say
Bb C
goodbye_ I say hello.

P.S.: Today, I finally figured out the bass descant near the end before the “Lay-La” coda:
basically it goes from the routine Ab to continue Ab, then steps down to G, Gb, F,
finally to a low E which I assume would be a C with an E bass.

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

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