What’s Wrong With Too Many Musicals. Episode 3.

Ep3. (in three parts) – The Lydian chords, the “Don’t Rain” rhythms and The Resultant Vamps 

It’s quite the dilemma:  I don’t want to sound like a pop song, but I don’t want to get too avant garde.  So I’ll put a #4 on my major chords.  Yes, a Lydian fourth should do it.  A Lydian scale is exactly like a major scale, but with the fourth degree up a semitone.  It opens up the sound, and makes what I’m about to say sound significant, theatrical

vamps no1


NarratorI’ll never forget the summer of 1972.  That was the summer I learned how to …

Yes, yes, this show is writing itself now.

OK, rhythm.  I can’t have this scene-setting arpeggio play forever.  I’ll use the rhythm made famous by Jule Styne’s vamps no2opening vamp for Don’t Rain On My Parade.  That’s a great little rhythm.

 And when I put that rhythm, a little chopped up, together with my Lydian chords, with a few extensions to fill in the harmony, I can make a little vamp like this:

vamps no3

Narrator:  The world was changing.  Well, the outside world anyway – in our town, nothing ever changed …

Perfect.  It’s all coming together now.  But I need something with a little pop/theatre flavour to it, that I can build my vamp into a song for my hero/narrator.  So I’ll start with the #4, but finish the vamp with the natural 4, and that’ll allow me to use the subdominant and dominant chords.  It’s as fatuous as pop, and as pretentious as theatre!

vamps no4


 This can run for a while under the dialogue until it reveals itself to be our hero’s “I Want” song.  I’d really like it to do well outside of the show itself, so I’ll keep the lyrics really mainstream, really broad in their appeal.  And uplifting, too; shows should be uplifting.





Best of all, that vamp, when I slow it down, can be the love ballad.

Total time spent on music and lyrics: seven minutes.  And it just screams musical theatre!

Audio demonstration here:


5 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Too Many Musicals. Episode 3.

  1. Ah so that’s what that chord thing is … lydian … you threw a few of those into a piece you gave me as a present back in ole Godspell days … remember? Bet you don’t!

  2. In what’s probably parallel evolution, a lot of indie musicians in the 80s started bunging #4ths into what would otherwise have been basic blues. Makes it sound a bit arty and interesting, but not too weird. Sonic Youth and Ed Kuepper were pretty big on this, and I think the Pixies did it as well.

    • I now have to go away and listen, because my Pixies ignorance has reached the point where I am no longer able to function socially.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s