Thirteen Years Without Peter King – theoretical analysis

Don’t know what a Roman numeral is and why it matters in music? Go here

This is one of my NEW FAVES(!!) off the latest World/Inferno Friendship Society album, The Anarchy and the Ecstasy. The album is a conglomeration of a bunch of tunes that, I feel, are wildly different from each other. So when I describe this song as a samba, please don’t think that the entire album is like one big ballroom dance album. It’s sooo not. But this one song.. it just makes me want to DANCE yo. But this is not really about dancing.

As far as World/Inferno songs go, this is actually pretty straightforward.

Verse: i iv III VI i
Chorus: iv VII III IIIM7* i iv V i

It’s in a very strongly established minor key. The majority of each verse is actually spent on the i chord, and then when it spends any decent amount of time on any other chord, it’s the iv chord. And before you return to the i, you hear a V, which is, what we call in the music world, an “authentic cadence.” Which basically is the strongest relationship between any two chords that could have ever existed.

Also, I want to point out the iv VII III IIIM7 i part of the chord progression. You can look at it like this:


ORRRR you can also look at it like this:


What’s with the slashes? Those, my friends, indicate secondary chords. We can even look at it like this:

V/V V I IM7 iv
ii V I IM7 iv

Which assumes, that just for a brief period of time, we’ve modulated to a different key. The key, in fact, is the relative major to the minor key that we are in. Meaning, we haven’t really gone off anywhere to far. Major and minor keys that are relative to each other share DNA.. I mean.. they have the same key signature. So the chords all look the same, they just get shuffled around into a slightly different order. You put the emphasis on a different set of chords within the group and VOILA – different key.. sort of.

So for a brief period of time, the song changes to the relative major. In this new key, you have the I, and leading to it, you have the V (there’s that authentic cadence we were talking about earlier), and before that, you have something called V/V. That would be the V that leads to the V, or, like, another little authentic cadence. But since it’s not the end of a phrase, we’re not really going to call it that. But it’s important. V/V is like going down a one way street, which dumps you onto another one way street (the V), which can lead you only to one place, the I. V/V – V – I is a really strong pattern. the V/V can also be referred to as ii, as that is how it relates to the I. And so for a brief moment in time, the song is in the relative Major – not the relative minor. Don’t get your chords confused, dudes and dudettes! It’ll sound like a tonic (another name for that first chord in a key), but it’s MAJOR, not minor. We’re somewhere else! But then we go right back to the relative minor and all is well.

Another interesting note, for you musicians out there: A IIIM7 could also be mistaken for a V chord (with some added tones in it, yes), and what comes after the IIIM7? A i! I’ll have to look more into this one.

Of course, I haven’t yet told you what key we are in. HAHAHA! I AM EVIL! Jk. What I like about posting the roman numeral analysis first is that it allows you, the reader/listener/student/person who may or may not be familiar with the song/band/style of music/music in general to listen to the song from a more abstract point of view. Knowing chords is good – but since the point of roman numerals to begin with is to identify the functions of the chords, I want to present it this way first. So go pull up the song, keep this blog entry open (or print it out if you want, and take it with you, wherever), and give a listen while following along. For reference, I’ve included one verse and one chorus from the song so that I can attempt to illustrate the timing of the chords with the lyrics (because, as you may have already heard, or will, there is a LOT going on with this song). I wouldn’t want you to confuse passing melodies with actual chord changes.

The years are short just as the day is long
It was me on the corner
It was only men when you were looking
iv III V i
not to kneel to anyone else, get it Pete.

iv VII
And now it's far to late to go
No one ever saw the show
Blame the witches blame the saints
No one cares which ones are fake
And we'll never need to know.

So there you have it. You can find the song on YouTube (I did) here:Thirteen Years Without Peter King (album version).

Audience Participation Time
What do you think? Confused? Have questions? Follow up questions? Follow up follow up questions? I’ll be posting the actual chord progression, and additionally, a recording of myself playing the song, later on in the week, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too, and maybe that will answer some questions (or create some new ones).

*IIIM7 means it’s a Major chord built of the third scale degree, with a Major 7th added in. This is not commonly found in classical music, so there’s really no “classical” way to notate it.

Chords and Lyrics: At Last

At Last
Mack Gordon and Harry Warren

G   Em   Am7   D7   G   Em   Am7
At last my love has come along
D7/F#   G   Em   Am7
My lonely days are over
D7   G   E7   A7   D7
And life is like a song. oh yeah

G   Em   Am7   D7   G   Em   Am7
At last the skies above are blue
D7/F#   G   Em   Am7
My heart was wrapped in clover
D7/F#   G   C7   G   Fdim
The night I looked at you.

Am7   D7   Gmaj7
I found a dream that I can speak to,
F#7   G7   F#7   Bm7   D/A
A dream that I can call my own;
Em   A7   D   F#dim
I found a thrill to press my cheek to,
Em   A7   Am7   D7
A thrill that I ‘ve never known

G   Em   Am7   D7   G   Em   Am7
You smiled, oh, and then the spell was cast
D7/F#   G   Em   Am7
And here we are in heaven
D7/F#   G   Em   Am7
For you are mine at last
D7/F#   G    C    G
For you are mine at last

Look for the harmonic analysis of this song coming soon!

A Note About Chords and Lyrics

I’m about to start sharing – through this very blog – chord progressions to some of my favorite songs.  Some of these are songs whose chords I figured out completely on my own.  Others are lead sheets I found littered about the internet, which I then edited.  The internet offers a wealth of available lead sheets and tablature for the aspiring musician, but sometimes they end up misrepresenting the song.

Common errors/weirdnesses found on the internet are:

  • a song in the wrong key.  I am always amused at this, because generally, it is off by a half step or whole step, the equivalent of one or two frets on the guitar.  Meaning: someone didn’t tune their guitar properly that morning.
  • alternately, when one is instructed to “tune down” or “tune up” a guitar to play a song correctly.  an alternate tuning is one thing, but if I am not tuning my entire guitar up, down, or sideways by the same interval on every string just because you couldn’t really figure out the chord progression.  The neck of a guitar offers easily two locations to play any song.  If one doesn’t seem to be working for you, find the other one.
  • instead of chords we are given the lead guitar line, which may or may not be enough to accurately represent the song. Unless you have an entire band backing you, this is usually useless.
  • attempts at representing the proper strumming rhythm generally take up way to much space on the page and don’t seem to be worth it.

There are probably a few more mistakes and awkward things around the world wide web of guitar chords and tab, so it’s possible I will be adding to this list as time goes on.  My own attempts at sharing my “fake” sheets with you will hopefully attack each of the gripes on my list head on and provide you with the best representation of how I myself play this song.

Following the chord post will be a harmonic analysis of each song, utilizing roman numerals (which I’ve already talked about on this blog), to analyze how the chords relate to each other. Being able to hear the relationships between the chords is almost as important as knowing the chords themselves. It’s the difference between seeing random words strung together followed by some punctuation, and being able to identify the subject, predicate, and object in any given sentence.

The songs I publish to my blog will mostly include songs that I perform live or songs that I enjoy playing at home.  Many of these really are songs that I have spent a lot of time on, from figuring out the basic chord structure to the strumming pattern.  Often times I am analyzing music which was never meant to be played by one girl with her acoustic guitar, and I work towards the best way to boil down, say, a nine piece punk band to suit my needs.