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Is there a name for the form of "mystery train" et al?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by nosuch, Oct 19, 2010.

  1. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    Hi folks, anybody has a clue how the harmonic progression used in songs like "mystery train" and "Look watcha done" is called?

    also I am not sure where this form actually starts, there are some bars of the root (intro?), but when the singing starts it goes:

    IV | IV | I | I |
    IV | IV | I | I |
    V | IV | I | V |

    is there a name for it?

    thanks
     
  2. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    a twelve bar blues ???
     
  3. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    Here's my take on it just thinking off the top of my head.

    I count it as a 12 bar blues. In the second version I've posted below it's easier to hear because of the way the lyric is phrased, always beginning on the 'I' chord. In the 'real' version the lyric begins on the 'IV' and that plays with the timing a bit because I think our brains are trained to want to hear the lyric begin on the 'I'.

    Actually in the Presley version and the Clapton/Moore version, our brains get a sort of double whammy of confusion because they start out phrasing the lyric from the 'I' for one verse and then they shift the phrasing so that it begins from the 'IV'. Voodoo!!!

    Another phrasing sleight of hand is that the 12 bar phrase ends on the 'IV' so the 'I' almost sounds like a turnaround in a way. It throws you off. The song's form is very interesting.

    I|I|IV|IV|I|I|IV|IV|I|I|V|IV|



    There are clearly at least two different ways to play it in terms of phrasing the lyric. I prefer this type of timing on the lyric, but I personally find it hard to do. Notice that after the first verse he doesn't begin the lyric until they are on the 'IV'. Like the Presley version I think





    I find the phrasing in this version much less interesting. The lyric always begins on the I. I actually kind of view it as a bit of a cop out from the 'real' version because it's much easier to sing it this way but it lacks a certain something.

     
  4. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    wouldn't that have the root in bar 1 and 2?
    I know it is a variation with the IV in bar 1 and two but is there a name for this variation?
     
  5. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    In Germany we call it "Auftakt", not much magic involved for my sake.
    ;-)

    In the Video, I count at least three bars before the IV, but that may be a cut.
    To my ears the form ends on the root also.
     
  6. Valvey

    Valvey Tele-Holic

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    In the sheet music it's written as a 12 bar blues starting on the IV and ending with an empty bar staying on the I.
     
  7. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    I figured that the first few bars of 'I' were just a kind of intro. The kind of intro that has an uspecified length where you launch into the song when you feel like it so my counting was from once the song had already gone around one time.

    That's what I was describing when I said the phrasing is deceptive. If we say the form begins on the 'I' rather than the 'IV' and we agree it's a 12 bar form then it actually ends on the 'IV'. The form ends on the 'IV' but our ears hear the musical phrase as ending on the 'I'.





    Interesting. I definitely considered this but I have trouble with this idea. For one thing
    if the form begins on the 'IV' then why do all the versions I hear intro the song from the 'I'? I mean if it begins on the 'IV' why does it always seem to start on the 'I'? :confused: I'm not the best at deciphering these sort of musical puzzles so I'm not asking this question rhetorically, I'm asking quite sincerely. It's entirely likely I don't understand.:lol:

    I do know that there is more than one way to skin a cat when making decisions on how to 'map' out music. There could be at least two ways of making sense of the form of this song I suppose. My ear hears it as I've described above.
     
  8. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    I am with valvey, to me it feels like the form starts on IV - 12 bars, ends on I.
    In classical music the chord in the end of a piece determines the key, not the chord it starts with. Looking at it as a 12 bar blues starting with the root and ending on the IV chokes my natural feel for musical structure. I would consider everything before IV as an intro, the fact that it has a free length supports that IMHO.
    Boneguy, if you have trouble hearing the form as suggested try to play the song starting from the IV, without the intro. Does that trouble you? I wouldn't expect that.
    Also try to end it as if it had the form you suggested earlier, stopping on the IV. I am sure you'll feel there is something wrong.

    Still we don't have a name for the progression - I asked the professor (Larry in a private message), hoping he will chime in.

    Still we
     
  9. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Funny, a lot of guys play this is a twelve bar blues, but it's not really... I think it started there, much like a lot of Rockabilly, but they didn't stick to the form exactly.

    The way I play it, which is the way I hear the Elvis/Moore version, goes like this:

    I | I | IV | IV | IV | I | I | IV | IV | IV | I | I | V | IV | I | I

    The part that throws me sometimes is remembering that the vocals go over three bars of the IV and you do two sets of this before the 'turnaround' of the V-IV-I. I may not be counting it correctly, but this is the way I hear it from the record. I count this as 16 Bars.... but I can't find it listed as a regular 16 Bar blues pattern! LOL


    This is the way I here it from this version too:



    Setzer does it more like a twelve bar. Which always hoses me up.

    Now the original:



    I'm not sure what the pattern is, 'cause I just listen to it on my iPod, I've never sat down (maybe later today?) and tried to work it out...
     
  10. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    Gee, I have that recording too! My harp player gave it to me. Isn't that cool? The intro shows what inspired Tom Waits for his Weill-ish style in the 90s.
     
  11. Monster Mike Welch

    Monster Mike Welch Tele-Meister

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    That's yet another Delta variation on the 12-bar blues. If you listen to older records, that form is a lot less set in stone than you'd imagine. "Rollin' and Tumblin" is another that comes to mind. If the singer wants to stretch things out, the band follows, and if it catches on, that becomes the way the song is played.
     
  12. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    Now that's it's not 2am I seem to be counting the bars differently in the harsh light of morning!:lol:

    I'm definitley counting a 14 bar form on the Clapton/Moore version. If we say that the song starts on the 'IV' than it looks like this.

    IV|IV|IV|I|I|IV|IV|IV|I|I|V|IV|I|I|

    When Scotty takes his lead break they change the form to this 8 bar phrase.

    IV|IV|I|I|V|IV|I|I|



    Here's how I hear the Junior Parker original.

    It's a basic quick change 12 bar blues for the first go around.

    I|IV|I|I|IV|IV|I|I|V|IV|I|I|


    Then for all the subsequent verses the 12 bar form begins on the 'IV'.

    IV|IV|I|I|IV|IV|I|I|V|IV|I|I|
     
  13. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I've never heard anyone ever call 'mystery train' a blues.
    Not that the blues doesn't have a few forms that aren't 12 bar, standard I IV V. But I think you'll end up with more confusion if you tell guys that "mystery train is just a blues that starts on IV".

    I've always just called it ... the "Mystery Train" form ... assuming that most folks have heard it. When I was little kid I instantly fell in love with tune precisely because the verse starts on IV. Still love it for that reason.
     
  14. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    The Elvis version seems even more interesting. They seem to throw in an extra beat of 'I' before going to the 'IV' on the 2nd beat of the bar. This doesn't seem to happen consistently though. Sometimes they do it and sometimes they don't.

    Like this:

    /../../../..|.. /../... /.. ./...
    I...I..I..I..|..I..IV..IV..IV..

    Anybody else hearing this?

    Also the Elvis version doesn't always use a V-IV turnaround. Sometimes it just stays on the 'V' for 2 bars before going to 'I'.

    This version is very slippery in terms of where the phrasing is and whether they're playing the changes on the beat or ahead. I've never delved into this song before like this. No wonder I've never found it an easy song to get the 'right' sound on.

    My guess is in this Elvis version they just turned on the mic and winged it in a beautiful loose style. It makes this song quite magical.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2010
  15. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    The Setzer version is pretty close to a 12 bar blues form and even the Junior Parker original has the first verse as a quick change 12 bar, to my ear at least. But in general I agree that it's probably a bit clumsy to think of it simply as a 12 bar blues.

    I guess the problem for me with simply calling it "the 'Mystery Train' form" is that it seems to have taken many very different forms. Not only from artist to artist but even within the Elvis 'form' they seem to be slipping and sliding in and out of various placements of the 'IV" and 'V' in a way that doesn't seem to be 'formalised'.

    Interesting stuff. No wonder the old folks thought the world was going to he!! in a hand basket. It was utter chaos I tell ya!! When you can't easily feel where the '1' is you know you're no longer in Kansas. Scary stuff. :lol:
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2010
  16. brokenjoe

    brokenjoe Friend of Leo's

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    3 chords that follow the vocals.

    That's how I look at it anyway.

    The Elvis version is probably the best known, but I've got versions of it by Jr. Parker -who co-wrote it-, Jr. Wells, Earl King, and probably a bunch more, who all add their own little variation to it.

    Sometimes they 'hang' on the IV a little longer, or add/subtract a little extra in other places, but it's still Mystery Train to me.

    I've sung it many times (I do the Elvis version), and backed up others who did their version of it, and to me, it's a 'follow the vocalist' kind of song.
     
  17. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yup. I think that's probably the best description of the song's 'form'.:D
     
  18. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Well, 'Follow the vocalist' it is then?!?!? I like that description.

    I agree that the original Elvis version was most assuredly a turn on the mics and let's wail. I have to say, it's still one of my favorite songs of all times. I love playing it and I love listening to it.... no matter what form we ultimately decide on!
     
  19. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    This is getting more interesting the longer it gets. I have two contributions, but will post the first below.

    When we play a D sus4 on the guitar, we very often hear, feel, and think of it as a D chord, with one note temporarily displaced. This is confirmed every time it resolves on D. Now, stepping back, one can hear, feels, and think that a IV chord as a similar function, but on a higher level. Here is what i mean by higher level. Returning to the D sus4 chord, whenever I see D, I know that on my own volition as a guitarist in band with several other musicians, I can throw in a D sus4 followed by D. This works better in folk rock styles, obviously than in jazz, where it doesn't sound right at all, I imagine. When I throw in D sus4s whenever I feel it, and when the band and audience accept it, then I am doing this on a local level, so to speak. Theorists use the word local when discussing actions that occur within a bar or so, and that have no notable impact on the form of the music. It is just decoration and elaboration.

    Now, if I expand my thinking and beef up the D sus4 with a G chord, this has the same effect on a more global level of form as the D sus4 did on a local level. Because the global level is beefier, it needs a strong form of the D sus4 chord, which is where G major comes in. Now, remember that my imaginary song initially had a D chord, which I dressed up with the sus4, all at the local level? Well, an analogous thing occurs at the global level, where the composer, songwriter, or great musical spirit conceives a D chord as a G, in order to intensify the sense of suspension? That is what happens when the G chord is used in the chord progressions of songs in D. I suppose i had better switch to roman numerals. Let's let I be D and IV be G. So, if we listen to Mystery Train as IV IV I I repeated, when can think of IV as an elaboration at the global level as a I sus4 chord or even a I chord without the sus4. We can eliminate the sus4 from our hearing at the local level because we listeners know that the sus4 is an elaboration of I.

    In my own awkward way, I am applying the principles of Heinrich Schenker. Active in the early 20th century, he took the idea of elaboration and applied it to harmony and form. He was strongly influenced by the Goethe's ideas of organicism. In organicism, the fundamental principle is that the shape of the large object is mimicked in the shape of smaller objects, which are in turn mimicked by the shape of still smaller objects until you reach the kernel or seed.

    Well, anyway, this explains how I can hear the first 8 bars as a I chord.
     
  20. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    My second point is that we are all right. I can alternate between hearing it as IV IV I I repeated or I I I I IV IV I I or I I I I I I I I, all in the first 8 bars. We all seem to agree on the last 4 bars.

    When I say we are all right, I mean that the global structure of the first 8 bar is I. Having agreed on that, then we can each choose how or if we want to elaborate on it with a IV chord.
     
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