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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stop believing in Don't Stop Believing

Another post for Music Thursday. And this one's a doozy.

Ever thought Journey's anthem/Family Guy montage favorite/Sopranos WTF generator "Don't Stop Believing" is a great song? Well, besides the AMAZING lyrics, it probably has to do with the fact that it sounds like just about every other song out there too. Don't believe me? Watch this.

To explain what's going on here, this is a super common chord progression in pop (i.e. not orchestral/composed) music. It's known as the I-V-vi-IV progression.

Each note in a key gets its own number, 1 through 7, and then chords are built on top of it. For example, these are the chords in the key of C major:

C - I
D - ii
E - iii
F - IV
G - V
A - vi
B - vii°

(An uppercase Roman numeral represents a major chord, a lowercase is a minor chord and the degree sign on the vii° means it's diminished.)

So, back to our chord progression. I starts on the I, which is the tonic or root. In the key of C it's be a C major chord (a triad built from the notes C-E-G). The chord then takes a move to the V chord, the strongest chord besides the I. In C, that'd be G (G-B-D). The next move is to the relative minor, vi. It shares two notes with the I chord and sounds related but with a minor tonality. In C, it's Am (A-C-E). Then we move to the IV, which in C would be F (F-A-C). Then, of course, we resolve back to the I chord, C (C-E-G).

If you don't know music (or, really, music theory) none of that probably made sense to you. that's OK. Music theory is supremely interesting. I did a ton with it when I was in high school and miss it dearly. If you're interested in learning more, you can check out sites like this.

But at least next time you're listening to music, listen for this progression. It's one of the most popular, if not the most. If you ever want lessons (and live in Boulder, CO), let me know. I love this stuff.

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