Notes On: Things I Used to Know Pt. 1
Welcome to another installment in the Notes On series. This time I’ll be analyzing another one of my own songs: Things I Used to Know from Labyrinths. This song is notable for its unorthodox structure, key changes, and shifts in rhythmic feel.
Key: F major, F minor
Form: | Intro | Verse | Intro | Verse | Chorus | Intro | Verse | Solo | Bridge | Chorus | Outro |
The intro is unusual for me in that it’s almost entirely based on rhythm rather than harmony or melody. The rhythm looks like this, where the x represents an eighth note and the O represents an accented eighth note.
| x x O x x O x O | x x O x x O O O |
The single chord played here is an F major, the I chord, with an E natural added for the accents at the end of the second measure to make an Fmaj7 chord.
A neat feature of this song is that each of the three verses is slightly different in harmony and structure. The first verse is the most straightforward, and it looks like this:
Chords: |F |F |Dm |Dm7 | F major: |I |I |vi |vi7 | Chords: |Bb |Am Abm|Gm |C | F major: |IV |iii biii|ii |V |
The most surprising bit is the quick chromatic movement from Am to Abm to Gm in measures 6-7. When a chord progression features stepwise motion in the root notes like this, it’s called a chord stream. This bit is decorative rather than functional — it’s always reminded me of the similar chromatic bit in the verse of The Beatles’ Do You Want to Know a Secret.
The second verse draws out the ending as it builds into the chorus, resulting in an irregular 11-measure section instead of 8 like the first verse. The Eb chord is borrowed from the parallel minor key.
Chords: |F |F |Dm |Dm7 | F major: |I |I |vi |vi7 | Chords: |Bb |Am Abm|Gm |Gm | F major: |IV |iii biii|ii |ii | Chords: |Eb |C |C7 | F major: |bVII |V |V7 |
The third verse features a different rhythmic emphasis, but otherwise is a repeat of the first 8 measures of verse 2, at which point it transitions into the solo section.
The chorus introduces a shift in the rhythmic feel of the song. Every other section is in a straight 4/4, but the chorus has a shuffle feel. One way to look at it is as a change in time signature to 12/8 while keeping a constant pulse — in other words, the length of the beat stays the same, but where every beat was previously divided into 2 it now gets split into 3. This rhythmic change is telegraphed when the band plays two eighth-note triplets followed by a quarter note triplet each time the chorus enters.
Chords: |F |F |A7 |A7 | F major: |I |I |V/vi |V/vi | Chords: |Bb |Bb |C |C7 | F major: |IV |IV |V |V7 |
The chorus sticks closely to the home key except for the A7 chord, a secondary dominant which never gets its expected resolution to Dm. The vocal arrangement on the recording is written in three parts, but begins with all three in unison on F before spreading out to different notes.
Stay tuned for the conclusion!