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I am studying Cold Play's "Don't Panic", and in the piano arrangement, the arranger has changed a major6 chord to an inverted chord with the same bass. Here is the score

measure from "Don't Panic" score

In the original recording of the song the chord is a G6 chord played on a guitar (about 0:50), so why would the arranger put that C there for the piano arrangement on that particular note? The arranger could have kept that B throughout the whole bar yet he/she decided to use C and change it halfway through the bar. Why?

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  • The top staff is a vocal melody, but what are the other staves? – piiperi Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 14:41
  • There's not enough information here to give a good answer to the question. At minimum: what is the song, and what happens in the measure before? (Also, the chords have the same "bass note", but they do not have the same "root". This is a critical distinction.) – Aaron Apr 28 at 14:44
  • Er, because he can? When there are specific notes at a point in a song, any chord that can fit is fair game. Here there's E and G (I think) so Em, A7, C, G6, Am7 are some options one could use. Or even chords that don't exactly contain both notes. – Tim Apr 28 at 14:48
  • @piiperi bass and treble staves... sorry, thought that was obvious – armani Apr 28 at 14:58
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    Clefs??? why are we supposed to guess and fill in the blanks? update the picture. – Michael Curtis Apr 28 at 15:03
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If I follow your question's concern, I think you are expecting the chords symbols to be...

C/G then G6 or

Gsus4 then G6

...because of the C in middle staff, first beat.

But the chord symbols are there to show what a guitarist should play rather than some kind non chord tone label or analysis.

The chord in this section is G6 and their is a non-chord tone C resolving to a B.

Another way to think about this situation is a very old idea from figured bass harmony. A chord in second in version like C/G is a harmonic idea, basically dealing with chord roots. But figured bass looked at it as a double appoggiatura over a G bass, it look at it as a contrapuntal thing, it would be called a "chord of the sixth", but the G bass was the fundamental thing rather than a theoretical root of C.

From the figured bass, contrapuntal perspective the C is an embellishment to resolve, not really a proper chord tone.

If you go with the modern, harmonic, chord root perspective you should be identifying 6/4 chords in the four categories: cadential, passing, pedal, or arpeggiated. The example doesn't include before/after one chord so we can't really explore it this way.

This seem like a lot of theory to throw around. I think the simple idea is don't casually identify 6/4 chords. First suspect them as non-chord tone, contrapuntal elements, unless you can fit them clearly into one of the four harmonic categories.

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  • Michael, you are right about what I was asking and I understand the different historical ways of looking at these non chord tones but I was more concerned as to why there is a non chord tone there in the piano arrangement if the G6 chord is played for the whole bar on the guitar and the guitar is what drives the track? Could there be a melody part that has altered that G chord in the 1st beat and because of that the arranger voiced the piano part so to include this melodic part? – armani Apr 29 at 7:33
  • also, when you say modern harmonic chord root perspective, I assume you don't really mean "modern" as in "today" since in real modern music there are other 6/4 chords other than these right? – armani Apr 29 at 7:35
  • My "modern" I mean the chord root theory from Rameau. That's from 1722, so not "today", but it's the origin of the theory of chord used right up til now. The four 6/4 chord types is taught in today's textbooks. – Michael Curtis Apr 29 at 15:13
  • We're really "getting into the weeds" with questions about the arrangement. It may be good or bad. The important take away is the guitar chord are instructions for what to play not analysis of harmony and NCT... at least they shouldn't be. Lots of Hal Leonard song books have chord symbols that clearly are trying to account for the NCTs of the melody. IMO that is a terrible idea! The result is a song sheet that usually sounds wrong if you play all the sus and add chords cluttering up the page. – Michael Curtis Apr 29 at 15:19
  • A suggestion from my experience: use the arrangements you find as an aid only, then mod or write your own. Songbook arrangements can help you with transcription by ear of tricky parts. Usually the melody is correct. But the accompaniment won't be accurate. That's to be expected, these are arrangements not transcriptions of the original recordings. From the chord symbols I usually pay attention to only the root and major/minor quality, sometimes seventh chords. The rest I get by ear from a recording. – Michael Curtis Apr 29 at 15:25
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As far as I can see, the arranger has written the following:

  • Singer, sing these lyrics with this melody
  • Guitarist, play this chord
  • Pianist, play these notes

I don't recall any rule that states that if a guitarist plays a G6 chord, then a pianist absolutely must not play a C note, even for a fraction of a second.

Chord symbols are not a harmonic analysis: What is the relation of guitar chords to actual notes in the measure?

It would be unrealistic to demand the C note to be reflected in the accompaniment chord symbols. It is perfectly fine to have a backing band play a chord - however they feel appropriate - and write other notes for other instruments. For example, for harmonizing a melody with a fixed sixth or third.

Edit. From the OP's comment I see that the real question is: why wasn't the arranger faithful to the original recording, which only has a guitar in that part, and the guitar does not play a C note. Well, who knows why that is, but it's an arranger's job and even duty to make some kind of a creative contribution. Without further information I have to assume that the arranger liked the sound of the added C note, and thought that it felt appropriate to have a piano play it at that point.

Edit2. After listening to the recording posted by Laurence, on the first "yeah" word, the lead guitar and the melody together play a distinct C chord, and the bass plays a G. The acoustic guitar in the background may or may not play a C on the first "yeah", it sounds like muted notes to me. The G or G6 chord, with a B note, is played only on the "do" word. The transcription or arrangement is OK, so your claim that it's not faithful to the recording must be based on a different version of the song, or something.

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  • There is no pianist in that part of the song! The piano arrangement is an interpretation of the piece so that someone playing this on a piano can play the song. That is why I don't understand why the arranger has not been faithful to the G6 chord for the full measure. – armani Apr 28 at 15:49
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    Who knows? Maybe the arranger liked the sound of that? Maybe it was a mistake? That's what arranging is - deliberate modification or adaptation of a piece. If you don't make any sort of creative contribution, you shouldn't even deserve arranger credits. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 15:53
  • Not when your task is to arrange it as faithfully as possible to the original recording. Anyhow, it still doesn't explain why for have the bar it is arranged faithfully while for the first few notes there is a C/G chord – armani Apr 28 at 16:00
  • Who says an arrangement must be faithful to the original? I read arrangements every day and few are that faithful. – Tim Apr 28 at 17:25
  • Maybe Armani confused arrangement and transcription? :) Really, arranging means deliberate modification, adaptation, adjustment. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 17:27
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Listen to the track. This phrase occurs at 0'50". I'm sure I hear two different chords. Which means the piano part is correct. The chord symbol is wrong. Or, if you want to be polite, an over-simplification.

Now, what the actual intention was is another matter! When that section returns near the end of the song the guitar plays something a bit different. Maybe deep artistic intention, maybe just sloppiness.

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  • Sounds to me at that point there's an awful edit been made! – Tim Apr 29 at 7:01
  • And when that section returns at the end of the track it's played differently. – Laurence Payne Apr 29 at 10:27
  • Can't listen to it for that long! – Tim Apr 29 at 10:50
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First, I guess the author meant "... in particular that CHORD...", instead of "... that NOTE...". Second, the chord IS ACTUALLY a CMaj⁹ chord. It's easier for a guitarist (guessing he's not proficient in harmony) to place the fingering shape of a G⁶ chord, finger 2 on 3rd fret. However, for a full PIANO part, and much more if to improvise, the note "c" should be present to understand the SOUND of the moment. (I play professionally both jazz guitar and piano, and am an arranger also).

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