December 31, 2008

"The Sensitive Female Chord Progression."

It's everywhere, apparently. I'm not sensitive enough to chords to be able to hear things like this on my own (though it helps me a lot to know that a suspect progression can be tested by seeing if you can sing "What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?" over it).

(Thanks to EDH for sending the link.)

58 comments:

LordSomber said...

Yuck. I'll stick with the "devil's chord." (augmented 4th/diminished 5th).

Sofa King said...

At least it's not Pachelbel

Saint Russell said...

Did you see that "Hallelujah" earned three positions in last week's UK Top 40? A new recording by "X Factor" winner Alexandra Burke was at #1, where it remains this week. Last week's #2 was Jeff Buckley's version, currently at #7. Leonard Cohen himself was at #36 last week, but has dropped off this week's chart.

john said...

"You know I'm getting really bored,
'cause all songs have the same damn chord."

Thanks Sofa King, for the tie-in to Ann's earlier post.

garage mahal said...
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Richard Fagin said...

I'm with Lord Somber, which is why I turned my radio off in 1967. You want chord progression? Listen to Barbara Streisand singing "People."

garage mahal said...

Sensitive Female Chord Progressions are another way of describing a Coldplay song. I say skip that and go to a real woman and some real chord progressions.

I'm going down yonder, behind the sun
I'm gonna do something for you, that ain't never been done
I'm gonna hold back the lightning, with the palm of my hand
Shake hands with the devil, make him crawl in the sand.

campy said...

Which is clearly superior to the Loutish Male Chord Progression.

Alan said...

Considering all the examples, why call it the "sensitive female chord"? And what does this say of Rush Limbaugh when he used to rave about that Joan Osborne song? :)

And when I hear "Self Esteem" by Offspring I think of surfing long glassy lines. What's up with that?...

Tibore said...

"LordSomber said...
Yuck. I'll stick with the "devil's chord." (augmented 4th/diminished 5th)."


Amen. Long live the tritone; All Hail Tommy Iommi!

:D

And screw this wuss-ass "Sensitive" chord progression crap. If you wanna feel emotion, set your Strat or Les Paul to the bridge pickup, plug it into you ridiculously oversized Marshall stack, set distortion on Stun (set the knob to 11, for all you literal minded prosaics out there), then start ripping out some power chords! Bam bam BAM! 3-Chord rock baby! Find me something more viscerally pure than that!

reader_iam said...

I am right now this very minute listening to The Hooter's "Where Do The Children Go?", which is the song I thought off BEFORE I hit the part of the article before Bazilian is mentioned.

Heh!!!!!

rhhardin said...

I like the off-the-wall chord progressions of Faure (real audio).

The sensitive Frenchman progression.

Faure's music is banned in Iran, by the way.

Kev said...

This cracked me up, because it's so true. (And yes, I'm one of the music theory geeks who knew what the Roman numeral progression was before reading it in the article.) When Eric Bazilian, quoted in the article, mentioned Heart, the song "Alone" immediately popped into my head, and sure enough, the SFCP is right there, in the chorus.

And Sofa King beat me to posting the Pachelbel Rant (which was the first thing that came into my mind when I thought about "iconic chord progressions"), but thanks for the link; I hadn't watched that one in a while.

True story: I used to work in a music store, in the sheet music department, and I can't tell you how many people came in search of a copy of the Pachelbel Canon but asked for the "Taco Bell" Canon by mistake. (They also occasionally requested the "Bronze Lullaby," meaning Brahms.)

Simon said...

My music theory knowledge is evidently a little askew. Perhaps Theo can enlighten me: in the key of A minor, I would have thought that a vi-IV-I-V chord progression would be F, D, Am, E - not Am, F, C, G as that story says (surely, in A minor, that would be I-VI-III-VII, those being respectively the first, sixth, third and seventh degrees of the A minor scale).

(I have to admit, I do rather like Building a Mystery.)

Simon said...

Also: this reinforces my view (see comments in this thread) that assigning royalties based on chord sequences doesn't work. If you set aside the lyrics, what distinguishes Building a Mystery from a thousand other songs using the same chords and approximately the same melodies and rhythm? The arrangement. The judge was absolutely right to give Booker his royalties: A Whiter Shade of Pale without his organ part is, musically, nothing but a descending bassline.

Simon said...

Tibore said...
"Find me something more viscerally pure than that!"

Define "viscerally pure."

Salamandyr said...

Simon, you're correct. The author screwed up (or mistyped). One of the commenters in the original article corrects him.

Joachim Arnerholm said...

I did kinda like "What if god was one of us". So am I a sensitive female now?

Tibore said...

"Simon said...
Tibore said...
"Find me something more viscerally pure than that!"

Define "viscerally pure.""


Awww, c'mon, Simon, don't harsh my joke! I was trying to exude a sense of rock and roll rebellion, not a sense of serious music interpretation. If we start analyzing when we wanna go windmill chording, we'll end up all prog-rock and have to go play at Rock for Hunger or something like that. I don't think I can pull off being a Bono clone.

;)

Lem said...

No doubt the sensitive female chord progression has come about as a direct result of global warming and feminism.

As we all know birds have always flown south for the winter. . since global warming however, birds are not migrating as much, don’t need to.

With global warming woman don’t need men as much to keep warm, nor to make a nest (as femenism would have it)

This has caused a great deal of confusion and pain among females causing them to sometimes turn on each other. Sarah Palin, for example lives in Alaska (very cold up there) and she is a Governor and she’s got kids and she has a man.

How could this be?

The sensitive female chord progression has evolved to allow woman to present themselves as in need of warmth, and not as threatening to men, just like back in the old days ;)

TitusClassof87 said...

My chord is sensitive.

Paul said...

Here's a "female" chord progression...at least it was written by one of the more creative female pop writer-performers of the last few decades. It also is rather prescient in its title as an ode to the boomer generation. All major chords, except sharp elevenths at points of resolution, moving in unusual intervals.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr6XrtOWQfE&feature=related

As to the vi-IV-V-I progression in the article it could support beautiful and moving music as well as tripe depending on the artist.

Duke Ellington said it best:

"There are only two kinds of music. Good and bad."

Unfortunately when it comes to music, everyone is a goddamn expert.

Theo Boehm said...
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reader_iam said...

Man, Theo, I feel like I'm a kid again, sitting across the dinner table from my dad.

Paul said...

"I may not have gotten rich and famous, but if anyone's interested, I can still tell you all about augmented 6th chords."

But can you blow over the changes in "Giant Steps" at tempo, in twelve keys?

reader_iam said...

(A music prof, recall. With my mom also being a musician by profession and passion, one was much more likely to hear, for example, "How 'bout that chord progression?" than "How 'bout those Phillies?")

Theo Boehm said...
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Theo Boehm said...
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Kev said...

Also: this reinforces my view (see comments in this thread) that assigning royalties based on chord sequences doesn't work.

I agree, Simon; being able to copyright a chord progression would place an undue hardship on future composers. In jazz, we have an entire body of work known as contrafacts, which involve writing new melodic material over a well-known chord progression. (An example that's familiar to the jazz world would be Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," written over the changes to "Back Home Again in Indiana," while a much more widely known one would be "Meet the Flintstones," written over the changes to "I Got Rhythm" by George and Ira Gershwin.)

I've had a running joke on this subject for quite some time: "You can't copyright the blues. If you did, the person who owned the copyright would be so wealthy as to no longer have the blues."

Sofa King said...

I do think that, having defined the "Sensitive Female" chord progression, we need to define the "Brutish Male" progression as well.

I propose I IV III vi (if I got this right it should roughly be the first four chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit.")

Kev said...

I may not have gotten rich and famous, but if anyone's interested, I can still tell you all about augmented 6th chords.

My sophomore theory professor told a dirty joke in class one time, involving the spelling of an "augmented sex chord." (Decorum prevents me from actually writing the punch line, but take the common taboo verb for sex and "sharp the fifth" and you'll get the idea.)

This was quite a few years ago; I wonder if, because of PC nonsense, he'd get canned for telling that now.

But can you blow over the changes in "Giant Steps" at tempo, in twelve keys?

Working on it. Not quite there yet.

reader_iam said...

Speaking of music, did you notice that Nat Hentoff has been laid off from The Village Voice?

Eras end. It's what they do.

/tangent

Theo Boehm said...
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Trooper York said...

“Find me something more viscerally pure than that!"

Well that would be a vastead sandwich which is made from the best lung meat and other delicious portions of viscera served together with ricotta and slivers of hard provolone on toasted crusty roll.

That’s what I call viscerally pure.

OSweet said...

How 'bout those Celtics!

Sofa King said...

Wait, I think I got that backwards... i iv III VI seems right.

Theo Boehm said...
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Kev said...

Theo--good point. I wasn't implying that contrafacts took place solely in jazz, but that's probably the most common place where it's found in modern music. (It would, however, be funny if, say, Foo Fighters wrote a new tune over the changes to "Free Bird.")

Thankfully, I haven't yet become burned out on the "Taco Bell Canon" quite yet. It's among the pieces on my state's solo contest literature list for saxophones, so my students get to play it even though it predates the saxophone by 160 years.

When I was demonstrating it for this one kid, who comes from a blended family, his face brightened and he said, "Oh! They played that at my mom's wedding!" He ended up choosing it for his solo that year, and I'm sure that Mom enjoyed hearing him practice it.

wgh said...

I propose I IV III vi (if I got this right it should roughly be the first four chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit.")

If that translates to C F Em Am then it's not Teen Spirit. Those chords are crazy: C Bb Eb Ab. I have no idea what the root of that progression is but it sounds unusual to me.

wgh said...
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wgh said...

OK, I was wrong. The chords are C F Eb Ab which is I IV iii vi. I think?

Simon said...

I like a modified version of that progression that I've heard - A minor, F, C, D major 7th over an F# in the bass. I get the sudden urge to try writing (doffs hat the the RHCP) "Sensitive Female Chord Progression Classic." Time to get out the Tori Amos albums and get a feel...

Simon said...

Umm... Not a euphemism. (!)

Simon said...

wgh said...
"OK, I was wrong. The chords are C F Eb Ab which is I IV iii vi. I think?"

It's in F - Fm-Bb-Ab-Db (I-IV-III-VI), although I wouldn't be surprised if they used an alternative tuning. (The Beatles' Yesterday, for example, is in F but is played with a guitar tuned down such that the F is an open G shape - that's why that opening sounds so rich.)

John Althouse Cohen said...

Simon said...
in the key of A minor, I would have thought that a vi-IV-I-V chord progression would be F, D, Am, E - not Am, F, C, G as that story says (surely, in A minor, that would be I-VI-III-VII, those being respectively the first, sixth, third and seventh degrees of the A minor scale).


The author is correct only if the song is in a major key. If the song starts in major (for instance, C major), it might later switch to a section in the relative minor (A minor), hence vi-IV-I-V. But if the whole song is in minor, the progression is i-VI-III-VII.

It's in F - Fm-Bb-Ab-Db (I-IV-III-VI), although I wouldn't be surprised if they used an alternative tuning.

Yes except the "i" is lowercase (minor). And he's using standard tuning, not an alternate tuning.

Simon said...

John Althouse Cohen said...
"Yes except the "i" is lowercase (minor)."

Ah! I wondered what that signified.

Pogo said...

Is it not terribly strange that certain chord sequences can provoke strong emotions?

Why should I feel sad or wistful or joyous or angry or melancholy or pacified when this piece or that is played? For this often occurs even unattached to any thing in my life.

I find this a most amazing and lovely thing, like God's fingerprints.

""Can you tell me what music is? It's completely intangible. It's something that you can't grasp. You see art, watch people dancing, but you have to give part of your life to hear music. It grips you, gets into your soul, the most sublime of all the arts. Why should a minor chord sound sad, a major chord sound happy? There's no logic to it at all."
Sir George Martin

blake said...

Pogo--

A mere evolutionary side-effect to be sure. An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.

reader_iam said...

A mother's voice. A baby's coo.

reader_iam said...

The sound of pee against a rock.

reader_iam said...

A stomach's growl ... borborigmy!

(A word with music all its own.)

Pogo said...

A mother's voice?
Maybe instead her heartbeat.


And music has the strange capacity to make you fall in love with a song, to become irrationally passionate about it, to want to hear it over and over again, to possess it. Over time, to discard it, bored, only to rediscover it decades later, with a tear.

TMink said...

Sir George knows, he just has not yet figured out that he knows.

"Can you tell me what music is?"

Good music is a nueral hack that affects the listeners emotions in powerful and non-rational ways.

"It's completely intangible. It's something that you can't grasp. You see art, watch people dancing, but you have to give part of your life to hear music. It grips you, gets into your soul, the most sublime of all the arts. Why should a minor chord sound sad, a major chord sound happy? There's no logic to it at all."

No, and the lack of logic seems to trouble George when he tries to talk about it. Thankfully, not so much when he helped make it. 8)

Trey

gbarto said...

I found the article quite amusing. Curious, I want to the piano and banged out the Am-C-F-G sequence about four times.

The sensitive female in the next room asked me what I was making that racket for.

Kirk Parker said...

Now that someone has mentioned Bono, I will point out that "With our Without You" uses exactly the same chord progression (though starting at a different point.) Confirmation of his Sensitive New Age Guy status, or something else?

Simon said...

Kirk, that song's progression is I-V-vi-IV not i-VI-III-VII.

CanadaTrees said...

notice the root movements - primary (push forward) then secondary (introspective) then secondary (introspective) and primary giving it a forward push when it loops around...

Jon said...

@ LordSomber

for the record the tritone (your diminished 5th) is an interval not a chord...

do you mean a diminished chord?

root - minor 3rd - dimin 5th