Monday, 29 August 2016

Golden Ticket: Chromatic Descent Starting From The Root (Ticket 17)


Put a descending chromatic counter melody within your chord progression, starting from the root note of the chord.

Skippable Theory Lesson

Play the notes E - D# - D - C# - C. This is a descending chromatic line.
Play G and B above each note of the descending chromatic line. This puts the idea into an E minor chord.
Play G# and B above each note of the descending chromatic line. This puts the idea into an E major chord.

Beatles Application

The Beatles probably learned this concept from Lenny Welch's 1962 single A Taste Of Honey (0:14) which they covered the following year. There the line is F# - F - E - D# within the chords F#m - F#m (maj7) - F#m7 - B major. This same basic sequence is extended in And Your Bird Can Sing (0:36) F#m - F#m (maj7) - F#m7 - B7 - D and Something (0:27) Am - Am (maj7) - Am7 - D9 - F.

In the examples above the first three notes of the melodic line remain on the same chord but putting the first four notes on the same chord yields this pattern from Cry Baby Cry (0:11) Em - Em (maj7) - Em7 - Em6 - C7 and a similar one from I Me Mine (0:31) Am - Am (maj7) – Am7 - Am6 - Fmaj7. Michelle (0:00) extends this pattern to six descending notes (F - E - Eb - D - Db - C) and six chords Fm - Fm (maj7) - Fm7 - Fm6 - Bbm - C.

Every use of the line in a major key is harmonised differently by The Beatles. The most straight forward is the verse of Something (0:05) where the four note line is placed over a C - Cmaj7 - C7 - F progression. The same line is harmonised as C - Cmaj7 - Gm7 - A7 in Sun King (0:58) and in the key of F it appears as F - Fmaj7 - F7 - Gm in Strawberry Fields Forever (0:00) and F - Caug - Fm7 - Fm6 in Fixing A Hole (0:06).

Guest Artist: Frank Sinatra

Rodgers and Hart were early proponents of this progression using C - Cmaj7 - C7 - C6 in the refrain of their 1937 Broadway hit My Funny Valentine which was later covered by Frank Sinatra (0:02). A mere two years later Sinatra sang over the minor version of the changes on the Harry James And His Orchestra recording of All Or Nothing At All by Lawrence/Altman (0:09). And in 1969 he tackled both in his signature song My Way (0:07 and 0:18).


Though the simplest application is to insert the line into one chord there are many other possibilities. In C major for instance a C - B - Bb - A line over a Cmaj chord would create a C - Cmaj7 - C7 - C6 progression, but you could harmonise the same line with C - G/B - Gm/Bb - F/A or even C - Em - Bb – F. In the key of Am an alternative progression might be Am - E/G# - G - D/F#. Try adding different notes around the line and see what you can come up with.

As well as experimenting with the chords you can use different inversions. Try placing the moving line at the top of the chord - as in the verse of Something (0:05), the middle of the chord - Strawberry Fields Forever (0:00), or the bottom of the chord - Got To Get You Into My Life (0:21). George Harrison's solo song Try Some Buy Some – takes this last option to extremes Em - Em/D# - Em/D - Em/C# - Em/C - Em/B - B7 followed by Am - Am/G# - Am/G - Am/F# - Am/F - Am/E - F#dim (0:00 and 0:13).

Don't just use the minor variation when playing in a minor key (eg. Am in the key of Am) as George does in I Me Mine. The progression, due to it's chromatic nature, works just as well on the ii, iii or vi intervals of a major key. I’ll Be Back is in A major but the progression is Bm - Bm (maj7) - Bm7 - C#m (1:03) – starting on the ii chord. And Your Bird Can Sing is in D major but the progression appears on F#m – the iii chord. And Something's second use of the progression (0:27) starts on Am (the vi of C major). So explore what you can do on those intervals too.

See the full list of songs using this ticket here.

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