Author Topic: Chords in the key for song Mad World  (Read 243 times)

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Offline JerryBels

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Chords in the key for song Mad World
« on: June 17, 2020, 10:24:07 am »
Hello guys,

Talking about chords in a key and how harmonics works, I have a question regarding Mad World by Gary Jules. It's in the key of Em, and goes Em - G - D - A for verses, Em - A only for choruses.

So I wanted to understand, in the key of Em, it should be Am and not A, right? How come it still sounds good with A then? Granted, we use A and Asus2 alternatively which helps, but shouldn't A sound simply bad here?

Offline Majik

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2020, 01:29:17 pm »
Hello guys,

Talking about chords in a key and how harmonics works, I have a question regarding Mad World by Gary Jules. It's in the key of Em, and goes Em - G - D - A for verses, Em - A only for choruses.

So I wanted to understand, in the key of Em, it should be Am and not A, right? How come it still sounds good with A then? Granted, we use A and Asus2 alternatively which helps, but shouldn't A sound simply bad here?

Not necessarily.

Diatonic chords (chords in the key) or variations of them should always sound good. But that isn't to say that Non-diatonic chords (chords not in the key) will always sound bad. There are many non-diatonic chord substitutions that are regularly used and are described in more advanced music theory (minor to major, secondary dominants, etc.). Used properly, these sound great and can give a song an extra "lift"; whilst using diatonic chords will always work, it can sound s bit "safe" and boring.

And sometimes it's down to context. The blues is all abut using "the wrong notes" but, used in the right way, they sound great.

Knowing the theory behind when you can use these non-diatonic substitutions is quite complex, but you can always experiment. After all, if it sounds good, it is good.

Cheers,

Keith
Guitars: PRS Singlecut S2, Fender Tele Lite Ash, G&L Legacy Tribute, Freshman Apollo 2 OCBX, Gibson SG Special P90
Amps: Bugera G5 Head, Boss Katana 100
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Offline JerryBels

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2020, 01:49:42 pm »
Really usefull informations, thanks! I guess I'll have to continue learning theory and see when I hit these questions again with more knowledge at my disposal!

Offline Majik

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2020, 02:24:46 pm »
Another way of thinking about it is that music harmony is largely based on creating tensions and then resolving those tensions. The one chord, for instance, is always "home" and going to that from any other chord will create a nice "resolution".

One way of creating harmonic tension is to use chords that aren't in the key. These will, deliberately, clash, to an extent, with the rest of the harmony. If you use these incorrectly they can sound plain bad. But used carefully, they can create some tension and interest which then resolves back to something more "familiar" when going to a diatonic chord.

A lot is about using these chords with care. They are normally used sparingly (at least in mainstream music), often just as passing chords. And the melody has to fit around them too. For instance, in the Em chord progression example, when the A chord is being played, you may want to avoid playing the C note in the melody as that will clash quite obviously (but in some contexts, that clash might be just the ticket).

Cheers,

Keith
Guitars: PRS Singlecut S2, Fender Tele Lite Ash, G&L Legacy Tribute, Freshman Apollo 2 OCBX, Gibson SG Special P90
Amps: Bugera G5 Head, Boss Katana 100
All sorts of other stuff.

Offline DavidP

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2020, 03:02:35 pm »
I've watched quite a few interesting YT videos on this topic, often using Beatles songs to illustrate what Majik is describing. Unfortunately I don't have anything saved that I can refer you to specifically. But sure some searching will turn up more on this.

There was also another fascinating thread in the Community discussing one of the specific ways this can be done.  Again, finding it again is beyond me. But if you search in Google for "V/V chords" you'll find reference material on this and videos in YT.

Offline Alex6strings

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2020, 05:00:24 pm »
I like to think of this subject, particularly relating to songs and song structure as, 'Learn the rules, then break them'.   Breaking the 'rules' in music is done by musicians constantly.  Knowing the rules makes it easier to break them though, but breaking them can sound awesome!

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"Hand me a guitar and I'll play the blues, it's the place i automatically go"  EC

Offline Majik

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2020, 05:21:27 pm »
I like to think of this subject, particularly relating to songs and song structure as, 'Learn the rules, then break them'.   Breaking the 'rules' in music is done by musicians constantly.  Knowing the rules makes it easier to break them though, but breaking them can sound awesome!

I agree, although the "rules" are, really, more guidelines as to how to sound good. Also, there are "rules" (guidelines) on how to break the rules and still sound good (aka "advanced music theory").

So the more you know, the easier it is.

Cheers,

Keith
Guitars: PRS Singlecut S2, Fender Tele Lite Ash, G&L Legacy Tribute, Freshman Apollo 2 OCBX, Gibson SG Special P90
Amps: Bugera G5 Head, Boss Katana 100
All sorts of other stuff.

Offline Alex6strings

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2020, 06:27:12 pm »
I agree, although the "rules" are, really, more guidelines as to how to sound good. Also, there are "rules" (guidelines) on how to break the rules and still sound good (aka "advanced music theory").

So the more you know, the easier it is.

Cheers,

Keith

Absolutely! knowledge is king.  You're never worse off for knowing more.  I was talking to someone about this today.  I said everyday i learn something I need to know from the forum just by reading.   I have limited theory knowledge, but i learn from any source i can to know more. 
"Hand me a guitar and I'll play the blues, it's the place i automatically go"  EC

Offline close2u

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2020, 09:23:40 pm »
G Major chords (I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii) are:
G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim

Songs in the relative minor key of Em are (i, ii, III, iv, v, VI, Vii):

Em, F#dim, G, Am, Bm, C, D

But your question concerns a song where that iv chord is not played as a minor but as a Major IV chord.

Mmmh. Okay.
Well it is actually quite common to play that 4 (deliberately not using roman numerals as I want it's quality to remain unclear) as a Major or as a dominant 7 chord.

It is within a part of music called 'borrowed chords'.

Offline JerryBels

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2020, 08:37:24 am »
Nice infos! I will dig this :)

 

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