The 3 chord riff


jaeler
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Joined: 12/10/15
Posts: 14
jaeler
Registered User
Joined: 12/10/15
Posts: 14
01/28/2016 5:10 pm
Its amazing how many songs are written with 3 chords. Often times its not quite so easy though. Good song writers change it up a bit. Almost the same.

Wanted to look at a classic example, Stevie wonder, Higher ground.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X00XdLhFLSg

Main riff E G A
then it moves to a modulation F# A B
then the tag an A B, riff
back to E G A
the second time thru after A B goes to chorus
A E couple times
F# B7 for the tag

Now if we look closely the A B intro is from the end of modulation
Back to main riff, then reverse to A E (which gives us a 1 5)
and tag goes back to original modulation, minus a note, so the 1 4 of F# B7

That's how Stevie Wonder took 3 chords and made a song. Its brilliant when you look at it. Great song, and not very complicated to duplicate.

I'll expand a bit, the E G A riff is classic. I've written a song or to with it, you can ride it a long ways.

What stevie wonder adds is a one step modulation. The A B tag could easily be duplicated with the F# A B, he takes out the F #

Then the chorus, back to E G A mode, cept now takes out g rides A E so reverse, you can't go wrong with that.

Make it more simple, E G A, then chorus A E that is a pretty solid song.

Of course he adds in modulation at the end gives it an F# B tag last two notes of the mod.
# 1
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04/05/2016 7:27 pm
Love this. Thanks for sharing it with us!
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# 2
seattle2
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seattle2
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05/08/2016 5:07 am
It's true that a lot of the really good "three chord" songs actually have a change up or two, even if it's simple.

In "All the Small Things" by Blink 182, I used to think it was all three chords. After really listening to it, it turns out that in the chorus, another chord is created by some suspended notes in the vocals, and creating a V7 with a base note. In an interlude, the chords go I IV iii II. The change ups are pretty minor, but still serve to add interest.
Teresa Anderson
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# 3

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