“Song Forms: Intros that work in
D Minor & D Major”
- Examples of Intros in Popular Songs V
- What is a motive
- Set Fire To The Rain Intro – Adele
- The Sultans Of Swing Intro – Dire Straits
- White Room Intro – Cream
- Baker Street Intro – Gerry Rafferty
In this fifth and last post in the series of “Popular Song Intros”, I will talk about the intros of songs in D minor & D major and of course a new homework assignment. Are you ready!
Examples of Intros in Popular Songs V
“What is a motive”
Motives are short musical ideas or phrases with repeating figures. These figures can be a part of a musical sentence or adjacent groups of notes that have some unique importance. Motives are often the ID (identity) of a song.
A good example of a famous motive is Beethoven’s fifth symphony:
“Set Fire To The Rain Intro – Adele”
The four bar intro of this song is quite melancholy but with a strong underneath message slowly building up to the to the transitional bridge and chorus. Adele does an excellent job underlining the outcry of the title of this song “Set Fire To The Rain“:
Here are the different sections and timings:
Intro 00:00 - 00:08
1st Verse 00:09 - 00:44
1st Transitional Bridge 00:45 - 01:00
Chorus 01:01 - 01:18
2nd Verse 01:19 - 01:35
2nd Transitional Bridge 01:36 - 01:51
Chorus 01:52 - 02:27
Bridge 02:28 - 02:45
Chorus 02:46 - 03:20
Instrumental Chorus 03:21 - end
The melody in the right hand uses an one bar motive which repeats in all four bars with slight variations. When we look in bars one & two the motive stays the same with an eighth note figure at the end.
In bars three and four it continues but this time it is adapted to new chords, resulting in a transposition one note down (major second) and two notes up (minor third).
In the left hand in bars one, three and four, a one-five-one-five bass pattern is played to support to melody. When we analyze this in bar 1 it comes to D-A-D-A, with the second D eight notes (one octave) higher.
This particular pattern is often used in all kinds of piano arrangements, classically as well as contemporary.
When looking at the chord progression, every chord originates from the D minor scale (D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C, D). D minor is the i chord, F the III chord, C the flat VII and Gm the iv chord. Very straight forward progression.
“The Sultans Of Swing Intro – Dire Straits”
“The Sultans Of Swing” starts off with a pick up on the snare drum and leads into the groove. All four band members come in together at bar one. Chord-wise this intro is really simple. Only one chord is played, Dm, by the rhythm guitar player.
The bass player is playing a two bar pattern and the lead guitarist, Mark Knopfler, is playing his distinctive guitar licks leading into the verse where he starts to sing:
Simplicity and clearness makes this tune and blues-rock group successful. Mark is one of the few guitarists who plays his licks in between his lyrics, which is really awesome.
Originally this way of playing, soloing and singing by the same player, comes from the old blues where the singer often copied the melody from his instrument. The Dire Straits extended this idea into rock music.
“White Room Intro – Cream”
“Cream” was one of the top British rock groups from 1966 to 1968. This trio with their distinctive sound and style made them stand out from all the other groups at the time.
“White Room” has quite a strange intro which makes this song different in many aspects:
1. The four bar intro has its own atmosphere. Its totally different from the verse. Ginger Baker, the drummer is playing a kind of “Bolero” rhythm.
2. It is played in 5/4 time, while the verse and chorus are in 4/4 time.
3. It has its own chord progression Gm (iv) – F (III) – Dm (i) – C (flat VII). It is played two times after which Am7 is added to lead us into the verse.
4. It doesn’t start with the i chord, Dm, but instead with Gm, which is the iv chord.
5. The intro comes back one more time after the 2nd chorus.
“Baker Street Intro – Gerry Rafferty”
“Baker Street” is one of those professionally crafted songs using various techniques and devices. I almost would define the style of this song as “fusion-pop” since it has elements of rock, country & western and jazz in its structure:
The twelve bar intro uses solely suspended chords which makes this song different from others. What are suspended or so called “sus” chords?
Well, a sus chord is a chord where the third is left out, either the major or minor third, and is substituted by the the perfect fourth or the major second. Usually the perfect fourth is used most often.The absence of a minor or a major third produces a typically open sound.
In classical music sus chords were normally treated as chords which had to resolve to a major chord. It meant that the fourth always had to resolve down to the third as shown below by the arrow:
This song uses sus seventh chords. How do we construct these? Lets take the first chord in the intro, A7 sus:
It is quite easy, just follow these steps:
1. Start with the major triad, in this case A major, spelled A – C# – E
2. Leave out the third, C#, and replace it with the perfect fourth D. It is now a sus chord.
3. By adding a seventh on top, the triad chord (3 notes) has become a seventh chord (4 notes). The seventh here is G, so spelled out in notes it is A – D – E – G.
Going back to “Baker Street” the intro will look as follows:
Do you see one of these sus 7 chords resolve to a major chord, e.g. A7 sus to A? No, they are all unresolved. When they are treated this way they are “stand alone” chords and are used for their characteristic open sound.
When we like to analyze the progression in the traditional way (I, ii, iii, etc) we cannot because they do not belong together to any key or scale. In relationship to one another they are just transposed up and down, each carrying their own scale, to create this dreamy, unresolved sound.
This technique where there is only one kind of chord, e.g. sus 7 chords, minor 7 chords, major 7 chords, etc and transposed up or down is called “constant harmony”.
The sus 7 chords themselves are arranged in patterns of four bars: A7sus – F7sus – G7sus – G7sus. This pattern is played three times before it goes to the instrumental chorus where the key of D major is established.
The dreamy and spacy synth melody consists out of several motives which are either repeated or transposed.
From bars one to four there is the main motive which is almost exactly repeated in bars nine to twelve. And finally bars five, six and seven are shape-wise copied from bar four, except that they are readjusted to fit the chords at that moment.
Compose a four bar intro for piano similar to “Set Fire To The Rain”. Use motives in your right hand melody and arpeggiated chord patterns in your left hand.
Hint: Both the melody and chord patterns in “Set Fire To The Rain” use quite a lot of anticipation. As shown below, perhaps it might be easier to play everything straight in the beginning:
A recap of today’s post:
- I’ve explained what a motive is
- I’ve shown you how popular song intros are used in D minor & D major
If you like the pdf version of my post, opt-in to my mailing list
This was the fifth and last installment in the popular song intros series and by now I hope you will have a good understanding of how intros works. In the next post I will show how I compose & arrange my own intros.
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.