How to figure out songs chords by hearing them-1

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons, Tutorials & Tips' started by anuranjan, Aug 18, 2005.

  1. anuranjan

    anuranjan New Member

    Before we begin figuring out songs by ear, we need to take two brief but necessary side trips. Some of this will involve general stuff - things you know but maybe never thought out in a formal manner. Some will be a bit of fine-tuning of your newly appreciated listening skills. And, of course, we'll toss in a bit of theory for good measure. I promise it will be painless.

    Okay, relatively painless.

    Not that I need any encouragement, but let's get a bit philosophical for a moment (hence the "relatively painless" tag). What, exactly, is a song? What differentiates a song from a simple bit of music? Its length? The number of chords used? If my Webster's New World Dictionary defines a song as "a piece of music for singing," then is an instrumental piece not a song?

    Before we can go figuring out that song we want to learn, we need to have a sense of song structure. By "structure," I am referring to various conventions that have been widely accepted over the course of hundreds of years. Much of this may seem like old hat to many of you, but take a moment to think about it. A lot of what makes a song a "song" is the familiarity of its structure. Even when we're listening to a song for the very first time, there is usually something about it that makes us feel comfortable, feel at home. One of the reasons that many people have a hard time with classical music is not the music itself, but rather one's lack of knowledge of its structures and conventions. Because it is unfamiliar it is (seemingly) unfriendly. As I told you in my first column, our comfort with what we know (coupled with our inability to move outside our area of comfort) is occasionally a weakness. But in the study of what comprises a song, this comfort can be a big help.

    The best way to study song structure is to use the same method we use studying music theory - we simply make analyses of the huge history of song that lies before us. Pick a song, any song, and we'll look at how it's organized. Most songs nowadays start out with an instrumental introduction, but it wasn't all that long ago (depending on how you view the 30's and 40's) that a majority of pop songs had lyrical introductions. The introduction is usually followed by the first verse and then the chorus. Now let's not get all hung up in semantics. By "chorus" I am referring to the part of the song (lyrically) that tends to be repeated. It's the "everybody, sing along" part. Often, but not always, it will incorporate the song's title as part of its lyrics (and sometimes, as in "Knocking on Heaven's Door," the title is all the lyrics the chorus contains). The chorus will usually be followed by a second verse (musically identical to the first verse), then the chorus again. After the second chorus, things usually get interesting. There will either be an instrumental verse (usually featuring a solo of some sort), or what is known as a "bridge" or a "middle eight" (and I'd love to know where this term comes from. I've heard numerous stories and maybe one day we'll devote some time to this...). This section is often very different musically then the rest of the song. Finally the song will usually go through the verse and chorus one last time and end with some kind of flourish that we call an outro.

    Let's look at an example and two variations of this style. But first, the official disclaimer: This file is the author's own work and represents his interpretation of the song. It is intended solely for private study, scholarship or research. By the way, I picked all these examples from the Guitar Tab archive engine here at Guitar Noise. You don't have to go far to get your hands on a lot of examples to study. To analyze a song's structure, you should ideally be listening to it. But since we can't do that here, I've tried to pick songs with which I think most people will be (relatively) familiar. We're not going to worry about the song's chords for the time being - I just want you to concentrate on its structure. If you don't know the songs, just find one that you do know and work with that. As always, feel free to email me any questions you might have.

    PSYCHO KILLER - Talking Heads

    Intro: Musically same rhythm and chords as verse

    Verse 1:
    I can't seem to face up to the facts I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax
    I can't sleep cause my bed's on fire Don't touch me I'm a real live wire

    Psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est better run run run run run run run away
    Psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est better run run run run run run run away Oh______ ayayayay

    Verse 2:
    You start a conversation, you can't even finish it
    You're talking a lot, but you're not saying anything
    When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
    Say something once, why say it again


    Ce qu'elle a fait, ce soir la ce qu'elle a dit, ce soir la Realisant, mon espoir je me lance, vers la goire Okay

    Verse 3:
    We are vain and we are blind
    I hate people when they're not polite


    OUTRO: Same chords and rhythm as intro

    As you can see, this is almost a textbook example of our standard verse/chorus format. The only significant difference is that the third verse is half the length of the first two.

    Now, not every verse/chorus format has a bridge, either. Here's an example with which most of you should be familiar:

    Hotel California - Eagles

    Intro (musically, it's half a verse)

    Verse 1:
    On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
    Warm smell of colitas rising up through the air
    Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
    My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim I had to stop for the night
    There she stood in the doorway; I heard the mission bell
    And I was thinking to myself this could be heaven or this could be hell
    Then she lit up a candle, and she showed me the way
    There were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say

    Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place, such a lovely face
    Plenty of room at the Hotel California Any time of year you can find it here

    VERSE 2:
    Her mind is Tiffany twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
    She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys that she calls friends
    How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat
    Some dance to remember, some dance to forget
    So I called up the captain; "Please bring me my wine."
    "We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine"
    And still those voices are calling from far away
    Wake you up in the middle of the night, just to hear them say

    Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place, such a lovely face
    They're living it up at the Hotel California What a nice surprise bring your alibis

    VERSE 3:
    Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice
    And she said "We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"
    And in the master's chambers, they gathered for the feast
    They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast
    Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
    I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
    "Relax" said the nightman, "We are programmed to receive"
    "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave"

    OUTRO: (Instrumental - Guitar solos traded over verse chords)

    Here you should notice two things - first, the choruses are not exactly the same. The lyrics in the last half of the second chorus have been changed even though it remains musically the same. Secondly, there is no bridge or final chorus. After the third verse the song repeats and fades over the chord progression from the verse. Another thing I'd like to point out here is that some songs in the verse/chorus style start with the chorus. "Sugar Mountain" by Neil Young and the Travelling Wilburys' "End of the Line" are examples of this type.

    Okay, one final example of how one might vary the verse/chorus structure:

    1979 - Smashing Pumpkins

    INTRO: (musically same as one verse)

    Verse 1:
    Shakedown 1979 cool kids never have the time
    on a live wire right up off the street, you and I should meet j

    Verse 2:
    Junebug skipping like a stone with the headlights pointed at the dawn
    we were sure we'd never see an end to it all

    and I don't even care to shake these zipper blues
    and we don't know just where our bones will rest to dust I guess
    forgotten and absorbed into the earth below

    Verse 3:
    Double cross the vacant and the bored they're not sure just what we have in store
    Morpine city slippin dues down to see

    that we don't even care as restless as we are
    we feel the pull in the land of a thousand guilts
    and poured cement, lamented and assured

    to the lights and towns below faster than the speed of sound
    faster than we thought we'd go, beneath the sound of hope

    Verse 4:
    Justine never knew the rules hung down with the freaks and the ghouls
    no apologies ever need be made
    I know you better than you fake it to see

    that we don't even care to shake these zipper blues
    and we don't know just where our bones will rest, to dust I guess
    forgotten and absorbed into earth below

    the street heats the urgency of sound
    as you can see there's no one around

    There are quite a few interesting things going on here. First off, there are two verses before we reach the first chorus. Next, we see that not only in the second chorus lyrically different, but it also flows directly into the bridge. Finally, there is an extra line in the final verse, which creates an impression of it being totally different from the other verses. So you can see that there are quite a few ways to tinker with this verse/chorus structure. Being able to recognize what's going on gives you a handle on how to figure out the song. :rock:
    plz follow part 2 for the complete article
  2. anuranjan

    anuranjan New Member

    In case anyone likes the article could i have some reps please......
    sayanakaharry likes this.
  3. born2tab

    born2tab rhythm guitarist

    hey anuranjan..
    thatz a nice piece of knowledge for all newbies out there :nw:
    keep up the good work..v are listening :beer:
  4. sayanakaharry

    sayanakaharry Forum Leader

    a very good post. reps for you.
  5. apurbajd

    apurbajd ~#$&*$@*^$

    Nice post dude ........... pls come up with more such posts ..... reps 4 u ..............
  6. Addy Pant

    Addy Pant Highway Star

  7. Alfons

    Alfons C.F.H


    man ur a newbie and ur future in igt ( if there's 1 ) is ruined !!

    gr8 work buddy !
    ROTFL !!!
  8. ssslayer

    ssslayer Banned

    dude he clarified taht in the passage that this is taken from guitar noise ...
  9. Alfons

    Alfons C.F.H

    Guitar Noise

    yeah right !!
  10. Addy Pant

    Addy Pant Highway Star

    Its looks as if he forgot to omit that paragraph!
  11. ssslayer

    ssslayer Banned

    LOL .. now uare bent on proving him to be a (what do u call) a plagiariser?
  12. Addy Pant

    Addy Pant Highway Star

    Addy Pant - Inspector IGT: Striving hard to keep cheats from enhancing their reputation by fooling respectable IGTians into falsely believing that they have constructed original articles. Wooh! :)
  13. ssslayer

    ssslayer Banned

    taht was gr8 ... mebbe u dig up some earlier case-files ... and we could write a novel outta it ...
  14. Alfons

    Alfons C.F.H


    MAN U ROCK !!!
  15. Addy Pant

    Addy Pant Highway Star

    ^Thanks man! You rock too!
  16. DJnu

    DJnu New Member

    nice info man really appreciate ur work
  17. Akash03111982

    Akash03111982 New Member

    Ctl C Ctl V

    Bhai IT sector mein kaam karte ho kya.......kuch to apna likh diya hota......poora hi chaap diya.......
  18. datta_sneh

    datta_sneh New Member

    don lol but wht was he up to...
  19. voyager_avi

    voyager_avi Member

    Hi Anuranjan,nice tutorial!! But it was not something of ur own...or at least give an acknowledgement.
  20. AceRoom

    AceRoom Future Grammy Winner

    After all this copying and plagirizing, he didn't cover the topic "How to Figure Out Song Chords by Hearing Them." It just seems like an overview at the lyrics structure and doesn't even mention how to transcribe chords.

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