Friday, March 25, 2011

Sheet Music Talk

Which three chords, Pamela, will it be
that will strike the truth and make it ring
through laughter and vomit and kissing
and hookers bargaining for their fee?

I don’t have anything special for today. I know it’s Friday and all, but I just don’t.

Today’s post is, basically, just an afterward to yesterday’s post.

Until I wrote yesterday’s post, I hadn’t thought of the song “Never Been To Spain” in longer than I can remember. (It’s a song from my brother’s generation—my older brother—rather than my generation.)

Anyway, even though I’ve been trying to get back to writing writing, today I spent some time thinking about music, specifically, thinking about that song.

For a while I considered doing a video response to that girl who sings in her closet, with me singing in my closet, doing “Never Been To Spain,” but that just never happened. (It was too much to think about on a Friday—How much did I want to echo that girl, did I want to play guitar or keyboard, did I want to dress funny, did I want to do it in black and white without my glasses making sexy faces?)

Too much thinking, too many choices.

Anyway, I did think about the song a bit.

“Never Been To Spain” is a pretty cool song, written by Hoyt Axton.

The “canonical” arrangement of the song is just three chords, IV-I, IV-I and V-IV-I. In the second section it doesn’t modulate to another key, it just goes up an octave.

Here is the basic riff:

Notice that the first pass through the riff resolves to a VI (on “Spain”), and then the riff resolves to a V (on “music”).

That is basically the whole song. It’s that same riff but with slightly different resolutions, and sometimes up an octave, and some easy connecting pieces.

It’s pretty cool that something so simple can be worked up into big, giant, Elvis-style arrangements. And it’s fun to play simply, too, just accentuating those little changes to the basic riff.

I don’t normally buy sheet music. I figure that unless you’re in a bar band or a cover band where you have to try to reproduce corporate-style music, a lot of the fun of music is hearing songs your own way and playing songs your own way. But every now and then I want to know the actual, accepted, canonical version of a song so I buy “the ink.”

Although these days the ink is cool multimedia. When you buy sheet music now you get sheet music and it drives MIDI so you can watch a lead sheet or an arrangement play. You can slow down or speed up the tempo. You can transpose the sheet music to whatever key you’re comfortable with. [ Tricky Times ]

I don’t buy sheet music often, but it is very nice having such a resource instantly available. I buy sheet music from FreeHand Music. They’re pretty inexpensive, they have a great variety and I’ve never had any trouble with them.

I bought the sheet music for “Never Been To Spain” because I don’t have a well-trained ear and when I worked out an arrangement I couldn’t believe it was that simple. I thought I must be missing something, or it must be modulating to a different key but I’m not catching it. I wasn’t missing anything. It’s just a very cool, very simple song.

So that’s all I’ve got for today. Just a little sheet music talk.

Probably in one way or another “Never Been To Spain” will show up here on the blog again. Sometime. Somehow.

When I was looking around YouTube yesterday for a cover version, this was the only cover version that made me smile:

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