'What becomes of the broken hearted'.Need help understanding the bass line

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by russ, Apr 30, 2016.

  1. russ

    russ Supporting Member

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    This is an incredible song.
    The verse is in Bb, the chorus in C.
    What gets me is what the bass is doing. It's (very basically) playing an F -Gm in the verse, and a G-Am in he chorus.
    I'm a self taught musician, but I would like to understand the concept behind this song to apply it to my playing.
    Anybody have any comments?
    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
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  2. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    It is interesting - it sounds like they decided the melody works better with the bass not playing the root notes, rather playing the V note. This is pretty rare but a very workable concept. I also like the whole tone modulation for the choruses.
     
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  3. stevel

    stevel Member

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    JonR will have to come along and give you all the chords ;-)

    But very simply, the bass is just not playing the root all the time. That's not at all uncommon in, let's call it, "advanced" music.

    What is less common is 2nd inversion chords, though in contexts like this they tend to evoke a "gospel" flavor to many.

    The chords in the verse are:

    Bb/F - F - Gm - Eb - Bb/F - F - Gm - D7

    There's really nothing unusual here other than the first chord of each line - the Bb - being in 2nd inversion (Bb/F - the 5th in the bass).

    There are some interesting inversions in the "connecting" chords as well.

    There's nothing really "magical" about it really - I think it's just so much of what we listen to tends to be largely in root position (other than a few cliches like G - D/F# - Em) so any use of inversions beyond the "norm" tends to have more impact.

    In Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Wanna Be" there's an F7/A in the breakdown. I've watched a lot of people struggle to figure out what that chord is because they just don't know their inversions well enough and are unfamiliar with the sounds they create.

    I think it could largely be due to the pianist nature of the songwriter - I imagine Broken Hearted was probably written by a "composer" type, and less of a "guitarist" type. They're much more likely to come on inversions like this as part of their playing style, unlike guitarists who stick to known "shapes" (which is why shapes are bad...)

    I would suggest taking various chord progressions and trying all the possible inversion possibilities so you can get the sounds in your ear. Take something like:

    I - vi - IV - V

    C - am - F - G

    and make the bass line C-C-C-B, then C-C-C-D, then C-C-C-F, and so on. Could be G-A-A-G. Not all of them will "sound good" but you will likely run into ones that sound "more gospel-y" or "more classical" and things like that.

    Steve
     
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  4. russ

    russ Supporting Member

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    Thank you Steve!
    As you said it's just very different for me, and is definitely advanced composition, at least in comparison to the 'dance hall/bar room' music I've been playing for the past 45 years.

    I noticed you noted the chords in the verse as Bb-F-Gm-Eb etc....
    And I thought the 2nd chord should be a C#m. Then I realized it had to be an F because the bass is playing the F!
    thank you.

    I'm going to play around with your suggestion; playing a 1 6m 4 5 progression with a different bass note other than the root.
    Cheers!

    PS I'm hoping JonR has some thoughts about this song!
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
  5. Phletch

    Phletch Member

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    Definitely. The song was co-written by William Weatherspoon, James Dean (not that James Dean), and Paul Riser (again, not that Paul Riser) who is credited with arranging the tune. Of the three Riser is the only one listed as having a "musical" background and formal education in classical and jazz trombone and was one of the Funk Brothers. My money is on him with Weatherspoon and Dean having been responsible for the lyrics and melody. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Becomes_of_the_Brokenhearted

    I agree with the rest of your analysis. I've been lately really digging into piano parts and "translating" them on guitar. The different inversions you mentioned are rich in voice leading on the bottom which lends itself to the changes "making more sense" (ie, more pleasing to the ear, easier to follow) than the typical "root on the bottom" style of too many guitarists. This is one of those tunes with a definite gospel influence.

    And, yep, I look forward to @JonR 's breakdown.
     
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  6. StratoCraig

    StratoCraig Member

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    If you want to talk about this song, why not post the original version instead of that mediocre cover?

     
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  7. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

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    ^Slick, pro, full arrangement, catchy but remarkable composition...all the cool stuff of Motown.
     
  8. JonR

    JonR Member

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    How did you know I'd have the chords??

    INTRO: bass on F, and then a lead in via Dm and C/E to...

    VERSE pt 1 (wordless)
    |Bb/F - - - |Dm/F- - - |Gm - - - |Eb/G - - - |
    |Bb/F - - - |Edim7* - - - |Eb7 - - - |Eb7 - Dm7 C/E |
    VERSE pt 2 ("as I walk...)
    |Bb/F - - - |Dm/F- - - |Gm - - - |Gm - Eb/G - |
    |Bb/F - - - |Dm/F- - - |Gm - - - |D7/A - Bb7/Ab - |

    CHORUS
    |C/G - - - |Em/G - - - |Am - - - |Fmaj7/A - - - |
    |C/G - Em/G - |Am - C\G - |E7 - - - |F - Gm7 Eb6 |

    * This chord is Em7b5 2nd time. First time the vocal ("oh...") is on Db, 2nd time ("grow a little stronger") it's D.
    VERSE 2 ("fruits of love") - as verse 1, except the Em7b5
    CHORUS
    VERSE 3 ("I'm searching")

    Lots to enjoy there. (Getting to C major via Bb7/Ab? Getting back to Bb via E7-F etc?)

    I may have more thoughts later....
     
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  9. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I just want to add... that Bb7/Ab might be more accurate as Fm6/Ab. The melody over it - "(con)-fu-si-on" - is D-C-Bb, and the C is more prominent in the harmony than Bb.
    As Fm6 going to C, that's a "minor plagal cadence". It's the bass Ab to G that's more unusual.

    The E7 in the chorus meanwhile, is suggesting the key is A minor at that point - which of course it isn't.

    In general, I think the triumph of this song - what makes it great songwriting - is how the chord sequence illustrates the theme of the lyrics. The mood is all of a piece. This is a guy who "walks this land"..."in shadows".. "filled with sadness and confusion". Accordingly the chord sequence doesn't seem to know where it's going either. The bass remains morosely stuck on pedal notes, preventing the chords from doing their usual (too-bright major key) job, although it does plod through some almost grudging voice-leading now and then, passing through that tense diminished chord (or is it half-diminished? who cares anyway? my heart's broken...), dropping to Eb before hauling itself back up through E to F again.

    That 2nd inversion, Bb/F, is a tension, a classic indicator of approaching resolution, a "cadential 6/4" which we might expect to be followed by F and then a root position Bb - but of course no such cadence happens; the sequence is as "rootless" and "unresolved" as the protagonist is. And of course we know this even before the lyrics begin, because that wordless first verse tells through its chord sequence, along with the plodding rhythm and the lush (self-pitying) production values. We're shuffling through those lonely streets alongside him, even before he starts telling us his story.

    The rise of a whole step in the chorus might have been a rise in mood, but really it just serves to raise the anguished voice: dammit, what does become of the broken-hearted?? "I know I've got to find some kind of peace of mind", he sings determinedly, as the harmonic rhythm optimistically doubles in tempo, only to dump him on that targetless dominant, E7; an emotional dead-end if ever there was one..."may-be..." (or maybe not, the music is telling us). The F following the E7 is another burst of fake optimism, putting on a brave smile as we return to the major key of the verse (still aimless and meandering).

    Most of this would, of course, have been intuitive on the part of the songwriters and producers (Weatherspoon, Riser, Stevenson). They knew what sounds worked and how to get them, without debating the finer points of theory. It's so rare that all the elements of a song come together as successfully as this that it suggests lucky accident more than planning. Sometimes you just catch the right wave, and ride it. Experienced surfers know how to do that, but they don't make the waves.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2016
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  10. cameron

    cameron Member

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    Mostly very astute analysis, a usual. But the "production values" are "self-pitying"? What on Earth does that mean?
     
  11. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Yes a bit of a stretch I know ;). I meant they support the self-pitying vibe of the song: somewhat overblown, dramatic. Really pretty standard stuff for pop ballads, actually, nothing too remarkable.
     
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  12. ohiomatt33

    ohiomatt33 Member

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    Nothing to add to this except a massive THANK YOU for reminding me of this tune. I have a small playlist on Spotify of "greatest songs of all time" and this sleeper needed to be added.
     

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