“Song Forms: Intros that work in
C Minor & D flat Major”
- Examples of Intros in Popular Songs I
- What is an intro
- Skyfall intro – Adele
- Sweet Child O’ Mine intro – Guns N’ Roses
Examples of Intros in Popular Songs I
“What is an Intro”
The introduction is a short instrumental statement at the starting point of a song or arrangement which will serve to present the mood, character, and tonality of the music to follow along with. In simple words: “a short instrumental piece of music meant to introduce the mood and tonality (key) of a song”.
“Skyfall Intro – Adele”
Let’s begin with a recent title song from the “James Bond” movie called “Skyfall” (I like that movie).
This is the official video of Skyfall. When you would like to play piano along with it, it is slightly out of tune.
The intro is really simple, it’s in the key of C minor (Bb, Eb and Ab) and played by acoustic piano only. The form is eight bars long and consists out of four two bar phrases. These eight bars are repeated throughout the verses.
The first two bars are repeated three times as you can see in the chord chart below. The last phrase, bars seven and eight, is different. This is to indicate the end of the intro and set up for the entrance of the vocal. The notes and chords are based on the natural minor scale as shown below:
Now lets look at the transcription of Skyfall’s intro:
When you compare the two charts you can see that Cm is the i chord, Ab the bVI (flat six) and Gsus and G the V. As explained in earlier posts G is borrowed from the C major scale. G to Cm is stronger than Gm to Cm, especially here because the G chord is preceded by Gsus. Sus chords are meant to resolve to major chords. You can experiment yourself by changing the G chord in the eighth bar on beat three to Gm. Which sounds better?
In all of my “How to Arrange a Song from Scratch” posts I left out the middle note in the left hand chords to create a clear open sound. You may also apply this in the right hand. In the first six bars of Skyfall’s intro the middle note is left out in the right hand chords to produce a lonely melancholy feeling.
In some of the chords you will notice that there is a diagonal slash between the two letters. It means that on the left side of the slash the actual chord is played and on the right the bass note. When the bass note is different from the actual bass note of the chord, a diagonal slash is applied. When we look at Cm/F it means that the three notes of the Cm chord, C-Eb-G, are played in the right hand and the F bass in the left hand.
“Sweet Child O’ Mine Intro – Guns N’ Roses”
The intro of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is played with arpeggio techniques by the electric lead guitarist. An arpeggio outlines a chord, but instead of the notes played together, they are played separately (like a melody).
The actual key here is D flat major, but since this is difficult to read, especially for beginners, I transposed it a half step down to C major.
The form is two times eight bars, that means the first eight the electric lead guitar is playing by itself and the second eight it is accompanied by rhythm guitar (chords), bass and drums.
For the folks who do not know what repeat bars are look below at the two double bar lines with two dots on each stave. There’s one at the beginning, after the time-signature, and one at the end of bar eight. Between these repeat bars the music is played two times.
Down below I’ve put up the two intro charts, the first one for advanced readers in Db major and the second one in C major:
The electric guitar arpeggio is a one bar repeated pattern and outlines the attached chords. The same pattern is actually repeated throughout the intro with the exception of its first note, it changes when a new chord is played (look at the circle around the first note of each arpeggio).
For the C chord the first note is also C (the root), for the Bb chord the first note is D (the second of the C natural minor scale, I will explain this in the next paragraph) and for F the first note is also F (the root again).
When we analyze the chord progression C, Bb, F and C, you’d expect that all the chords derive from the C major scale. However there is one chord Bb which is borrowed from the C natural minor scale and carries bVII as its roman numeral. Why is that? It is to provide contrast and better root motion from C to Bb.
Lets see and compare when we wouldn’t use the Bb chord. Instead we would keep all the chords attached to the C major scale. In that case we would have to change Bb to C dim as shown below:
So when we compare the two chord progressions which one sounds better?
I would definitely say the first one, intro 1. The second one with the B dim chord sounds awful, it is totally out of context so it doesn’t belong there. Now you know why we sometimes have to borrow chords from other scales.
In the second eight bars the bass melody enters together with rhythm guitar and drums. It is a different set up because usually the melody is played by a lead instrument, such as saxophone, lead synthesizer, piano, etc. It doesn’t happen too often that the melody is played by the bass guitar, it usually plays the root notes of the chords.
The addition of rhythm guitar and drums also contribute to the overall build up towards the verse where the vocal enters.
Try to compose a simple four bar intro for piano. You can either use the C natural minor or C major scale as in the examples above. Also try to put some contrast in the left hand by changing or adding rhythm and finally in your right hand chords try leaving out the middle note and see if you like it.
A recap of today’s post:
- I’ve shown you what an intro is
- I’ve discussed how the intro is used in Skyfall
- I’ve discussed how the intro is used in Sweet Child O’ Mine
- I’ve given you an assignment to compose an intro by yourself
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Please stay tuned for the second installment of popular song intros in A & C major. From now on I will try to keep my posts around or under a 1000 words and cut up the content into paragraphs for an easier reading experience.
I believe that some of my posts are too lengthy, causing the reader to get tired or loose interest. That is normal since I have experienced the same problem with other blogs, where the content was simply too much to digest.
About the Author:
Hans Hansen is the author and founder of “The Music Arrangers Page” and is always happy to share his passion for music arranging. In addition, he is a well experienced piano & bass guitar teacher, specializing in classical, rock and jazz. Any questions you have about music arranging; he is the person to ask. He also likes to invite you to download his Special Free Gift and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter or leave a comment on his blog.