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Ascending and Descending Patterns in The White Album
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16 August 2014
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Mr. Kite
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I've been meaning to make this topic for months, I've noticed (and really enjoyed) many ascending and descending patterns on The White One.

During Glass Onion, the "oh yeah" part has an Am that keeps going up in variation chords.

In Savoy Truffle during "you'll have to have them all pulled out..." There's an Em that goes up and down.

All the verses in Cry Baby Cry start with a descending Em pattern.

I'm sure I've heard more, but these are off the too of my head. Are there any I've missed?

Why do you think there are so many of these cool patterns on this album? Did they just discover this? Was there an influence that caused this?

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16 August 2014
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Into the Sky with Diamonds
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Will have to listen to those songs again; but can you clarify? Do you mean the same chord played in ascending/descending octaves or going from minor, to minor 7th, etc...?

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16 August 2014
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Mr. Kite
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@Into the Sky with Diamonds Like the second one. Only it's not usually directly from minor to minor seventh. Usually one in between, but all the chords I'm finding online for Glass Onion as an example aren't the same as the chord book, and I don't have that with me now.

I could describe how to play it on guitar if that helps.

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17 August 2014
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Billy Rhythm
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Mr. Kite said 

Why do you think there are so many of these cool patterns on this album? Did they just discover this? Was there an influence that caused this?

Don't discount Donovan's "influence" here for he did spend many hours with The Beatles under the Indian Moonlight who were very quick to pick up on his fingerpicking folk style, which traditionally had been using very different chord sequences from their proven Rock 'N' Roll formula.  They first dabbled in this realm on the 'Help' & 'Rubber Soul' albums but it wasn't until the 'White Album' where they really fully explored this domain to a fuller context.  Without the aid of drugs or alcohol in India, The Beatles were able to focus again on the theory and musicianship through the use of acoustic guitars, experimenting with new chords & progressions rather than relying on session musicians as they did on their previous 1967 works...:-) 

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17 August 2014
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Funny Paper
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Another ascending pattern (the only one I noticed myself) on the White Album is a certain lick Paul does on Mother Nature's Son with his acoustic guitar which is interesting.  I haven't bothered to take the time & trouble to try to work it out, yet...

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17 August 2014
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Mr. Kite
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@Billy Rhythm I knew he was a pretty big influence on them due to the multiple times John used Travis-picking on the album, but didn't know how far the influence extended.

I guess since they did have the time to focus on the theory, they discovered these progressions then.

Were there any other new influences on them at the time I'm not aware of?

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13 September 2014
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Mr. Kite
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I just noticed another one yesterday in Julia. During "glimmering" John plays Am7 to Am6, then the more noticeable one right after ("in the sun") in which he plays Em7, Em6, Em aug, Em (according to my chord book).

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23 April 2015
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Shamrock Womlbs
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That's very similar to the chord progression at the begining of Happiness Is A Warm Gun...Am7 to Am#6 and the Em9 to Em...

About the Em chromatic progression in Savoy Truffle... that's very similar to the kinda "James bond" thing sounding in "Here, there, and everywhere"...

 

But that kind of things are very tipical in their arrangements... You can hear them in john's guitar in the middle eight of "All My Loving"... That kind of chromatic thing, but descending...

 

in my opinion!

 

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23 April 2015
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ewe2
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Once you start looking you'll see them everywhere, not just the White Album. Paul was prone to them too.

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23 April 2015
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Mademoiselle Kitty >^..^<
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I saw an interview recently, it may have been on Anthology, in which Paul discusses this. He demonstrates how going from major to minor created a certain feel, which he said he liked. And yes, when you listen closely, you'll hear those kinds of things a lot. One of my favourite tunes from Paul's solo career is Jenny Wren, in which he does this too. 

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23 April 2015
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Shamrock Womlbs
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Indeed, he's talking there about the major to minor thing in "From Me To You" in the middle eight. But , i think, that's not what Mr.Kite was talking about in this post, he didn't mean changing the tonality itself, but making a chromatic ascending or descending pattern trough the same chord... Or even the descending chords from "Sexy Sadie" or "I'm So Tired"... Lennon was very much into those kind of harmonies in those days...

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23 April 2015
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Mademoiselle Kitty >^..^<
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I know that's not what they meant, which is why I mentioned Jenny Wren, which has these patterns. Still, it's related. In both cases, chords are played that don't belong to the key of the song. 

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23 April 2015
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StrawberryWalrus
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What about Blackbird? It ascends and descends all the time.

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23 April 2015
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ewe2
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Mr. Kite said 
Why do you think there are so many of these cool patterns on this album? Did they just discover this? Was there an influence that caused this?

Billy Rhythm said
Without the aid of drugs or alcohol in India, The Beatles were able to focus again on the theory and musicianship through the use of acoustic guitars, experimenting with new chords & progressions rather than relying on session musicians as they did on their previous 1967 works...:-) 

It wasn't just the acoustics, John began playing and composing on keyboards much more seriously on this album. I put it down to John "waking up" more than anything, but he'd done a lot of descending lines scalar and chromatic (think of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds) by this time, so my feeling is that India and Donovan contributed, but they needed a new direction anyway and John wrote a bunch of songs. John and Paul got all hung up on "clean" sounds (yes John flanged guitar is "clean") too and guitars certainly got a boost in the mix on this album.

I'm like Necko only I'm a bassist ukulele synthesizer penguin and also everyone. Or is everyone me? Now I'm a confused bassist ukulele synthesizer penguin everyone who is definitely not @Joe.

24 April 2015
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Shamrock Womlbs
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About the descending or ascending chords, and when the beatles started to use them i thought you might like to watch this:

Thank you!

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13 May 2017
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QuarryMan
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Surprised that nobody mentioned While My Guitar Gently Weeps or Dear Prudence.

I actually noticed this recently. I am planning to do for a school project I will have to start next year (called an EPQ for UK students like me) a presentation on how the context or the marketing of the music affects the composition. And not just 'it's in a minor key because it's sad', a proper composition analysis on various artists. For example the Stone Roses (in my profile picture) use the I-IV chord progression as it sounds happy and summery which was the vibe they were going for. Similarly the somewhat dissonant nature of the chord progressions the Beatles were using at this stage complement the shattered nature of the White Album.

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13 May 2017
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sir walter raleigh
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Something and Strawberry feilds both have descending chord progressions. So does For No One, but the chords descend rather than the bass. 

Edit: "In The White Album." My bad. Dear Prudence is the first to come to mind, but in Bungalow Bill the vocal line descends and changes key as it creeps lower and lower before restarting. 

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