Author Topic: Chords in the key for song Mad World  (Read 1055 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!

Sent from my CPH1920 using JustinGuitar Community mobile app

"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 :)

Offline Matt125

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2020, 08:23:09 am »

The chords Em, G, D and A are diatonic chords. They are all from one key, the key of D.

The notes of D are (D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#)
The chords of D are (D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm,  C#dim).

So since the root note is E, and since E is the second note of the D major scale you would say that this song is written in E Dorian. It's a much simpler way of analysing this song. No borrowed or non-diatonic chords are required. If you wanted to improvise over it you could use the E Dorian scale (in other words the D major scale using E as the root note).

It's not in the key of E minor because it does not use the chords of E minor.  The Em chords being (Em, F#dim, G, Am, Bm, C, D). 

Offline Matt125

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2020, 09:55:06 am »
You could also think of it as a ( ii IV I V ) chord progression in the Key of D.

Pumped up kicks uses the same progression. So now you know two songs.




Offline Matt125

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2020, 10:25:41 am »
4 chord mashup.  Em - G - D - A



Offline CT

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2020, 02:49:25 pm »
Nailed it! Good vibes going out to Matt125! Excellent use of working examples, and kudos for breaking this down in an easy to manage manner. Most of all thanks for turning the "Music Theory, Rocket Surgery and Brain Science Parlor Game" into something useful.

Offline JerryBels

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2020, 09:19:45 am »
Very interesting indeed! I had seen that the chords belonged to the key of D major (Justin gave a very simple way to find this out in his course) but I had read on Ultimate Guitar that it was in the key of Em. Since Em was the first chord, I thought it might be like, "dominant" and I was simply not experienced enough to understand why it was fine with the A chord - hence I came here looking for answers. I like your explanation on it being in E dorian - which means D major but with a prominence on the second chord, if I understand well.

The mashup was interesting - basically they took lots of songs with ii IV I V chord progression and sang it in the key of D, right?

Thanks a lot!

Offline close2u

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2020, 08:38:36 pm »
... The chords of D are (D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm,  C#dim).

So since the root note is E, and since E is the second note of the D major scale you would say that this song is written in E Dorian. ...

Good call.

It is a i, III, VII, IV E dorian progression.

It is a modal song.

This is probably a better analysis than the borrowed IV chord idea I wrote earlier because of the chorus haning on just two chords (Em and A Major) which is a classic i to IV dorian sound. The verse could be ambiguous as minor with a borrowed IV chord given that the chorus is undoubtedly dorian it is easier to call the entire song a dorian mode song.

It is definitely not a ii, IV, I V in the key of D however.
Em is home.
D is definitely not home.
It is minor in nature not major.






It's not in the key of E minor because it does not use the chords of E minor.  The Em chords being (Em, F#dim, G, Am, Bm, C, D).
[/quote]

Offline KeepingAwake

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Re: Chords in the key for song Mad World
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2020, 09:00:02 pm »
The chords Em, G, D and A are diatonic chords. They are all from one key, the key of D.

The notes of D are (D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#)
The chords of D are (D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm,  C#dim).

So since the root note is E, and since E is the second note of the D major scale you would say that this song is written in E Dorian. It's a much simpler way of analysing this song. No borrowed or non-diatonic chords are required. If you wanted to improvise over it you could use the E Dorian scale (in other words the D major scale using E as the root note).

It's not in the key of E minor because it does not use the chords of E minor.  The Em chords being (Em, F#dim, G, Am, Bm, C, D).

Gave you some Good Vibes for this!  Was thinking this might be the answer and Sting, who loves Dorian, kept popping into my head. All those Rick Beato videos on music theory are apparently teaching me something!  8)

 

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