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polishpaul

A baffling chord progression in an Amy Winehouse song....what's going on here?

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The song is Wake Up Alone, and if I were on a TV music quiz show and asked to analyze the chord progression, my best shot would be to say that there's a modulation on every chord!

 

Here we go:

 

A G# C#m C E C#m C F#m F and back to A for a repeat of all that.

 

 

Then a chorus sort of thing, repeating three times;

 

D G E

 

....and ending on one line of C Bm Bb.

 

 

After another round of the opening progression and the chorus thingy, the song closes with a short repeating line:

 

C Bm Bb

 

In the middle of the song this produces a descending chromatic run from C to B to Bb to A to G#.

 

Well I've been hanging here for a good while now and have learned a lot of theory, but this seems to defy all the "rules".

 

It's cool to play arps over the chords in this song because it all sounds....so cool!

 

Any thoughts on this? It reminds me of the major-chord jam we did a while back, although this song has three minor chords.

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I remember taking an advanced harmony course at Berklee. At the end of the course the teacher said, "What it all means is that any chord in any key can follow any other chord in any other key."

 

I don't know the song. I'll have to give it a listen before I give "real" answers. Generally though, if you have major and minor chords strung together in seemingly random manners, you can treat the major as Lydian and the minors as Dorian. Put another way think of the majors as IV chords and the minors as II chords. After that you're pretty close. It's almost all about key-changes.

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There are certainly some unusual chords there, but most of them have good ol' traditional functions. Here's how I'd interpret it (and I've listened and made some corrections to your chords):

 

|A - - - |G#7 - - - |C#m - - - |Cmaj7(#11) - - - |

|Emaj7 - - - |C#m7 - - - |Cmaj7 - - - |F#m7 - F7 E |

 

A = I, tonic. Phew, OK so far... ;)

G#7 = V/iii, ie secondary dominant (of C#m)

C#m = iii

Cmaj7#11 = bIII - weird one, borrowed from parallel dorian, I guess. (The #11 is her leading F# melody note, but mainly this is a neatly surprising way of harmonizing the E note she resolves to, instead of going for a diatonic A, E or C#m.)

Emaj7 = another weird one. see comment below.

C#m7 = iii (or vi of E)

Cmaj7 = see above - again, we can "explain" it by saying it shares 2 notes with the previous chord (B-E, both diatonic) while the other two just descend a half-step.

F#m7 = vi, also acting as ii/V (secondary supertonic, relating to the approaching E chord). Somewhat odd following Cmaj7, but they do at least share that E note which is has been common to all the chords so far except G#7.

F7 = (deep breath) tritone sub of secondary dominant: V/V. IOW, the normal chord here would be B7 (V of E), but F7 is cooler. Or (seeing as it is just one beat!) think of it as a chromatic transition between F#m and E.

E = V

 

Comment: like Jon says, it's true (kind of) that any chord can follow any other chord. Who cares, you're the composer, you do what you damn well like!

But it is a jazz rule that "any chord may follow any other chord of the same type". This is quite common with maj7s (hence the link of Cmaj7 to Emaj7 here) - and can also happen with dom7s (listen to the Beatles "Day Tripper").

 

Chorus:

 

|G#m7/C# - C#13 - |F# - D#7b9 - | x 3

 

This is a modulation to F# major

 

G#m7/C# = ii. The C# bass makes it like a Vsus chord.

C#13 = V

F# = I

D#7b9 = secondary dominant, V/ii. (Leading back to G#m7/C#)

 

Quite a conventional ii-V-I-VI loop, IOW; just with some jazzy extensions.

 

And btw, the relationship of F# major to A major? "parallel major of relative minor". There's a phrase you can bring out at parties and watch people's eyes glaze over... (Put it with "tritone sub of secondary dominant" and you'll have them all falling asleep, or - just possibly - deeply hypnotized and in your evil power for ever!:evil: Hey, we can dream, can't we...:D)

 

After 3 times round it goes to:

 

|B - A#m7 - |Dmaj7 - - - |

 

The Dmaj7 is quite unexpected there. The B-A#m7 are the IV-iii of the current key of F# major. The Dmaj7 ought to make no sense after A#m7, but somehow it does. IMO (and I'm a little miffed here because I discovered just such a chord change for one of my songs some 40 years ago - and now people will think I stole it! :(), it's because A#m7 has a C#, the leading tone of D; and the other chord tones likewise move in half-steps to resolve to D major chord tones (E#>F#, A#>A, G#>A); and of course the C# can just hold across to become the maj7 of D.

IOW, if you think of A#m7 as C#6, the whole thing shifts up a half-step, but with the balancing effect of the "6" (A#) coming down a half-step and one of the C#s staying where it is.

(There may well be a classical term for this change, I just don't know it. I don't really believe that nobody discovered it before I did...;))

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I've run into a few of those myself. Not sure how a prog like that came about but I would think the melody came first.

 

It may help to get wasted and listen, but you'll have to let me know.

:)

 

 

 

To all: One thing (OT)! I have noticed is a major chord written here as ex. Emaj

 

I always have seen them written as: E major = E

 

It does clean up the page a bit. Especially with chords prog like this.

 

Cmaj Cmaj7 Cmaj Cadd9

 

 

And minor chords would just be written....Dminor= Dm

 

This will conclude today's........:facepalm::blah:

 

Sorry Paul, back to boozy chord progressions.

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^^^^

 

Edited appropriately, Benzem!

 

I don't know why I wrote the chords as I did - but now I have a fixed style.

 

 

2 JonR....

 

I had made a typo. The progression now appears in my opening post as I got it from the web. I'll read your analysis now - thanks!

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There are certainly some unusual chords there, but most of them have good ol' traditional functions. Here's how I'd interpret it (and I've listened and made some corrections to your chords):


|A - - - |G#7 - - - |C#m - - - |Cmaj7(#11) - - - |

|Emaj7 - - - |C#m7 - - - |Cmaj7 - - - |F#m7 - F7 E |


A = I, tonic. Phew, OK so far...
;)
G#7 = V/iii, ie secondary dominant (of C#m)

C#m = iii

Cmaj7#11 = bIII - weird one, borrowed from parallel
dorian
, I guess. (The #11 is her leading F# melody note, but mainly this is a neatly surprising way of harmonizing the E note she resolves to, instead of going for a diatonic A, E or C#m.)

Emaj7 = another weird one. see comment below.

C#m7 = iii (or vi of E)

Cmaj7 = see above - again, we can "explain" it by saying it shares 2 notes with the previous chord (B-E, both diatonic) while the other two just descend a half-step.

F#m7 = vi, also acting as ii/V (secondary supertonic, relating to the approaching E chord). Somewhat odd following Cmaj7, but they do at least share that E note which is has been common to all the chords so far except G#7.

F7 = (deep breath) tritone sub of secondary dominant: V/V. IOW, the normal chord here would be B7 (V of E), but F7 is cooler. Or (seeing as it is just one beat!) think of it as a chromatic transition between F#m and E.

E = V


Comment: like Jon says, it's true (kind of) that any chord can follow any other chord. Who cares, you're the composer, you do what you damn well like!

But it
is
a jazz rule that "any chord may follow any other chord
of the same type".
This is quite common with maj7s (hence the link of Cmaj7 to Emaj7 here) - and can also happen with dom7s (listen to the Beatles "Day Tripper").


Chorus:


|G#m7/C# - C#13 - |F# - D#7b9 - | x 3


This is a modulation to F# major


G#m7/C# = ii. The C# bass makes it like a Vsus chord.

C#13 = V

F# = I

D#7b9 = secondary dominant, V/ii. (Leading back to G#m7/C#)


Quite a conventional ii-V-I-VI loop, IOW; just with some jazzy extensions.


And btw, the relationship of F# major to A major? "parallel major of relative minor". There's a phrase you can bring out at parties and watch people's eyes glaze over... (Put it with "tritone sub of secondary dominant" and you'll have them all falling asleep, or -
just possibly
- deeply hypnotized and in your evil power for ever!
:evil:
Hey, we can dream, can't we...
:D
)


After 3 times round it goes to:


|B - A#m7 - |Dmaj7 - - - |


The Dmaj7 is quite unexpected there. The B-A#m7 are the IV-iii of the current key of F# major. The Dmaj7 ought to make no sense after A#m7, but somehow it does. IMO (and I'm a little miffed here because I discovered just such a chord change for one of my songs some 40 years ago - and now people will think I stole it!
:(
), it's because A#m7 has a C#, the leading tone of D; and the other chord tones likewise move in half-steps to resolve to D major chord tones (E#>F#, A#>A, G#>A); and of course the C# can just hold across to become the maj7 of D.

IOW, if you think of A#m7 as C#6, the whole thing shifts up a half-step, but with the balancing effect of the "6" (A#) coming down a half-step and one of the C#s staying where it is.

(There may well be a classical term for this change, I just don't know it. I don't really believe that
nobody
discovered it before I did...
;)
)

 

 

Many thanks for all the theoretical details, Jon!

 

My wife got Amy's Back to Black CD for Christmas, so it's been getting some play here. I had never really listened to Amy, other than to Rehab and maybe another on the radio. She didn't get the hyper media coverage here in Poland.

 

But as I started to listen more closely, I got to thinking - hey, this is my kind of stuff, musically. The progressions and the frequently sparse instrumentations are well cool. So I checked out the chords to Wake Up Alone and thought -this is why it sounds hip!

 

Very educational for me, all this. Especially because it's not, to me, strictly blues, or jazz, or rock, although these elements feature in the music. It's simply cool, hip, lay down on the grass on a summer's evening and let your cares and worries dissolve music. It isextremely musical, without any pose.

 

Your analysis of the progressions seems to show why what I played from the TAB site didn't quite sound right. I don't usually bother with these sites - I'd rather struggle along the slow way - but I wanted to get straight into playing over these songs. I recommend them as study material....now I'm off to see if I can buy some backing tracks to any of these songs.

 

Then I'll get right down to trying out your chord suggestions!

 

PS....

 

I believe you.

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I love these song analysis threads - learning so much. Thanks all...(JonR you are a seeeeriously valuable resource)

 

PS - Likewise will be seeking out more AW - I had also only been exposed to the few high rotation commercial radio numbers.

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Well, I can't find any backing tracks for this song suitable for a guitarist. A commercial site had one described as suitable for guitarists - unfortunately it had the guitar part on it! No point me buying that, then.

 

So the best I could do was take a short sample, which I have edited down to the first progression outlined in the posts above, from the first chord A to the last one in the section. Then I made a loop. Then I made a second loop which omits the channel with the guitar part, and copied the other channel into the empty place - so it's a mono loop with no guitar.

 

Now the educational bit, which you can do yourselves. The two loops are here:

 

http://www.box.com/s/0x5di7yvlh5gaiunksam

 

Download them and get jamming over the one you prefer, using the chords I originally posted and those suggested later by JonR. The guitar part is fairly gentle arpeggios, so there's space to fit something into the loop with the guitar part on it.

 

I've not done this myself yet but am looking forward to hearing how Jon's suggestions sound in comparison to those I got from the web. That's the educational part - using one's ear to compare the two. Simple enough, but it should prove rewarding.

 

The audio is in .wav format, since any conversion to mp3 results in a bit of silence at each end of the loop and kills the continuity.

 

 

RIP, Amy.

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PS - Likewise will be seeking out more AW - I had also only been exposed to the few high rotation commercial radio numbers.

 

In blue:

 

Seconded!

 

 

In brown:

 

A sense of loss is growing in me the more I listen. Earthy, raw, cool, funny, lightly jazzy and totally human.

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I would rather say the whole song is in E key, and taking some of the parallel minor Em . So it would understand it like this :

 

 

A (IV) G# (III) C#m (VI) C (Aeolian 6b of the Em to resolve to E)

 

 

E ( I ) C#m ( IV ) C ( bVI) F#m (II) F (VI/IV - transicion para A)

 

 

Chorus is all about Em Key, gives a feeling of melancoly, sorry not sure how to write it properly :

 

D (II of Em) G (VI of Em) E (I)

 

C (III of Em) Bm (IV of Em) Bb (bIV - transition to A)

 

 

C Bm D#maj7 (same phrase as the one before, just that to transition to A they use D#maj7 to suggest the resolution in E )

 

 

Let me know your comments, it s my first analisis

 

 

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