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Please bear with me as my music theory knowledge is scrappy!

After listening and watching live performances of this song by Maltese band "The Travellers", I've deduced that the piano and guitar play the following chord progression:

Piano : Bb - C - G
Guitar: Bb - C - Gmin7

The key seems to be G major as G major seems to be the resolution of the progression. This would make the Bb a borrowed chord from the parallel minor, the bIII.

What I can't wrap my head around is that the guitar seems to be playing Gmin7 instead of G. This can also be confirmed in this live version.

Is it possible that no dissonance is heard because the minor third is not pronounced as much? On the other hand, the notes of G and a Gmin7 would form a G7#9, also known as the Hendrix Chord. The Hendrix Chord seems to work because of the presence of 3 root notes and the fact that the minor and major thirds are not on the same octave. Could these two chords being played by different sounding instruments evoke that feeling? The horns section seems to be quite bluesy which would fit this description.

It genuinely feels silly to over-analyse a catchy pop song, however in writing the chords for an acoustic guitar version of this song I am at a loss as to whether to end it in G or Gmin7. Would love to hear your thoughts!

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    It's a couple of blue notes, nothing mijor. Feb 9, 2022 at 13:14
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    Thanks @RichardBarber. My understanding was that playing major and minor simultaneously would be dissonant. I am just not sure what I would play if I had to play it on acoustic guitar.
    – Gamareus
    Feb 9, 2022 at 13:17
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    7#9 is very common and not considered a dissonance, it's an extended harmony, and this one happens to work with the particular blues scale employed here. Definitely not hearing any major/minor activity, not hearing -any- tonicity in this music, only the modal ground throughout, which is an excellent example of the evolved modal jazz style popular in this region of the world. Feb 9, 2022 at 13:23
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    Ah then my mistake is that I am trying to categorize the music strictly into Major/Minor. Thanks for your feedback. My knowledge of 7#9 was limited to that E7#9 chord employed by Hendrix.
    – Gamareus
    Feb 9, 2022 at 13:35
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    @RichardBarber Pun intended?
    – Aaron
    Feb 9, 2022 at 14:18

3 Answers 3

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To expand on what Richard is saying: There are times that you don't have to feel compelled to "nail down" the mode to major or minor, but just say it's "in G." The modal ambiguity of the "blue note" lowered third scale degree puts a lot of pop music into this zone, especially with funk influences.

It does seem that there are times that one is emphasized over the other, and you might go so far as to say that the "verses" "lean" minor and the "chorus" "leans" major—but I don't see any need to.

By the way, thanks for introducing me to a really fun song! I want to translate the lyrics now...

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  • Thanks Andy! So would I be correct in saying that if the band had to play the song live, the feeling evoked by the verses and choruses would be different depending on whether the keyboard or the guitar is mostly being heard? I guess this could be said for a lot of music, but with the stark difference of the Gmin7 vs GMaj chord, I'd bet this piece of music (and similar music) would sound considerably different. Strange that I couldn't find a translation in the comments. I'll translate them somewhere externally and link to it :)
    – Gamareus
    Feb 9, 2022 at 15:27
  • Found a translation just as I was almost ready from mine! Translation
    – Gamareus
    Feb 9, 2022 at 15:42
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    @Gamareus Hmmmm, well a lot of things contribute to "feeling." Using one instrument vs another changes feeling regardless of the chord (I think one of the things that makes the song so smile-inducing is its horns). It's definitely an oversimplification/myth that "major is happy, minor is sad." Feb 9, 2022 at 16:54
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Following Andy's answer, which covers it well, you need a last chord? Don't bother! Simply use the tonic - on bass, guitar, piano, and even horns. Just play a G note - short.

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  • Thanks for your input Tim. Do you mean playing just G at the end of each progression? To be honest this question popped up in my head as I was writing the chords for an acoustic guitar only version so to speak (think campfire songs), and I was leaning towards G Major as I feel it encompasses the positivity of the song more
    – Gamareus
    Feb 9, 2022 at 16:08
  • It's entirely up to you. A simple G would work at the end of each verse, and the total end - but so would G7#9, or Gmajor, or G minor. Not sure about Gm7, but they're all very short. Your choice!
    – Tim
    Feb 9, 2022 at 16:11
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I'd not heard the voicing 3-flat7-sharp9 called a "Hendrix chord" before!

But, yes, that voicing is very common as a dominant V chord in blues, and the sharp9 is a very common "higher harmonic" added to the dominant chord implied by the tritone 3-flat7 (as in your case, with the root of the chord also included, or not!)

If I were required to "analyze" what such a chord is, I'd say it's a dominant 7th chord with some higher harmonics added. :)

In particular, the 3rd and the sharp-9 would not appear in the same octave as a minor second composed of major and minor 3rd, nor would the "major 3rd" appear in a higher octave than the "minor 3rd". So, in your case, "stacking" a Gm7 on top of a G7, or even just stacking Gm6 on G7, or just Gm on G7, would achieve a similar effect.

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  • Thanks Paul! Re. the Hendrix Chord, I guess it depends from which angle you get exposed to the theory. Many guitarists learn about it through learning a Jimi Hendrix song, and the educational material around that will probably refer to it as the Hendrix Chord. But I understand it's been around for a longer time. I got lost in the last paragraph though!
    – Gamareus
    Feb 10, 2022 at 10:49

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