Thursday, October 29

So What – Pink – Harmony

So What – Pink – Harmony

Verse Harmony

To start this machine today, I want to post a message from Pink’s drummer, the AMAZING Mark Shulman (His website is HERE). They are currently rocking out on tour in the UK!

Mark writes:

Incidentally...Tell dear Shane that I believe that his whole assessment of the verse does not apply because the verse is in the relative minor of the chorus which means that his declaration of instability through starting on the 6th is invalid.  Alecia is actually starting and ending on the root from high to low octave.  I think she is emphatically pissed off, rather than unstable and this melody implies that anger blatantly.  I love the debate!  Forward this to him and his students so they can get my refutation!


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Mark brings up a fantastic point! Is the melody major or minor? That’s the slippery thing about pentatonic. It requires context and it depends on the listener. Given a pentatonic scale by itself, most will hear it as major, since major is more common. Remember that Pink (I love that he calls her Alecia! How cool is that?) is only singing the melody in the first verse. There’s no chord or bass line directing us in either direction. I hear it as major, Mark as minor.

Who’s right? The answer: it doesn’t matter. What matters is the question. I like melody even more knowing it is ambiguous and interchangeable. This fits in with the instability scenario. (I should also say I don’t want to imply “instability” as a weakness. I’m talking in terms of tension…instability/tension…not distraught/tension).

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Okay, I lied. I think Mark’s right. :)

I’ve been listening to this song a bazillion times and tried it with his ears. Hmmm? So what do I go with, first impression, or the evolution of that impression? The more I listen, the more minor-y it sounds.

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One thing worth noting is that the entire verse is in that color. It’s a single chord groove for 12 bars (8 bars verse, 4 bars “na na” prechorus).

Most of us do not have the confidence to write an entire section using only one chord. Alecia [I had to say it] did it in two section of this song, as we’ll find out.

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Chorus Chords

Here’s the chorus chord progression…

A…C#m…F#m…D, E…rinse and repeat

Here’s the Roman numeral…

I…IIm…VIm…IV, V…

(I don’t want any grief from anyone using lower case letters for minor chords, as in: ii, vi)

The harmonic rhythm is one chord per measure (except for the D and E chord which are 2 beats apiece).

This harmonic rhythm is pretty standard in most songs, but remember, we just heard an ENTIRE verse where there was NO chord progression. This creates a tremendous amount of tension, which explodes into a momentum of harmony in the chorus. Think of it track runner poised in the starting blocks before the pistol goes off. The muscles tense and BAM(!) they’re off. The same thing happens here.

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Bridge Chord

The entire bridge is centered around an A chord, the “I” chord. The ENTIRE bridge. Isn’t that fantastic? The gorgeous melody is allowed to shine, unconstrained by any harmonic motion for 8 bars. This single chord harmony allows the chorus to rocket forward again.

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The structure is really terrific. Tension/release, tension/release, tension/release. This is a perfect foundation for a song about liberation and blowing off steam.

Now go get in a fight write something cool!



Douglas said...

Hey brother Shane! Great blog! This Pink song is an amazing piece of writing! When I listened to the chorus, I got the following chords...


But, you have...

A…C#m…F#m…D, E

Which I think is actually the chord progression for "Puff the Magic Dragon". Which is close I guess, 'cause "Puff the Magic Dragon" starts with 'P' and so does "Pink". So I can definitely see the correlation! Although, when we talk of her as Alecia, that correlation kind of breaks down.... ;)

But that one chord Bridge is amazing, isn't it! It definitely builds tons and tons of tension. We were always taught to try and avoid the tonic in the bridge, but Pink definitely breaks that rule there... and succeeds! Probably because of the return to the quick chord changes of the chorus.

Roger King said...

Great to see the debate... I'm sure Mark had already listened to it a bazillion times before you! :) It'll be fun to watch this metamorphosis... Good work!

Shane Adams said...

Hey Douglas!

Thanks for the message. I assure you those are the right chords! The key is playing the bass line.

I cracked up about the Pink-Puff connection. Let's see...the Puff chords are...



(sometimes the B7 and E7 are two beats, not four).

I should analyze Puff one of these days. That would be hilarious.


Shane :)

Douglas said...

Thanks Shane! Hmm... I must have "Puff the Magic Dragon" running through my veins. Sure sounded like it to me. When I play the...

A…C#m…F#m…D, E

I can't sing along with it. But, when I play the...


It works. Is it possible the line is...


The melody on the words 'Rock Star' drops down to the 6th (as you said) which is the F#... which isn't contained in the C#m. That is what is throwing me off.

But, you are the final authority!