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OMG what was that?? Sheeyit it's a different KEY!!! - The online computery journal thingy of a turtle

Dec. 15th, 2007

04:24 am - OMG what was that?? Sheeyit it's a different KEY!!!

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Wow, here's a website put up by some guy who just hates it when a song changes key. Musicians call it "modulation", but he calls it a "truck driver's gear change", because apparently that's how much of a jolt it is to him when a song does that. I'm sure it's all tongue-in-cheek, but every entry I've read so far has sorta gone like this:

[description of key change in perfectly good song, plus audio clip that sounds perfectly nice to me]
Him: "Horrible, isn't it?"
Me: "Pfft, you poor delicate thing you."

I know, to each his own, and like I said, it's all tongue in cheek, and amusingly cranky. I just gotta wonder, how many people out there would actually agree with this guy?

(Also, I bet the Animaniacs theme would make his head explode!) >:}

Current Music: The Beatles - And I Love Her

Comments:

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From:klepsydra
Date:December 15th, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
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I can actually see the point when it's done formulaically just to inject an otherwise tired and uninspired song with a burst of energy for its final verse. (Joe Meek, whose work I unashamedly love, was a great one for this -- Telstar being just one of many unsubtle examples he was responsible for).

Like everything else in music, it has a place, and in its place it's perfectly reasonable, but it can be abused, for sure.

Thanks for the link to an fascinating page.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 15th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, but even then it doesn't grate on my ears the way it seems to do on his. Half of me wants to say to him "Suck it up, dude" and the other half reminds me that I have my own set of unpopular distastes (I don't want cheese on my burgers, I don't want nuts in my brownies, for instance.)
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From:wbwolf
Date:December 15th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)
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Personally, I love the "truck driver's gear change" point. Especially if it modulates to a minor key. That will often cause me to shiver with flavor delight.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 15th, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
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Ooo, can you name some good examples?
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From:wbwolf
Date:December 15th, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
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These might be a little more obscure, but:

"Planets" by Pizzicato Five (1988, Antique 96)
"On The Nickel" by Tom Waits (1980, Heartattack and Vine)
"Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley (1969, From Elvis In Memphis)
"Overkill" by Men At Work (1982, Cargo)
"Babylon Sisters" by Steely Dan (1980, Gaucho)

I also like the climax to the 2nd movement of Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, but I can't decide if that is a key change, or just the use of minor chording to go along with the bluesy/jazzy melody.

Edited at 2007-12-15 09:23 pm (UTC)
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From:yakko
Date:December 16th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
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"Babylon Sisters" is an example of effective use of key changes.
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From:timmowarner
Date:December 15th, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)
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I've started to think about some of the changes differently now that I've read his site. I agree with the basic premise of why they're used, but I don't think it's such a bad thing like he does. It sounds really good in a lot of songs.

On some of the songs he has there though, I'm beginning to look at what they did in a different light. Especially on "All Around the World" by Oasis. The key change in that song is very satisfying when you hear it, but I didn't realize until he pointed it out, it's satisfying because you're at a point in the song you don't really want to be in. Now is this because they did this on purpose so you would enjoy it, or because, as he says, they've gotten themselves into a bit of a mess and are employing the change to escape?

Employing what I've learned from Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, changing keys also serves to take you further and further away from the starting point of the music, so that on a return to it, you sort of feel like you're coming home and are more satisfied with the piece. I don't see any mention of that sort of use on the site.

Edited at 2007-12-15 04:21 pm (UTC)
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 15th, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC)
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I've been thinking about it too. For instance, why does "Good Day Sunshine" modulate just a few seconds before fading out? Is this "useless", as he puts it? It's never bothered me. In fact, I think it works, because the modulation plus the sudden switch to a cappella creates the image in my mind of the Beatles putting down their instruments and leaving the studio to enjoy the sunshine they've just been singing about. Can't you just see a video for the song ending that way?
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From:wildbilltx
Date:December 15th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
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Knowing that Noel Gallagher was using cocaine during the sessions of "Be Here Now" I'd put "All Around The World" in the "in a mess" category. That song's a 5 minute song bloated into 9 minutes...still I love the video.

A song that just sprung to mind is Cheap Trick's "One On One", it modulates right before the fadeout.
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From:doodlesthegreat
Date:December 15th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
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I'll bet "Giant Steps" by John Coltrane would make his head asplode. Six changes in the first 60 seconds. =};-3
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From:xakko
Date:December 15th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
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I didn't even know what it was until I heard Rolwf the Dog's Old Brown Ears is Back... during the song "Cottleston Pie", Henson (as Rowlf) explains that the song is going into G sharp minor. And I believe he just yells out "Modulate!" during "Old Dog Trey".

Another fun example is "The Song That Goes Like This" from Spamalot!
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From:deckardcanine
Date:December 15th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
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He'd also hate Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There?" (the Free Willy theme). I think it went up a half-step four times.

I don't mind key changes, except sometimes when I like the previous key a lot better. But my former piano teacher likes only the gradual transitions. No "Circle of Life" or "Man in the Mirror" for her.
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From:orv
Date:December 16th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
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I think a well-done key change, at the right moment, is one of those things that can elevate a song from merely good to raise-the-hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck awesome.

But then, I imagine a well-executed gear change with a non-synchronized truck transmission can be pretty satisfying, too. ;)

The guy's inexplicable level of annoyance with this reminds me a lot of the Letterschlocking FAQ, a classic display of Internet insanity.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 16th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
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Wow, what a frothing lunatic.
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From:yakko
Date:December 16th, 2007 03:17 am (UTC)
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OK, this... whoever... is a few cards short. They clearly don't understand how widescreen formats and pan-and-scan work. Censorship? Pull the other one.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 16th, 2007 03:44 am (UTC)
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What's especially brain-hurt-making is this quote:

"While no part of the original movie image is cut or blocked by lettershlocking/widescreen, the black bars do block a portion of the television screen. This is wrong, and prevents anyone from watching or enjoying the film."

There are idiots out there who think that letterboxing cuts off part of the image, but the first sentence there suggests that this guy knew better than that. Which means nothing else on that page makes any SENSE! The black bars "block" a portion of the TV screen... that wouldn't have part of the movie image on it anyway... and somehow this "prevents anyone from watching" the film...

I still can't figure out what this guy is ranting about.
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From:orv
Date:December 16th, 2007 04:37 am (UTC)
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I never could figure out whether it was real or satirical.
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From:tahamaki
Date:December 16th, 2007 03:00 am (UTC)
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Boy, I know a few Rush songs that would drive this guy batty, since they not only change key, but time signatures throughout the song.
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From:ajoreilly
Date:December 16th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
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they not only change key, but time signatures

I'd love to see his reaction to this then. (Actually, it probably wouldn't be all that bad, since to have modulation or a change in signature, there actually has to BE a key or time signature to start with.)
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From:darksasami
Date:December 17th, 2007 07:42 am (UTC)
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I ran into this site quite some time ago, and thought it was amusing. I put this guy in the same class as the Silent Penultimate Panel guy: he's not exactly wrong, but he takes his cause too far and throws away the good with the bad. It can be used very well and can add drama to a song. On the other hand, did Neil Diamond really need to use it as much as he did? Or Barry Manilow? It gets formulaic -- there's a reason that "Title of the Song" by Da Vinci's Notebook includes the line "Modulation and I hold a high note...."

Still, settle down, guy-with-a-website.
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