What You Expected

March 11, 2012 8:12 AM

Four chords in non-repeating order*

In the discussion about this month's challenge, all permutations of the "Four Chords of Predetermined Pop Success" were posted.

unSane said "Of course the real challenge would be to through-compose something using all of them" which sounded like a fantastic exercise to me, especially putting them together in a way that comes across as a sonic whole, rather than four distinct sections. And I tried to make it sound like my other material also.

note: i changed the order of the chords in the G section, so that it's

G C Am F
G Am C F
G Am F C
G C F Am
G F C Am

if this song becomes an international smash hit, it is really going to be a pain for me to play live without looking at the sheet music, let me tell you.

*the challenge chords - C G Am F - do repeat twice in the intro and once at the end. The intro was just there as a placeholder at first, and then I got used to hearing it.

posted by dubold (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

This is really kind of awesome. It doesn't sound like an exercise at all. Your voice is terriific -- reminds me a bit of Nixon. The constantly shifting harmony keeps the whole thing progressing forwards, but because it's diatonic and the same four chords it's all of a piece.

It feels like there's more mileage in this technique.
posted by unSane at 5:08 PM on March 11, 2012

I just realized I did kind of the same thing on the Valentine's Day song I posted a while back... it's basically D Em C G but in a bunch of different orders and once in a while I substitute the relative minor (Am for C, Bm for D). It's a really interesting way of writing a song without a chorus.

The one thing this challenge didn't allow you to do was make an excursion for a bridge or middle 8 which takes you out of the diatonic scale to a Bb or an E7 or something, or even just a C7. It would definitely wake you up after being so solidly in the C major scale for so long.
posted by unSane at 6:53 PM on March 11, 2012

yeah, I'm not knowledgeable enough to talk about the theory side of it - I definitely get the gist of what you're saying, though; we're used to a structure that introduces dramatic changes for choruses and things. I don't have the repertoire to know how to do that within the confines of this challenge. One thing I'd like to work on is writing better melodies over the same chord changes.

Anyway, thanks very much to unSane for the inspiration for this. I really appreciate the different ideas introduced by the challenges, and their discussion.

Agreed that there's probably more milage in this, for sure. Thanks for listening!
posted by dubold at 2:25 AM on March 12, 2012

Basically all the chords in the challenge can be played on the white notes, so all the melody is white notes (that's what diatonic means in this context).

So if you wanted to introduce some colour or variation you'd could use a chord which included one of the black notes, ie some notes that are not in the scale of C major, while still being related to the other chords. So E7 has a G# instead of a G, Bb has a Bb instead of a B, and C7 has the same thing.

Most often these chords crop up as 'secondary dominants', which means they lead you to the chord a fifth below them. E7 goes to Am. C7 goes to F. D7 goes to G. A7 goes to Dm and so on. Bb is weird because it takes you to Eb and totally out of key. But you can introduce them very simply by putting them before the chord that you want to resolve to, ie if you see an Am you can put a E7 before it or if you see a G you can put a D7 before it.

If you used a C7 and followed it with the section of chords beginning with F it would give you the strong feeling that you had moved into the key of F for that section. Similarly if you preceded the G chords with a D7 it would give you the feeling that you had moved into G. This might affect the melody writing quite a bit....
posted by unSane at 3:00 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whoa dubold, this is right up there with my favorite music.metafilter tracks of all time. Really awesome. This is really one remix away from being a smash hit. Can you post the lyrics?
posted by Corduroy at 6:15 PM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah awesome job, it is a whale of a song rather than a school of identical fish.
posted by grog at 7:49 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

hey corduroy - somehow missed that comment. the lyrics are on my bandcamp page but I'll post them here also.

The burden of what you expected to see confounded the measure of what you saw.
We've all got scales in our eyes.
Weighed and found wanting. Weighed and found wanting.
Familiar bones in a new set of clothes. Archetypes in designer eyewear.
We all endeavour to flirt with perfection. Tragedy is our true love.
Weighed and found wanting. Weighed and found wanting.
The burden of what you expected to see confounded the measure of what you saw.
We've all got scales in our eyes.
posted by dubold at 3:09 PM on March 29, 2012

This is fantastic. It's hard as hell to write a slow minimal song like this that still holds your ear's attention, and the chord-reshuffling is a clever way to do it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:00 PM on April 3, 2012

Yeah, add me in for another "great job" on this. The overall sound is gentle-plush but your voice sounds direct and roughs it up enough to be interesting - and it has a constant forward motion to it despite the slow, relaxed feel. That's really hard to do. It doesn't feel a second too long.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:56 AM on April 8, 2012

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