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possopo

harmonic analysis of George Harrison's My Sweet Lord, diminished chords

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hi everyone,

 

I'm trying to understand how My Sweet Lord works and these diminished chords jurt my brain.

here is the all sequence (but one tone lower than the original for the ease of transcriptions -I'm a guitarist) :

 

Em / A / Em / A

D / Bm / D / Bm

D / F#dim / B7

Em / A / Em / A

D / D7 / B7 / E / G#dim / C#7 / F#m / B

and then goes back to the beginning with one tone higher

 

Em, A, D, Bm seem to be in the key of D

then F#dim has a C in it. does D major goes to mixolydian ?

then B7 has yet another new note, D#... not easy but B7 goes to Em and that makes sense (secondary dominant)

but why this choice of a D# that clashed with the former key of D ?

 

D to D7 makes us go from D major to Dmixolydian again...

B7 has this odd D# again but is a good secondary dominant and goes to E

 

and then we have G#dim / C#7 / F#m / B which is the same sequence as D / F#dim / B7 / Em / A

 

 

my main question is : where are these diminished chords coming from and why are they followed by these dom7th ? what is the theory behind that ?

it looks a little like a weird ii-V-I but I may be totally wrong.

 

thanks a lot for your help smile.png

Edited by possopo

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Think keys and secondary dominants instead of scales. It's not important that you solve (or write) for one key. The composer has the chromatic scale to harmonize at will.

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Then you need to study some harmony.. Learn about chord function within a key and key area. Not all music will stay put like plain rock or blues. This song is proof. If you just want somebody's analysis, PM Poparad or Jed or Jon R- he's particularly good with spoon feeding the curious as well. Since I'm the only one here now, you get to think it out for yourself. I gave you enough clues.

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last time I asked for harmonic analysis here, Jon R and a few others definitely helped me by giving me super useful answers.

what I'm doing is read about harmony, (bits everywhere on the Internet, not a book), then try to analyse songs. when I'm stuck and I can't find answers on the Internet, I'm looking for help. in this case, I tried to google how to use diminished chords in a Rock context, it helps a bit but not enough and I'm still stuck.

 

my mistake was to mix keys and scales. I guess I'm still thinking in terms of scales too much as my first idea is to play solos on songs but it's clearer in my mind than what you think but no, I can't find the link between the D, the F#dim and the B7. I tried a few substitutions but no, it's still blurry. and then, I'd have to find what scale(s) to use over these chords. less difficult but still a little tricky for me.

 

what I don't really get is why the gist of your message is just "you're bad, learn more". that's pointless.

 

 

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It's pointless because you invented it. The song you chose IS a thinker and your initial post indicates you are missing some vital concepts and info. Info that can't be had in a couple schmoozy threads. As for what I actually think of you, I don't know you. I'm just posting at your question. So;

 

Tell me where you're from and about your music. It's helpful for anyone wanting to tackle your question to know these things. There might be a basic language barrier to overcome. Also try the Songwriting Forum. they might have more insight than I could offer.

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I know little about harmony but I'm not sure I'm missing vital concepts and info. if I do, please tell me, that would be so helpful.

I know what a key is, I know quite a few methods to modulate (modal interchange, circle of fourths and fifths...), I know some chord substitutions, I know other tricks (wrong word, yes) such as the andalusian cadence, the neopolitan sixth...

I know the use of degrees (sub-dominant, dominant, tonic...), I know relative minors and majors, I understand the basics of alteration, I know secondary dominants...

 

I started playing the guitar a long time ago and my main focus were riffs as I was mostly into Metal. so it took me a while before I got interested in chords and even longer before I started to learn even the most basic parts of harmony.

 

I guess one of my problems is I'm not thinking enough in terms of voice leadings and that's probably because I keep thinking chords all the time, not voices (although in some songs, voice leadings are extremely obvious). I love Jazz but only started trying to understand how Jazz works a very short while ago (and there's a lot to learn) and my background in Classical is very limited and I can't read music.

 

I'm currently working on my ears a lot (intervals, scales, chords...) because I'd like to be able to transcribe songs and my tools for that would be both my ears and some theoretical knowledge. then I'd like to be able write songs and play on instruments something I have in my head (that is still pretty challenging, not the melody but the chords again).

 

so I read about basic harmony and started to transcribe. I get stuck, I find the chords on the Internet and form there, I'm trying to analyse the song harmonically. I also need to know what scale to play on each chord (mode, arpeggio...). and when I'm stuck on harmony, I google around and when I find nothing -or when I can't connect what I found with the specific song I'm working on), I ask (and my first questions on this forum were extremely basic).

 

 

 

 

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Then the diminished chords shouldn't puzzle you. In tonal music they are dominant in function and can appear anywhere in any orientation. What justifies their usage is what follows. IOW how they resolve and in the case of this tune, how they move it along. Enough?

I will say you have put this song in my head and will have to get around to sussing it out.

 

You really should try the song writers and the lesson loft mods.

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In tonal music they are dominant in function and can appear anywhere in any orientation. What justifies their usage is what follows

got it, thanks.

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FWIW, you really should study harmony formally. Music is a language and not just a parts list and some faded instructions - what you get off the for free web and sadly even the for money web.

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I'm trying to find a good book that studies harmony in a historical context. do you know any and do you know which section I should post my question in ?

 

a book that answers why we finally decided to use 3rd and not only 5ths (and 4ths), how we came about with scales, the invention of the harmonic minor and then the melodic minor scale, first steps in dissonance, alterations. something that goes all the way to the Middle Ages (or why not ancient greek music) to atonality and serialism.

if the book talks about rhythms, instruments, not only art music but also folk (and then blues and rock...) and the relationship between these genres and art music..., microtonality, non-western music, that would be a plus.

 

basically, I'm trying to find a book similar to Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise but which focus is everything, not only XXth century art music.

and maybe something that also goes a little deeper in harmony theory than Alex Ross (who barely scratches the surface of it).

 

 

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Harmony by Walter Piston. It's not the end all theory book and compared to a real instructor it's just a glorified parts list but it was the standard reference at colleges and conservatories and does cover the majority of legit harmony. Look into college courses. You need to know music before you can effectively analyze it.

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