• Harmonic analysis

    The idea behind this blog is to break down interesting songs to their core parts as an alternative to memorizing fret numbers on tabs. Here are the basics.

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Latest Posts


2+2=5 — Radiohead

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tldr: 2+2=5 is primarily in F minor but changes to its relative major key, Ab major, for the last part. The F minor parts draw from the harmonic minor scale and even a bit from the melodic minor. A borrowed major I chord in the first part suggests a possible key change to F major, […]

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Paranoid Android – Radiohead

tldr: Paranoid Android has three parts plus a coda based on the second part. Each part explores two keys/tonal centers and contains some ambiguity by design. Part I has a repeating progression that seems to start in C minor, dorian mode, but then either changes to G minor or reveals that the key was G […]

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Eyes of the World – Grateful Dead

tldr: Primarily in E major. Intro is a I – IV progression of Emaj7 – A – Emaj7, but often with F#m7 or A6 or something else substituting for the A chord. The lead improvisation follows the E major scale. The verses are largely diatonic, but with a few alterations incorporating the flat 7 note, […]

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Ramble on Rose – Grateful Dead

tldr: Largely D major, with a short key change to G major in the bridge. Mostly diatonic chords, with the exception of a major II chord, E, that is used both as a borrowed Lydian chord and a secondary dominant V/V chord. Full analysis Ramble on Rose is in D major. The intro is based […]

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He’s Gone – Grateful Dead

tldr: He’s Gone is in E major. It starts with a vamp on an E chord, mixing in E major pentatonic notes, an F#m (ii) chord, and a B (V) chord. The chorus adds in a mixolydian bVII chord, D. The bridge then changes key to A major (with a caveat, below), transitioning by way […]

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Deal – Grateful Dead

tldr: Deal is in A major and opens with a pentatonic blues-style riff on the open A chord. The song is built out of I, IV, and vi chords connected by chromatic steps in between. These steps are provided by a C#7 secondary dominant V/vi chord; an Ao7 common-tone diminished seventh chord; an F# secondary […]

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Candyman — Grateful Dead

tldr: The song is primarily in C major, mixolydian mode, but briefly changes keys to G major, mixolydian mode, in the middle of the verses. There is a G major V chord between the intro and verse that, although not native to mixolydian, acts like a secondary dominant to help establish the C chord as […]

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Life’s Been Good – Joe Walsh

tldr: The song opens in A major using blues harmony, with the A major pentatonic plus blues notes played between the A and D chords. (Technically, this is in the mixolydian mode). There is a key change to C major for the main verses of the song, and that it is done via a cool […]

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Althea – Grateful Dead

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tldr: Straightforward chords, but with some ambiguity as to the tonic. I characterize this song as primarily E mixolydian, but the Bm chord that opens the main progression gives a flavor of B minor (dorian). The chorus could be characterized in the same key, but I think there is a subtle shift to A major. […]

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Building diatonic chords (theory post)

This is an important concept that opened a lot of things up for me when I learned it. I’ve alluded to it in other posts, but it’s worth just laying out in one post that we can reference back to. “Diatonic” refers to the unaltered notes of a particular scale. For example, if you are […]

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