Monthly Archives: January 2014

Royally Ambiguous

…the battle between V→IV→I and I→bVII→IV.

From: Dan

To: Ian, Jeff

The Wikipedia page for “Royals”:

…currently has this self-conflicting (and grammatically incorrect) statement:

I intend to rectify this obscenity, but want to first small-group consensus on which of the two options are preferred. Chords:

   [D]
...gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom
   [D]
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
[C]                          [G]
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.

I strongly lean toward:

…but in the score-with-minimum-accidentals sense, I would probably let it slide with:

Continue reading to see how we resolved this calamity… →

Non-Diatonic Melody Centers

…they feel so wrong, they feel so right.

From: Dan

To: Ian

Today’s challenge: songs where an “important” part of the melody (so no passing notes or notes you could drop without anyone caring) goes non-diatonic when the chords are still basically doing sensible diatonic things, and even better cases where crazy but important melody notes blatantly disagree with the underlying chord.

I was thinking about this when I was listening to “Heartache Tonight”, where the song is clearly in G and is a pretty traditional chord progression, but the note that really defines the melody in the chorus (and really defines the song), and is held for a good long while, is Bb:

In this case, at the beginning of the chorus, it’s more or less over a C7 (though it’s mostly only C7 *because* of the melody), so it’s not crazy talk, though still unusual. Later in this particular chorus (the second chorus), he really insists on the Bb over a bunch of other chords, still clearly in G:

                   [G]                    [G7]               
There's gonna be a heartache tonight, the moon's shining bright
   [C7]                     [Eb]
So turn out the lights, and we'll get it right

An even more pronounced example is “Long Tall Sally”, which may get by under the heading of “he’s just screaming his head off”, but the whole song is basically Bb in the melody over a G major chord:

I suppose you could argue that the instrumentation while the melody is playing is so sparse that we could disagree on whether it’s G major, but the song is pretty clearly in G major, and it’s clear that if we were playing this right now and forced to play a third, we’d all play a B (suggesting G major).

Continue reading for more singers making wrong notes sound awesome… →

Octave-Doubled Vocals

From: Dan

To: Ian, Jeff, Miah

I basically think that doubling lead vocals an octave above or below, and appreciably quieter than the lead, makes any recording monotonically better, and is neither here nor there in terms of “interesting”:

I would conjecture that for all songs in the universe, you could add a double’d vocal and either turn it up so as to be perceived, or turn in down so as to be imperceptible, and one of these would make the song better. It’s like make-up. Or almonds. Or profanity.

Remind me someday when I run a giant studio to always have every vocalist record an octave above and below the lead, just in case.

Speaking of Dead Man’s Party, Dead Man’s Party has unambiguously my favorite horn-section solo ever, which is a low bar, since I couldn’t think of another horn-section solo I care about:


Continue reading to see the discussion stepped up to octave-*tripled* vocals... →

“What Do They Have In Common?”, ep. 2

From: Ian

To: Dan

What do the following three songs have in common? It’s a pretty unusual property.

You’ll probably get this right away. For some reason I’ve been in music obsession mode the last few days…

Continue reading to see what The Drifters, Michelle Branch, and Elton John all did... →

Build Me Up

…and the most pointless key change ever.

From: Dan

To: Ian, Jeff

I think I’ve found a song with almost all of my favorite chords (I/b7, IV → iv), and almost all of Ian’s favorite chords (bVII, III, VI, II, arguably even a III7b9)… and not one weird uncomfortable jazz moment!

Top ten best pre-chorus ever list? Eh?

Also bonus points for:

  1. Non-weird use of bongos
  2. Awesome descending bass line (C, C7/Bb, F/A, Fm/Ab)
  3. Double-time chord changes in the verse relative to the chorus
  4. Song starts with the chorus

Here’s how I’m scoring it, but if you really want to get caught up in all the times F appears in the horns and melody, you could argue for an E7b9, especially in the instrumental intro. Non-diatonic chords in red.

Continue reading to debate whether this song has the most pointless key change in music history… →