Monday, 26 April 2010

The Minor 4 Chord (pt.1)



"your song sounds like this"

Time to take a look at a classic Beatles Chord progression. One of the interesting things that Lennon & McCartney did in a majority of their songs was use at least one chord that didn’t belong in the key.

The minor 4 for instance (written like this – iv).

1 Minute theory lesson


(skip it if you know what a minor 4 is)

In major key you have 3 major chords built on the 1st 4th and 5th degrees (I, IV, V) of the scale.

In C that would give you C F G.

In the key of G that would give you G C D.

These all fit together rather nicely (you could even say blandly). But what many Beatles songs do is introduce the minor 4 chord (iv) as well as the major 4 (IV) so you’d have C F G and Fm in the key of C or G C D and Cm in the key of G. These particular minor chords don’t really ‘fit’ and sound a bit ‘spicy’.

1 minute musical history lesson


The Beatles didn’t invent this. They probably stole it from the rock n’roll subgenre called doo-wop. Here’s a typical doo-wop chord sequence

G  G7  C  Cm
G  D7  G  D7

You can hear the progression from IV to iv to I in the bridge of Devil In Her Heart

C I’ll take chances  
Cm for romance is  
G so important to me

and it also pops up right on the end of the fade out of Chains.

A word from Macca


Paul McCartney called going from C & F to Fm “the normal thing [to do]” 
(Many Years From Now p122).

So try using it this week. You don’t want your songs to be abnormal do you?

(Here’s the chord in some popular keys)

E A Am B 

G C Cm D

A D Dm E

C F Fm G

D G Gm A

Read pt 2 - major 4 to minor 4
Pt 3 - minor 6 to minor 4
Pt 4 - minor 2 to minor 4 
Pt 5 - 1 to minor 4

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13 comments:

  1. Matt that is great. I love playing No Reply from the Beatles For Sale album for exactly that reason. I love how they do that :-)

    Thank you. Made me smile and happy to read because I had that song in my head all the way through.

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  2. Can't remember the progression to No Reply - (I won't get to that song for another year!)

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  3. Got it mixed up for another song, but can't remember which one. :(

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  4. Of course there is the classic change in the Cole Porter song Every Time We Say Goodbye, where you have the C major 7 to the C minor in the key of G major. Classic change that is even referenced in the lyric... "how F strange the Cmaj7 change Cm from major to F7 minor"

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  5. That is really cool. If you play them fast it sounds like an early Beatles song. That as a straight progression just makes me want to smile.

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  6. Using a 4 minor is, as Paul says, a normal thing to do but where the Beatles really innovated (to my now-66-year-old ears) was shifting the whole song between major and minor as in "I'll Be Back".

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  7. I'm with you there Fender - that's a thing of beauty - and I can't wait to get to those songs!

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  8. nofx and many punk bands do this all the time

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  9. As Cole Porter once sang, "Using the change from major to minor", The Beatles most likely got that idea from Arthur Alexander. In "You Better Move On" there is a great bit where he goes from A to Am. The Beatles were definately fans of his as they did two of his tunes.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely right on all counts Steve!

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