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  1. #1

    Stevie Wonder and key changes of the non-cliché variety



    Overjoyed's verse has these chords:

    |Eb|Cm|Fm|B7sus B7|

    |Eb|Cm|F/A|G/B|

    |C|G/B|.....

    Maybe you guys hear it differently.

    But what I wanted to talk about is how he gets from the key of Eb to C. I think it is great. I think he must have had that melody going and then decided he wanted to work the B natural into it in bar 8. And then he realized he was undoing all three of the flats in Eb and heading to C. And he makes the bass rise A, B, C. And he goes with the F and G, subdominant and dominant in C.

    I give this theory because absent a melody, I wouldn't have a clue how to get from Eb to C. I take that back. Yeah, think Eb to Cm then modal interchange to C. But I would have to go through a lot of trial and error.

    I am often in this spot where I want a quick key change that sounds good and hopefully even great. But it is usually at the end of a section after my melody has ended. And I usually end up just going for some cliché pivot chord BS and only changing the key signature by one or two sharps/flats. And it sounds so predictable.

    So, first question: Can you really write a great key change without a great melody? Be honest now!

    Second question: If so, can we get a master table of key change progressions that goes beyond the cliches? Can't be that many possibilities can there? Or are there?
    Last edited by jster; 02-12-2014 at 03:34 PM. Reason: Removed a stupidity, hopefully before anybody notices

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  3. #2
    I think you can write a 'clever' key change without even considering melody...but it's a good melody that really makes a key change work.

    Eb being related to Cm, really and then going to C major...very simple, and very underused in pop/rock. Hell, key changes in general in pop music suck...Too much "Barry mail or key change" up a half step for the last chorus...Stevie ' s just brilliant.

    Although one of my favorite key changes in pop music history IS the half step bump in "and I love her" by the Beatles...but it's all about timing in that one.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    "Barry mail or key change"
    Translation please

  5. #4
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    Changing the relative minor to major is about as cliched a modulation device as any. Early New Orleans and ragtime music is full of it. Studying the bridges of show tunes by Porter, Gerswin, Rogers, etc., are great examples of clever departures away from the main key and finding their way back, or onto other things. These writers were craftsmen. Bacharach has his devices. The answers are in the great songs. Gershwin went to Europe in hopes of studying composing with Stravinsky. Stravinsky refused him, saying it would corrupt Gershwin's natural musical genius.
    Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 02-13-2014 at 05:21 AM.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by jster View Post
    Translation please
    Ah, autocorrect.

    Barry Manilow key change.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  7. #6
    I have used minor to major, just not relative minor to major.

    As you say, these things are devices. There aren't that many of them really. I'm pretty sure that there are more ways to cook chicken than change keys. I can buy a book of chicken recipes. Why not a book of key change recipes? And yes, I agree about the great songs. But when I'm writing, I need something right now to get me from one place to another. I have about a dozen or so of my own. All clichés of course. It is the other 100 or so that I would love to have quick access to. It wouldn't be that hard to organize them all. You have a key you are in, the key you want to go to, the chord you are on within the key, and perhaps the chord you want to go to within the target key. And maybe you could have two volumes. A melody note independent one, and a melody note dependent one. I'm pretty sure that there would be buyers for it. What serious songwriter wouldn't want a copy?

  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Gershwin went to Europe in hopes of studying composing with Stravinsky. Stravinsky refused him, saying it would corrupt Gershwin's natural musical genius.
    There is this famous story, which Stravinsky said he liked even though it wasn't true, Gershwin asked Stravinsky for lessons and when Stravinsky heard how much Gershwin earned, Stravinsky replied with words to the effect of, "You should give me lessons.

  9. #8
    Isn't out there a Stevie Wonder's Real Book? It would be GREAT to have his chord changes and melody written for all us to study and enjoy.

  10. #9
    It is very cool but I can asure you S Wonder didn't invent this type of modulation
    A third up or down, is very common in classical music and also reccurent in popmusic

    This song uses it beautifully too (D to F) :


    This one in minor, a great song too (Am-Cm)


    Here's another one, very pop, but with the same type relative modulation that gives it identity and imo made the song the international hit it was(F to Ab)
    Last edited by vhollund; 07-17-2014 at 02:26 PM.

  11. #10
    I think in the History of the Rock and R&B Era probably the most gifted we have had would be the Beatles for great Melodies.

    And probably the most skilled would be
    Steely Dan - you could ask them to do a Rhumba in 5/4 with a Blues Feel and 3 Key Changes...and they could do it...lol.

    And Stevie Wonder is way up there also...

    In fact my favorite Fusion is not Fusion- It's Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder...

    They are both in many ways comparable or even beyond in some ways the great Composers like Gershwin, etc.
    wouldn't you guys agree ?

    Has any great Horn Player ever done a version of " Too High" - would make an awesome modern Jazz Tune - right ?
    I can hear it....
    Last edited by Robertkoa; 12-14-2015 at 11:39 PM.

  12. #11

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by jster View Post
    I have used minor to major, just not relative minor to major.

    As you say, these things are devices. There aren't that many of them really. I'm pretty sure that there are more ways to cook chicken than change keys. I can buy a book of chicken recipes. Why not a book of key change recipes? And yes, I agree about the great songs. But when I'm writing, I need something right now to get me from one place to another. I have about a dozen or so of my own. All clichés of course. It is the other 100 or so that I would love to have quick access to. It wouldn't be that hard to organize them all. You have a key you are in, the key you want to go to, the chord you are on within the key, and perhaps the chord you want to go to within the target key. And maybe you could have two volumes. A melody note independent one, and a melody note dependent one. I'm pretty sure that there would be buyers for it. What serious songwriter wouldn't want a copy?
    have you ever looked into the Max Reger book on modulations? it's a little Dover book for under $10

    people have mixed feelings on Reger's music, but it's hard to deny that the man knew his way around harmony

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Robertkoa View Post
    Has any great Horn Player ever done a version of " Too High" - would make an awesome modern Jazz Tune - right ?
    I can hear it....
    Pat Martino did a good version with Charlie Hunter on a CD called 'All Sides Now'.

  15. #14
    one day I'll fly away
    in D
    yeah I love that B11 ... isn't that lovely !

  16. #15
    destinytot Guest

  17. #16
    destinytot Guest
    Another wonder

  18. #17
    destinytot Guest
    Love the harmony throughout this

  19. #18
    Think outside the box. Jazz musicians think how can I 'jazz' this or that but all you need it a pretty song. This would work. It's has a very nice bridge;



    Just play the song. Make it sing.

  20. #19
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Stevebol View Post
    Think outside the box. Jazz musicians think how can I 'jazz' this or that but all you need it a pretty song. This would work. It's has a very nice bridge;



    Just play the song. Make it sing.
    Yeah, man!

  21. #20
    destinytot Guest
    Phil Perry

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by destinytot View Post
    Phil Perry
    The first thing a leader of girl group told me was- I don't do the 'rolls' but if you want to learn I'll show you.
    A lot of people think they're good at it but aren't. He's good. Never heard of him. That other Anita song would work great.

  23. #22
    destinytot Guest
    Pretty

  24. #23
    destinytot Guest
    Stevie on drums here

  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by destinytot View Post
    Pretty
    I might use this one. I need a few MOR tunes. I'm looking for easy tunes right now but nothing is ever that easy. Ghetto Life is easy but a guy singing it? I'd rather have a girl do it. I don't like to sing but I'll do a few tunes. I'd love to do those Anita tunes but that's a challenge vocally or instrumentally.
    You want real smooth jazz? Anita. Not this stuff people are doing now.

  26. #25
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Stevebol View Post
    I might use this one. I need a few MOR tunes. I'm looking for easy tunes right now but nothing is ever that easy. Ghetto Life is easy but a guy singing it? I'd rather have a girl do it. I don't like to sing but I'll do a few tunes. I'd love to do those Anita tunes but that's a challenge vocally or instrumentally.
    You want real smooth jazz? Anita. Not this stuff people are doing now.
    I've prepared a set of '70s soul numbers and done several low-key gigs with an organ trio. We've never rehearsed, so I just try my best to put the notes in the right place - and defer to the organ player. People always dance, and I get everyone singing ("me... and...Mrs... Mrs Jones"), which is enough to get us more bookings. It's fun, but the volume and groove aren't right for me.

    The numbers that I'm most comfortable with are the one with slower grooves. I find they're a bit like bossa nova and samba; each song is real a gem, and there is greater variety and pace than it might appear from just looking at a set list.

    I don't know how long it's going to last, but I've got a new duo gig starting in January. It's at an up-market restaurant that targets tourists (light entertainment/easy listening during the meal, and then there's a DJ downstairs). It pays well enough to get the right keyboard player, and we're rehearsing all day next Monday (21st). I'll record a bit on my phone. If the gig works out, they'll let me add a bassist.

    Some of the songs I've prepared so far: BETCHA BY GOLLY, WOW; FOR THE LOVE OF YOU; COULD IT BE I’M FALLING IN LOVE; GOT TO BE THERE; LA-LA-LA MEANS (I LOVE YOU); LETTER PERFECT*; RAINBOW IN YOUR EYES*...
    *love early Al Jarreau

    And here's what I'm anxious to avoid:

  27. #26
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    Cole Porter- master of the craft--Everytime We Say Goodbye:

    When you're near, there's such an air of spring about it,
    I can hear a lark somewhere, begin to sing about it,
    Theres no love song finer, but how strange the change
    from major to
    Minor,
    Everytime we say goodbye.

  28. #27
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    And by the way Stevie's Songs in the Key of Life is a virtual encyclopedia of styles from the 40's-70's--gospel, RnB, rock, soul, fusion, big band, you name it it's there. My favorite SW album and one I still listen to all the time.

  29. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by destinytot View Post
    Phil Perry
    There's nothing like R&B in a club setting. There's all different kinds too. He's showing off but in a good way. Did you read his bio? He was supposed to be at the Twin Towers for a gig on 9/11. Damn.
    This was from 91' in LA I guess. We got a glimpse of trends first in San Diego on the west coast. Before LA. We didn't get into commercializing rap. I thought about it around 85' but I just thought about it. That's all.
    I didn't want to wind up some kind of rap-sideman and I didn't want to stay on a sinking ship that was R&B. I turned down offers for studio work with name people.
    So, it was over.
    I say what goes around comes around. Rap is the music of the middle class now, not R&B. I'm just glad I had an opportunity to play with a couple good bands back then. Some good memories.

  30. #29
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Stevebol View Post
    There's nothing like R&B in a club setting. There's all different kinds too. He's showing off but in a good way. Did you read his bio? He was supposed to be at the Twin Towers for a gig on 9/11. Damn.
    This was from 91' in LA I guess. We got a glimpse of trends first in San Diego on the west coast. Before LA. We didn't get into commercializing rap. I thought about it around 85' but I just thought about it. That's all.
    I didn't want to wind up some kind of rap-sideman and I didn't want to stay on a sinking ship that was R&B. I turned down offers for studio work with name people.
    So, it was over.
    I say what goes around comes around. Rap is the music of the middle class now, not R&B. I'm just glad I had an opportunity to play with a couple good bands back then. Some good memories.
    Really learning from your posts, man - and I love the stories you share.

    (I don't dig competition, except with myself. I give it a wide berth - so I can give 100%. Then I deal with the consequences. And if competition gets in the way, I turn to the side.)

    But I think Phil Perry is superior in every way, in another league; there's Phil Perry, then there's everyone else.

    So what I'm learning is: the value of modes.

    Reg's recent posts have made me sit up, pay attention and engage fully with the idea behind the terminology of 'modal interchange' with reference books and a keyboard.

    Pretty simple really - but pretty damned cool. Lots of "Ah! So that's why..." explaining 'non-cliché' changes in endless contexts.

    But thanks to you, I'm really paying attention to Cameo - the lyrics ("all you sucker DJs" is powerful medicine), the groove, and the changes. And today I've been listening closely to the sax on Candy. Simple changes, but great modal lesson right there.

  31. #30
    destinytot Guest
    I bought the album from which this track is taken as a US Import - for GBP4.99, at F.L. Moore's on Dunstable Road (Luton, UK) back in the early '70s. Love Buzz Feiten and Neil Larsen, and love this sound. I was horrified when someone I admired called it 'LA Daydream Music' many years ago - but I think I've finally moved on:

  32. #31
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Jeff View Post
    And by the way Stevie's Songs in the Key of Life is a virtual encyclopedia of styles from the 40's-70's--gospel, RnB, rock, soul, fusion, big band, you name it it's there. My favorite SW album and one I still listen to all the time.
    Couldn't resist the pun

  33. #32
    Stevie Wonder is the jedi master grand master sensei of juicy modern harmony. I love Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Bartok, Ravel, Debussy, Ellington, Kenton...

    but Stevie...

    Stevie's on a whole nother list of greatness. Those harmonies are ridiculously tasty.

  34. #33
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by jster View Post
    So, first question: Can you really write a great key change without a great melody? Be honest now!
    I think you can start from great changes and make a good melody: lyrical, melodic improvisers do it all the time - I'm positive that not everyone can hear it.

    Just my speculation, but I'm starting to think the key change is great (pleasing but unexpected?) because the melody is simple - but effective. (A simple punchline that sends you the wrong weigh.)

    Quote Originally Posted by jster View Post
    Second question: If so, can we get a master table of key change progressions that goes beyond the cliches? Can't be that many possibilities can there? Or are there?
    There's the old saying "Show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are"; I think it applies to changes you like. It's all knowledge of self - and its value is that it puts you in the driving seat. It seems to me that the 'master table' arises from one's own 'research'.

    I've studied a lot of Tom Jobim, and I doubt anyone appreciates or admires his music more than I. But - when it comes to beautiful changes - I think the Brazilian 'moderns' rule. There seems to be a lot of - er - 'cross-fertilisation'...

    Eumir Deodato and Moacir Santos will always be huge for me - and the so too are songs by Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Toninho Horta, Djavan, Ivan Lins. Here's are some faves:

    Superlative (but short) George Benson solo:


    Those vocals get a hallelujah from me:


    Genius and vision:


    Maça (Apple) - a metaphor about values; "I turned round and came back to Rio"


    Simple but effective melody and subs;
    Last edited by destinytot; 12-20-2015 at 01:35 PM. Reason: clarity

  35. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Irez87 View Post
    Stevie Wonder is the jedi master grand master sensei of juicy modern harmony. I love Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Bartok, Ravel, Debussy, Ellington, Kenton...

    but Stevie...

    Stevie's on a whole nother list of greatness. Those harmonies are ridiculously tasty.
    Agreed.

    And a little closer to Classical is " All in Love is Fair ."

    What is NOT fair is Stevie gets to be a Genius and I don't .Grrrr.
    I noticed that a lot of Jazz Guys like Herbie Hancock have serious respect for Stevie's Jazz Chops .

    I was trying to remember that instrumental Fusion tune called " Contusion" featuring Michael Sembello on Guitar..( who also did the song "Maniac " I think ( versatility or what?).

  36. #35
    destinytot Guest

    Maça sketch

    Quote Originally Posted by destinytot View Post
    Maça (Apple) - a metaphor about values; "I turned round and came back to Rio"
    Had a bash at it:
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by destinytot; 12-20-2015 at 04:13 PM. Reason: add mp3 (soundcloud link not working)

  37. #36
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    I like the places the bridge goes in Visions. I don't know that it modulates exactly, more like it wanders then comes home like the prodigal son. Reminds me of some of Benny Golson's tunes like Along Came Betty or Whisper Not with the half-diminished pivot chords. When I have some energy I'll post the changes. Took it off the other day.

    Then there is this wonderful surprise at the end of You and I: The tune is in F. When he sings 'You and IIIIII...' that last time he flips very cleverly to the key of Ab.

    Off the top of my head, away from the guitar: First measure Db Maj7 (3 beats), Db Maj7 C Min7 Bb Min7 (8th note triplets on last beat) 2nd measure: Ab Maj7 (3 beats), Ab Maj7 G Min7 F min7 (8th note triplets, last beat) 3rd measure: Bb/C (2 beats w/ritard starting) C7 (b9? 2 beats w/fermata) // F maj7 Fine

    Beautiful stuff, and his voice still gives me chills...
    Last edited by fasstrack; 09-11-2016 at 04:46 PM.

  38. #37
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    Now that I think about it, another nice little deviation---though not a modulation---is in the bridge of If It's Magic: after it goes to Amin for a bit it resolves to E Maj 7 rather than the expected and common E7.

    Little touches like that make him the songwriter he is...

  39. #38
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    Stevie Wonder is a composer, and a songwriter, and combines them magically. They work as well as Gershwin tunes done instrumentally, they're fun and challenging to play, and they are, for the most part, sublime. Even a pop trifle like "I Just Called..." has a beautifully composed ending that we await somewhat impatiently while he's murdering a 2-5-1. He is a sly, funny, inspired dude.

  40. #39
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    Do you guys know Seems so Long, from Music of my Mind (with the great Buzz Feiten)?

    No big modulation, but do you remember Seems So Long, from Music of my Mind? In the B section (where he sings 'and it seems---so long), he does like a Maj7th to a 4 dominant, repeats it, then does it in a remote key and smoothly returns to the home key with Min 7 Min7 up a step Maj7 up a half-step, then a pivot with Min7 on the same root to make a II to a 5 dominant. Pure Stevie, and the song is a gem no one plays. One of his better lyrics, too...
    Last edited by fasstrack; 09-13-2016 at 11:22 AM.

  41. #40
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    been exploring this song for a while -


  42. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillMbCdn5 View Post
    been exploring this song for a while -

    That was my 'money tune' when I was a street player...

  43. #42
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    Hi, I'm new to this forum and stumbled upon in Googling for information on the chords in Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed". I play both piano and guitar but on a very recreational level (the sports equivalent of someone who "throws the 'ol football around" on weekends). But my ear has a thirst and radar for unique and amazing chord theory and I too have been mesmerized by what happens chord wise in "Overjoyed" so I really appreciate the discussions at the start of this thread. Thank you for that. I also could care less for pop music but every now and then I'll hear some clever chord work in one fleeting instance within a pop song and wonder if it was the work of a bored and repressed session musician during the recording of that record.

    Anyway, back to "Overjoyed," my confusion is what is happening during the intro when he goes from a Dbmaj9-C9-Bmaj9-C9-Dbmaj9-Bmaj9 to end on a Bb and then go into the song. On the one hand it seems perfectly normal on paper, as these are all chords in the key of Eb major, and he's basically ending the intro on the dominant, but in the recording it sounds far more complex and haunting than that. I'm curious what all your thoughts are on this intro, from the perspective of professional musicians.

  44. #43
    I’m not a pro, but what I hear (translated to the guitar) is this:
    x433xx Db6
    x323xx C7
    x213xx Bmaj7
    x323xx C7

    second time it goes on down to
    x103xx Bb

    So essentially a chromatic descent in the bass and middle voice while preserving the top Bb note unchanged.

  45. #44
    He's playing with function. F/A can be seen/heard as a V6/V in Eb (indeed this is how I heard the F when it first appeared), but F is also the IV of C major. Really, the F is functioning as a IV going to V in C major. This is confirmed immediately when the G/B is heard.

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