Stereolab “Baby Lulu” Chords


i           subV  i          subV  V/bVI   iv
Gm (maj11)  Ab7   Gm (maj7)  Ab7    Bb7   Cm9 (#11)

Gm  Ab13#11  Gm  Ab13#11  Bb13  Cm9


i          V/bVI     bVI     subV
Gm  Gm7  Bb13(11)/F  Ebmaj7  Ab7

i   Db: I      v    IV    Bb: I  bVII
Gm    Dbmaj7  Abm7  Gbmaj7    Bb  Ab

Bridge (Really starts on Fm9)

          f: i    IV    i
Gm  Bb13/F  Fm9   Bb7  Fm9

C Cmaj7 (C lydian melody: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 5)

Gb7 (C altered melody: b7 1 b9 #9 3 #4 3)

I         bV
E6 Emaj7  Bb7

I        IV    Db:  I      v       IV
      g: subV i                Bb: bVI    I  bVII
Ebmaj7   Ab7  Gm  Dbmaj7  Abm7    Gbmaj7  Bb  Ab  -> verse


                    bVI bVII I
Bb  Ab  Bb  Ab  Bb  Gb   Ab  Bb

Songbooks are great

If you have interests in songwriting I highly recommend songbook collections for the Beatles, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel, Elton John, David Bowie, and Nat King Cole or Christmas ballads for dipping a toe into postwar jazz harmony. Formal textbooks are just not going to have perfect and complete songs with adventurous chord progressions and memorable melodies.

The Beatles don’t have my favorite songs but arguably every vital lesson is somewhere in their 1964 to 1967 output. If these aren’t cool, hide them under your bed or discard as completed homework.

After a few months of digesting songs, build a habit of figuring out the key of each section, writing the chords using Roman numeral analysis, and maybe writing the melodies using scale degrees. Like, Happy Birthday ends with:

       I            IV           I        V  I
Happy birthday dear David. Happy birthday to you.
5  5  ↑5   3   1    7 6    ↑4 4  3    1   2  1

The goal is to think relatively to allow combining techniques (stealing) from any key and to be able to learn something from every song you hear.

I   vi    iii         V7/IV IV        I6
Somewhere over the rainbow  skies are blue.
1   ↑1    7 5  6   7   1    ↓1    ↑6  5
I      bVII V/ii                 ii
3  ↓5       6  #1 3   ↑6  5   3  4   6
Crazy.      Crazy for feeling so lonely.

“God Only Knows” is less weird than it seems

This song’s strange chords become easier to make sense of if you keep in mind a few things:

  1. Brian leans hard on inversions to confuse us, and tricks learned from 40s jazz and classical.
  2. The key is E major, but the verses begin “in the ii key”.
  3. The whole instrumental vocal section is just transposed up to A major.

The intro ends with a taste of the chorus.

IV  I     ii    IV
A   E/G#  F#m7  A/E

Brian then slides this A/E up to D/A, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in E major; he’s heading to the ii key (F# minor).

He starts with b6, 2, 1 in F# minor, then he returns to the home key of E major with a more standard jazz ii – V – I, but with more inversions to make unusual bass voice leading:

f#: bVI    ii        i
                  E: ii     V       I
    D/A    G#ø7/B    F#m    B7/A    E/B

Those inversions are key here to keeping up a bit of tension, and he won’t release that tension with a root-position chord until the chorus. Let’s carry on:

I    vii       I    vi
E/B  D#dim7/C  E/B  C#m/A#

Almost everyone calls this second chord “Cdim7” but really this is the leading tone °7 chord of E with notes D# F# A C. Mostly diatonic to E major. Even though the bass rises, the harmony is really dipping down into the vii° and back to the tonic.

(Now consider “Cdim7”. It has the notes C Eb Gb Bbb because it’s the vii of the nasty key Db minor (Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bbb Cb). All the flats alone should be a clue this doesn’t make sense in a sharps key like E major. I’ve found naming dim7 chords correctly has helped my understanding of them greatly. YMMV.)

That last chord is sometimes written “A#ø7”, but here it’s not really functioning as A# half-diminished, which would move to D#7 – G#m. This is really just a C#m chord with the bass on the 6th to give it extra flavor (hear C#m – A – E vs C#m/A# – A – E). This 6th-in-the-bass is done all the time on minor chords in 1940s standards to add tension that can then be released, just as Brian does when A# falls to A for the chorus.

The verse repeat is followed by a full transposition up a 4th, playing the whole verse and chorus in A:

B: bVI  ii       i                                       
              A: ii  V     I    vii       I    
   G/D  C#ø7/E   Bm  E7/D  A/E  G#dim7/F  A/E 

A: vi      IV  I     ii     IV
                        F#: bVI  ii
   F#m/D#  D   A/C#  Bm7    D/A  G#ø7/B ...

Notice when Brian ends up at D/A, he seizes the opportunity to jump right back into the original F# minor bit of the verse. That’s how he manages to end the song in E major.

Crunchiest Steely Dan chord? “Fire in the Hole”

The pre-chorus is in, well, we can say 3 flats. First there’s an Ab Eb/G resolving to Bb (which sounds like the tonic), then a little Abmaj7/C Bb/C Cm build up that ends with Abmaj7 Ebmaj7/G Ab (the key sounds more like Eb here). Then things get weird.

Ab is followed by Ab7/Gb, but while it sounds like the bass is heading down toward a Db/F chord, at 0:42 the bass jumps back up into into this striking Ab13#11 with no 3rd.

Piano chord with Ab, Gb, Bb, D, and F

The melody is also great here; just chord tones. It resolves to G7sus G7 Cm.

This Ab13 is basically a tritone sub for D7, but the 9th and #11 decorations also evoke the sound of a bVII dom7 “backdoor” chord in Bb. The key briefly sounded like Bb in the pre-chorus, so I think that resemblance isn’t accidental, but anyway… This was a tough one to figure out by ear. I could hear the embedded aug triad, but the recording is right in the cracks making playing along basically impossible. I had to retune an acoustic guitar with ancient, very dead strings.

Schubert’s Strange Path Home

Schubert’s Impromptu D.935, Op. posth. 142 – No. 2 is one of my favorite piano pieces. It has many delights, but what really caught my ear was the bombastic double forte section (m. 17-30 at 1:06). It takes us into the IV key and uses a clever trick to modulate back so that I barely noticed when we arrived back home.

Below are lead sheet-style chords under their functions, with simple inversion notation. I’ve transposed from Ab to G to get rid of the double-flats (I’m terrible playing/thinking in Ab). Continue reading  

Bury figured bass

Figured bass notation is already long dead, but musicians carry its corpse around to show off that they squandered valuable moments of their lives learning it. It also creates needless ambiguity. Is I7 a dominant seventh? Not in figured bass. Just try notating G7b9/B in figured bass. Yeah, let’s bury it already. And it can be so easy:

V9:2. You may have already guessed this is the dominant 9th chord in 2nd inversion. Easy.

ii7:3 is Am7/G in G.

I7 has a flat 7th on the tonic. Imaj7 is the diatonic variety.

You are freed to do Roman numeral analysis with some sanity.

Perry Como “No Other Love” chords


   SubV   I
   Gb7b5  F  C(no3)/G  F/A  C7(no3)/G


   I                                                            VII
   F            C9(no3)   Fmaj7  F6/C  F         C7(no3)/G  F   E7
1. No other     love  have I.         Only      my love    for  you.
2. Watching the night   go by         wishing that you    could be
3. Into    your arms I'll fly.        Locked in your arms  I'll stay

    ii         V/ii       V/V    SubV                I
   Gm/Bb       D7/A       G/B    Gb7b5               F
1. Only    the dream   we knew.     No other love.
2. watching the night with me      into the night I cry
3. waiting   to hear    you say   no other love have I.

              Eb: I       Vsus     V    V/ii
                                      C: I         Vsus    V
F                Eb/G   Bb7sus/F Bb7/F  C/E       G7sus/D G7/D
Hurry home, come home to me.              Set me free.

C: V/ii
D:  V        I             IV
                        F: V/V    V      Vsus  V
   A/C#      D             G7     C      C9sus C7
      Free from doubt and free      from longing.


ii                    SubV     I
Gm7           Gm9    Gb7b5#9   F
No other love.  No    other    love.

Wonderful bits:

  • The early D7/A – G/B (a secondary dominant with no 7th) sounds like a key change to G, and rather than the bass rising to C it falls to the tritone sub root Gb7b5.
  • The bridge walks us through the keys Eb, C, D, and back to the home key F using mostly inversions.
  • The voice leading in the choir’s final cadence:
      G    Bb     D    F     A
     Gb    Bb   C     E      A
    F     A     C      F     A

Louis Cole “You’ll Believe Me” chords

Modulations are noted with ().


    A           E7/A |             A   :||


    A                | E7sus         E7
        I saw the world   but didn't like it.

    A      B7/A      | G#m7          C#m7
        Without you there I couldn't fight for

                       (A)                                          (D)
    F#m7             | E7sus/B   E7    | Amaj9     A6/9     | Amaj9 A7 A7sus
       our survival.   If you   need me  you'll believe me.

    D                | A7sus            A7sus/G
      Throw out your doubt that time is over.

    D/F#    Bm7      | C6/9        E7   /F#  | (repeat intro)
       Just cry your fears into my shoulder.


    A                | E7sus     E7
        Grow tired as     as the days burn.

    A      B7/A      | G#m7           C#m7
       Sit down with me and watch the world turn.

    F#m7                    | E7sus/C   E13  /F# | Amaj9     A6/9    | A (bass G)
      I think you will learn  if    you need me    you'll believe me.


    F     /C   /F /G | /A /C            | C7sus     /G /A  | /Bb /G   C7

    Db   /Ab /Db /Eb | /F /Ab           | Ab7sus   /Eb /F  | /Gb /Eb  Ab7

    (A)         (Bb)             (B)                  (C)                (C#)
    A   /E  /F  F+/A | Bb /F /F# F#+/A# | B  /F#  /G  G+/B | C  /G  /G#  G#+/B#

    (C#m)    (B)                (Bbm)
    C#m      Em      | Bsus     D#m     | Bbm/F     F+ F/C | Bbm(9)   Bbm
    D+/F Gm/F# Gm    | Dsus/G   D/F#    | Bm      Bm7/A    | Em7/B    A7sus A7


    D                | A7sus           A7sus/G
      Don't start to cry it's far from over.

    D/F#       Bm7   | C6/9           E7  /F# | (repeat intro)
       Look at who I am    I'm coming closer.

    A                | E7sus       E7
      Look on your face    doesn't ...

    A      B7/A      | G#m7           C#m7
       The big disguise        joy is painful.

    F#m7             | E7sus/C   E13  /F# | Amaj9     A6/9
        I just hope    if you    need me    you'll believe me.


    A     Amaj7      | Am9               :||


This is a well done Pet Sounds tribute in harmony and arrangement. 3rd inversion dom7 chords; using them to modulate to nearby keys; bass solos centered around the 5th; lush V7sus chords.

There are several instances of what sounds like C6/9 or E7sus/C. My guess is these were originally E7sus/B as in the first verse, but the C bass (muted just before the vocal hits C#) made a nice trick for the ears, making the modulations back to A a little less cliche.

The bridge section at 1:30 has a clever modulation from C# minor to Bb minor: After C#m, the Em suggests the iv of B and indeed we follow with I – iii in B. However D#m is used to pivot again to Bb minor as Ebm is the iv. He uses a cadential 6/4 to really settle us in Bb minor. The following a capella part comes in sounding like Bbmaj with a flat 6 due to the low voice’s start on F (maybe an accident), but these two bars I think are really a fancy plagal cadence in D major: V+/iv – iv – Isus – I.

The E13s are voiced as E7 with the 13 only in the vocal. The Amaj9 to A6/9: I’m including the vocal in the maj7 – 6th harmonies.