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Music Theory - Motown edition

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  • Music Theory - Motown edition

    The song is in C major. Melody is in C major pentationic (1-2-3-5-6) adding the IV. Chord progression is: I-V-ii-IV-V.

    What do you do?

    The pentatonic mode as well as the IV-V-I turnaround strongly suggest blues. So let's try the old Chuck Berry 1-5-6 riff. The drummer is not playing a shuffle, more of a straight 4/4, but harmonically it fits so we'll just shift the feel around a little to fit the groove. So, now how do we fit the riff to the chord progression? This groove is really working, lets try just modulating the riff to follow the progression. The I is good. The V is good. The IV is good. Back to the V is good - well of course they are, this is a blues riff and that's the blues progression. But the ii - that's a minor chord, and the minor diatonic scale uses a flat 6th which screws up the intervals. But the flat 6th of the ii is a flat 7 of the I, which isn't in the primary key major diatonic and also isn't in the mode of the melody. But if we keep the same intervals, and play the natural 6 that gives us the natural 7 of the main key, which really isn't very bluesy and also isn't in the mode of the melody.

    What would James Jamerson do? Keep playing the riff - the groove is killing. Play the natural (sharp) 6 - no one is touching the natural 7 or the flat 7 so it's not going to rub too badly against anything else - and if you do it with perfect phrasing and timing no one will even notice that you just went way out of the main harmony because you are such a bad-a$$.

    My version:

    https://www.box.com/s/wc18ipizxuzvsa3f17b8

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    Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.

    -Coco Chanel

  • #2

    rsadasiv wrote:

    The song is in C major. Melody is in C major pentationic (1-2-3-5-6) adding the IV. Chord progression is: I-V-ii-IV-V.

    What do you do?

    The pentatonic mode as well as the IV-V-I turnaround strongly suggest blues. So let's try the old Chuck Berry 1-5-6 riff. The drummer is not playing a shuffle, more of a straight 4/4, but harmonically it fits so we'll just shift the feel around a little to fit the groove. So, now how do we fit the riff to the chord progression? This groove is really working, lets try just modulating the riff to follow the progression. The I is good. The V is good. The IV is good. Back to the V is good - well of course they are, this is a blues riff and that's the blues progression. But the ii - that's a minor chord, and the minor diatonic scale uses a flat 6th which screws up the intervals. But the flat 6th of the ii is a flat 7 of the I, which isn't in the primary key major diatonic and also isn't in the mode of the melody. But if we keep the same intervals, and play the natural 6 that gives us the natural 7 of the main key, which really isn't very bluesy and also isn't in the mode of the melody.

    What would James Jamerson do? Keep playing the riff - the groove is killing. Play the natural (sharp) 6 - no one is touching the natural 7 or the flat 7 so it's not going to rub too badly against anything else - and if you do it with perfect phrasing and timing no one will even notice that you just went way out of the main harmony because you are such a bad-a$$.

    My version:

    https://www.box.com/s/wc18ipizxuzvsa3f17b8


    That was a lot of theory... I couldn't follow any of it.  But...  on a somewhat similar note, I saw a documentary where the guys in his band were tired of him doing crazy sh#t like smoking cigars and eating pickled pigs feet in the car during a snowstorm when they were all crammed into an old stationwagon... so they left him on the side of the road.

     

    Comment


    • Oswlek
      Oswlek commented
      Editing a comment

      bee3 wrote:

      That was a lot of theory... I couldn't follow any of it.  But...  on a somewhat similar note, I saw a documentary where the guys in his band were tired of him doing crazy sh#t like smoking cigars and eating pickled pigs feet in the car during a snowstorm when they were all crammed into an old stationwagon... so they left him on the side of the road.

       



      Yeah, I like talking theory, but that went way the hell over my head.


  • #3

    Seems like the chromaticism is more obvious with the bass (and some drum) isolated as it is.* 


    I'm not sure I can put my finger right on what this is ("Sugarpie, Honey Plumb" or something like that? I wasn't a big Motown fan, though I admire many of the musicians and much of the talent enormously) but the way I'm thinking I'm remembering, those choices don't really sound so out of place in the finished work.


     


    Yeah, clearly "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch," by the Four Tops, (aka "I Can't Help Myself"),  which I'm listening to the finished version on. One of those songs, like "Bernadette," that I always figured got written on a bet. You know: I'll bet you can't write a top ten hit about a girl named "Bernadette"...


    The odd change works, for sure, giving a lot of bumping inner harmonic movement. 


     


    *Isolated, so to speak.  wink.gif  While I'm not sure of the province of this iso track, it does show that concepts of isolation changed as people moved farther and farther away from the notion of recording a band playing together at one time. In the good ol days, people threw up a few low gobos (so you could see each other over them), basically enough isolation to allow balance mixing. (Since the tracking engineer was listening to a live mix in the CR, if he heard phase issues arising from bleed, he was in a position to change things around to mitigate the problem at the source.) Anyhow, times change. Now we don't play music so much as construct it.


     


    PS... like my keyboard pounding better above, I'm afraid I found that your theory breakdown fine pionts were pretty over my head (for the minimal amount of coffee I've had so far) but I got the basic point, I think, and heard it in the music. Great to be able to compare.


    Here's what seems to be the original single mix...



     

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    • #4

      rsadasiv wrote:

      But the ii - that's a minor chord, and the minor diatonic scale uses a flat 6th which screws up the intervals. 

      But you wouldn't use a D natural minor scale here. Since the song is in C major and the D minor chord is functioning as a ii chord, if you are going to use a scale/mode over that chord, it would be a D dorian, which has a natural sixth rather than a flat sixth.  

      I don't think that Jamerson went "way out of the main harmony" here at all. Rather, every note that he plays is diatonic to C major.

      Comment


      • LCK
        LCK commented
        Editing a comment

        I have no idea what any of you are talking about. I just know that Jamerson was great. Motown wouldn't have been the same without him.

        And if my pal Buddy* is right, it was how a group of Jamiacan musicians tried but failed to copy the rhythm of Jamerson's bass lines that somehow morphed into a musical style known as reggae.

        *(sounds redundant but that's his name...)


      • rsadasiv
        rsadasiv commented
        Editing a comment
        shortchord wrote:
        rsadasiv wrote:

        But the ii - that's a minor chord, and the minor diatonic scale uses a flat 6th which screws up the intervals. 

        But you wouldn't use a D natural minor scale here. Since the song is in C major and the D minor chord is functioning as a ii chord, if you are going to use a scale/mode over that chord, it would be a D dorian, which has a natural sixth rather than a flat sixth.  

        I don't think that Jamerson went "way out of the main harmony" here at all. Rather, every note that he plays is diatonic to C major.

         

        True.

         

        *hyperbole mine*



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