Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beach boys Part 1 "Don't worry Baby"

"Don't Worry Baby"

Note:  A guy jump-ropes with a girl as the jump-rope in this video.

HOW TO UNDERSTAND MUSICAL ROMAN NUMERALS:  The song starts in the key of E major, so the E major chord is "I".  A capital roman numeral means a major chord.  Lowercase means a minor chord... so "i" would be an E minor.  Then to understand what IV means, you can just count through the musical alphabet to the 4th letter, E, F, G, A.  A major is IV.  If there's a key change, then there's a new "I", and all roman numerals are relative to that "I" at that point.  So when we change to the key of F#:  F# is "I" and B is "IV".  Moving on....

    After the brief drum intro comes the Beach Boys signature big "I" chord, establishing the key and the mood immediately.  We're already transcendentally happy.  Another voice comes in to reinforce the chord... which leads all the other voices to the "IV" chord.

Next, an important musical device:  The voices stay on the IV chord when the bass goes to the V.


 Vox:  I(E)...I(E)...IV(A)...IV(A)...
(The vocals are in Roman numerals to show that they are in chords)
Bass:  1(E)...2(E)...4(A)...5(B)...  
 (The bass is in arabic numerals to show that it plays single notes)

That chord: IV in the high register, 5 in the low, (A over B) creates a nice complex harmony:  A chord played in the higher register which has a root note a minor 7th above the note played in the bass.  In this case, it functions as a V7 chord.   You can find examples of this chord in many pop songs that have a more harmonically complicated sensibility.  Examples: "Don't stop 'til you get enough", "P.Y.T.", (Probably many more)- Michael Jackson, "Still Remains"- Stone Temple Pilots, "Babies"- Via Audio.  The chord always creates the same cozy tension. 


The verse is harmonically a little simpler, just that good old cliche of I IV and V.  The melody is quite interesting and deserves its own post.  Let's talk about the melody in the comments of this post.  (As well as any questions or comments you have on this harmonic analysis!)

ii...V...iii...VI(V) (key change to F#)...

The prechorus modulates to F# major through a common modulating device.  The ii chord (F#m) to the V chord (B) repeats in a different key, resolving to the I of that new key.  When you make a ii_V, you've made an unresolved musical phrase.   If you repeat any musical phrase, you can get away with playing it in a different key without sounding too strange.  If it's an unresolved phrase, tension can be built with repetition of that phrase in the same key or a different key.  The next chords in the song, iii and VI are basically the same phrase as ii... V,  a whole step up.  (The melody over the iii_VI chords is also the same, just a whole step up!) The VI is a pivot chord, acting as V in the new key of F#.  If you want to modulate, a V chord in the new key is a very common and effective way to reinforce a new key.  Cadences establish stability in music.  The V chord to the I chord is the most obvious example.  It's known as the "Authentic cadence".  Whenever we hear a V chord, we want to hear a I chord afterward.  The prechorus contains the only V chord in the song that isn't immediately followed by a I chord.  The Beach Boys are good at giving you what you want, like candy.  


The chorus is a harmonic cliche:  The I...ii...V chord progression in the key of F#.  The familiarity of the chord progression reinforces the lyric:  "Don't worry baby".

bVII 2nd inv. (I 2nd inv.)(key of E) V...

The post-chorus establishes the key of the verse as E again through a 3 part authentic cadence.  The first chord of the post chorus is a little shocking...sounding a bit like the non-diatonic bVII chord, but then we immediately hear two chords that people have been hearing since the Baroque era.  The first chord is also acting as the I chord of the new key in an unstable 2nd inversion, which resolves partially when we hit the V chord and then fully when we get to the I and begin the verse again. 

(That I 2nd inversion chord is also called a cadential six-four chord!  You can wikipedia "cadential six-four chord" for more details!)

I wanted to talk about melody and texture for this song, but there was a lot to say about the harmony.  That other stuff will be discussed in the comments section!

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