A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Posts tagged ‘chord structure’

Harmony Assignment

If you follow this infrequent blog, you will be aware that I am studying at Berklee Music. I thought I would share my final Harmony Assignment here. Welcome feedback or questions. This was an awesome paper, led by Shane Adams. If you are serious about your music development I strongly recommend this paper and Shane as an awesome tutor.

I looked at Verse – Chorus, Verse – Chorus, Bridge – Chorus formula, but felt I didn’t have enough verses to tell the full story, so ended up with ABABABCB. It finishes in 3 minutes which I think is a good song length.

It uses verse/refrain with a full cadence which builds and emphasizes the title, which is also the hook. The verse makes use of repetition between 1st and 3rd lines and follows the same chord progression model in the 2nd line starting from the IV chord. The verses in effect make use of the Major-Key I IV Power Progressions.

In the melody lines I am making use of contrasting sections from one progression. I used harmonic variations of a melodic pedal in both the intro and the bridge which you can hear in the backing guitar. I also used a tonic pedal for the bass line on the 1st and 3rd lines of the verses.

The verses and chorus use full cadences from the IV chord to the I chord except at the end of the 3rd chorus, where I make use of surprising parallel key modulation with a D minor, instead of the D Major used in all other choruses. This allows me to lead to the bridge, which is in a different key and correctly placed between the choruses.

I used chord rhythm slightly speeding up the 4th line of each verse to help build power and progression to the chorus.

For coloring, the song is mostly in natural keys representing the happy times of the 5 year old. However the Major 7th’s allow me to introduce tension into the verse lines, the refrain going back to the natural chords, with the exception of the B minor (VI chord) I use to help resolve to the full cadence. The verse chord progressions allow me to emphasize that I’m telling a story. The D minor in the 3rd chorus introduces irony into the song, the minor chord leading into the bridge, which expresses sadness that life can’t stay that way.

In the bridge I started with a standard EMaj7, but replaced the G# minor with a G#5 and the A Major with A7Sus4 and A7.

I finished the final chorus with a half line repetition as a fade.

Life is Simple When You’re Five

Copyright Luigi Cappel 2010

Life Is Simple When You’re Five

Verse 1

D……………………….DMaj7……………..D7…….D6…
Summer seems to last forever for a boy of five

G…………………….GMaj7………………Em7………….A7…
Burning sand between his toes he runs into the tide

D……………………..DMaj7…………………..D7………………..D6..
He jumps and he splashes, wipes the water from his eyes

G……………………A7…………D…..Bm…G…………….A7………………D….
Joy is something you can’t buy……… life is simple when you’re five.

Chorus:

G………………..A7…………….D….G…………………A7….D…
Life is simple when you’re five, it’s so good to be alive

G……………..A7…………D………..Bm…..G………………..A7…………….D…
No cares or worries, never in a hurry, Life is simple when you’re five

Verse 2

D……………………….DMaj7……………..D7…….D6…
Autumn passes in a blur for a boy of nine

G…………………….GMaj7………………Em7………….A7…
Moving house from State to State, losing track of time

D……………………..DMaj7…………………..D7………………..D6..
As soon as he has made new friends he’s leaving them behind

G……………………A7…………D…..Bm…G…………….A7………………D….
His mind goes back to summer skies……… life is simple when you’re five.

Chorus:

G………………..A7…………….D….G…………………A7….D…
Life is simple when you’re five, it’s so good to be alive

G……………..A7…………D………..Bm…..G………………..A7…………….D…
No cares or worries, never in a hurry, Life is simple when you’re five

Verse 3:

D……………………….DMaj7……………..D7…….D6…
Winter seems to last forever for a boy of ten

G…………………….GMaj7………………Em7………….A7…
Father’s left, spends nights alone, mothers out dancing again

D……………………..DMaj7…………………..D7………………..D6..
When she’s back home with a new uncle its dark and 2 AM

G……………………A7…………D…..Bm…G…………….A7………………D….
Joy is something you can’t buy……… life is simple when you’re five.

Chorus:

G………………..A7…………….D….G…………………A7….D…
Life is simple when you’re five, it’s so good to be alive

G……………..A7…………D………..Bm…..G………………..A7…………….Dm..
No cares or worries, never in a hurry, Life is simple when you’re five

Bridge:

EMaj7#5…………G#5…………….A7Sus4……….A7……
A loving home where a boy can thrive, with fun and friends good times

EMaj7#5…………G#5…………….A7Sus4……….A7……
If only life could stay that way, let innocence survive

Chorus:

G………………..A7…………….D….G…………………A7….D…
Life is simple when you’re five, it’s so good to be alive

G……………..A7…………D………..Bm…..G………………..A7…………….D…
No cares or worries, never in a hurry, Life is simple when you’re five

G………………..A7…………….D…
Life is simple when you’re five

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Pack and Run

I have just finished the first draft of my latest song, which is called Pack and Run and I think it is one of my best so far. I need to still do some work fine tuning the lyrics. Often I am too impatient with a new song and want to record a demo as soon as I have finished writing it. I will try to be patient and work through it some more. It would be a shame to rush a good song when it could be a great song.

This is probably something that most writers should think about. It is easy to write a song and then consider it finished, but there is so much to consider at this point, especially if you want great songs.

Is the structure consistent? One of the first things I do is take my scribbles out of my songwriting spiral wound notepad and key it into word, complete with copyright details and the chord structure. I have 2 of these, one which is in my bag all the time in case I come up with great ideas when I am away from home and the other sits at my music desk.

I also record it while I’m writing on my Belkin Tunetalk so that I can’t forget the melody or the sound I achieved. This is important because I often use unusual inversions and positions that I will forget unless I can record them, as I am not great when it comes to notation outside of the common chords.

I also look to see if I have things in the correct order. As Pat Pattison taught me, often songwriters write the last verse first, but don’t realise it.

Does the rhyme work? Is it consistent? Is the tense consistent? Am I consistent in the person I am talking to? Does the hook work? Is the hook in the chorus? Is it repeated enough so that the hook works? Is the hook consistent with the song?

While I was writing, I was also hearing the accompaniment. I don’t think this is a pop song, but it could have legs on the Country charts.  I do hear harmonies in the background, maybe Eagles style and I already have in my mind the way the song starts with just a single guitar, then vocals, then bass, then the rest of the band which is probably just another guitar and drums.

Does it need a middle eight? I don’t know, but it could, now that I think about it, I could put in a bridge. The song is about a guy who finds out his partner cheated on him and how his love was blind and he wouldn’t listen when his friends tried to tell him.

A bridge would give me the opportunity to add an extra element, perhaps after he has left her and looks in the rearview mirror of his car while he is driving, hoping that isn’t her in the car behind, wondering if he will ever be able to trust someone again.

Another question is who the target market for the song is. I think this song would fit someone who likes Don Henly (who has a new album out by the way, called Inside Job), the Eagles and probably and older audience, not teenagers but probbaly anyone from mid 20’s on who has perhaps had a few knocks, not in short term relationships but longer standing ones. Someone that is a more discerning listener, not into bubblegum music, but music with good melodies, good chords and a rich sound. I’m not sure exactly what the genre is, it’s country in the way that Eagles is country, but it’s contempory as the Eagles are. Can someone help me out and tell me what genre they think of the Eagles as?

Anyway, those are things I’m now thinking about. I’m also thinking about imagery. These days so much of music is about imagery and not just the word pictures a songwriter creates, but imagery I can put into a music video or slide show.

If there are any fellow songwriters reading this, I’d welcome your thoughts on this, when you have written a song, do you call it finished, or is that when the real craftmanship begins?

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