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  1. #1

    Observation from a Music Nerd

    None of my comment is necessarily earth shattering; however, other nerds may enjoy it.
    As many others, I am having some spare time being confined more at home these days. For some odd reason, I figured out the musical key of each song from the "More Hits" album. Here are my results:
    All of the songs except for Honey Boy (Eb) and In Love Again (Bb) are in the key of C.
    Along with all of those songs being somewhat similar sounding (by HDH), I had often thought there was a certain cohesiveness about them.
    I also went back to their three prior singles: Where Did Out Love Go (key of C), Baby Love (begins in the key of C); and Come See About Me (D).

    My hypothesis: Those early songs were indeed written to a particular pattern focusing on Diana's sweet spot in the range of notes they would use. The melodies were pretty simplistic.

    Although I did not visit many of the post 'More Hits' songs, there did seem to be more of a difference in the musical key in which they were written. Artists are not confined to one key in which all of their songs are sung. It depends on many factors about the melody and the intervals in the song.

    I now will go back inside my music nerd land.

  2. #2
    Wonderful way to shelter in place!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    None of my comment is necessarily earth shattering; however, other nerds may enjoy it.
    As many others, I am having some spare time being confined more at home these days. For some odd reason, I figured out the musical key of each song from the "More Hits" album. Here are my results:
    All of the songs except for Honey Boy (Eb) and In Love Again (Bb) are in the key of C.
    Along with all of those songs being somewhat similar sounding (by HDH), I had often thought there was a certain cohesiveness about them.
    I also went back to their three prior singles: Where Did Out Love Go (key of C), Baby Love (begins in the key of C); and Come See About Me (D).

    My hypothesis: Those early songs were indeed written to a particular pattern focusing on Diana's sweet spot in the range of notes they would use. The melodies were pretty simplistic.

    Although I did not visit many of the post 'More Hits' songs, there did seem to be more of a difference in the musical key in which they were written. Artists are not confined to one key in which all of their songs are sung. It depends on many factors about the melody and the intervals in the song.

    I now will go back inside my music nerd land.
    Excellent observations!!!

  4. I often thought about this too and out of all the Supremes albums, "More Hits" is just about the most cohesive. There is an alchemy there (much the same as the Four Tops Second Album.) This also seems to have been an incredibly prolific period for H-D-H; lots of originals vs. covering already-recorded material

    I was trying to learn musical keys years ago and anytime I wanted something in the key of C, I'd hum "Where Did Our Love Go." I think H-D-D writing so many song with the same musical progression is more of a signature thing than by design. Smokey too, has his musical arrangement signatures as well as Norma Whitfield. H-D-H just had one of the most obvious and consistent signature chord progressions out there. I wonder if they were even aware they were doing it.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    I often thought about this too and out of all the Supremes albums, "More Hits" is just about the most cohesive. There is an alchemy there (much the same as the Four Tops Second Album.) This also seems to have been an incredibly prolific period for H-D-H; lots of originals vs. covering already-recorded material

    I was trying to learn musical keys years ago and anytime I wanted something in the key of C, I'd hum "Where Did Our Love Go." I think H-D-D writing so many song with the same musical progression is more of a signature thing than by design. Smokey too, has his musical arrangement signatures as well as Norma Whitfield. H-D-H just had one of the most obvious and consistent signature chord progressions out there. I wonder if they were even aware they were doing it.
    After the late 1965, HDH seemed to branch out more in being innovative not only in the chords they used; however in the actual productions. One of the best of examples of this groundbreaking innovation was (in my opinion) You Keep Me Hangin On which was 'different' in so many ways. In that period of time of 63-65, I also noticed that the chord patterns were very similar; however, HDH had a way of placing the chords in various inversions and used interesting 'passing' chords to keep each song unique.
    Last edited by jobucats; 03-24-2020 at 08:54 AM.

  6. Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    After the late 1965, HDH seemed to branch out more in being innovative not only in the chords they used; however in the actual productions. One of the best of examples of this groundbreaking innovation was (in my opinion) You Keep Me Hangin On which was 'different' in some many ways. In that period of time of 63-65, I also noticed that the chord patterns were very similar; however, HDH had a way of placing the chords in various inversions and used interesting 'passing' chords to keep each song unique.
    Wow. This is the kind of talk I find absolutely fascinating. I had an idea of what you were talking about, and then again, I didn't. When speaking of inversions and passing chords, I had some inkling that these were things that I always noticed in an HDH production, but just didn't know the term to describe it. Well, you got me to go to YouTube to get a bit of a crash course on inversions and passing chords. Really love that you got me to do some digging and expanding my musical knowledge base.

    The old Hall And Oates song, "Sarah Smile" has these little passages where suddenly, there seems to be this odd chord out of nowhere before the melody returns to it's main progression. I was always tickled out of my head with those surprise chords. Now, I'm guessing those are "passing chords". If they are, I can see how much they add to a song. Those surprise chords in Sarah Smile always hit me at a gut level emotionally.

    So, I'd like your observations on The Supremes' "Honey Boy." That song always struck me as one of HDH's must unique songs. The descending melody that opens the song interestingly continues throughout the song, almost subliminally. That's another thing HDH had in those '64-'66 (or even '67) songs. There was always this little melody playing below the surface- hammered out by the vibes in concert with the piano. "Honey Boy" had a rather haunting, almost maudlin feeling. I'd enjoy hearing someone examine this song who has a knowledge of music.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    So, I'd like your observations on The Supremes' "Honey Boy." That song always struck me as one of HDH's must unique songs. The descending melody that opens the song interestingly continues throughout the song, almost subliminally. That's another thing HDH had in those '64-'66 (or even '67) songs. There was always this little melody playing below the surface- hammered out by the vibes in concert with the piano. "Honey Boy" had a rather haunting, almost maudlin feeling. I'd enjoy hearing someone examine this song who has a knowledge of music.
    Of the 12 favorite songs of mine from the "More Hits" album, 'Honey Boy' was my least favorite. To my ears, it did not quite sit well with the other songs. I even thought, before checking it out, that it must be that it was written and produced by someone other than HDH. That goes to show just how little I know (and even know now). The way the vocal is processed (or maybe what Diana's voice was sounding like that day) sounded rather muffled when compared to the crispness of the other selections from this album. Musically, it's a wonderful song and to my ears, has some similarities to "Everything's Good About You" in its structure. Yes, the use of the vibe sounding instrument was pretty popular in those 64-66 songs, right? I recall a friend, back in the 60s, use to refer to those vibes sounding like little bells.

    An example of a passing chord that comes immediately to my mind is in "There's No Stopping Us Now". The ladies sing the phrase "there's no stopping us now, now that we've found our way" which doesn't have what I consider a strong passing chord. However; the next line, "there's no stopping us now, our love is here to stay" has a strong passing chord in it...or at least that's what always grabbed me. HDH often, to my ears and perception, also used passing chords at the end of phrases to keep the excitement going. An example that comes to my mind is Martha and the Vandellas' "In My Lonely Room". Between each section (verse, or whatever you call it), one will hear passing (transition) chords which lead into the next verse.

    Although I can't pinpoint particular inversions right now, think of a C chord on the piano. Usually one would play it with merely a C, E, G (with C being the bottom note). The first inversion would be E, G, C. Second inversion would be G, C, E. HDH would use different inversions within a song to keep a monotonous sounding song which is repetitive with the same chord pattern and switch up the inversion. Of course, other writers and produces use the same technique.

    I am no professional by any means although I was a music major in college who uses music everyday. I am a pianist, I compose (all genres), I do lots of homes recording (all genres)and I am always intrigued by how music theory works. I even have a few compositions/recordings which were inspired by some of the Motown writers. I think those recordings are pretty good; at least that's a start...huh? Blessings
    Last edited by jobucats; 03-26-2020 at 04:02 PM.

  8. #8
    very interesting post and fun to have a fresh topic!!

    from a music theory perspective, there's a lot to talk about with sup and DR songs

    Symphony - the song goes through multiple key changes and from a song structure standpoint, it does two things. 1) it was a clear evolution of the girl's songs by advancing from the "girl group" styles of their earlier hits to something much more mature and 2) as the song modulates higher and higher, it adds impact to the euphoric lyric. Symphony was the first of their songs NOT to address heartache in some way. the girls are not pleading to a lover or bf. Or relieved he's back after being gone. The song is simply an ode to the thrill of love and as the lyrics become much more elaborate they've gone through 3 modulations, higher and higher.

    Theme from Mahogany - the lyric and title for this song are rather philosophical, making you reflect on your past and decisions. and examine if you're happy with where you're going. The song is structured to support this. It starts in C and then moves to A, then F sharp, then D sharp and finally back to C. The structure of the song has gone full circle and modulates through various keys until is returns to the original. an amazing song writing approach for a song like this

  9. #9
    another thing i love about many of the songs is the producer's use of instruments and elements to create the dynamic rise and fall of the piece. and not simply dynamics as in loud vs soft.

    my favorite Supremes song of all time is You Can't Hurry Love. the song starts with just bass and tambourine. at 0:05/0:06 you get the horns and drums enter. Then diana and guitar. then at the first chorus the bg vocals and everything else.

    then at the bridge, the song drops immediately back to the bass line and tambourine. they've stripped it all the way back. then they slow add it back

    guitar and diana
    then vibes
    then bg and others

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    very interesting post and fun to have a fresh topic!!

    from a music theory perspective, there's a lot to talk about with sup and DR songs

    Symphony - the song goes through multiple key changes and from a song structure standpoint, it does two things. 1) it was a clear evolution of the girl's songs by advancing from the "girl group" styles of their earlier hits to something much more mature and 2) as the song modulates higher and higher, it adds impact to the euphoric lyric. Symphony was the first of their songs NOT to address heartache in some way. the girls are not pleading to a lover or bf. Or relieved he's back after being gone. The song is simply an ode to the thrill of love and as the lyrics become much more elaborate they've gone through 3 modulations, higher and higher.

    Theme from Mahogany - the lyric and title for this song are rather philosophical, making you reflect on your past and decisions. and examine if you're happy with where you're going. The song is structured to support this. It starts in C and then moves to A, then F sharp, then D sharp and finally back to C. The structure of the song has gone full circle and modulates through various keys until is returns to the original. an amazing song writing approach for a song like this
    sup_fan, You and I may have gone through this before regarding especially, "I Hear a Symphony". Although I love the song (It's actually first physical 45 single I ever saw from the group, musically it borders on sounding monotonous because of the structure of the same musical phrases being used over and over (with the exception of "I'm lost in a world made for you and me"). The saving elements, musically, for me is that killer intro going from an Fm chord to Eb to Cm to G to end up on the C chord where Diana begins singing AND, as you mentioned, the modulations. Lyrically, his song had to be a killer to sing with without cue cards (or words on the screen) for Diana because all of the phrases which really don't tell a story (just a words expressing love). We know of a few instances where Diana indeed did get stumped when singing this live.

    I love your analysis of Theme from Mahogany- Now that's some creative, yet intuitive song writing right there in its musical structure.

    We may have also discussed, "It's My Turn". Now this beautiful song can be somewhat confusing to follow with how the different sections weave together. This is another one with some crafty modulations in it, and somewhat tricky as to keeping the lyrics properly aligned. All of this is my opinion.

    Great discussion!

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    sup_fan, You and I may have gone through this before regarding especially, "I Hear a Symphony". Although I love the song (It's actually first physical 45 single I ever saw from the group, musically it borders on sounding monotonous because of the structure of the same musical phrases being used over and over (with the exception of "I'm lost in a world made for you and me"). The saving elements, musically, for me is that killer intro going from an Fm chord to Eb to Cm to G to end up on the C chord where Diana begins singing AND, as you mentioned, the modulations. Lyrically, his song had to be a killer to sing with without cue cards (or words on the screen) for Diana because all of the phrases which really don't tell a story (just a words expressing love). We know of a few instances where Diana indeed did get stumped when singing this live.

    I love your analysis of Theme from Mahogany- Now that's some creative, yet intuitive song writing right there in its musical structure.

    We may have also discussed, "It's My Turn". Now this beautiful song can be somewhat confusing to follow with how the different sections weave together. This is another one with some crafty modulations in it, and somewhat tricky as to keeping the lyrics properly aligned. All of this is my opinion.

    Great discussion!
    love this topic!!

    i agree that, initially, the song structure to Symphony was harder to decipher. it wasn't the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus.

    What helped me with it was seeing it in print in Berry's autobiography. there you see it as three large verses. More like a poem, each starting with Whenever You're Near I Hear A Symphony.

    and yes, the rest of the lyric don't tell a story so much as simply describing the pleasure of love. but seeing it written as a poem. Or actually more like an Ode which is a poem that is classically structured into 3 major parts. I don't know that each of the three verses in Symphony qualify as the 3 traditional parts of an ode. But perhaps that was part of the thinking, at least directionally

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    Of the 12 favorite songs of mine from the "More Hits" album, 'Honey Boy' was my least favorite. To my ears, it did not quite sit well with the other songs. I even thought, before checking it out, that it must be that it was written and produced by someone other than HDH. That goes to show just how little I know (and new). The way the vocal is processed (or maybe what Diana's voice was sounding like that day) sounded rather muffled when compared to the crispness of the other selections from this album.
    This is definitely a refreshingly different thread than we normally see around here. Unfortunately due to the fact that most of what you all are talking about goes over my head, I don't have much to add. Which sucks because I love threads about the actual music as opposed to controversy.

    Regarding "Honey Boy", I always thought Diana sounded a bit Chipmunky on it. I heard Mary Well's version before the Supremes' and I really liked it so I looked forward to finding a copy of More Hits so I could finally hear the Supremes sing it. The backing track is clearly a different mix from the same one used for Mary Wells' version, except HDH removed the handclaps from the Supremes' version and to me it leaves the track a bit stale. And then on top of the stale track and Diana's Chipmunk thing, I really hate that she sings "sugER" instead of "sugAR" or even "sugAH". She also hits the "er" at the end of "ever" in "ever loving" super hard as well. I can't stand it. The only thing that saves the song for me is Flo and Mary, but mostly whenever I listen to More Hits I tend to skip "Honey Boy". (Although I'm not the biggest fan of the album anyway.)

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    This is definitely a refreshingly different thread than we normally see around here. Unfortunately due to the fact that most of what you all are talking about goes over my head, I don't have much to add. Which sucks because I love threads about the actual music as opposed to controversy.

    Regarding "Honey Boy", I always thought Diana sounded a bit Chipmunky on it. I heard Mary Well's version before the Supremes' and I really liked it so I looked forward to finding a copy of More Hits so I could finally hear the Supremes sing it. The backing track is clearly a different mix from the same one used for Mary Wells' version, except HDH removed the handclaps from the Supremes' version and to me it leaves the track a bit stale. And then on top of the stale track and Diana's Chipmunk thing, I really hate that she sings "sugER" instead of "sugAR" or even "sugAH". She also hits the "er" at the end of "ever" in "ever loving" super hard as well. I can't stand it. The only thing that saves the song for me is Flo and Mary, but mostly whenever I listen to More Hits I tend to skip "Honey Boy". (Although I'm not the biggest fan of the album anyway.)
    Oh, RanRan79, we have entangled you into our web of music nerd stuff. LOL. I concur with your observations of Diana's vocal sound on Honey Boy (which I usually skip also; however More Hits is my favorite Supremes album).
    Another song from another album in which Diana's voice comes across quite differently is "Shadows of Society" from the Cream of the Crop album. Mine is an observation; not an indictment; however, it sounds like she may have been going through or recovering from a bad cold...her vocal project as though she might have been dealing with congestion. Still, to her credit, she still interprets that song so well.
    Thanks for your input on this nerd thread.

  14. #14
    well to her credit, Diana could definitely alter her tone and sound. On Honey Boy she's kittenish and a young girl. There's the anguish from Stop and Love child. desperation from My World Is Empty. comedy in some of the Funny Girl stuff.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    well to her credit, Diana could definitely alter her tone and sound. On Honey Boy she's kittenish and a young girl. There's the anguish from Stop and Love child. desperation from My World Is Empty. comedy in some of the Funny Girl stuff.
    Yes, Yes, Yes....and her solos on the Songs from the Wiz demonstrate her versatility.

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