Rock’s Best i-II Punch

…a rare chord enables the Doctor of Rock’s very mediocre pun.

I’m going to propose probably the best i ever in (in a song that’s in the key of I), and at least a very very very very good II (in a song that’s in the key of I), and therefore easily the best i-II punch ever.

See what I did there? i-II punch! Hah!

Here we go:

[F#m]And love lies [Bm]bleeding in my [E]hand
Oh it [F#m]kills me to think of [Bm]you with another [E]man
I was [F#m]playing rock and roll and you were [Bm]just a fan
But my [C#m]guitar couldn't hold you
So I [D]split the baaaa-a-ha-[Am]a-nd
[F#m]Love lies [E]bleeding in my [A]hands
Continue reading to get the full i-II combo… →

Who’s Crying Now?

…going deep on song title punctuation.

From: Ian

To: Dan

Subject: who’s crying now?

Here’s a good piece of song title punctuation trivia: unlike the subject of this email, the Journey song title “Who’s Crying Now” does not end in a question mark. And this is the only reasonable choice, because the lyric “who’s crying now” in the song is not used as a question!

From: Dan

To: Ian

That is a good fact, I would have guessed that there's a question mark. It's no "Don't You (Forget About Me)", but a good punctuation fact nonetheless.

Also I'm pleased that it's not the insufferable "Who's Cryin' Now", given what we know from Journey's decisions wrt "Don't Stop Believin'" and the utterly insufferable "Lovin', Touchin' , Squeezin'". Probably the only three-for-one in the insufferable-apostrophe-song-title universe?

From: Dan

To: Ian

Ooh, new weird punctuation that I never noticed, even though for some reason my high school band played this song (which did not go over well with a 1995 high school audience)... from Wikipedia:

"Paint It Black" (originally released as "Paint It, Black") is a song by the English rock band the Rolling Stones.

From: Ian

To: Dan

This is the first I’ve heard of a comma in Paint It Black. It doesn’t really make sense, and apparently was just an error.

I want to make an Oxford comma joke here but I can’t quite get it to work.

From: Dan

To: Ian

You agree that Styx's "Blue Collar Man" should be "Blue-Collar Man", right?

From: Ian

To: Dan

Most definitely. And Mr. Roboto should probably be Roboto-san, but that would break the song.

Look Around This Bridge, Pretty Baby

…a one-hit wonder with a four-trick bridge.

IMO this is one of the best bridges of the ’90s…

It’s in F#, I’m writing in D, I have it as:

(end of the verse, for context)
Is there [D]something [D/F#]wrong and you
[Em7]Can't put your finger [G]on it
[D] Right [Em7]then [G]roll to [D]me

[D] [D/F#] [Em7] [D]

And I d[D7/A]on't think I have [Gm/Bb]ever seen
A[F#m7/A] soul so in desp[Em7/G]air
So [D/F#]if you want to ta[G6]lk the night through
G[Em7]uess who will be there [A] [A/G] [D/F#] [A/E]

If this bridge had any two of the following things, I would call it a great bridge; it has all four:

  1. Melody hitting it hard on the 7 of the chord (a C in the melody over a D chord on “I don’t think”)
  2. Super-fantastic iv (the Gm)
  3. Bass movement that’s simple but never lands on what I would call the root of the key (though I may be making up the /5 on the first chord in the bridge)
  4. Super-fantastic harmony… I can’t entirely parse it, but I think I hear a G on “I don’t think”, where the chord is D7 and the melody is on a C
  5. Hmmm… can I still call it a bridge if it happens twice? Well, it’s my blog and I’m calling it a bridge.

    Also what I think I’m hearing in the harmony there – over a D chord, with the melody on a C (the 7) and the harmony on a G (the sus4) – is highly reminiscent of the exact same harmony (C and G over a D chord) in Drive My Car, on “asked a girl”:

    [D]Asked a girl what she  [G]wanted to be
      (G and C in the vocals)    (G and B in the vocals)

Moving Units with Awesome Chords

…my favorite chords from some random TV commercials.

The iv in this song might be my favorite chord I’ve ever heard in a commercial…

[E] You got a side [A]that wants more space
[G#m7] 'Cause every day [A]starts like a race

[E]You got a side [A]that loves that style
But to [G#m7]fit in those shoes [A]gonna take a while

[E] Today life's got you running
[Am7] Tomorrow big things are coming

[Asus2]That's why [E]Nationwide is [A]on your [E]side

Go ahead, listen, then come back. Did you notice that I left out the second-best chord in the song? The first five times I listened, I missed it, but the last line is really…

Continue reading to have this agonizing suspense relieved… →

Believe it or Not, I’m Combinatorically Complete

…and also even more key changes in TV theme songs!

There are three diatonic major chords in the major scale: I, IV, and V. For today, let’s go with the key of D, so that’s D, G, and A. Sometimes in rock and pop we like to mix up the bass notes a little but keep the major-chord theme, and do a I/V, or a V/I, or whatever. All told there are nine combinations of these three major chords and possible bass notes, including the boring ones (D/D, G/G, A/A). Without the boring ones, you’ve got six: D/G, D/A, G/D, G/A, A/D, and A/A.

Why this lesson in combinatorics? Did this turn into a f’ing math blog?

Continue reading to see why we’re talking combinatorics in a music blog… →

Modulating in One Family-Friendly Minute

…key changes in TV theme songs.

From: Dan

To: Raja

You wouldn’t think a TV theme song would be long enough to support a key change, but I’m thinking of a popular theme song that had a legitimate key change. If it matters, when I say “popular”, this might be another one of those cases where it matters that I’m a little older than everyone else and you may have never heard of the show at all. So, that’s a useful hint: think of a show you might never have heard of.

It’s a pretty good key change. The melody changes a little at the key change in an interesting way.

Continue reading to see the wheels totally come off this absurd guessing game… →

Upper-Structure Voicing 101

…shortcuts for playing fancy chords that have more notes than you can handle because you don’t really play the piano.

I like to think I can “fake it” OK on the piano. I know basic major and minor chords, and also I learned “Desperado” when I was 17 years old, so I can always sit down at a party, play “Desperado”, and walk away with people assuming I have a million more ready to go. I recommend this strategy for everyone. I mean, don’t actually pick Desperado, because then the game is up for me, but pick one slow song with a few fancy chords in it, and most non-musicians in a room will assume you’re as good as the person who plays Chopin right after you.

With that said, I’m always looking for ways to squeeze more functionality out of my mediocre piano ability. In particular, I usually have to take the “drop all the chord extensions” strategy, e.g. by playing m7’s and m9’s and m11’s and mwhatever’s as just min. This is what they call a “tell”, and it quickly shatters the illusion that I know what’s going on. I do write a blog about nerdy chord theory stuff, so I know what an F11 is, but my piano-playing-brain simply can’t process anything that defies the following two axioms of piano playing…

Dan’s two axioms of piano playing:

  1. The left hand plays the root of every chord.
  2. The right hand only has to play three notes at a time, and only in the shape of a chord I know.

These assumptions cause a rift in the fabric of the universe when I see the aforementioned F11, or even its much simpler four-note cousin F7. But there’s hope! Using the time-tested strategy of memorizing stuff that’s too much to actually process in real time, one can pick up a few chord voicings that follow those two axioms (axia?) and still represent the chord you’re trying to play.

So, summarizing:

The tables in this post are a shortcut to help mediocre piano players (like me) who can only deal with 3 notes at a time in the right hand – and only the root in the left hand – play extended chords.

The basic approach is “upper structure voicing”: playing a complete chord in the right hand that becomes part of a different chord when you put the two hands together. Upper structure voicing in general could in theory make use of a zillion notes in each hand, so we’re interested in a specific subset of upper structure voicing, so more specifically:

This post is about upper-structure-voiced chords that don’t require playing anything other than the root in the left hand, and only require three notes in the right hand.

Continue reading to learn the tricks mastered by fair-to-midland pianists ’round the world… →

Do You Take Sugar, One Question Mark or Two?

…the Doctor of Rock sets the definitive standard for capitalization and punctuation in song lyrics.

If you play guitar and have ever used the Internet, you are likely aware that (a) the Internet is full of guitar chords for pop songs and (b) guitar chords for pop songs rank only slightly above YouTube comments in the care given to proofreading. I will not regale you with examples of poor capitalization and punctuation in song lyrics; suffice it to say that it’s a wild world out there.

But is it really a lack of care? Or are the masses of chord-posters yearning – desperate, even – for guidance? Do they not seek a North Star to which they can look when they ask themselves the deep, soul-interrogating questions we all must ask when chord-posting? “Should I put the entirety of ‘The Gambler’ and half of ‘Piano Man’ in quotation marks?” “Is ‘one lump or two?’ really being posed as a question, and if so, is it a different question than ‘do you take sugar?’?”. “Did the Doctor of Rock just deliberately create an intensely complicated series of nested questions to make his point and require four consecutive punctuation marks?”

I say it’s time to give them that North Star. I hereby present the Doctor of Rock’s Conventions for Punctuation and Capitalization in Song Lyrics (DRCPCSL) (2017 edition).

Continue reading so you can bookmark the DRCPCSL and adhere to it religiously… →

Saturday Night’s Alright for Modulating

…songs whose verse and chorus are the same progression in different keys.

From: The Doctor of Rock

To: Both of my regular readers

“Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” does a neat little trick with keys…

Verse chords:

It's [G]getting late have you seen my mates
Ma [F]tell me when the boys get here
It's [C]seven o'clock and I want to rock
Want to [G]get a belly full of beer

Chorus chords:

[C] Don't give us none of your aggravation
We [Bb]had it with your discipline
'Cause [F]Saturday night's alright for fighting
[C]Get a little action in

So it does the I → bVII → IV → I / mixolydian / Sweet Child O’ Mine / Sweet Home Alabama / Royals progression, which is already a little key-ambiguous (as per a previous post), then changes key by a fourth.

Are there other songs where the verse and chorus are the same progression but in different keys?

Continue reading to hear me answer my own question, which, incidentally, is super-narcissistic… →

Oops!…I Did It Again

…and by “it” I mean “spent a lot of time thinking about big changes in vocal rhythm from one verse to the next”.

I don’t know very much about writing a blog, but I know that if you let yourself go back and make changes to old posts, you’ll never write new posts. So, rule of thumb: unless someone calls to your attention that you went on a racist tirade in the middle of a post, leave it alone.

That said, a few weeks ago, I did a post about changes in vocal rhythm from one verse to the next. I thought I had adequately covered the subject, until this week, when I was listening to “Oops!…I Did It Again” (BECAUSE IT’S FANTASTIC THAT’S WHY):

…and I had to chase the rhythmic dragon one more time.

Continue reading to break this one down, from awkward punctuation to overlapping rhythmic variations… →