Chord Progression Question

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nyjm
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Chord Progression Question

Post by nyjm » Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:15 am

So... I'm working on a song for Julia Sherred's Lupus Awareness Virtual Gallery. (Gentle encouragement to contribute.)

And here's my dilemma : below, I have this pretty complicated (for me) chord progression. I'm still in the arranging phase, so I'd like some feedback from the many people here at SF! that know more about the mechanics of music than myself.

1) What key is this in? I know how to sing along with my guitar, but I'm curious for when I start composing piano or strings or whatever.

2) The third line changes key (I think), moving it all up one step. Should I a) go right from that to the chorus, which is a different rhythm but in the same key, effectively making the last line a prechorus or b) is it more interesting to switch back to the first key/chord progression?

2a) In the event of option (a), I believe I would cut the verse to three lines. This is turning into a mid-tempo song, but it could do with some trimming.

D - A - F# - Bm
Bad news: a spectre is hanging these glossy glee pages for you
Bad news: that phantom is you, and none of your wrinkles, what to do?
C - G - E - Am(7)
Bad news: the doctor is calling, he has your results back, it's true
D - A - F# - Bm
Bad news: next week will not wait, it wants all your pain and it wants it now

C /G - E - Am [chorus]
i have visions of her dancing
i have visions of her tears
i hear the echo of her laughter
i hear the rattle of her fears
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by king_arthur » Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:55 am

Without hearing, it, I would say that the verse is in the key of D and the chorus is in the key of C. I would keep that fourth line of the verse that goes back to the D pattern, otherwise (assuming that slash is supposed to be a hyphen) you've got five passes of the same chord patterns in a row. Of course, I could be wrong :-)

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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by jast » Mon Sep 26, 2011 7:08 am

I'm not really an expert on theory, but I'm gonna try and answer this anyway.

First off, in my opinion any chord progression is fair game if you can tie it together with a good melody and arrangement. In fact I know one or two good songs that use only a single chord (popular example: "Get The Party Started" by Pink).
I can imagine your progression in the verse might work out very well, so I don't think there is any compelling reason just yet to get rid of the excursion into C.

The question of key is often a bit difficult. If you go by cadences (i.e. the chord progressions that resolve each section), the verse is in the key of B minor and the chorus is in the key of A minor. I don't think you'd usually bother "announcing" a key change in the middle of a verse/chorus unless there is a lot of musical focus on the change.
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by king_arthur » Mon Sep 26, 2011 7:42 am

Since Bm and D are both one sharp, and Am and C are both no flats or sharps, it's the same either way once you get around to notating it. Assuming each chord gets played for the same length of time, I'd say the song is in a major key and would be in D and C. If the first three chords just played for one beat each and then you sat on the minor chord for a while, then, yeah, Bm and Am. In Nashville notation, it would be a I / V / III / VIm progression.

Agree, that third line in the verse wouldn't be treated as a key change - if you were notating it, you wouldn't change the key sig, you'd just use accidentals on specific notes if you needed to.

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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by Paco Del Stinko » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:35 am

Is the F# minor? MIght make things easier if it were.
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by nyjm » Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:08 pm

Some interesting takes so far. Thanks guys! For clarity, the chords are all played for two bars (8 beats) in the verse. In the chorus, the C/G thing is two beats each, E for one bar and Am for two bars (so, all together a 4-bar phrase.)

I like the B minor / A minor theory, but KA is right about the annotation: all the sharps and flats shake out. (I really love Am, it's the easiest way to sound either tense or moopy but still sing in all major tones.)

Huh, I would hve never thought to start a Bm progression with a D... Woo hoo for weird takes on the circle of fifths!
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by fluffy » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:41 am

nyjm wrote:I like the B minor / A minor theory, but KA is right about the annotation: all the sharps and flats shake out. (I really love Am, it's the easiest way to sound either tense or moopy but still sing in all major tones.)
You can do that in any key. Just sing in a major key while your chords are in the complementary minor. (F -> Dm, G -> Em, etc.) Unless by "major tones" you mean "the white keys on the piano" except that would be a very strange use of the term.
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by roymond » Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:58 am

This may or may not have anything to do with the focus of this thread, but the title matches ;)

Some guy says he analysed the chords of 1300 popular songs for patterns. This is what he found.
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by nyjm » Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:14 pm

That's really interesting, and certainly jives with my experience.
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by jast » Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:03 pm

's all very nice, except...
If you write a song in C with an E minor in it, you should probably think very hard if you want to put a chord that is anything other than an A minor chord or an F major chord.
Nonsense. You can make very nice-sounding things with pretty much anything following that E minor. I could come up with something on the spot for G major, G minor, E major, D minor, D major, C minor, Bb major and A major. All the others are certainly doable, too, but probably need a bit more setting up to make it sound natural.
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by roymond » Thu Jun 14, 2012 7:40 pm

Not only nonesense, but bullshit. He's analysed zillions of songs, and he thinks the way to go is conform because its what they all did!
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by Billy's Little Trip » Fri Jun 15, 2012 9:15 am

F**k him. Ain' no one tellin' me what chord to play next. I do what I want, yo! I'm a free spirit! You see strings attached to me? No, you.do.not. I ain' no meat puppet dancin' 'round like no foo, sheeeeit. Image
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Re: Chord Progression Question

Post by mo » Wed Jul 11, 2012 10:37 am

You know, I wrote a long post on every bone I wanted to pick with this article, but then I remembered that it's written for people with essentially no functional knowledge of music theory who just like to listen to music and maybe want to know a little more about it.

I just wish he would be clearer about the contextualizations of his generalizations (like for instance, the sharps and flats thing as noted--given that he's basically only allowing the major scale, how many sharps and flats is irrelevant to any given scale except for notation--the intervallic relationships remain the same; or again, when he relativistically transposes all songs to C Major then makes absolute statements about how come nobody likes A Major? I mean, pretty rare once you've transposed everything to C Major! He should technically just be talking intervals, not chords per se).

Then in part 2 he starts talking about how things are surprising to him, coming from a classical background. But pop music isn't from a classical background, so we're all familiar with the IV-I resolve I think, no? I think he should be much more sensitive to the context--if he were to follow blues progressions or folk progressions I think a lot of his realizations would sort of just be like, oh yeah, we all knew that.

This article just isn't for most people who have practical experience playing and writing pop music, and less for people doing more theoretically involved or complex music.
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