How does this chord progression work?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by DougF, May 17, 2019.

  1. DougF

    DougF Tele-Meister

    Nov 7, 2004
    Southern Minnesota
    I've was playing around with an obscure 60s surf tune by a band named the Telstars called Spaghetti Strap. The main progression seems to my ears go Bb cminor D F, which would be a I ii bIV V chord progression. It seems to work, but I can't wrap my head around why! What is the theory behind this?
    DonM likes this.
  2. Leon Grizzard

    Leon Grizzard Friend of Leo's

    Mar 8, 2006
    Austin, Texas
    I think it just sounded cool. There are lots of irregular progressions you can make work. The D kind of veers off outside and is harmonically ambiguous, but by going to the F it moves back inside and turns the progression around.

    You could hear the D leading to Eb and on from there too, but it doesn't.
    klasaine and DougF like this.
  3. jondanger

    jondanger Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 27, 2011
    Charm City, MD
    I think it works because as the chords ascend from Cm to D to F, you have a chromatic descent from the fifth of the Cm (G) to the third of the D (F#), and the root of the F (F, obvs). The way the chords are voiced emphasizes those tones, and it creates a pattern that simultaneously ascends and descends.
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  4. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Feb 8, 2009
    Plymouth Meeting, PA
    Wouldn't D be the III chord in the key of Bb? Actually, now that I look at it, the bIV = the III in any key, as the third and fourth of the scale are a semitone apart. Unless you call it the bIV because it is major, I guess. I'd just call it the III because D is diatonic to Bb major.
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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  5. Henry Mars

    Henry Mars Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 17, 2014
    Bucks Co. PA
    It is a common progression ... if you play a Dm instead of D for a moment you will get an idea of what is going on. The usage in this tune is strange because of the melody. It is just CA surf music. They do a lot of this kind of stuff in surf music.
    klasaine and DougF like this.
  6. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 28, 2006
    NELA, Ca
    D is III.
    'Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown' is similar - Bb > C > D >Eb - F > Bb (Croces' in G).

    I call the 'theory' behind movement like this: guitarists follow the dots theory. No judgement. Guitars are super visual. You can discover a lot of cool progressions using the innate symmetry of the guitar neck. We all have.
    "If" you desire to get a bit more esoteric you could say the actual key of the song is Gm. The intro starts with a G minor vamp for 4 bars. Gm is the relative minor of Bb. The D maj (V of G harm min or mel min) can be thought of as a borrowed chord - modal interchange. *I personally wouldn't get that academic in this particular case.
    Cool tune!
    Wally likes this.
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