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Today I was trying to learn the song "Kimbra - Deep for you" by ear.

First I came up with a melody (E-F-E D-C-D-C, C-D-Eb-D-Bb), but I had struggles finding the right chords, after some time, I realized it was C-G#-Bb (if start the melody from E), they're all major, which is quite unusual, considering, that in a typical major scale, chords go as Major(I)-Minor(ii)-Minor(iii)-Major(IV)-Major(V)-Minor(VI)-Dim(VII)-Major(I).

So what is going here, in that song, from the harmonical point of you?

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    Having listened to the song - it's in E, and the quoted chords are inaccurate, thus the question is a red herring. And the vii chord from a major key is viio, not Vii+. Sorry! – Tim Jan 9 '18 at 12:50
  • @Tim, thanks. Yes, I didn't transpose my findings into the right key, but that's not the matter here. – PaulD Jan 9 '18 at 13:22
  • Still couldn't find 3 consecutive major chords... – Tim Jan 9 '18 at 16:08
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First, there is no requirement whatsoever for a series of chords to come from the same scale. In real-life music it's almost unusual if they all do! Music is not all about choosing a chord progression over which you can play one scale (it isn't all about the 'circle of 5ths' either) and teaching methods obviously need to make this much more clear!

What you are doing - consecutive chords of the same shape - is sometimes called 'planing'. A form of it was common in medieval music. It fell out of favour during the Common Practice period as it tended to cause parallel 5ths (which were considered naughty), but became popular again maybe 150 years ago, notably in the works of Debussy. Popular music and jazz use it freely. Guitarist/songwriters can be particularly fond of it, as it's very natural on guitar to take a full-barre chord and just shift it up and down the fingerboard.

If you're interested in harmonic theory, try to understand why C - G# - Bb is better written as C - Ab - Bb. And you may feel that the reason partially contradicts my 'you don't have to stick in one scale' statement above.

  • Well, I'm interested in the particular music harmony trick, which I want to master, and which I met in this song. And you tell me to "try to understand". I understand why composers do this, and this really sounds much more interesting than mere vanilla Bb-F-G progression, for example. But thanks anyway, that's a lot of interesting info in your answer. Not what I looked for, but still very interesting. – PaulD Jan 9 '18 at 13:21
  • Sounds like you HAVE mastered it. You've discovered it sounds good. I've told you it's a known, accepted device, with plenty of historical precedent. The 'try to understand' bit was just about why, in that context, G# is better spelled as Ab. Not terribly important. – Laurence Payne Jan 9 '18 at 13:26
  • thank you. One last question. Do you think this particular case might be the case of chord substitution? – PaulD Jan 9 '18 at 13:29
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    No, I think it's just planing. There's no 'cycle of 5ths' function hidden here! – Laurence Payne Jan 9 '18 at 13:33

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