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Song Analysis

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 2:35 pm
by GemZombie
Ok, this is totally geeky, but I'm doing some song analysis, and maybe someone can help me out here.

A lot of standard swing songs can be broken down into sections, and phrases in terms of dance. Take something like "Oh Lady Be Good", or "Big John's Special". In general a section consists of 4 Phrases. And a Phrase consists of 4 8-counts (or musically 8 4-counts).

Then of course there are those "blues" songs whose phrases are usually 6 counts of 8 (12-bar blues)...

However, I was listening to Gene Krupa's Ball of Fire, and noticed that mostly the sections were sets of 3 phrases where the phrases were 4 counts of 8. (There's an Intro of 2 phrases, followed by 4 sections, each with 3 phrases, followed by a solo section of 1 phrase, then ending with one more section consisting of 3 phrases).

Can anyone think of any other song that puts these sections into 3 phrase increments like that?

Or am I totally wrong in my analysis, and should be completely embarassed by this post?

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 6:29 pm
by Shorty Dave
I've always gotten a kick out of Cherokee, which is indeed sectioned in four phrases, but instead of each phrase being 4 8-counts (32 counts), it's 8 8-counts (64 counts)

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 7:14 pm
by jmatthew
I was in a musicallity class last year with Andrew Sutton and he broke swing and blues songs down along these lines: (any mistakes are mine, not his)

Swing songs have an 8 count rythm set into sets of 4 phrases. Those 4 phrases are ALSO in a set of 4 (roughly, and not counting the intro).

In the 1st, 2nd and 4th phrases, the 1st two eight counts are identical, and the 3rd is different, and the 4th is identical to the first and second.

The 3rd phrase is it's own ball of wax and is totally different from the 1,2 and 4th phrase.

so the basic rythm of a swing song looks like this:


For a dancer this is nice because you can break your moves down with the music. Simple move, simple move, big move, simple move. Repeat once. Do something wild for 4 phrases. Go back to simple move, simple move, big move, simple move.

Just knowing that makes you more in tune with the music.

Blues is a little different, because it's 8 count, but it's phrases are 6 measures long, but that's all I remember of the very short discussion of how blues is different from that class. :)

We also talked about how phrases "build" over time. Counts 1-4 will be mellow, count 6 will be big, count 8 will be back to the mellowness.

Obviousely this isn't true all of the time, but it's a nice base to build on I've found.

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 7:23 pm
by Bob the Builder
You also have to remember that there are also such music structures as 8, 16 and 24 Bar Blues also, as well as bridges and drops or additions in bars according to how the arranger wanted it to sound.

32 Bar Chorus are quite common in many swing tunes, but it is by no means the standard in every song.


Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 2:01 pm
by djstarr
jmatthew wrote:so the basic rythm of a swing song looks like this:

Chiming in from the Peanut Gallery. The above to most jazz musicians would be a song form of AABA with zzzz being known as the bridge. The melody is usually the same, but more importantly the chord progressions are the same for each 'A' section, each 'B' section, with the bridge being different - this helped to memorize songs and with head arrangements etc.

I heard Ken Wiley (one of our favorite Jazz djs on the radio here) announce a song with something like an AABC structure (although I forget exactly). He said it was an unusal structure.

Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 2:53 pm
by GemZombie
Thanks for all the info, however I'm already quite aware of the standard structures and general theories... which I've used to show people "musicality" in dance... using the same techniques and information that many here have just mentioned. But, I'm curious if anyone here has encountered a 3 phrase set instead of a 4 or 6, besides Ball Of Fire (Gene Krupa). I'm a musician and have played in Jazz ensembles for years, but I can't think of any other song that had that specific structure.

I came to this question because I was specifically trying to choreograph a short mini-routine for the purpose of teaching. I was trying to make it musical, and in my head I was thinking of phrases of four. I had also chose Ball of Fire as my song... but when i started really listening to it, I was suprised by it's structure. I kept trying to figure out why a set of 4 phrases wouldn't fit ;) For a while I thought I was just going insane.

Posted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 4:04 pm
by SpuzBal
"The Darktown Strutters' Ball" has a 20-bar chorus.

Posted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:48 pm
by Yakov
...and no bridge!
(sorry, i don't know "ball of fire")

Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 10:41 am
by falty411
bob mentioned 16 bar choruses, easy on ethat comes to mind is shiny stockings

Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 11:11 am
by GemZombie
None of these are like Ball of Fire. *sigh*. Oh well.

Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 5:23 pm
by djstarr
I dug out my Gene Krupa Proper box which I've been meaning to go through and listened to Ball of Fire. In terms of chord changes it is in a minor key and just shifts up to the 4 minor and then back down - it's more like a modal type of arrangement like All Blues etc. than a standard song chord progression.

The most similar structured song I could think of is Fever --- while Ball of Fire is a swing song and not in the same genre of Fever, Fever is structured similarly - i.e. one melody line that repeats over the same chord progressions - at least Ball of Fire has one section that changes!

So I don't think you are going to find a lot of lindy hop songs with a similar structure.

Ball of Fire would probably make a good teaching vehicle just because it doesn't have a 4-phrase structure.

Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2005 1:34 pm
by julius
You also get weird "counts" when songs are written in one time signature and played in another, e.g. 4/4 vs. 2/4. Cherokee is written in 2/4 but usually played 4/4, which is why the chorus seems to be 64 bars long.

Arrangers occasionally broke out of the 12-bar, 32-bar mold and ventured into weird forms. I suspect Ball of Fire is just one of those oddities.

Posted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:25 pm
by Zot
Hey jmatthew, I think your post is mostly right, but I have to correct one thing.

The B phrase is usually referred to as The Bridge in standard AABA song form structures.

Check this out: ... -1475.html

Posted: Mon May 02, 2005 6:30 pm
by Lawrence
I cannot recall a three-phrase increment song off the top of my head, but as you likely know, lots of songs play with the structure (e.g. extending the AABA into 12 or 16 bar paragraphs, not just 8-bar paragraphs; or shifting from 12-bar paragraph for the "A" to an 8 or 16 bar paragraph for the "B" (like St. Louis Blues)). Some others also change harmonic structures mid-song: "Jack the Bear" (Ellington) is the example I used in my musicality classes.

The transitions can also be different lengths, as well. (The transitions in Jack is 4 bars (two 8 counts), which will throw anyone off expecting an 8-bar (4, 8-count) phrase) You might be including the transitions in your counting, which can throw your entire count off.

Posted: Wed May 04, 2005 12:44 pm
by Mystere88
I think Julie London's "Come-On a My House" always has an extra 8 counts before returning the chorus/theme. (Trying to nail down a vocabulary is rather difficult when raised as a classical pianist. I just know the song always trips me up for now.)

Tori Amos has a tune, "The Sandwich Song" or (Thats What I Like) and its definitely Blues structure, but its 24 bar. Great Slow Lindy.