• 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

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed – Allman Brothers

tldr: key of A minor, largely in the dorian mode. Main chords throughout the song are Am9, Am7, and D6, along with an E7#9 to end most sections. The second part has a brief modulation up to C minor before returning to A minor. In addition to the dorian mode, there is some A harmonic […]

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Hey Joe – Hendrix

tldr:  Hey Joe is a blues-based song in E major.  The intro and lead work primarily uses the E minor pentatonic scale.   The chord progression is C-G-D-A-E, which progresses by following the circle of fourths/fifths from one chord to the next (each chord’s root is a fourth above, and a fifth below, the subsequent chord’s […]

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Chord options (theory post)

I’ll just lay out my full understanding here. The basic chord palette is provided by the key and its associated key signature. If the key is G major, you know the tonic chord (G major) and that there is one sharp, F#, typical of the key. The primary notes you have to work with, then, […]

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Let it Grow – Grateful Dead

tldr: Let it Grow is primarily in A minor but has two key changes, to D major and E minor. It starts in A minor with Am7 – Bdim (i – ii°). The lead is A aeolian over the Am7 and B diminished scale over the Bdim, primarily the Bdim chord tones. Then Am Bdim […]

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Scarlet Begonias / Fire on the Mountain

tldr: Both Scarlet and Fire are in B major, mixolydian mode and begin with the B and A chords back and forth. The difference in the intros is that Scarlet only adds in the A chord for two strums while Fire gives both chords equal time for longer. In Scarlet, the first part of the […]

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Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses

tldr: SCOM starts in C# (with guitars tuned down a half-step, but you don’t need to). Starting chord progression of C# B F# is mixolydian, famous intro riff is C# major or mixolydian scale, doesn’t matter because it only uses notes they share. Chorus of G# B C# is still mixolydian, although the G# is […]

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Sugar Magnolia – Grateful Dead

tldr: Sugar Magnolia starts in A major and ends in B major. The main riff is based on an open A chord with a hammer-on IV chord, D, along with connecting notes from A major pentatonic. Most of the chords are diatonic, with a borrowed bVII chord mixed in. And the lead work uses the […]

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China Cat Sunflower / I Know You Rider

tldr: China Cat is primarily in G mixolydian, and I Know You Rider is in D mixolydian; they are melded together because China Cat has a part that goes to G major, and G major is the parent scale of D mixolydian. So G mixolydian -> G major -> D mixolydian is how it happens […]

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Estimated Prophet

For more about this site and why there are no tabs, visit the About page. For an explanation of the roman numeral convention, visit Building Diatonic Chords. tldr: Estimated Prophet primarily alternates between the keys of F# minor and G major. The intro and main verse are in F# minor and center around an F#m […]

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Creep – Radiohead

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tldr: Creep is in G major and consists of four chords, G – B – C – Cm. The G and C chords are the I and IV of G major, but B and Cm are foreign to the key. Their use here— borrowed from G major’s relative and parallel minor keys— adds a D# […]

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