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Author Topic: Brians most interesting chord changes.  (Read 10674 times)
Reverend Joshua Sloane
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« Reply #50 on: February 20, 2006, 12:25:03 PM »

I have a quick question to which their might be no definate answer.

How long did Brian usually take between getting initial idea for a song and having it completed and in the stages of recording?

He and Van Dyke apparently wrote songs together quickly but I've always assumed it was the sections they wrote and not full songs at once. Brian said that by Friends he was an experienced songwriter and those songs came easy and quickly to him. Does anyone have a rough estimate on the amount of time he spent in writing a song?

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« Reply #51 on: February 20, 2006, 12:31:12 PM »

There's no definite answer as you say, I'm sure it varied...  However, I will say that at times it would not take Brian very long.  God Only Knows famously took just a few minutes.
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king of anglia
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« Reply #52 on: February 20, 2006, 03:50:42 PM »

Don't know if anyone's mentioned "It's Over Now". Those chords are pretty strange.
Assuming it's in G. The verse goes:
Gmaj7, then Gb5b7 repeated (whatever that is) - Interesting thing. The melody line is F E D C#, with the F note being sung over the Gmaj7 chord. Should be totally dischordant. But it's not. It's Brian Wilson.
Cmaj, Bmin7, E7, Amin7, Cminb8(Is there such a thing???), G/D, B/Eb, Emin7
Then it goes:
A/E, B/Eb, G/D, A/Db - A kind of take on the chromatic descending minor chord progression found in such songs as Looking at Tomorrow and others (Lady O a bit, can't think of any others)
Then C then Eb or something, never worked out that chord.

Anyhoo. Complicated song, or it seems so on the guitar, probably not so on the piano. You could never write a Brian Wilson song on the guitar.
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #53 on: February 20, 2006, 04:25:45 PM »

I love the role guitar took in Brian Wilson productions from ASL - Smile.  After that it started getting a little typical.  I think every beginning guitarist should be played Pet Sounds.  We might just get rid of new albums with wall-to-wall power chords just yet.
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the captain
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« Reply #54 on: February 20, 2006, 04:26:10 PM »

Cminb8(Is there such a thing???)
Do you mean C minor with a major 7th? (That's what I assume b8 means to you.) If so, yes, there is such a thing used in jazz.

You could never write a Brian Wilson song on the guitar.

Except Girl Don't Tell Me and I'd Love Just Once To See You.
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« Reply #55 on: February 20, 2006, 04:29:18 PM »

Ooh, the ultra-rare flat 8th.  I suppose you'd need one of those if you required both the subtonic and leading tones played in a chord simultaneously?

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If so, yes, there is such a thing used in jazz.

Not to mention spy movies and Portishead albums.
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Reverend Joshua Sloane
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« Reply #56 on: February 20, 2006, 04:33:33 PM »

  We might just get rid of new albums with wall-to-wall power chords just yet.

What's with this kind of music anyway?

It amazes me that people are content with such simple stuff. The people in my "band" would prefer the same old thing to musical progress.
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« Reply #57 on: February 20, 2006, 04:40:04 PM »

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It amazes me that people are content with such simple stuff. The people in my "band" would prefer the same old thing to musical progress.

It's attractive to the guitar player because power chords ar easy to play, and it's attractive to the player and the listener because power chords are, well, powerful.  They have their place.
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« Reply #58 on: February 20, 2006, 04:40:37 PM »

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It amazes me that people are content with such simple stuff. The people in my "band" would prefer the same old thing to musical progress.

It's attractive to the guitar player because power chords ar easy to play, and it's attractive to the player and the listener because power chords are, well, powerful.  They have their place.

Exactly. Great post, Aeij.
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« Reply #59 on: February 20, 2006, 05:10:24 PM »

This a fascinating discussion. I often hear people say Brian's brilliance lies in the chords, but it means a lot to me to hear why and how.

I admit to having a rudimentary knowledge of chord theory. That is, I played around with the guitar when I was a kid and gained some understanding of how chords work there, but never developed an ear for which chord is which. I also sang (and sometimes still sing) madrigals with an amateur chorus, but my experience is mostly in developing an ear for singing the right note in the harmony.

So, this is a question for those more knowledgable than I on chords and their theory. I have heard that Carl and Dennis also used unusual chordings in their compositions (surely an influence from their big brother and maybe also all being siblings) -- can anyone confirm? TIA.  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #60 on: February 20, 2006, 05:11:50 PM »

Carl and Dennis did use some different chords in their music. Al used them sometimes too. Bruce's music is FULL of them.
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RobtheNobleSurfer
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« Reply #61 on: February 20, 2006, 05:16:53 PM »

Carl was probably the most influenced by Brian. Certainly, Carl could convincingly ape Brian's arranging and production style (Carl,  the original Darian Sahanaja?)
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« Reply #62 on: February 20, 2006, 05:21:50 PM »

So, if all the BBs are getting into unusual chording, is this something that arose from the serendipity of working together? Of working under Brian's tutelage/influence? Which leads back to the layman's question of how are Brian's chordings so different, unique, special, and influential?

That's an interesting thought about Darian and Jeff taking on Carl's role nowadays, which I think is the case.
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« Reply #63 on: February 20, 2006, 05:22:41 PM »

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It amazes me that people are content with such simple stuff. The people in my "band" would prefer the same old thing to musical progress.

It's attractive to the guitar player because power chords ar easy to play, and it's attractive to the player and the listener because power chords are, well, powerful.  They have their place.

But notice, too, that when bands cover Brian's songs one of the first things they're likely to do is remove the subtle stuff.  Pull out Caroline Now! or GUESS I'M DUMB or SMiLEs, ViBES, & HARMONY and it seems like most of the interesting chords we all love so much are just flattened out, simplified, and just dumbed down.  As with most pop music, the focus often shifts to striking a pose over the song rather than melody or arrangement.

I've always thought that the stuff we love the most in Brian's (and other artists') work is stuff very few people hear.  Most people just skate over the surface of things, and that's why most of popular culture is what it is.
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« Reply #64 on: February 20, 2006, 05:23:44 PM »

Dennis clearly was listening to Brian in the realm of the Pedal Bass and related to that unusual chord inversions.  Dennis almost overdid it, actually.

A pedal tone is, basically and for our purposes here, a bass note that continues across several chords.  So, take a look at "Slip On Through."

The chords for the  verse are e minor and A major, I believe.  However, the bassline underneath is emphasizing an E note under both chords.  E is the root of the first chord, the e minor, but it is the fifth of the A major chord, putting that chord in second inversion.  The chorus then does much the same thing, D major to G Major keeping the D in the bass across the changes.

In Brian's work, that kind of thing is all over, but whereas Dennis favoured simple chord changes over a pedal tone, Brian tended to be switching bass notes more, but often in very unusual ways.  Holidays for instance has a  two chord vamp for I guess the "chorus" where the chords are Cmaj7 to a minor 7, but the bass is playing B over the first chord.  B is the major seventh of the Cmaj7 chord, putting that chord in what amounts to a third inversion.
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« Reply #65 on: February 20, 2006, 06:05:59 PM »

Another favorite trick of Brian's is the minor 7th chord with the 5th in the bass (Surf's Up, begins with one such chord) as well as a IV chord with the V in the bass.

I also wonder if how each chord is voiced was influenced by his constant listening to the 4 Freshmen who used complex harmonies that had notes that were "spread out" more.
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Reverend Joshua Sloane
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« Reply #66 on: February 20, 2006, 07:20:24 PM »

This is fascinating stuff.
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« Reply #67 on: February 20, 2006, 09:07:55 PM »

I wanted to ask you brilliant people about one of Brian's songs.  Again, excuse my lack of theory.  Isn't the 'shuffle' in California Girls upside down?  You know what I'm talking about? Instead of going, ergh, something like e, f, g, f he goes something like b, down to f, g, f (I'm guessing on how it sounds on a guitar, I'm probably way off).  It sounds like a traditional kind of blues riff but really it starts high and goes back down instead of building up.   I'm talking about the notes on the bassline, I guess.  Do lots of people do that, or did I find something interesting?
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« Reply #68 on: February 20, 2006, 11:34:54 PM »

Notice that I mentioned several times in my posts that Brian Wilson cannot be credited with the harmonic structures being analyzed in this thread. If you want to know where Carl and Dennis got their ideas for pedal bass and all of that, look first and foremost to Brian - period. All those years of watching and hearing him play those same structures, and then being asked to sing them in harmony, was easily their biggest influence.

But if you want to know where Brian got those thick voicings, like starting a minor 7th stacked harmony with the 5th in the bass, it's jazz pure and simple. Jazz of the variety Duke Ellington was writing for his bands in the 20's, jazz of the variety Fletcher Henderson was writing for horn sections in the 30's, and jazz of the variety popular music used to accept as standard practice for the hits of the day, at least until the later 50's when audiences turned away from it, leaving the sophistication to more"adult" styles of music. In Brian's day, the Four Freshmen were "popular music", and it would be like us today turning on the radio and hearing Weezer doing "Beverly Hills". It was Brian's popular music. Imagine a song like "Mona Lisa", with Nelson Riddle's arrangement, being considered a jukebox hit of its time - compared to nearly anything heard as a hit today, Mona Lisa sounds like it came from Mars...and debate on your own whether that's a good or bad thing. But listeners of popular music were accustomed to hearing more advanced harmonies and arrangements in music back in that day, and back in that day was also when Brian was coming of age and learning how to play and write music on his own. That can't be stressed enough - that was his popular music, and the context of having his jazzy sophistication next to Carl and Mike's heavier rhythm and blues, well...

There lies Brian Wilson's main innovation, I believe. He bridged the gap between jazz and popular, and then jazz and rock-and-roll, for younger audiences who were missing one or the other. Having a band of white kids from California singing like the Four Freshmen or the Modernaires on top of driving Chuck Berry rock rhythms and surf guitar sounds was original. People who liked the power and drive of rock were hearing jazz. Vice versa, people who dug the jazzy elements were hearing rock. But that's all been said before.

People who have experience listening to and playing/writing jazz won't hear as much innovation in what Brian was *doing* with his harmonies, but rather how he was *using* those harmonies in the contexts of his songs, and more importantly, perhaps, how he managed to "sell" those sounds to the new "pop" audiences and not have them reject something outside of standard triad-based harmony. Up until, say, 1966, perhaps Bacharach and Brian were the innovators in that way, and others began to feel that similar influence and do their own versions of it - to great effect. But most of it can be traced back to big-band jazz arranging techniques, from a strictly technical perspective.

It remains innovative today in 2006 to hear even a trace of a jazz harmony voicing, or even the use of a tension like a 9 or a 13 on top of a standard chord/triad, in what we have been calling "popular" music since the 50's. The Beatles, God Bless 'Em, ended She Loves You with a simple substitution of a 6th on a major chord, and musicians still love to point that last chord out as an example of sub-genius. Well, it sounds cool and ends the tune nicely, but it's nothing more than a substitution! So hearing something with a pedal bass, or an upper-structure triad in a song written by someone named Wilson can have that same effect, because as modern listeners, those sounds may not be as common or as familiar as the more blues-based rock sounds we've grown up with. Someone who may have only listened to rock music for years, upon hearing something like Pet Sounds or Bacharach for the first time, would naturally think it was several levels above what they are familiar with and confortable with hearing from pop music. The chords are thick, the changes unexpected, the vocals doing things beyond singing 3rds and 6ths in two-part harmony on the choruses. If all of that sounds new, the instinct might be to credit the artist who is introducing those sounds to their ears as the innovator. In some ways, that is true in the context of what they're hearing, but the technical nuts-and-bolts of writing jazz harmony and using jazz harmony in popular music can be traced further back.

It's just a shame that several times on this board's previous incarnation, my and others' attempts at getting some jazz music appreciation started were met by some pretty dumb and pretty ignorant attempts to dismiss the topic. Anyone digging Brian's, and Carl's, and Dennis' harmonic structures could take away so much from a few listens to jazz...and hopefully put some of those concepts and structures to use in the next wave of original pop music.
   
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« Reply #69 on: February 21, 2006, 12:02:01 AM »

Hall Of Fame post, guitarfool.  A great read: as a jazz listener I agree, and as an otherwise musically ignorant bastard, I absorb and mull with interest.

Almost from "That's All Right, Mama" forward,  Rock and Roll has suffered from artistic incest (and never moreso than today), and it's bands like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Dylan who brought influences from other places that breathed new life into it.
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« Reply #70 on: February 21, 2006, 03:29:50 AM »

This is a fascinating post Guitarfool, thanks. I don't understand why jazz has disappeared so much from modern pop music. I think the genius of B Wilson was he managed to incorporate jazz chords in a way that sounded new and contemporary in the 60s, but no-one, to my knowledge, really took that torch from him and developed it. Now when we get modern pop music that borrows from jazz it's in some hideous homage/parody of the 40's/50s a la Jamie Cullum/Katie Mellua. (I guess this is not strictly true - jazz shows up in lots of modern creative music - DJ Shadow is someone that springs to mind) but I'd love to hear more modern music carrying on the pop/jazz legacy of people like Bacharach and Wilson.

Actually I bought an album by B.C. Camplight that potentially does this but I don't know how much longevity it has for me. The Go Team are great - that's potentially jazzy to my ears. Cetainly reminds me of John Barry. It's like a hip-hop John Barry.
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« Reply #71 on: February 21, 2006, 02:38:46 PM »

Funny thing is, it's not the jazz elements that I find generally appealing about Beach Boys' music, it's the fusion with the rock'n'roll and doowop elements and THOSE voices I find most intriguing. There's something about mixing it all up artistically, where styles meet at a cultural crossroad and fascinating new things form out of the meeting. Brian synthesized a lot of what he heard from all the disparate influences around him (as did his brothers later on).
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