50s progression

Posted on June 12, 2016 by editor

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Today, we are going to talk about one of the most popular, yet classic chord progression, the 50s progression! The formula is I-vi-ii-V. While this progression was popular during the fifties, you’ll find popular songs using this progression from many decades.

Want to know more? Check out some of these examples:

  • Close Your Eyes – Meghan Trainor
  • Dance with me Tonight – Olly Murs
  • Every Breath You Take – The Police
  • Crocodile Rock – Elton John
  • Don’t Dream it’s Over – Crowded House
  • Eternal Flame – The Bangles
  • Mandy – Barry Manilow
  • Mama I’m a Big Girl Now – Hairspray (musical)
  • The Man Goes Around – Johnny Cash
  • True Blue – Madonna

This progression first caught fire in the 1950s, as it is associated with doo-wop. However, one of the first recognized uses of the progression was in Richard Rodgers’ Blue Moon in 1933! This progression is become known as “catchy”. Many songs that get stuck in your head might have this pattern.

So, what makes this progression work? Well, it is an extension of the I IV V sequence. This evolved progression (I-vi-ii-V) lends itself to a voice led arrangement. This progression will result in shared notes, making it an easy progression to create melodies with.

Let’s look at a modern example:

In Meghan Trainor’s Dear Future Husband you can almost instantly hear that this progression will be used. Let’s take a look at the basic chords and notes used through most of the song:

C – C, E, G
Am – A, C, E
F – F, A, C
G – G, B, D

You can probably tell that there are many shared notes between those four chords, which makes the song easy to listen to. The “G” chord is the one that differs the most from the ones before it, adding a bit of a “twist” element to the progression.

Now you know all about the 50 progression! Take your new knowledge to use on Songtive for iOS/Android/Web. Thanks for reading!

Learning from the Masters – Part 2

Posted on April 27, 2016 by editor

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Hi there! Today in Songtive we’re going to follow our ‘Learning from the Masters’ series reviewing another part of Led Zeppelin’s immortal classic Stairway to Heaven. But first let’s check out what we’ve already gathered from our analysis:

  • For analysis purposes the most convenient way to get into it is to get the structure first.
  • The introduction will give you the essential information you need: the key, the main theme(s) and the character.
  • Verses present the main vocal ideas, and usually are repeated with only a variation in the lyrics, conserving the underlying chord progression to keep the balance and symmetry.
  • Chord-melody relationship will provide you information on why things sound appealing to our ears, and is via chord tones and melody’s notes that this relation is established.

These bullet points will be our guidelines for what’s coming next!

From 4:18 a new verse starts, maintaining the same vocal and harmonic ideas we have heard at this point. So how can the same ideas sound fresh if they are being repeated all over? Thanks to the addition of new elements into the texture: the drum set entrance will give interest by the moving sensation its rhythm has.

Interlude

The verses idea gets to 5:33 to a point where all the material we heard before reach to a climax and culminating point: a repeated Dsus2, D major, Dsus4, C major progression serves as a transition point to one of the most memorable rock solos ever heard!

Solo

The solo section starts at 5:56 with a chord progression that will be repeated to the end of the song: A minor – G major – F major. We will extend on this point because of the relevance it has, even when we discussed it in a previous article.
The first interesting to observe is the function of an instrumental solo: it is used as a way of reinforcing the character and the mood of a composition with melodic ideas, as a transitional moment. This one is based on successive little musical ideas (motives, from now on) that will fit the underlying chord progression.
From 5:56 to 6:15 we hear three motives based on the minor pentatonic scale of A minor (use our scale tool to see the notes!), listen how the pitch is getting higher as it continues! From 6:15 to 6:24 we hear the climax of the whole song with a high C note being the peak and a descending scale run that acts as a conclusive tool.

Coda

Contrary to the introduction, a coda section (sometimes called outro) will bring closure to all the themes that have been exposed in the whole song. It constitutes a new theme by itself, reaffirming the original key – A minor in this case. It starts at 6:42 with a repeated vocal line consisting of:

A – A – A – C – B – A – G – A (And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our souls, etc.) being drawn over the A minor – G major – F major chord progression.

And a final guitar solo at 7:26 will come to maintain the original climatic character of the song! A ritardando (which is an Italian musical expression for ‘slowing down`) at 7:41 will tell us that the song is coming to an end, and the final solo vocal line at 7:46 gives the conclusion to an epic song.

So that’s it!

We reviewed many musical elements in this part! I hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did! Remember that everything you learn is to be applied to your own music, and here in Songtive we give you the tools you’ll be needing to get those sounds into the real world! In the next article we will get through Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen’s masterpiece! See you next time!

Learning from the Masters – Part 1

Posted on April 21, 2016 by editor

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We’re going to learn composition techniques through one of the best ways there is to do so: analyzing musical masterpieces and reviewing some of the most interesting aspects they got to offer to make them the great artistic achievement they became. In order to do so we’re reviewing two of the most emblematic classic rock songs of all time: Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

So what are we going to learn? Structural aspects of the music, how these elements interact together, interesting harmonic progressions, chord-melody relationships and other relevant aspects that made these songs the masterworks that are considered today! This type of study will help you to get the best out of your favorite music and apply it to your own compositions!

In this first part we will be discussing Stairway to Heaven, which will have many things to teach us, so stay with us and check it out!

The Structure

When it comes to song analysis the first thing to do is to divide it into the proper sections and review them separately. Since Stairway to Heaven is such a long song – 8:03 minutes long! – to be clear in terms of the parts that compose it is essential to get the most information out of each one of them!

Introduction

The introduction section of a song is used to establish the song’s key and present some of the musical themes we are going to hear and to set the character: it can be the principal melody, the accompaniment theme, a solo over the main chord progression. From 0:00 to 0:52 we can hear the introduction section. It starts with a classical guitar arpeggio in the key of A minor, and it will be the main instrumental theme throughout the whole song. A secondary melody is played by two flutes, which present some of the vocal ideas we’re going to hear later. This is the section for which this song is recognized worldwide! Character is the one of a ballad: slow tempo, lighter texture and soft dynamics (volume).

Verses

In this section the main vocal ideas will be introduced along with the context and thematic of the whole song, the poetic message expressed through the language – lyrics. Singer Robert Plant makes his entrance with the main melody at 0:53 and exposes the ambiguous lyrical message of the song with the following notes:

A – B – C – B – A – B (There’s a lady who’s sure) against an A minor chord

B – C – D – C – B – A (all that glitters is gold) against a G# diminished chord

C – D – E – D – C – B –A – G – A (and she’s buying a stairway to heaven) against A minor and D major chords

As you can see, we can find passing tones between the chord tones and the melody notes, which, as we discussed before in the 4 ways to Develop Instrumental Solos article, adds variety and the singing quality this vocal melody has. If you have any doubts on how to get your chord tones, check out our previous articles where we give you all the info you need!

The verse’s musical idea goes from 0:53 to 2:06, in which a small interlude of the guitar presents a transitional idea consisting of a varied version of the verse and chord progression:

C – C – D – C – B – A (Oh, and it makes me wonder) which repeats twice against an A minor, G major, D major chord progression

After this, we hear the second verse with only a lyrics variation with the same musical ideas we heard before, making it a second verse and extending it to 3:33 for a third variation of the lyrics (therefore it is a third verse) which lasts until 4:18.

At 4:18 another new verse is introduced with the addition of the drum set, which adds for interest, contrasting with the mainly acoustic ideas previously exposed.

In the next part we will discuss and review the rest of the structure, so you can open Songtive and start to develop your own songs with the ideas we learned today from Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven! See you next time!