Thursday, May 22, 2014

Summer's Over: Rialto's songwriting clinic

This post is about Summer's Over by Rialto, one of my favourite bands.

Both their alums, Rialto and Night On Earth, are musical textbooks for any aspiring songwriter in the guitar-driven pop/rock genre. I'm not a lyrics guy, so am more into the chords and instrumentation.

Rialto has impeccable songwriting skills and musical craftsmanship. They keep their music simple, well arranged, and string their chords pretty tightly. The manner in which the chords are arranged depicts a feel of falling, because the counterline connecting the chords seem to be going lower and lower, i.e. "falling".


G | Bm/F# | G7/F | C
G | Bm/F# | G7/F | C | Cm

G , Em | Bm | Dm , E7 | Am
C , B7 | Em , D | C , Am | Em , D

The verse's chord sequence is quite typical of pop/rock songs. In the key of G, you begin with G chord. While keeping B (ti) and D (re) notes in the chord, the G (so) transits to F# (fa#) to become Bm, then to F (fa) to become G7, and sets up the final transition to the next chord C, in which all notes B+D+F jump "upwards" to C+E+G. In the second line of the verse, C major chord becomes C minor.

When it comes to pop/rock songwriting, counterlines determine how coherent or dynamic your song is. They are the invisible connections between chords. In the case of Summer's Over, the verse counterline is "falling": G-F#-F-E-Eb.

Well, sounds like Julian Lennon's Saltwater, huh?

The first line of the chorus is invokes a slightly different feeling, as the counterline moves up. Well, choruses have to be climatic, hence the difference in the first line in a song that mostly comprises "falling" counterlines. Here are the permutations, but you get the picture.
1. D-E-F#, A-B-C (climbing up, jump, climbing up)
2. D-E-F#, F-G#-A (climbing up, step down, climbing up)

For the chorus' second line, it goes back to "falling", to return the song to its equilibrium: G-F#-E-D-C, C-B-A (going down and down).

Another indicator on how "tightly" you like your chords to be bound together is the management of the variation between 2 consecutive chords.

In the verse's first three chords, there is only one variation and it moves one key at a time, i.e. G+B+D, F#+B+D, F+B+D. Most songwriters who experiment on the guitar or keyboard will be quite familiar with this, i.e. retaining more than 50% of a chord, while moving the rest of the notes in the chord to another key, either upwards or downwards, by a key or 2.

For instance, Sixpence None the Richer's Kiss Me's verse follows this convention, in Eb major key: Chords - Eb, Ebmaj7, Eb7, Ebmaj7; Counterline - Eb, D, Db, D. Nothing else in the three chords changes, except for those mentioned notes.

Well, Rialto still rocks. Maybe I'll cover Monday Morning 5:19 and Hard Candy next time.


Gio Buen said...

Hi Sam, where are you from? Im from the Philippines and I just got into Rialto recently because of britpop bands from 90's got me hooked!

Gio Buen said...

Hi Sam! Where you from? Im from the Philippines. Glad I found your blog and I really like what you wrote on your blog. I just recently listen to this band and they are really awesome. I really like Britpop 90's bands especially Rialto and this song :)