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Synth Sense

Article from Making Music, October 1986

Find out what keyboard and guitar chords have got to do with Tina Turner's 'What's Love Got To Do With It'.

Andy Honeybone, who has been known to twinkle toes, learns a few keyboard steps from a private dancer and wonders, what's love got to do with it!

TINA TURNER'S 'Private Dancer' album is an excellent blend of technology and emotion. Perhaps analysis of the emotional content is best left to 'Women's Own' so I'll concentrate on the musical side with a few observations about the track 'What's Love Got To Do With It?"

The opening of the song gives me a chance to make amends with guitarists in particular who may still be reeling from the plethora of chord types discussed in previous months. The opening chord is so characteristic of the guitar that its translation to the keys has to be purely functional and can't be considered a real 'replacement'. Barre at the second fret then add the sixth, fourth and third strings fretted at the fourth fret. Play all six strings with a slightly delayed downward stroke and add plenty of chorus and ambience.

The second chord is the same as the first except for the third string which is held at the third fret. Only a simple change but all fingers other than the barre have to move. So what are the chords called?

Well, the first one isn't too easy to categorise for the following reasons: essentially the chord is A flat minor seventh with a D flat lurking in it. Hardly systematic, I know, but the D flat can't be an eleventh because there is no ninth present to support it, and it can't be a suspended fourth because there is a (minor) third present which is the resolution of the suspension. In such cases we cheat (hooray) and describe the chord as A flat minor seventh (add 4), or by the dubious non sequitur or G flat (sus 4)/A flat bass.

Description of the second chord is easier as it is a standard minor eleventh. For non guitar-experienced keyboard players perplexed by all the foregoing gibberish let me spell out the two chords: Ab, B, Gb, B, Db, Gb — and — Ab, B, Gb, Bb, Db, Gb. For keyboard versions, the proximity of the lowest two notes make for a muddled sound and the B is best omitted.

The complexity of the opening chords is nicely balanced by the simplicity of the chords which follow. Contrast is always a good thing. Straight major triads make up the rest of the verse and chorus, the interest being maintained by a well thought out bass line. Note how the "pan floot" type synthesiser motif has a rhythmic difference between its two halves.

Having repeated both verse and chorus the song gets to that stage in every arrangement where something has to happen. And it does, not only by sliding the whole works up by a tone but also bringing in a new synth voice with a cheeky harmonica style solo with tasteful use of controllers. The end of any solo is always a potential danger spot with the soloist intent on phrasing to the end of a whole number of bars and the vocalist itching to emphasise their own reentry with some kind of lead in. It shouldn't sound like a fight. On the Tina Turner track, an interesting dodge can be found — a two beat bar finishes the solo — which cleanly finishes one section and starts the middle eight.

The release or middle eight is a chance to introduce some new material to make the return to the main verse/chorus appear fresh. 'What's Love' makes use of elevenths (B major over a D flat bass if you prefer) resolving to the major chord. Again, a simpler major chord (A) follows to make the change to B major over an A bass seem all the more dramatic. A final A flat minor seventh and D flat finish the section.

Having made the wholetone key change before the solo, the gong repeats the chorus in the new key. Even at this stage, there's time for one more production trick before the fade. A sense of continuity is given to the repeating chorus by chopping two beats from its final bar and using backing vocals to maintain the expected words leaving Tina free to add interjections in her inimitable style.

Slipping in an occasional beat or two is surprisingly common and provided that you add even numbers, you shouldn't affect a tune's danceability as shown by Belouis Some's 'Imagination' and Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey's 'Easy Lover'.

On analysis, the track asserted here almost appears to be a lesson in arrangement. Not all contemporary songs showas much thought of course but you should get into the habit of pulling apart tracks that appeal to you. Take care though, you know what happens when you keep peeling layers from an onion.

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Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

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Making Music - Oct 1986

Feature by Andy Honeybone

Previous article in this issue:

> Roland S10 Sampler

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> How To Hit Things And Still ...

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