I’m Losing Sleep: Note(s) To Self (Part 2)

When I came home from choir practice last night, I was only planning to reconsider a mashup which I previously scrapped. I ended up staying up a bit later than I should have thanks to my tendency to overthink.

For this mashup, the instrumental starts in A minor; the acapella stays in G minor, but pitching it up by two semitones wouldn’t be a stretch. What bugged me, however, was a chord progression in the instrumental: C major, G major, A minor, then F major. This progression doesn’t follow the same principle as the one I examined earlier this week (i.e. the one in DJ Schmolli’s “Roar Down”), so I thought that this mashup wouldn’t work.

Still, this issue bugged me. The resulting harmonies didn’t sound overtly out of whack to me. Perhaps it was time to dig deeper and find out what was really going on.

I started by examining a few more mashups, including one where JHolsta mashes up Linkin Park’s “Burn It Down” acapella with Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” instrumental. Both songs are in D minor, but the latter one has a chord progression in its chorus: F major, C major, D minor, then B flat major. Like the mashup I scrapped, it also doesn’t follow the same principle as Schmolli’s mashup. This being the case, why did no one at the Stix bring up any key clashes? More importantly, were there any to be found in the first place?

I did some more research by looking at the notes which comprise the D minor scale (thank you, Wikipedia).

  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • A
  • B flat
  • C

I eventually compared these notes to the ones in “Wrecking Ball”‘s chord progression. All four of them can be found in the D minor chord listed above (they’re italicized and bolded).

It’s also worth noting that all of the notes in the F major scale can be found in the D minor scale. If you compare this list with the one above, it’s as if we started two notes ahead of the D in the D minor scale.

  • F
  • G
  • A
  • B flat
  • C
  • D
  • E

The significance of this finding will become clear later on.

What about Schmolli’s mashup? The acapella is in B flat major, with the instrumental being in G minor and following this chord progression: G minor, E flat major, B flat major and F major. Now, let’s list the notes which comprise the instrumental’s G minor scale:

  • G (first note in the instrumental’s chord progression)
  • A
  • B flat (third note in the instrumental’s chord progression)
  • C
  • D
  • E flat (second note in the instrumental’s chord progression)
  • F (fourth note in the instrumental’s chord progression)

The same thing happens here, as well!

Now, back to the mashup I scrapped…does the same thing happen here? Let’s list the notes in that A minor scale and find out…

  • A (third note in the instrumental’s chord progression)
  • B
  • C (first note in the instrumental’s chord progression)
  • D
  • E
  • F (fourth note in the instrumental’s chord progression)
  • G (second note in the instrumental’s chord progression)

As you can see, the same thing does happen here, so maybe I won’t scrap that mashup after all. 😉

With this mystery apparently solved, I came around to thinking about an oft-cited problem at The Stix: the Fifths Trap. Until last night, all I knew was that it had something to do with the fifth note in any given scale. I may have discovered the science behind this purely by accident.

I did some digging at The Stix and found a mashup by Kill_Mr_DJ where a forum member cited this problem in his feedback. KMD’s mashup, “Goddess In A Bottle”, uses Mercury Rev’s “Goddess On A Highway” instrumental and The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” acapella. The instrumental’s verses are in G minor, while the acapella’s verses are in D flat minor; a pitch shift by one semitone would put it to D minor. Since those keys (G minor and D minor) are next to each other on the Camelot wheel, mashing these sections together should work, right?

Not so fast.

This is where the Fifths Trap comes into play. During the sections described above, the acapella is in the fifth key of the instrumental’s scale – in this case, D, which is the fifth key of the instrumental’s G minor scale. When we examine the notes in each scale, we get the following.

G minor (instrumental key scale):

  • G
  • A
  • B flat
  • C
  • D (the fifth key)
  • E flat
  • F

D minor (acapella key scale):

  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • A
  • B flat
  • C

Do you notice anything strange compared to the analysis I did for Schmolli and JHolsta’s mashups?

Here’s what I noticed last night: one note in each scale is not found in the other one. In this case, the E flat in the instrumental’s scale is not found in the acapella’s scale. Also, the E in the acapella’s scale is not found in the instrumental’s scale.

This principle doesn’t only apply to minor scales. Let’s pretend that the scales we examined in KMD’s mashup are now major scales – i.e. G major and D major, which are also next to each other on the Camelot wheel. Does the same thing happen?

G major:

  • G
  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F sharp

D major:

  • D
  • E
  • F sharp
  • G
  • A
  • B
  • C sharp

As you should see, the answer is yes. In this case, the C in the G major scale is not found in the D major scale and the C sharp in the D major scale is not found in the G major scale.

A caveat: apart from music classes I took in middle school, I have no musical training. For all I know, everything you just read in this entry could be junk. I can’t confirm if anything I’ve said is correct, relevant or otherwise. Perhaps you can do that for me.

What I can confirm, however, is that losing a few hours of sleep may have increased my understanding of the science behind mashups. I sure do hope so.

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