Keeping It S.I.M.P.L.E (part III)
There is probably no band alive today that capture mood better than Ghost. See photo. They capture mood mostly through instrumentation and scale. But they also capture it in how they dress. They use minor modes, which depart from typical key intervals, a la Phrygian minor. To get a sense of mood, click this link to here Ghost's version of "Here Comes The Sun - Ghost.
Ghost's version sounds odd to your ear because they use the first, flatted 3rd and flatted 7th of a G minor scale - an Aeolian mode (natural minor). So it is dark and brooding. This mood is intentional. That's because mood is what you're trying to get your listener to feel.
If you want your audience to feel something ominous, play something in a minor key using low notes. The flatter the notes are the better. If you want your audience to feel on edge, play chords that are not well resolved, and use instruments that clash.
If you're like Ghost, you want to play instruments that sound awesome together, but you want to arrange your music so that it sounds a little off. You can do this by playing flat 11th chords, or suspended chords, which aren't major or minor. If you want tension, play dominant 7th chords. Ghost does all of this. For that matter, so did The Beatles.
Back to "Here Comes The Sun", and establishing mood the way The Beatles did it.
"Here Comes The Sun, by George Harrison, is written in the key of A Major at 130 beats per minute. A Major is a happy sounding key, and on guitar, open strings can be used. Open strings give the instrument resonance. Resonance, for lack of better description, provide a pedal tone made of frequencies that, in this case, sound happy. Instruments typically don't have minor resonances even if they are tuned to minor chords. That is why woodwinds, brass and string instruments all sound happy. And that's why The Beatles used most of these instruments on "Here Comes The Sun."
More reasons we feel upbeat are because chord progressions center on Tonic, Subdominant, and Dominant chords (1, 4th, 5th chords of the A Major scale). The progression builds from it's foundation and adds some tension on the subdominant chord. By the time you hear the dominant chord, you really want the tension to resolve. And so, it resolves very nicely back to the pedal (tonic) tone. So, for the inexperienced writer, the 1-4-5 progression forms the basis of most rock music. In fact, all Blues music on which Rock music was established used these chords.
Don't believe me? Go and listen to any Chuck Berry song. Each of his hit songs used the exact same chord progression. 1-4-1-5-1.
George used a guitar capo played at the chord's second inversion. This higher pitched A Major chord inversion gives it an even brighter and happier sound. So take all that stuff above and make it vibrate at even faster speeds. Higher frequencies typically make happier sounds.
Or as Ghost would say, "Ominous notes" sound deeper in pitch.
So, yes. All of this stuff is very technical sounding. But again, this is all the technical stuff, you as a song writer have to consider when putting a song to music. It's not just about a riff (short melodic phrase). It's about using the technical aspects in a way that move the listener from point A to point B. And if you know these things, you don't need to rely on chance. You can lean on a thousand years of music history to help you.
But so far we've covered structure, instrumentation, and mood. We see how they are interrelated. Now, we begin putting them together to make a musical composition so the musical arrangement can move and build as the song goes along. If it's done right, the listener doesn't even know you're doing it. If it's not done right, the listener won't be happy about it.
And that will break the mood. So, let's use mood to get us to the next place: Placement.
See you next week.