What is the name of this musical figure?
August 2, 2005 11:35 AM   Subscribe

MusicForDummiesFilter: What is this musical figure called?

In putting together a mix CD, I noticed a similarity between a Charlie Rich tune and a cover of one by The Ikettes. Rhythm goes "DAH-dah, dah-dah, DAH-dah, dah-dah-dah-dah"; the melody of it seems to be something like "root note, higher, higher, lower but not as low as the root."

Three samples here: The Darts (cover of The Ikettes' "Peaches"), Charlie Rich ("I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water"), and the Fine Young Cannibals ("Good Thing.") (...And yes, I'll cop to having the 45 of "Good Thing.")

They all seem to have the same progression, but the Rich and the Darts ones have the rhythmic flourish at the end and the Cannibals one doesn't.

I guess it's two questions in one: what is the progression called, if it has a name; and what is the change on the rhythm called, if that has a name?
posted by Tuwa to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
Once I ran to you (I ran)
Now I'll run from you
This tainted love you've given
I give you all a boy could give you
Take my tears and that's not nearly all
Oh...tainted love
Tainted love
posted by Pollomacho at 12:00 PM on August 2, 2005

Sorry, not really an answer, just another example. That's Tainted Love by Soft Cell incase anyone was, like, wondering.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:03 PM on August 2, 2005

Is that what's called a truck driver's gear change? I think that's when you go higher and higher and then downshift to a lower key. I don't know any of the songs you linked to, so I'm not sure if it's the same thing.
posted by iconomy at 12:15 PM on August 2, 2005

Someone will know this better than I do, but it's a pretty generic progression, based on the first-fourth-fifth-andresolvetofirst progression that defines blues and most of rock (and a lot before that). It sounds a little tricky because it is a blues progression: it has a major third in the tonic, but a minor third in the dominant - thus the lowered seventh chord that sounds so nice

If this makes sense to you, the melody is usually (in C major):
G-G-A-A-Bflat-Bflat-A-A. It's an 8-note phrase in two or four bars.

The melody plays into the chord progression like this:
- The G the fifth of C (so we're in the tonic, or I chord)
- The A is the third of F (so we're at IV, a relatively stable chord that leads nicely into V)
- The b-flat is the third of G (so we're at V, and we'll lead back to the I soon).
- That said, can someone explain why the last IV has tension, rather than simply acting plagal?

Of course, that's only true for the Muddy Waters and the Peaches; the others are rather different chord progressions that sound a bit similar.

On preview: truck driver changes are different; after repeating a progression like this, you simply shift EVERYTHING up a single half-step. It sounds moderately exciting because it's completely atonal.
posted by metaculpa at 12:23 PM on August 2, 2005

That said, can someone explain why the last IV has tension, rather than simply acting plagal?

I think it's because these aren't 'real' chord changes -- it's just a boogie-woogie/blues left-hand riff. The underlying harmony is still really C, so the C-F-A chord feels less like a F/C and more like a C sus4 sus6.
posted by chrismear at 12:35 PM on August 2, 2005

Interesting, Pollomacho, I didn't remember that one. It does sound like the same progression on the (synth/)organ.

metaculpa, chrismear, you're both over my head already. ^_^ I follow you on the G/A/Bb progression, because I know a few chords on guitar, but the minor 3rd and major 3rd bits lose me, as does the F/C.

That said, I'm not averse to doing some research on it, and I really should quit putzing about and take some music lessons. I'd love to move beyond appreciation into understanding.

... So are The Darts & Charlie Rich excerpts both just a basic boogie-woogie progression?
posted by Tuwa at 1:01 PM on August 2, 2005

The b-flat is the third of G (so we're at V, and we'll lead back to the I soon).

Isn't the Bb the bVII of the tonic scale, which helps ease the transition of the basic tonic chord you're playing into the subdominant chord by making the tonic the secondary dominant? Does that last sentence make sense to anyone who hasn't taken music theory?

If it was eight years ago and I was still harboring dreams of ekeing out a career as a composer I'd be a little more confident about this, but I believe the phrase can be written as:

I - IV6/4 - (V7/IV) - IV6/4

As far as what it's called in an idiomatic sense, I have no idea. Sorry, Tuwa.
posted by turaho at 1:42 PM on August 2, 2005

Working musicians have been known to call it "the organ riff."

Also found in Miles Davis' "All Blues" albeit in 6/8 time.
posted by sourwookie at 3:23 PM on August 2, 2005

Isn't the Bb the bVII of the tonic scale, which helps ease the transition of the basic tonic chord you're playing into the subdominant chord by making the tonic the secondary dominant?

That's why I see it as I-IV-I7-IV. They're just riffs. And the first two riffs, even transposed, wouldn't work with the FYC song, which is in a minor key.

The important chord is the first I. The others are basically movement away from and back to the I. The riff serves the larger structure of the song so if you were to look up these tunes in a fake book, the chord changes would probably just indicate the first chord in the riff.
posted by horsewithnoname at 6:32 PM on August 2, 2005

BTW, a chordal progression like this is generally identified by the names of the chords, which can be named by Roman numberals to be key-agnostic.

For example, in the Fine Young Cannibals song, the chord progression goes D-F-Am-G. Presuming this song is in the C major key [which may be incorrect,] then the progression is II-IV-vi-V.

Lower-case numerals indicate a minor chord. Sometimes you may see vi written as VImi instead.

I'm uncertain about the key in this case, because the second chord (ii or IImi) in a major key is usually minor… I'm sure someone will correct me on this.

On preview, horsewithnoname says the key is in a minor key, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

Additionally, the F/C notation means that an F chord is played with a C bass note.
posted by ijoshua at 7:05 PM on August 2, 2005

umm… I meant to say, “the song is in a minor key.”
posted by ijoshua at 7:07 PM on August 2, 2005

I took another listen to the FYC song, decided that the D chord might probably be a D7 (II7), then I did some research and found that this is called a “V of V” chord. Basically, this means you temporarily switch to the dominant (V) key [which is Gmaj from Cmaj] and play the V7 chord [which is D7 in Gmaj,] hence the “V of V” moniker. Confused? Me too.
posted by ijoshua at 8:09 PM on August 2, 2005

The Darts clip and the Charlie Rich clip are the same chord progression, I IV V IV. This is a common chord progression in pop and rock, as it makes use of all of the major chords that naturally occur in a key, so it sounds very bright and upbeat and implies a strong sense of tonality. In C major, the progression would be C F G F. They use a similar rhythmic pattern, but there is no technical musical name for the rhythm.

The Fine Young Cannibals clip uses a completely different chord progression that I can't identify with certainty just from listening.

V of V chords are the most common form of secondary dominants. In western music, the strongest relationship is between the dominant (V) and the tonic (I, also known as the root). Secondary dominants do not necessarily signal a key change, although they can, but it's best to think of them as borrowed chords. As ijoshua points out, in the key of C, G is the dominant. Let's say our progression is C G C, about as simple as we can get. We can elongate that progression by taking a little detour before going to the G. One way to do that is to set up the G with its dominant, which is D. A dominant doesn't have to be a 7th chord, but making it a 7th chord increases the tension and subsequent resolution. So the progression C D7 G7 C would be analyzed as I V/V V I in the key of C. I can explain more if anyone is still curious.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:44 AM on August 3, 2005

If I've understood you all, you're not agreeing with each other, which leaves me rather intrigued but unsure which of these is the best answer. Maybe that's fitting somehow in discussing music. :-)

Thanks for all the responses; they give me plenty to look into.
posted by Tuwa at 10:34 PM on August 9, 2005

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