This week, we’re back to checking out the 500 Greatest Songs of all time, (at least according to Rolling Stone Magazine). “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones is #498.
On paper this song could be booooooring. It basically two chords evenly balanced that repeat for four minutes, (with the exception of an eight bar bridge). Instead it’s fun as hell, a two chord jam with groove to spare.
How do The Stones do that? It’s got a little of everything, a funky bass line, a bluesy riff on guitar and harmonica, even a little taste of disco in the drums. Listen for yourself.
No matter how achingly beautiful an arrangement or harmony is, a chord is still just a chord. Whether it’s the Beatles sticking your heart with a melody like a pin cushion or Hendrix making your teeth sweat during guitar solo the chords supporting the song, at root, are the same.
A few days ago, while browsing the aisles of Amazon Prime I saw there was a documentary about Elliot Smith called “Heaven Adores You.” Elliot was a songwriter who knew how to harmonize and arrange a song. His Album, XO, is desert island material for me. Obviously, I had to watch.
Elliot started out as a punk rocker, then as his writing developed grew into a sort of folk singer-songwriter who nabbed harmonies from The Beatles and Beach Boys like a pro. But the arrangements he strung his melodies over and through are still merely chords. Chords are something we can learn about.
Today’s sheet is talking about slash chords (called inversions by fancy pants music theorists). If you’re interested in learning something about Elliot’s music, (or anyone else’s music), slash chords are a great place to start.
Check out the sheet below, and check out the video for a couple examples of how Elliot used them.
The basis of pretty much all music is the major scale, (or the Do Re Mi scale as I tend to call it).
How well do you know it?
Sorry, I don’t mean to put you on the spot. I think one of the best things we can do as songwriters and musicians is to get to know the major scale really well.
Knowing the scale well means is considering it from lots of different directions. For instance, what if it weren’t a line of notes so much as a solar system of notes orbiting the central note “Do.” You might find out a lot about the scale looking at it from that direction and obviously, that’s what this weeks sheet takes a look at.
500 is a lot of songs and a lot of chord changes to investigate. (Not to mention a lot of lyrics, rhythms, melodies, harmonies and arrangements). I’d love to look at them all, which, at one song a week would take a mere 10 years. Maybe I’ll skip around in the list a little bit. . .
Rolling Stone doesn’t seem to say much about why they consider it a great song, but I’m willing to take it on faith. One thing that caught me as I looked at it was the simplicity of the chord progression.