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Thread: Chord analysis for Skyfall by Adele

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    Chord analysis for Skyfall by Adele

    Hi, I've been analysing the chords to Skyfall by Adele but I'm stuck understanding how one of the chords in the bridge works.

    The song is in C minor and the chords to the bridge are as follows:


    Fm9 Ab6 Cm9/Bb Cm9/B Cm Abmaj7 Fm9 G7sus4/D G7 Cm
    IV ? I/VII I/? I VI IV V/II V I


    The G7 I believe is called a Picardy third so I understand how that works even though it's outside of the key but how exactly does the Ab6 work since it should be Abmaj6 to be in the key. Also the Cm9/B is odd since B is outside of the key. Would you generally just refer to this being a chromatic movement in the bass and that why it doesn't sound odd. How would you go about explaining how this progression works without sounding strange.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alierrett View Post
    The G7 I believe is called a Picardy third
    No it's not. The Picardy Third (or Tierce de Picardie) refers to the final tonic chord of a piece. So if it ended with a C major chord for instance, that would be one.

    What you're talking about is simply the raised leading note (or leading tone). This is standard with minor keys; the sixth and seventh notes are variables, they can occur according to key signature or raised by one semitone (half step). Both versions are diatonic (that is, both are considered part of the key).

    Quote Originally Posted by alierrett View Post
    Also the Cm9/B is odd since B is outside of the key.
    No it's not, see above.
    This does look weird though because Cm9 would contain a Bb, and so having a B-natural in the bass would therefore be a dissonance. Are you sure the chord is right? - The B-natural could just be part of the bass movement - a passing note perhaps, and so not necessarily considered part of the chord per se.

    Quote Originally Posted by alierrett View Post
    how exactly does the Ab6 work since it should be Abmaj6 to be in the key.
    Ab6 is Abmaj6. The "maj" bit is assumed; it isn't necessary to write.
    (Confusingly, even in a minor sixth chord, the sixth is still a major sixth)

    Incidentally, could this chord here be more appropriately thought of as Fm7?

    (NB: I don't know the chords of the actual piece, I'm just taking you at your word here with the specifics).

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    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    No it's not. The Picardy Third (or Tierce de Picardie) refers to the final tonic chord of a piece. So if it ended with a C major chord for instance, that would be one.

    What you're talking about is simply the raised leading note (or leading tone). This is standard with minor keys; the sixth and seventh notes are variables, they can occur according to key signature or raised by one semitone (half step). Both versions are diatonic (that is, both are considered part of the key).
    Thanks for clearing that up, I understand that now.

    No it's not, see above.
    This does look weird though because Cm9 would contain a Bb, and so having a B-natural in the bass would therefore be a dissonance. Are you sure the chord is right? - The B-natural could just be part of the bass movement - a passing note perhaps, and so not necessarily considered part of the chord per se.
    Yes the B-natural is just part of the bass movement as you thought so it doesn't clash with the rest of the chord.

    Ab6 is Abmaj6. The "maj" bit is assumed; it isn't necessary to write.
    (Confusingly, even in a minor sixth chord, the sixth is still a major sixth)

    Incidentally, could this chord here be more appropriately thought of as Fm7?

    (NB: I don't know the chords of the actual piece, I'm just taking you at your word here with the specifics).
    Could you explain this to me a bit more please. Why is a Ab6 assumed to be Abmaj6 while for example Abmaj7 is referred to as major rather than being referred to as Ab7 because of Abmaj7 having natural 7 rather than b7 (Ab7). In what way is the Ab6 different?

    Thanks for your help

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    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alierrett View Post
    Could you explain this to me a bit more please. Why is a Ab6 assumed to be Abmaj6 while for example Abmaj7 is referred to as major rather than being referred to as Ab7 because of Abmaj7 having natural 7 rather than b7 (Ab7). In what way is the Ab6 different?
    "major" and "minor" can refer to intervals or the chord as a whole.
    When we're talking of the seventh as a note (rather than a chord), it is best referenced as an interval above the root. So a major seventh above Ab would be G-natural, whereas a minor seventh above Ab would be Gb (one semitone less). A major sixth above Ab would be F, a minor sixth above Ab would be Fb, and so on.

    When it comes to chords (as a whole) however, "major" and "minor" apply first and foremost to the third (the intervals of the other notes are of secondary importance).
    So you can have a major triad with the interval of a major seventh added above the root; Ab-C-Eb-G for example.
    Or you can have a major triad with the interval of a minor seventh added above the root; Ab-C-Eb-Gb for example.
    They are both "major" chords because they both have the major third.
    The first might be called a majormajor 7 and the second a majorminor7, except we now call these major seventh (Abmaj7) and dominant seventh (Ab7) chords respectively (that's the name of the chord as a whole).

    We normally assume a major third by default unless there is some indication to the contrary. So Ab7 and Ab6 would both have major thirds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    "major" and "minor" can refer to intervals or the chord as a whole.
    When we're talking of the seventh as a note (rather than a chord), it is best referenced as an interval above the root. So a major seventh above Ab would be G-natural, whereas a minor seventh above Ab would be Gb (one semitone less). A major sixth above Ab would be F, a minor sixth above Ab would be Fb, and so on.

    When it comes to chords (as a whole) however, "major" and "minor" apply first and foremost to the third (the intervals of the other notes are of secondary importance).
    So you can have a major triad with the interval of a major seventh added above the root; Ab-C-Eb-G for example.
    Or you can have a major triad with the interval of a minor seventh added above the root; Ab-C-Eb-Gb for example.
    They are both "major" chords because they both have the major third.
    The first might be called a majormajor 7 and the second a majorminor7, except we now call these major seventh (Abmaj7) and dominant seventh (Ab7) chords respectively (that's the name of the chord as a whole).

    We normally assume a major third by default unless there is some indication to the contrary. So Ab7 and Ab6 would both have major thirds.
    Thanks so much that cleared that all up.


    Could you help me with one last thing. Later on in the song there is an F D7 G7 Cm chord sequence. Would I be correct in saying the D7 to the G7 is a secondary dominant? V/V with then the G7 to Cm being the leading note as before. However I don't understand the F to D7 relationship. Could you help me out with that.

    Thaanks for you help, you've taught me a lot

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    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alierrett View Post
    Would I be correct in saying the D7 to the G7 is a secondary dominant? V/V with then the G7 to Cm being the leading note as before.
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by alierrett View Post
    However I don't understand the F to D7 relationship. Could you help me out with that.
    Hard to say without knowing the whole context (and/or seeing the score).
    But remember what I said about the sixth (and seventh) notes of minor keys; they can be raised a semitone from how they appear in the key signature. So the A-natural here could just be the raised sixth (as in the ascending melodic minor scale).

    Quote Originally Posted by alierrett View Post
    Thaanks for you help, you've taught me a lot
    No problem.

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    If people are interested in what I used this analysis for. I am now doing videos on YouTube explaining the theory behind my favourite songs. The link to the video for Skyfall is: https://youtu.be/8Mf1b-r2o5c

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    The F is just a subdominant. The D7 is a secondary dominant and more or less is bound to the following G7 by that relationship. Overall the structure here is S-D-T (subdominant-dominant-tonic). The dominant is extended "backwards" by the secondary dominant. Note that F-d-G7-C is common too; here the F and d are both acting as sub-dominants (or pre-dominants in some books.)

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