Thursday, October 22

I’ll Follow You into the Dark – Harmony

I’ll Follow You into the Dark – Harmony

This song smartly uses a small palette of chords in interesting ways to keep our interest up and a momentum moving forward.

All of my students know I am big on creating contrast between verses and choruses. Gibbard uses harmonic rhythm to create excellent contrast.

Harmonic rhythm is how often the chords change during a progression. For example: A different/new chord every beat; a different/new chord every 2 beats (twice a measure, in 4/4 time); a new chord every 4 beats (every measure), etc.

I’ll Follow You uses two different harmonic rhythms, one for the verse, another for the chorus.

The Verse

The verse harmonic rhythm is one chord per measure …

|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C|*

*(Yes, I realize there are two chords in measure 4, but they both use C as a root…get over it HERE)

This particular chord progression is very common.

I, VIm, IV, V

…recognize it? That’s right…it’s the progression most people use to play the Heart and Soul* duet on the piano (although the proper progression is actually I, VIm, IIm, V :))

The Chorus

The chorus speeds up the harmonic rhythm, 2 chords per measure. Here’s the whole progression…

|Dm, F|Bb, F|Dm, F|C, C|
|Dm, F|A7, Dm|Bb, Bm| F, F|

Speeding up the harmonic rhythm speeds up the momentum of the song without altering the tempo. It’s a great groove tool whether you are writing a ballad like this, or a Heavy Metal tune. My ears love when the songwriter alters this element. So many songs do the SAME EXACT THING throughout the entire song. This song does not disappoint.

Verse 3

The only alteration of chords happens in the 3rd verse. We’ve talked about this last line previously, how many tiny changes in this moment combine to create amazing prosody between lyric and music. The change happens when he sings “darkest of rooms”. If you remember from the last couple of posts, that line is an addition to what is normally played in the other verses.

 Here’s the normal verse progression…

|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C|
|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C|
|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C|
|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C|

Here’s the third verse… He throws in a Dm chord for a measure of 2/4, instead of the normal 4/4 measure.

|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C|
|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C|
|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C|
|F…|Dm…|Bb…|F/C, C| Dm |Bb…|Bb…|

In other words, he creates a passageway through Dm! Lyrically he’s talking about passing through death to life after death.
There is a lyric passageway AND a harmonic passageway (and as we learned yesterday, a MELODIC passageway).

No wonder that phrase is so amazing. It’s perfect prosody. The constructional elements, the harmony and melody, are reflecting exactly what’s happening in the lyric...beautiful!

Okay…stop reading and go write something amazing.



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Advanced concepts for my students:
I feel strongly compelled to remind my songwriter nation that the reason this last line works so well, is that he established a pattern in the other verses. This line isn’t special all on its own. The other verses did their job of setting us up to think he was going to do something else…and then he ADDS something. In other words, if Gibbard had done the same progression each verse, it wouldn’t have been anything special. Us listeners would have heard it as normal. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful progression…but saving it made it even more special. A great lesson learned.

1 comment:

Ishita Rungta said...

It is awesome how you open our "listening eyes" to the notion of lyric passageway AND a harmonic passageway Having been brought up mostly on Indian music {where there is a complete absence of harmonies {Indian music is based on ragas}…it was difficult in the beginning to grasp the importance of harmony.
I had a stumbling start in class but thereafter have had an stimulating journey re-discovering music through what you call the harmonic passageway. Ha ha I still get lost sometimes in the Alice in wonderlandish labyrinth and feel like the rabbit who does not know where to begin and Shane you are
Certainly the king saying : “ Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop”.
Jokes apart I keep striving to create contrast and prosody in the different section in my songs and this blog is making me feel less rabbit-ish