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Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song

22 Mar 15 - 10:19 PM (#3696043)
Subject: Weird chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST

I recently found that the chord progression in Tom Paxton's song I Don't Want Your Pardon is rather weird. The song is in the key of E.

Apart from itself, common chords in E major songs would include A, B7, G#m, C#m, F#m, and sometimes maybe Am, F# and G#. But this Paxton song uses none of these chords. Instead, it has the following chord progression:

E - C - E
E - C - D - E
E - G - E
E - G - D - E

The chord progression is very simple, not complicated at all - but are all unusual chords for a song in E major. How come they sound smooth together?


22 Mar 15 - 11:27 PM (#3696050)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Bert

Would it be that our Tom is a genius?


23 Mar 15 - 05:09 AM (#3696104)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Tattie Bogle

Don't know the song but played thro the chords on the piano- nice, and a bit different.


23 Mar 15 - 08:42 AM (#3696130)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST

Another song which has odd chord progression that I remember is Patrick Sky's "Nectar of God". It only uses two chords: E and D. Maybe he threw some 7 chords and major 7 chords in there, but it's basically E and D only.


23 Mar 15 - 09:08 AM (#3696135)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST,#

Land of Oden also uses only two chords.


23 Mar 15 - 09:42 AM (#3696146)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Jason Xion Wang

I believe that Pat's Nectar of God is actually in E minor rather than E major. He occasionally hammers on D string on Em for Esus4, but it's definitely not E major. Not strange anymore: Em and D.

Tom's I Don't Want Your Pardon is definitely in E major. You can't find it on any record - it was scheduled to be on the 1975 Private Stock album, Something in My Life, but didn't wind on it. It's not hard to guess the reason.


23 Mar 15 - 10:55 AM (#3696158)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST,Grishka

Progressing from one major key to another one a major third lower, such as from E major to C major, has been around since Mozart's time. It used to signal "surprise, surprise!", e.g. when a new character entered the opera stage.

Schubert used the progression so often that its surprise character has diminished since. All the more so if the tune quickly returns to the original key. Chord progressions like E C D E (major) were popular in American guitar genres like Rhythm'n'Blues, since they could be produced by shifting the left hand with very little change of the finger positions. In music with a rebel attitude, additional benefits included the wincing of conservative musicians who shunned parallel fifths etc.

Nowadays such devices had better been used sparingly, if at all. Last year's rebels are today's reactionaries.


23 Mar 15 - 12:56 PM (#3696199)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST,Paul Clarke

The trick of substituting major chords for the same note's minor (and the same in reverse) is a common effect, and can be used to add variety to songs with may verses. Not knowing the song, I can't be sure, but do you know the the song IS in E, rather than just starting / finishing on it? The other chords make a regular 3-chord trick in G, of which Em is its "relative minor" (= the minor key sharing the same key signature as the major key it's "relative" to). The relative-minor-switch might be happening here, especially if the song doesn't actually start on its "tonic" chord.
To achieve the pattern I originally mentioned, try "Big Yellow Taxi" by replacing each chord with its relative minor (3 frets down, and in minor, so C becomes Am). That's one example where the entire verse can work in substitution (it doesn't sound right with every song).


23 Mar 15 - 01:02 PM (#3696202)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST,Paul Clarke

To add to last post: the original question-setter mentions all the "relative minor" chords in their post. The other major chords s/he lists after them represent the switch from "relative minor" to the same "nominal major" I referred to.


23 Mar 15 - 02:28 PM (#3696216)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST,#

Some two chord songs were done in a modal tuning, so the third wasn't discernible and allowed the singer some latitude with the melody with regard to major/minor--at least it was such with 'Land of Oden/Odin'.


23 Mar 15 - 11:08 PM (#3696286)
Subject: Chords Add: I Don't Want Your Pardon (Tom Paxton)
From: Jason Xion Wang

Yes. I agree with Paul that the song could actually be in G, though it begins with E major and ends with E major, and there isn't even a G chord used in all its main verses.

I've posted the chords to the song on my website a while back:

E                         C                   E
I don't want your pardon, don't want your amnesty.
C                   D             E
Don't you smile with Christian sympathizing.
C                                  E
Don't you tell me you're forgiving me.
C          D       E
I am doing no apologizing.

To listen to the song, click here.

Jason


23 Mar 15 - 11:33 PM (#3696288)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Jason Xion Wang

You can regard it as a song in E: Pardon_E.png

Or a song in G: Pardon_G.png

Or even a song in D: Pardon_D.png

The difference is quite interesting.


24 Mar 15 - 12:38 AM (#3696295)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Gary T

I'm not able to listen to the song at the moment, with which I can usually identify the key. Nevertheless, 95+% of the time the final chord of a song names the key -- most songs "come home" that way.

Occasionally ones runs across a song that ends on a chord other than the I (home key) chord, which tends to give "hanging in suspense" feel to it. One example is "Four Strong Winds," which ends on a V chord -- ends on D when played in the key of G. However, it does not appear that the song in question does that.

The chord sequence listed in the opening post strongly suggests to me it is indeed in the key of E. The D (bVII), G (bIII), and C (bVI) chords are not the most common in E, but they're certainly not unheard of. The equivalents in the key of C would be Bb, Eb, & Ab; in the key of G would be F, Bb, & Eb; in the key of A would be G, C, & F. There are other somewhat familiar songs that use these chords, such as "Everyday" by Buddy Holly and "To Know Him is to Love Him" by the Teddy Bears.

So yes it's a bit unusual, but it does fit in with the Cycle of Fifths and there are more songs like it.


24 Mar 15 - 03:36 AM (#3696310)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST

95+% of the time the final chord of a song names the key

So, you've listened to every song, ever? Very impressive...


24 Mar 15 - 05:16 AM (#3696330)
Subject: Chords Add: Tape from California (Phil Ochs)
From: Jason Xion Wang

A lot of songs end on a V chord. The ones I've been playing lately include: Four Strong Winds by Ian & Sylvia; Dreamland Express by John Denver, I Ain't Marching Anymore by Phil Ochs and All Night Long by Tom Paxton. These are all songs in the key of G that ends on D.

I think Phil Ochs often uses unusual chord progression. I Ain't Marching Anymore ends on a V chord; One Way Ticket Home, which is in the key of D, begins with a II chord (Em) and ends on a VI chord (Bm). Phil's Tape from California, in the key of E, has one of the strangest chord progression I've ever known. It ends on a IV chord (A). It also uses C, D and G chords a lot, but its chord progression is much more complicated than I Don't Want Your Pardon:

E
Who's that coming down the road?
D               A
A sailor from the sea.
D                   F#m
He looks a lot like me,
             E         G             E
I'd know him anywhere, had to stare.

Feathers on his fingertips,
D               A
A halo 'round his spine.
D                     F#m
He must have lost his mind;
             E         G          C#m
He should be put away, right away.

In the corner of the night,
D                Bm
He handed me his waterpipe;
F#m                     Bm             E
His eyes were searching deep inside my head.
                     Am
Here's what he said:

"Sorry, I can't stop and talk now -
       D
I'm in kind of a hurry anyhow,
         C          G             A   
But I'll send you a tape from California."


         D            C             D            C
From the mirror of my mantle to the velvet on my bed,
D             C               Am          E
Trapped upon a stolen stage, a Barrymore at desk.
A                   G          A                   G
My rhymes are all repeating, my ballads are growing blind.
G#m                  A          F#m             B7
Words have turned to water, the women turned to wine.

Chords are taken from this page.


24 Mar 15 - 05:54 AM (#3696334)
Subject: Chords Add: Boy in Ohio (Phil Ochs)
From: Jason Xion Wang

It seems that Phil Ochs likes using bIII, bVI and bVII chords a lot. Here's another example:

G                C      G
Creek was running by the road,
                         D
And the Buckeye sun was a-shinin'.
   G                C          G
I rode my bike down Alum Creek Drive
    Em             Am
When I was a boy in Ohio.
G                   C         G
The English teacher, he didn't care.
                   F
He challenged us to checkers.
    Bb                         D7
And once in a while we'd swap a joke
                     Eb
When I was a boy in Ohio.


24 Mar 15 - 10:39 AM (#3696443)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Gary T

"So, you've listened to every song, ever? Very impressive..."

No, I haven't, I haven't claimed to do so, and it's not necessary to do so in order to observe the following: 95+% of the time the final chord of a song names the key. Of all the jillions and jillions of songs out there, only a small percentage do not end on a I chord.


24 Mar 15 - 11:31 AM (#3696463)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST,RBerman

Gary is correct that, for songs in major key, I (the tonic major chord) is by far the most common ending chord in Western music in the last several hundred years. Most commonly, a V chord precedes it, because the V chord contains the notes 5-7-2 of the scale, and both the 7 and 2 notes lead the ear to expect resolution to "1," the root note and chord. Of course many exceptions to both of these generalities will come to mind, to those who know enough songs overall.

A song with flat VI and VII can be thought of in a couple of ways. One way is that it's a song in minor key, but with prominent Picardy (sharpened) thirds. It's not at all surprising for a song in the key of Em to have C and D chords. It's surprising, though, to change that Em into E major. Think of the ending of "Coventry Carol." Obviously the surprise lessens on repeated occurrences. A recent pop song which uses this effect regularly is Pharrell Williams' hit "Happy" from 2014. It has numerous Esus resolving to E major, although the prominent G and D notes in the melody and accompaniment lead the modern ear to hear the song as in Em overall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM

Another way to think of a song in the key of E with prominent C and D notes (or chords) is that it's in the Phrygian mode, whose notes are EFGABCD, with a tonic (or final) of E. With a final of C, that would be C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb. A good example of this is "Why Fumeth in Fight," a choral setting of Psalm 2 by Thomas Tallis, the royal composer of the house of Tudor from Henry VIII through Elizabeth. To those of us used to heavy use of standard major and minor scales, its ending seems "unfinished" since the "final" in the Phrygian scale sounds to us like a III chord, which would be a strange place to end a song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD5TG8z3-SM


24 Mar 15 - 06:45 PM (#3696564)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST

One More with an odd chords White Rose Waltz A fiddle tune


24 Mar 15 - 07:32 PM (#3696569)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST,Gerry

"A Barrymore at desk"? Jason, isn't it "A Barrymore at best"?


24 Mar 15 - 07:42 PM (#3696570)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Jason Xion Wang

At best, sorry Gerry, I was trying to memorize that verse, but failed.


25 Mar 15 - 04:19 PM (#3696862)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Tattie Bogle

Thanks for the sound clip: the other one of TP's songs it reminds me of (chordally speaking!)is "When Morning Breaks" - definitely a bit of modal in that.

And (thread drift) I do love suspensions as song endings. I have a friend who always insists on going back to the tonic key: it drives me mad!


26 Mar 15 - 01:58 AM (#3696993)
Subject: Chords Add: When Morning Breaks (Tom Paxton)
From: Jason Xion Wang

Thanks for mentioning When Morning Breaks, Tattie. I didn't notice its usage of bVII and bIII chords until you reminded me of that. I've posted the chords to the song on my website here:

             F               D
When morning breaks, I'll be gone.
             F               D    G
When morning breaks, I'll be gone.
               D               F
And where I go, I do not know.
                            D
When morning breaks, I'll be gone.


             C          D
The drums are rolling for war.
             C          D
The drums are rolling for war.
             G      C                D
The lines are forming to wait for the morning,
                C             A    D
To wait for the cruel cannons' roar!


             F               D
When morning breaks, I'll be gone.

It reminds me of another Paxton song - Jimmy Newman. F chord is frequently used, while the song itself is in the key of E. It's a rare occasion where a bII chord is used. I've come across some songs with bIII, bVI or bVII chords, but I believe Jimmy Newman is the only song I've ever played that uses a bII chord. Maybe there are more that I've listened to but didn't notice.

Jason


26 Mar 15 - 02:09 AM (#3696994)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: Jason Xion Wang

I do not know music theory very well. Do they call bII chord "Neapolitan chord"? So did "Jimmy Newman" use "Neapolitan chord"?


26 Mar 15 - 07:10 PM (#3697313)
Subject: RE: Odd chord progression in Tom Paxton song
From: GUEST

I believe the Beatles has also used bII chords in some songs. The most unusual chord, I guess, is the bV chord. I think it's only used limitedly between V and IV progression.