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I'm getting started on functional analysis and trying to understand the Pink Panther theme by Henry Mancini.

These is the chord chart I got for the first part (from someone more musically competent than myself):

Em      %      C9      %
Em      %      F9      %
Em      %      C9      %
Em      %      C9 B7#9 Em

(% means repeat the last chord)

I'm progressing on my own analysis (posted below), but have a few questions:

  • How do I identify the key? Is it inherently subjective? Or are there "hard rules"?
  • What functions do these chords have in the song?
  • Are there borrowed chords here?
  • Is there a database or resource out there with functional analyses of songs (so I can self-check my work without pestering you all? :) Or should I stop pretending to be an autodidact and get a teacher?)

My (likely wrong) analysis so far: My initial guess was that the key of the song is based in E, since that seems to be the most common chord, and other chords seem (sound) like resolving to E.

The sheet music I could find (in concert pitch) has one sharp, so that seems to confirm that (G major, Em being the relative minor?)

Looking at melody, the initial D# and F sound like grace notes (?), so that leaves us with the notes E, G, A, B, C, D, and a very distinctive (and long) Bb (B flat) . If we ignore the C for a moment, that looks like a blues scale. (E G A Bb B D). Or, if we consider the "grace" notes and exclude the Bb as an accidental, we have a natural minor (E, F#, G, A, B, C, D). I'm not sure which one is "correct".

Unfortunately, if E natural minor is indeed the key of the song, I'm unable to understand the function of the other chords (C, F). I guess "C" here means C dominant 7? (because of the Bb) The natural F, in particular, seems very strange, and I can't make sense of it (other than the implied chromatic progression B -> Bb -> B -> C), as it seems like a borrowed chord (?), but I don't know how to tell where from.

  • I think the tune works just as well even with just the bass note and the melody. It doesn't have to be exactly e.g. C9 to do the job. C in bass and Bb in melody convey the essence, even though according to some definitions two notes is not even a "chord". This functional analysis thing is fine for school exercises, but if you want to get to the next level beyond seeing chords as monolithic building blocks, IMO it's better to have a feeling for all the individual notes: what role they do in the whole, and what if there was something else instead. Dismantle, change and rebuild the song. :) – piiperi Sep 20 at 18:25
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It is in Em, but there is never a song in E 'natural' or E 'melodic' or E 'harmonic' minor. Simply E minor. Since Em could have E, F♯, G, A, B, C, C♯, D, D♯ in it, and chords containing these notes would all sound fine, thus acceptable, and explainable.

The key to a lot of pieces is the chord at the place where it feels at rest, or the end. In this, Em sounds like 'home', underlined by the perfect cadence of B>E.

The F9 is slightly out of place, but may be explained as borrowed from E Phrygian. .Or, more likely, be a tts from the V of E - B

The function of the chords is to produce tension and release, so using chords which are unusually together accomplish this quite well.

Self teaching is o.k., but you'll have to rely on sites such as this (excellent!) and others (maybe not so!). A teacher (good one) will be able to not only explain theory, but also be able to give immediate, straight, correct answers to your questions, something a lot of sites lack. You may also ask yourself why you think this side of theory is so important; analysing is fairly academic, and time spent there could maybe be better spent making music on an instrument - which of course, you may already have embarked upon. If so, great!

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    Give it a lot longer before deciding it's the answer to accept. There may well be far more enlightening answers forthcoming! – Tim Sep 20 at 14:53
  • Thank you for the excellent and thorough response Tim, it was incredibly useful! :) A quick question - what does "tts" mean here?| Indeed, I've started learning my 4th instrument (sax) now, and the reason I'm so interested in the theory is that I still don't fully "understand" improvisation over chords (vs scale). I can produce some notes/rythms that sound good, but it seems mostly like a random process. I know that once I get muscle memory on the instrument and all keys/modes I won't need to care about it as much, but it'll take a while! Thank you for your time, it's really appreciated! – analyz3r Sep 20 at 14:56
  • tts = tritone substitution, I guess (F is a tritone below B). – Rosie F Sep 20 at 15:18
  • @analyz3r - yes indeed, as Rosie F states, it's *tritone substitution' where F is 3 tones (as far as poss!) away from B. Oft used in jazz, where the 3 and b7 become the b7 and 3 of the other chord. – Tim Sep 20 at 16:03
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One thing to address that I haven't seen yet covered: The C9 chord.

You correctly identified that the piece has kind of a blues thing going. Blues music is full of nonfunctional dominant seventh chords, as you're probably aware. One of the notes commonly found in the E blues tonality is B♭ (or A♯, for spelling purposes). If you're wondering how I knew it was in E minor, it's just because that's the note I heard as the tonal center, and that comes with experience. Em to C is a pretty normal chord progression, i to ♭VI. The C chord is played as a C9 for a couple of reasons: dominant seventh (and ninth, in this case) chords sound pretty bluesy, and also the melody note is B♭, the minor seventh in the C9 chord.

C9 in this case is a very tense chord, and that's all the function it really needs: It sets up a move back to E minor, especially by leaning hard on the tritone between E and B♭.

One final thing to point out: G major is this key's relative major, and in G blues, the three common chords are G7, C7, and D7. Perhaps that's a reason why we see this C7 variant in the E minor key - the listener is already familiar with it in a major context!

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