Thirteen Years Without Peter King – theoretical analysis

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

iv VII III IIIM7* i

ORRRR you can also look at it like this:

V/V/III V/III III IIIM7 i

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
OR
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.


i
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.

...
i
iv VII
And now it's far to late to go
III IIIM7 i
No one ever saw the show
iv
Blame the witches blame the saints
V
No one cares which ones are fake
i
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.

Roman Numerals

Before we begin, I need to talk about pitch, and then perfect pitch.

Essentially, pitch is how high or how low a sound is.  Women’s voices generally have high pitches; men have low pitches.  While there are practically an infinite amount of pitches that can and cannot be heard (think of dog whistles, as one example), all pitches fall into the same 12 pitch classes.  If you can imagine a keyboard, it is made up of these pitches – A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.  These are the white keys.  The black keys represent sharps and flats, which is a WHOLE other post altogether.  Suffice it to say, an A sharp (A#) is not the same as an A, but apparently not different enough to be given it’s own name.

You might be thinking that this altogether does not make sense.  If there are 88 different tones on a piano, why not give them 88 different names?  Have you ever tried to remember 88 different names simeltaneously?  While all the notes are distinctly different, certain of these notes vibrate in similar ways, so that musicians and scientists alike have come to recognize that even though this key “down here” and this key “up here” are very far apart, they are the same note.  Sound is essentially vibration that your ear translates into a sound in your head, and the way vibrations go, without getting to heady and scientific on you, is that if you play any A on the keyboard, and then play the very next A up on the keyboard, the higher note is vibrating twice as fast as the lower note.  It is in this way that they are related.  A 2 to 1 ratio is a very simple ratio, and so they are considered the same note, or belong to the same pitch class, even though they are 12 keys apart on the keyboard. So even though there are an infinite amount of pitches, we can still classify them all into just 12 groups.

Perfect pitch is the ability to hear any tone and know, without any prompting, what the name of the note is.  It is a skill that not every musician possesses, and to be honest, perfect pitch is again, a whole other post i could write.  However, I won’t.  I bring up perfect pitch because of a musician’s ability to recognize a note in any context, and without any other reference point.  I liken it to an artist who can tell the difference between yellow and burnt umber, for example, without any reference except their own memory.

Perfect pitch doesn’t seem to come with the territory of being a professional musician.  There are pros who have perfect pitch, and there are also people who do not have any musical talent whatsoever who have the ability to distinguish between notes (I once heard of a person who actually could identify pitches by their MHz, or frequency). But the majority of people do not have the ability to just pull the name of a note or a chord out of thin air.

So for the rest of us, there are Roman numerals.

Most people are familiar with Roman numerals.  I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII are the ones musicians use most.  These are, of course, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.  Roman numerals have the distinct ability, unlike our European numbers, of being either uppercase or lowercase. Uppercase Roman numerals represent major chords, and appear like this:

I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

Meanwhile, the lowercase numbers represent minor chords, and look like this.

i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii

The advantage of using Roman numerals to talk about chords is that one does not need perfect pitch to recognize a chord naming it by its Roman numeral. Roman numerals represent the way a chord functions within the world of that specific song.  a I chord will always sound like a I chord.  A vi chord will also, always sound like a vi chord.  On the other hand, a C Major chord can have a few different functions depending on what key it is in.  And even if you can pick out the C Major chord in a song, you may not be able to figure out what the other chords are.  being able to identify the function of a chord, on the other hand, can help you identify other chords as well.  It’s like working on a puzzle.  If you can find one piece, you can usually then plug a few more into place based on that.

Roman numerals specifically come in handy when listening to a song you have never heard before, but want to learn (and cannot find on ultimate-guitar.com, probably one of my favorite guitar sites).  Once you start being able to recognize the functions of chords in a song, it is much easier to play a song and identify it.

Another good use for Roman numerals is for ease of transposition.  Say you have a diva of a singer who refuses to sing whatever song you’re working on with her in whatever key you’ve got it in.  If you know the chord progression in Roman numerals, it’s much easier to put the song in the key your diva needs it in instead of changing the chords as you go along.

Hopefully, though, you will come across the first situation much more often than the second. 😉

This blog will regularly go into Roman numeral analysis for songs, but will also go over Roman numerals themselves more in the future as well.

Only Anarchists are Pretty – Theoretical Analysis

Don’t know what a Roman numeral is and why it matters in music? Go here
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It has been my experience (in other words, this could be completely not the case), that only people who are a little dorky about music listen to the band World Inferno Friendship Society. Now, this doesn’t mean that they’re all crazy music majors, I mean, they’re people who take their music a little more seriously than the average bear.

So it takes an even bigger dork, perhaps an actual music major, or at least someone with competence at an instrument, to sit down and figure out the chord progression to one of the World Inferno’s songs.

But I think it is a completely different dork entirely that uses roman numerals to analyze a World Inferno song.

I am that dork. And I’m going to continue this conversation like you know what I’m talking about from here on in. If you don’t.. well, drop me a line requesting a blog about what the heck a roman numeral analysis is.

You can actually analyze Only Anarchists are Pretty two different ways. I’m going to do the quick and dirty way first.

The verse is in the key of Ab Major:

Ab: I V vi

The pre chorus is in the key of F Major:

F: V V2 IV I vi V/V

Chorus 1 is in C Major:

C: I IV vi V7/V

And Chorus 2 (the second time it comes back) is also in C Major:

C: I IV vi V7/V
I bVI IV V7/V

Three different keys, but with the majority of the song being in the key of C Major, considering how often you sing the chorus, and also that the solo at the end is also played over the chorus progression.

The funny part about all of this is: the reason why I switch between three different keys in this analysis is I was trying to keep it as clean as possible. Isn’t it shoved down our throats from day one that pretty much all of music is just all about the V – I relationship?

It’s a little rough, but by analyzing this song in the three different keys is the most obvious. But I wasn’t really happy with it, to be quite honest.

So I took another look at it, and analyzed the whole thing in the key of C Major. I’m a little happier with my results. Which are:

Verse:
bVI bIII iv

Pre chorus:
I I2 bVII IV ii V

Chorus 1:
I IV vi V7/V

Chorus 2:
I IV vi V7/V
I bVI IV V7/V

I like the use of the V7/V’s to keep the thing moving, I like that the verse which, in my opinion, describes a very tentative and cautious situation, is built over a very tentative (maybe not so shaky) chord progression – sounds like it’s going somewhere, but you’re not sure where, or when, or how.

I’m just a little uncomfortable with the borrowed chords, bVI, bIII and bVII, but that’s just me; I don’t deal with them very often. I like them, and maybe I do play more of them than I realize (I think Jimi Hendrix actually utlizes a few in some of his songs.. aah a smell another post coming on), but I guess I’m looking for a little validation out there. Do people do that? They’re only borrowed from the parallel minor, and I’ve already outlined another way you can analyze this song anyway. I’m just wondering if there’s still another way to wrap it all up with some i’s and v’s or whatever combination one may prefer that’s a little neater than analyzing it all in C.

I’ll have to look more into this whole borrowing chords from the parallel minor thing and get back to ya’ll.