2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life


Leave a comment

from Major to Minor

American statistician have analysed 120,000 pieces of music and come to the conclusion that the happiest sounds in music – the minor and major 7th chords – are dying out. And lyrics are becoming sadder since the 1950s.

Pop songs are usually written using a mixture of major and minor chords. In the 1950s the four-chord sequence often featured in doo-wop music was  very popular. A major chord followed by its relative minor, then up to the subdominant 4th (or its relative minor) before moving to the dominant fifth usually with a 7th. e.g. C – Am -F – G7 or C – Am – Dm -G7.

Think of songs like “Blue Moon“, or “Where have all the flowers gone“. And more recently Wham’s Xmas song “Last Christmas” which uses only those four chords throughout the song.

Generally speaking minor chords sound sadder than major chords. Apparently 60 years ago the dominant 7th chord outnumbered minor chords. FYI a dominant 7th chord is a major chord with a minor 7th on top of it e.g. C – E – G – Bb. Think of white piano keys. Middle C  (Root) then 2 keys up to E (major 3rd) then two more keys up to G (Major 5th) then miss next white key and add next black key Bb (minor 7th).

I think that could be due partly to the fact that dominant 7th chords are frequently used in what are called turn-arounds i.e. the music at the end of each verse which leads into the next verse. Dominant 7th chords have a tension which needs resolving by moving to a major (or minor) chord. Think of Roy Orbison’s “Dream Baby” which is played with dominant 7ths crying out for resolution on the last line of each verse.

Also many songs written in a “twelve bar blues” format would feature the dominant 7th e.g. “Lucille” or “What’d I say“.

Perhaps surprisingly what the scientists found was that the chords most associated with upbeat words were minor 7th chords i.e. like a dominant 7th but with a flattened 3rd e.g. C – Eb – G – Bb. These were widely used in soul and disco music in the 1970s. The major 7th chord was also popular at that time.

They say that music became grimmer since guitar music became popular although that might be changing a little now. And with that the increase in the use of minor chords, the huge decrease in the use of dominant chords (down from 10% to 1% since the fifties) and the disappearance of the major 7th chord.

The major 7th is a beautiful chord with a bitter sweet dissonance as the major 7th note clashes with the root note e.g. C – E – G – B. You can hear it at the beginning of Chicago’s “Colour my world”, and in the Beatle’s song “Misery” as they sing that word.

You’ll hear a combination of major and minor 7th chords in Glen Campbell’s “By the time I get to Phoenix” and in “Valerie” by the Futons and Amy Winehouse.

And in jazz standards it’s a common feature e.g. “Every time we say goodbye”

So let’s not write these chords off just yet. Leonard Cohen knew what he was talking about in “Hallelujah” and what do statisticians know about music anyway?

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Xmas shopping aided & abetted by Xmas songs!

Looking forward to another round of Jingle Bell Rock or White Christmas?

A clinical psychologist has warned of the effects of continuous Xmas music on your mental health. “because music goes right to our emotions immediately and bypasses rationality” says Linda Blair (no connection with the Blair Witch project although you might wonder if she’s related to the Grinch).

She goes on to say “it might make us feel trapped – it’ a reminder that we have to buy presents, cater for people, organise celebrations”. Or it might be that the music is so annoying we can’t wait to get out of the shop?

She thinks shop staff are most at risk and have to tune out the music otherwise “you spend all your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing”.

So what are the big stores actually doing this year (apart from churning out increasingly irrelevant Xmas ads which are so PC)?

Marks and Spencer will be a music-free zone but Asda will only have one hour a day free from christmas tunes and will even let staff become DJs for the day!

Asda perceptively said “we love the arm and fuzzy feeling that the festive season brings but for many Brits the novelty starts to wear off in December“.

So why do you have to start selling Xmas stuff so early?

John Lewis is having christmas music for the first time this year. In the past they have invited small groups of musicians or choirs to play and sing to create more atmosphere. And that’s fine, 2 Shades has done that in Tesco in the past. “The music at the Christmas Shop is a new addition”.  Yippee, more piped music!

Sainsbury‘s is also expanding its musical reach. Usually only played in its cafés it will be played throughout the stores this year.

Not everyone is happy Pipedown, a pressure group for silence in public spaces, said “It was estimated some years ago that department store workers on the shop floor will have been forced to listen to Jingle Bells up to 300 times in the run-up to Christmas“.

Marks and Spencer was probably the first store to stop playing piped music and there is evidence the public don’t like it so it’s a bit disturbing to see that some stores have turned up the volume as it were just for Christmas.


Leave a comment

Music while you work

Biz Psycho

Millennials are re-creating the war-time experiences of having music played in factories by bringing music into offices.

Last year PRS for Music, the music licensing organisation which collects royalties for musicians, granted 27,000 licences for offices to play recorded music, up almost 10% on the previous year.

And that’s good news for musicians who must be heartily sick of being ripped off by young people ripping tracks from web-sites in the belief that they are “entitled” to free music.

Whether or not music does help productivity is open to debate. Certainly the government thought it did during WWII when they promoted “Music While You Work“.

The American company Musak actually patented a “Stimulus Progression” system to keep factory workers focussed by varying the intensity of the music in 15 minute chunks; something I have posted about elsewhere

Many factories have scrapped music on health &…

View original post 338 more words


Leave a comment

Beat music pt 2

As I mentioned last year one of my favourite magazines was Beat monthly which had morphed into Beat Instrumental monthly by issue 18 in a slightly larger format and a price increase up to 2/- old money (i.e. 10p). This September 1965 issue was the last one I have but it went on until the early 1970s at least and copies can be found on the internet from £0+ a copy!

The Animals were the featured group on the front page shown rehearsing for a TV show. It was in full colour. There was an editorial comment inside about how much better everyone would come across if we had colour TV!

(NB BBC 2 broadcast its first colour pictures from Wimbledon in 1967. By mid 1968, nearly every BBC 2 programme was in colour. Six months later, colour came to BBC 1. By 1969, BBC 1 and ITV were regularly broadcasting in colour).

The inside front cover was a full-size b&w photograph of Ray Davies playing a Framus 12-string guitar.

The Player of the Month was Jeff Beck. This was a few months after he replaced Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds.

He said he was playing a Fender Telecaster which cost about £125 “not expensive” he said (well about three months wages for the average guy in the street).

A surprise for me was seeing Bill Wyman’s column giving advice on bass guitars and playing them. He was still in the Rolling Stones so must have had some spare time.

There was a full-page review of a Moody Blues gig. This was the original line-up and they were still playing R&B covers with some of the material from their first album “The Magnificent Moodies” – of which I still have a copy – which including their big hit “Go Now”

There was also a feature on Graham Bond and his new “orchestra” a Mellotron (which cost £975).  It provides a range of instrumental sounds from violin and guitar to piano and trumpet.

He amplifies it through a 50-watt Leslie cabinet, similar to his Hammond. He was keeping both so heaven help the roadie.

The article also noted that bassist Jack Bruce was switching from a Fender six string, which he played through a Vox 100-watt amp, to a string bass. Bond thought “it would fit in better with a lot of gospel-type numbers we will be trying soon”

The magazine contained the usual round-up of music around the British Isles with a survey on Northern Ireland (and those showbands), and the Richmond Jazz Festival.

The Jazz Festival opened with local boys The Yardbirds and The Who (who got a passing mention only). The Animals (playing a Ricky guitar with Vox amps) and  Manfred Mann played some of their more “way out” stuff. The Animals were pleased with their performance as they later supplemented their sound with four saxes and three trumpets from the New Jazz Orchestra and the Dick Morrisey Quartet.

Manfred Mann closed the festival on the Saturday night but it was left to the Animals to close the event with the Impressions‘ song “It’s alright”. For this they were joined on stage by Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart and Julie Driscoll (Steam Packet) and Gary Farr. I wish I’d been there for that 10 minute rendition!

There were a couple of page long features, one about the Byrds, which included David Crosby, (and who’ve had serious problems with their early performances in the US with broken down amps, inadequate microphones and poor guitar balance, something which had also happened in the UK). Elsewhere in the magazine was a piece about the British Birds who were more than annoyed about the Byrds pinching their name.

The other one was about how The Fortunes wanted to stress their vocals after finally getting a hit with “You’ve got your troubles“, to the extent of appearing on Thank Your Lucky Stars on TV without their instruments.

Among the short stories was news that John Lennon had bought a Mellotron (just like Graham Bond) ahead of their US tour, Sonny Bono confessing he only knew seven chords on the piano, and several other musicians looking at replacing pianists with organ players and the like.

A profile on ex-Animals’ organist Alan Price talks about his leaving the Animals, due to ill-health and fear of flying, but also because he wanted to get back to his jazz roots. So keyboards/organs seemed to be on the up.

Even a full-page story about The Beatles return appearance on British TV after being away from live performances filming also featured an organ. The programme was shot in Blackpool and John Lennon was shown playing a Vox keyboard.

This was a variety show in which they performed six songs, although the magazine writer only mentioned one. They opened with “I feel Fine“, then “I’m down” with John on the Vox organ, Ringo sang “Act Naturally“, that was followed by “Ticket to Ride”, Paul then sang “Yesterday” as a solo accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. They finished with their latest song “Help“.

You can see the performance below – or you could until someone blocked it but you can still find it on youtube at https://youtu.be/Qxit-xPfkJI.

It’s interesting to look back and see who was just breaking through and who’s still around.


Leave a comment

Glen Campbell – gifted guitarist and singer – RIP

The sad demise of one of the most talented modern musicians is hard to comprehend. I can’t say I liked everything he did but given his background as a session guitarist for a diverse range of artists including Frank Sinatra and the Righteous Brothers, as a member of the Beach Boys backing band, plus too many great songs – especially those written by Jimmy Webb – it is a very sad loss.

He was once asked on a late night TV show if he was the greatest guitarist, better than Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix and the like. He said no but he thought he was the most versatile, which he put down to his extensive use of a capo. And then proceeded to demonstrate to the host what he meant!

Among my favourite songs “By the time I get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Linesman” stand out. I also liked one of his last songs “Ghost on the Canvas” which I thought was prophetic in many ways.

The song I’ve chosen to include here is from his 64th and last album released in June this year and is another Jimmy Webb composition appropriately titled “Adios“.

The accompanying video showing the final journey of one of his well-used guitars adds a unique touch.


Leave a comment

2 Shades of Grey perform at 43rd Worsthorne Arts & Crafts Fair

2 Shades  were delighted to perform for the fifth consecutive year at Worsthorne Arts & Crafts Fair.

The music was a mixture of standards. pop classics, latin and country.

Pop classics were represented by the Everlys, Billy Fury and the Beatles – “All I have to do is dream”, “I’ll never find another you”, and “Obla-Di Obla-da”. And a modern pop song by Rag and Bone Man “Grace”

Country flavoured songs from Rick Nelson and the Highwaymen – “Hello Mary Lou” and “the Last Cowboy Song”

Latin flavoured “Besame Mucho” and “Ten Guitars”

Standards? “Let there be love”, “I’ve got you under my skin”, and “Every time we say goodbye” by the likes of Nat King Cole, Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald (and covered more recently by the likes of Michael Bublé)

Just before the final song “Every Time We Say Goodbye” joint-MC Tony Cummings ( who had provided backing vocals) gave a reading of “In Flanders Field” as a tribute to the those who fell at Passchendaele, also known as the 3rd Ypres battle, which started 100 years ago to the day. (The poem had been written two years earlier after the second battle of Ypres but the imagery of the red poppies has stayed with the world ever since when remembering those who fell in war).

Another enjoyable evening which kicked off the week’s musical performances. Thank you everybody, especially if you joined in the singing (and save me some cake next time!)


Leave a comment

5 Amazing Benefits of Classical Music🎼

MakeItUltra™

By Eric Charles, MA., PhD-c

Audio version | Click here


“Music is the universal language of mankind” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Around my house I am known as the music man. I have the habit of walking around with my iPhone in my pocket playing music on Spotify. I love all music because it makes me feel happy and alive. Research shows that classical music is exceptionally beneficial for your brain and overall health. The way classical music affects the brain is universal regardless of gender, class or nationality. Wouldn’t it be great if listening to Beethoven or Mozart could unite us all?

Here are  5 ways classical music benefits us all:

1. Improves your focus
Numerous studies have shown that listening to classical music such as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven can improve focus. Complex and continuously changing melodies can help the mind focus by keeping it engaged. When your brain is expecting…

View original post 589 more words