Monthly Archives: May 2014

Melody/Harmony Ambiguity

From: Dan

To: Ian, Raja

Today’s challenge (for which I have no answer):

Think of a pop/rock song with two vocal parts where at least 30% of listeners would disagree with the other 70% about which part is the melody/lead. Call/response not allowed, needs to be simultaneous harmony vocals. Octaves not allowed either (though I can’t think of a clear case where that’s an issue).

Continue reading for our best shots at this (then tell us yours, because we’re very unsure about our answers…) →

Saving All My III For You

…how Whitney avoids the chords, and thus avoids not blowing my mind.

From: Ian

To: Dan

Today’s song with basically perfect chords:

I can’t remember if this amount of jazziness bothers you; for me it’s a reasonable amount. I hear the verse chords as I → vi → ii → V:

A [A]few stolen [F#m]moments is [Bm]all that we [E]share
[A]You've got your [F#m]family and [Bm]they need you [E]there. 

…with some 7s, 9s, 11s, whatever.

The pre-chorus throws in a couple nice vi → II changes:

Though I [F#m7]try to res[B7]ist being 
[F#m7]last on your [B7]list,
But [A]no other [F#m7]man's gonna [G#m7]do [C#7b5]

…where clearly the III7b5 at the end is the best chord in the song.

The chorus takes us back to a familiar IV → iii → ii → V → I:

So I'm [Dmaj7]saving [C#m7]all my [Bm7]love [E]for [Amaj7]you

The bridge is pretty great too:

[G#m7]You used to [C#]tell me, we'd [F#m7]run away together
[Bm7]Love gives you the [E]right to be [Amaj7]free.
You [D#7]said be [G#]patient, just [C#maj7]wait a little longer
But [Bm7]that's just an old fanta[E]sy

If you’re keeping track of non-diatonics, that’s two III’s, a #IV, and a a VII.

Summary of quality things that happen:

  1. I never object to a vi → II.
  2. That III7b5 going into the chorus. None of the transcriptions I can find online even mention the b5 in this chord, which makes me sad. I also don’t quite know whether to call it a b5 or a #11 or what the difference is.

Continue reading to debate whether Ian's favorite III7b5 is even the most awesome thing about this song... →

Major/Minor Ambiguity

…Hall & Oates leave us wondering where our third is.

From: Ian

To: Dan

Here’s a song with what I consider to be simple but high-quality non-diatonic chords:

Let’s start with the chorus, because it’s easier:

Because your [C]kiss, your kiss, is on my list
Because your [Eb]kiss, your kiss, is on my list
Because your [F]kiss is on my list, of the best things in [C]life

This is clearly in C, so it’s I bIII IV I. Something simple I can get behind.

Here’s the verse:

My [Cm]friends wonder why I call you all of the time
What can I [Fm]say
I [Ab]don't feel the need
To [Bb]give such secrets a[C]way

This verse seems to start in C minor and end in C major! I think a while ago I wrote something about songs that exist somewhere in between a major key and its relative minor (like the verses of One Headlight, or Just What I Needed), but the verse of Kiss on My List exists somewhere between a major and its parallel minor!

I guess you could say the verse is in Cm, and ends with a Picardy third. But then there would be a key change, and I’m reluctant to call the transition from verse to chorus a key change. Alternatively, you could say the verse is in C, but the C major chord is jarring enough that I’m reluctant to call it the tonic.

I guess harmony is something that defies strict classification.

One could also consider the bIII, bVI, and bVII chords (my favorite ones) as coming from the parallel minor of a major key, so maybe this isn’t as interesting as I first thought. But actually playing the minor i seems less common.

Unfortunately, the instrumental guitar part later in the song is terrible.

Continue reading to discuss the compositional genius behind the horrific computer-generated drums... →