Skyfall – what makes it sound so Bond-like?

I saw skyfall last night, and was fascinated by how the music managed to sound like Bond, without being a direct repeat of previous bond themes.  I whipped the chords onto a SeeChord chart to have a look at what was going on.  For once, it was not that illuminating really.  There are only a handful of chords in the whole song:

cm-Ab-fm Ab mainly.  However there is a crucial change of chord that occurs early on:

cm-Ab-F7-Ab.  It is this use of F major that provides us with the crucial note to make one of the archetypal bond hooks.  If we take now, just the top note of this chord progression (assuming that each chord has C as it’s lowest note) we get this tune.

G-Ab-A-Ab –

And it is this little hook that makes so much of Bond sound so, well, Bondy.

The thing I found most interesting was the fact that the Adele song uses such a strong harmony of F7 at this crucial point.  Many Bond themes I have heard before – and I will analyse these further soon – stay on the more enigmatic chord made up of C-Eb-A – without the F.  This might be a cmin6, which would not have the strength of that F chord.

One further thing that occurs later on is a nice “turnaround” (ii-V-I) of D7-G7-cm.  The D7 chord would be quite surprising were it not for the occurance of the F7 before it.  The A natural in the F chord prepares us for the D7 chord which also contains an A natural.


Sorry if this is a bit technical, it is hard to explain without a piano in front of me but I thought I’d share it with you anyhow! I have put the SeeChord chart of skyfall up on the site for those interested.  More bond to come soon I think.


Always a woman to me – Billy Joel

Recently I decided to teach this song to a few of my piano pupils as the chords seemed interesting and original to me.  After a while, it really got into my head so, as ever, I got it on to the SeeChord workbench and set about finding out what exactly it is that makes this song tick.

As with most songs, it has a very conventional chord progression on the whole, but with a few interesting flash points.  Lets start with the first half of the verse:

Always a woman to me - verse

Not a lot to comment on here.  Fairly interesting to start on the A (fifth) rather than the D (tonic), but this is not in itself unusual.  Moving on…

Always a woman to me - verse

Now we are getting more interesting.  The jump from A-F#7 sticks out immediately.  This is behaving like an interrupted cadence (V-III), with the resolution coming with the perfect cadence or A7-D a few bars later (V-I).  The last 5 chords here are shown with both variations used in the song – a few simple relative minor substitutions.  The verse ends on the tonic and all is well.  Now for the chorus.  In actual fact, I would say that this song is a classic tagline song, and therefore, this passage is the bridge (have a listen to my musical improv comedy podcast to find out more about these structures.)

Always a woman to me - Chorus

This is what we like to see.  A good strong fifths progression, heading down through the tonic and finishing on the G (IV). All is as expected.  Now…

Always a woman to me - Chorus

Here’s the action we were looking for.  Firstly we notice that the fifths progression is still there, but it has moved “down” and now starts on the tonic.  How is this possible without destroying all sense of key?  Well the secret is that first chord on this chart – d minor.  That shift from D major to d minor has changed the tonality of the whole song, and opened up a whole new set of chords, which he then marches right through with the progression.  In classic and classical style, he then jumps back up with the use of a tritone substitution (I have a podcast about those too! Not comedy this time, more music theory) to the E7 and then drops back down to the A7.

The result of this beatifully crafted harmonic series is a very strong and satisfying progression, yet one that has a womderful twist in the D major-d minor change.  There is no stronger progression than the falling 5ths progression so why not use it twice but in different places.  Although the chords at first sound complex and surprising, as usual, when dissected on the SeeChord bench, they fall neatly into patterns that we can see clearly.  Aaaah – I can listen AND understand – how satisfying.



Somebody like you – Adele – Part 2

Ok so now this song is stuck in my head, it got me thinking about relative minors.  What would happen to this song if you swapped all the chords for their relative majors/minors.  It is one of the simplest substitutions you can use so lets have a listen.

Firstly lets hear the original verse:.  The chords reapeat around A-c#m-f#m-D.

SeeChord chart of Somebody like you by Adele

SeeChord chart

Now, if we swap all of those chords for their relative majors/minors, we get this instead:

SeeChord chart of "Somebody like you" with substituted chords.

However, there are some other chords that will serve just as well for relative majors and minors.  We are often told that there is only one relative major or minor, but this is not the case.  Take C major for example.  Music theory tells us that the relative minor is A minor.  Sure enough, their chords and scale are very similar, so it is easy to see the relationship.  However, there is another minor chord very similar to C major, and tha is E minor.  The similarities are not so exact in the scale, but for a chord substitution it is perfectly valid.

What happens to our tune if we substitute these chords instead?:

SeeChord chart of "Somebody like you" by Adele, with relative majors/minors

Neither of the new chord progressions sound quite right as we are so used to hearing the original, and the fact that the tune fits perfectly over the original chords.  However if we could pick and choose from these substitutions…

Verse relative

SeeChord Chart

In my opinion this sounds just as solid as the original sequence, even though none of the original chords appear in the same position.  This shows the power of relative majors and minors and of substitutions.  Many songs and songwriters use substituted chords to chage up their progressions.  Give it a go, you might find that it creates that moment of magic you were looking for!


Somebody like you – Adele.

Ok so this is one of THE songs of the moment.  Worth taking a minute to have a look at how the chords fit together.  The chords for the verse and chorus are very similar:

Verse – A-c#m-f#m-D.

Chorus-A-  E-   f#m-D

Here is the sequence on a SeeChord chart of the verse:

SeeChord chart of Somebody like you by Adele

SeeChord chart

This is a lovely example of how to use relative minors effectively.  In my mind there are two ways of looking at this.  This first, and perhaps most conventional would be to say that the relative minor of A is f#m.  That would mean that the c#m chord is a way of using the strongest of all chord sequences, the falling fifth to get to the f#m chord.  The D chord then provides the IV-I (or plagal) cadence that is a feature of so many rock and pop songs.

However, there is another, slightly more intruiging way of seeing this sequence.  There is another minor chord that is closely related to A.  In fact all major chords have two relative minors.  In this case, the oter relative minor has been used, which is the c#minor chord.  It is easy to see how closely related A major and c#minor are by looking at the notes in each chord:

A Major: A   C#    E

c#minor:G# C#   E  (inversion)

So we could just as validly say that the jump from A major to c#minor is a relative minor jump.  This then leads nicely to the f#minor by a descending fifth.  Then the leap from f#m to D is another of these alternative relative minor jumps.

Here is the Seechord chart for the chorus:

Here the c#minor chord has been replaced by the E major.  A far more conservative choice, and the first time the V (5) chord has been heard.  This Dominant chord provides more of a sense of security, not only because it is a major chord, but also because it helps to establish the tonic, A major.  This reflects the lyrics, “Never mind I’ll find somebody like you” – bittersweet but optimistic.


Yesterday, by John Lennon

Thought I would start off with the McCartney classic, Yesterday.  It is hard to define a clear “verse” or “chorus” as both parts of the song have a very verse-like feel, with little repetition apart from the title or tagline, “Yesterday”. The most striking harmonic feature is the second chord of the song.  Have a look at the following chart showing the jump from F to em…


An immediate and unexpected leap from F to em.  Of course the harmony then falls through the fifths as we would expect.  This is in fact a common jump (chromatic descending), but unusual so early in a progression.
The descending fifth sequence is then used again in the next part of the song.
Classic use of the descending fifths progression.  This leads the ear to the root chord of F, giving a very satisfying sound when we get there.  Notice that the end of this phrase ia a perfect cadence (C-F).  This nicely finishes the chord progression.  Earlier in the song (oh I believe in Yesterday) he used a plagal cadence (Bb-F) which has a harder edge.
Such simple chords, such a simple device, jumping up to the 7 chord, and falling back down through the fifths, such a sublime result.
For more Beatles song analysis and Beatles chords progressions follow this link


Chord Progressions

Over the last 10 years I have been analysing chord progressions across all genres of music.  On this blog I intend to regularly post my insights into these progressions, spending some time going into why they are unusual, or why they conform, which pieces are similar and which are truly original.

I would love to hear any feedback, or requests for songs or pieces you would like to understand better.

Most of my insights have been informed by SeeChord.  Do have a look at the rest of the site if you want to find out how it can help you.


Joe Samuel


Bohemian Rhapsody exposed!

It is arguably the most popular song of all time, appearing in the top 10 of almost every top 10 song list ever.  Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen needs no introduction.  However, it does need analysing.  How do those crazy chord progressions work?  Does it obey the normal rules of songwriting?  Was it ground breaking?

I hope I can answer all of those questions now I have looked at Bohemian Rhapsody through the eyes of SeeChord.  I have made a little video of the results.  Enjoy and let me know if you are now enlightened!

Bohemain Rhapsody analysed with SeeChord


SeeChord Launched!

After years in conception and design, SeeChord is now out there for the world to see and use.

We are now in contact with many music sites and are hoping to spread the good news that understanding harmony just got a load simpler.  Look out for our videos on YouTube, and other links and charts on websites all over the internet.

If you know of a site that could do with some help from SeeChord then please let us know.

That’s all for now, thanks for visiting.